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My thinking has been strongly influenced by John Wimber and some of his teaching. But I am concerned that perhaps one area of his teaching may be opening myself up to some unnecessary grief. Let me explain.
John taught that every time he and his church made any sort of significant spiritual advance, they experienced the enemies' retaliation in kind. My first question is: does spiritual retaliation really exist, is it scriptural? Or am I unnecessarily opening myself up to something harmful by holding this belief?
And I have a second question that sor5t of goes along with this: if signs and wonders are not following you, are you really a believer?-- Doing The Stuff
Dear Doing The Stuff
In response to your first question--why do you think that Jesus told Ananias that Saul had to suffer for Him? It is because Jesus had ordained him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and He knew that there would be spiritual retaliation for it. Acts 9:15-16: "But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'"
I use the term "spiritual warfare counter-attack" instead of "spiritual retaliation," but no matter what you call it, it is very real. People love my stories of the amazing things that God does on the mission field, but what they don't seem to notice is that there are always stories of personal suffering that go with it.
Let me give you a recent example. Not long ago, God sent me to Singapore to mobilize the church towards a great revival in Asia where the very seat of idolatry will fall and many will kneel before the Lord Jesus. The meetings were packed with the power and presence of God, including words of knowledge, physical healings, prophecies, and God showing up and touching many in incredibly powerful ways during the personal prayer time. Spiritual gifts were released and some who had been attending the meetings began healing the sick and doing miracles afterwards. God's presence was so think in the meetings that many could tangibly sense His nearness and some unsaved people received the Lord just through encountering His presence in the meetings.
Then for a couple of weeks in October, I was in Brazil as a part of Randy Clark's team. We saw all sorts of big miracles--I personally saw over 50 physical healings, including a person who had been in pain (back hip) for over 30 years set free from it. I saw a lady with a breast tumor completely healed, and I saw a person who was blind see, and a person who was completely deaf in one ear was partially healed. I could go on and on with the amazing and powerful things that God did on those trips, and how the name of Jesus was glorified.
But let me tell you what has been happening the past three weeks in terms of spiritual warfare counter-attacks--because when you are on God's front lines, the enemy mobilizes his forces to meet you. The warfare has been so intense that I have been reeling from it and hardly able to function this past week. (I will have to make a complete recovery and come back to 100% functionality within a week because I leave for a mission trip to India on the 15th).
Just before we left, my dog (who is like a child to Ed and I) had a serious and life-threatening condition that required $1500 of surgery. The surgery was three days before I got on an airplane for Brazil. When I was away, the warfare continued, both at home and in Brazil. The enemy tried to play mind-games with me to discourage me. At the same time, our dog had another medical emergency that left it unconscious on the floor. Hubby tried to rush it to the Vet hospital, where it had another $1500 emergency surgery. He discovered that the car had two flat tires, so he had to take the van. When he got home, he found water dripping from the light socket. He explored the problem to discover that a pipe broke in the attic, and water got into the electrical system--a big mess that required a BIG repair.
The same day my ipod broke in Brazil so that I could not listen to worship music (which I use to center myself in the Lord when I travel). A few days later Ed was called unexpectedly on an emergency business trip to Korea, and I had to cut my trip a few days short to fly home early to take care of the sick dog. The deathly sick dog had to be kenneled for about 3 days (as Ed left that day and I had to wait two days for an available seat and then it took 30 hours to fly home). There was a big drama in the kennel that had a very bad effect on our dogs. When I arrived home to go to the kennel and get the dogs, I discovered that the muffler was broken--it sounded like a helicopter when I tried to accelerate. I finally got home from the kennel with my dogs, and logged on to the computer, only to discover it would not boot because of a hard disk error (which still has not been fixed). It looks like it will require buying a new computer and some important data will be perminately lost.
I came down with a really bad stomach flu about 20 hours after getting home and was throwing up like crazy and feeling so physically miserable that I would have been happy for the Lord to take me home. I was too sick to drive for a couple of days after that. There was almost no food in the house, but I was too sick to go to the store and get something to eat for about two days.
In addition to all that, there were all sorts of little things, like being on a 100% full flight (10 hours from Sau Paulo to Houston) and having the only seat on the plane where the entertainment system did not work, so that I could not watch TV or play video games during the long flight.
It will take some time to recover financially and replace the material things that were damaged. But the material loss was only a part of the "suffering." At one point I was so miserable that I told the Lord that I did not know if I could keep doing this. But of course, I did not really mean that. I am His and I will go wherever He sends me and do whatever He commands me to do. There will be some spiritual warfare attached to that, it is part of the process.
The great commission is not about our personal comfort, it is about advancing the kingdom of God.
The reason I wrote some of the details about the "suffering" that comes with the moving in the glory is not to whine and complain, but to answer your question with a very recent example from my own personal life. If you want to be sent out and do real kingdom work with the Father in His power and anointing, there is some spiritual warfare that goes along with that, and you will experience spiritual warfare counter attacks.
Yes, spiritual warfare is real. The enemy is a real foe, and he doesn't want to just turn over his kingdom and his treasures to us. We have to take it by force (by moving in God's power and anointing). When we fight the enemy, he will fight back to defend his territory. I always take comfort in reminding myself that "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world," and "God will not let you be tested above what you can bear." (That is 1 John 4:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:13.)
Your other question was "if the signs and wonders are not following you, are you really a believer?" The answer to that question can be found in John 14:12-13, where Jesus said, "12 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.'"
When you begin to really believe that Jesus meant what He said, then you will begin to do the things He was doing: seeing what the father is doing and doing it with Him, including preaching and teaching the kingdom, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, etc. In short, the more we grow in our faith, the more we will be able to do what Jesus did.
Personally, I am still working on growing in my faith to the point where I will be able to do all the works Jesus did. I have seen sick healed, I have seen blind eyes open, I have seem God multiply things and I have seen Him turn storms. I have preached the kingdom and seen people respond with belief and joy. But I still haven't seen any dead raised, so I know that I still have not perfected my ability to believe in Jesus, and I am still growing in that. One day I hope to "grow up" in faith all the way.
We all grow in our faith at different rates. Many will "beat me" and get there before I do, but I am not going to stop growing in faith just because others are able to believe better than I do. I plan to keep on pressing in and learning to grow in faith. And I encourage you (and all of our other brothers and sisters in the Lord) to do likewise--because Jesus meant the promise in John 14:12-13 for all of us. The "signs and wonders following" is something that each of us can obtain as we learn to grow in our faith.