Signs, wonders, and the very present Kingdom of God - Part 5 - For skeptics

Read the whole series - Signs, wonders, and the very present Kingdom of God

"While God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." - Hebrews 2:4

"But earnestly desire the higher gifts." - 1 Corinthians 12:31

Now as for those who are hesitant to understand gifts I would like to share two stories. I wish these could be first person stories (or at least one of them) but unfortunately I cant offer such a thing. The best I can do is for two friends of mine who have had their minds changed. Now don't get me wrong - for every person who was a skeptic and believed you can probably find me 20 people who were skeptics and are still skeptics... but these are my stories.

The first is a missionary couple who were friends of ours in the Middle East. For ease I'll just call her Linda (it's easy and I don't want to use her real name). Linda's husband had prayed in tongues for years but she had always been uncomfortable with the idea given her upbringing. He was wise about how he shared with his wife and she was willing to let him practice it privately as long as she didn't push her.

One day they were at a conference in England - and as I understand it most of the people in attendance lived in England - not out of the country. Anyhow at the end of the worship a lady in front of Linda starts praying out loud is Arabic and Linda is shocked and impressed as the lady is white. Finally when the session was over she leaned forward and said "Excuse me mam, I just wanted to say that your Arabic is beautiful. I've studied Arabic for years and I can speak pretty well but nothing like you. You can praise the Lord beautifully."

The lady turned around and told her she was praying in tongues. Didn't know a lick of Arabic.

Now I don't know how the story ends. In fact I don't know if she ever prayed in tongues herself or even desired to, but after that she was certain there was something to it.

Example 2 is a lot different. This is a friend of mine with whom I'm in ministry here. He comes from a presbyterian background and was a very hardcore cessationist. About four months ago he took a class that worked through the new testament and specifically 1 Corinthians. The teacher was a reformed guy who was probably a cessationist himself. But he did a good job of presenting both sides of the arguments about the gifts and he argued that there was something about this chapter 12 verse 31 (see above). He said whatever you believe you have to sort through this verse for yourself.

So this friend of mine went home and got on his knees and prayed, "Lord I don't know what to do with this verse. I don't believe this stuff is still around but if it is your will for me to desire the gifts - if they're even still around today then I would like to desire them." I cant remember from his story if it was the first time he prayed this or if he did so several times - but at some point he said he couldn't hold it back and he burst into praying in tongues.

He crawled into the bathroom and was sort of freaked out about what was going on but kept doing it. His son (only a year and half old or so at the time) came walking into the bedroom looking for him and he was yelling back, "Go downstairs and play, daddy's busy."

It freaked him out enough he came to me to ask some questions about what happened to him. I was surprised at all the questions he had and how much of a right theology he had developed from this experience about this particular gift. He was so concerned about the theological implication it took him almost three months to tell his wife - who prayed the same prayer but didn't have a similar experience (she says much to her relief).

Anyhow he is still trying to sort out what he thinks about it. He no longer believes the gifts have ceased but he doesn't know what this means for the future of his walk with the Lord.

So these are my two stories. I don't know if they give much by way of encouragement or challenge whatever you believe - but its a start. If you wonder about gifts - be it tongues or something else - I would encourage you to really think about these two verses. Does the first really only apply until the canon was closed? Have you wrestled with this second verse? Have you told God that if they gifts are for today you want to experience them?

Just some things to think about. I am curious to see in my own life what is to come of prophecy and I'm sorry I don't have as many stories about this. I do have a few and intend to share them eventually.