A week ago in our church service someone said they had a sense that there were people visiting because they were at a crossroads in their lives, and were not sure which church they should be committed to in their home town. Immediately a couple responded and some of our folk prayed for them. They approached me at the end of the service and told me with joy that they had come for the day from Gothenburg, Sweden as they were at a crossroads in their lives, and were asking God which church they should commit to.
During one of our Soul Survivor events this summer, I sensed the Lord tell me there was a lad there called Brian who described himself as an atheist and had been cynical all the way through the festival, but had just prayed and said, “God, if you are really here, then speak to me.” I repeated this over the microphone and said, “Brian, where are you?” A young man came forward within a few moments. Others gathered round him and led him in a prayer of commitment to Jesus. Afterwards, he kept saying, “He knows my name! He knows my name!”
I could recount many, many stories like this. Stories of times I’ve seen God turn people’s lives around. Stories of people strengthened, encouraged and comforted when someone has spoken a word from the Lord to them.
In Acts 10:37-38 Peter says, “You know…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” We have received the same anointing from our Lord Jesus and this anointing remains in us (1 John 2:27). Through Christ we have also been anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. This anointing is so that we might go around doing good and healing everyone who is under the power of the devil because God is with us! But how can this happen? It would take a whole book to begin to answer this. I’ve tried in Everyday Supernatural (David C Cook), but I want to point to two vital keys.
The great commission
First, we have to understand that the scripture teaches clearly, persuasively and unequivocally, that it is God’s will and purpose for his Church to move under the anointing of his Spirit. For this reason, signs and wonders are meant to accompany the preaching of the word. But the task of sharing God’s word is not just for those of us who are up the front on a Sunday morning, it’s for all of us.
We have largely won the charismatic battle but lost the charismatic war
In the great commission Jesus commands us to make disciples of all people groups, teaching them to obey everything he has commanded us (Matthew 28:18-20). Please notice that Jesus tells us to teach them to obey everything he has commanded us. There is a huge difference between learning God’s commandments and obeying them. And what has he commanded us? To proclaim the gospel, heal the sick, love one another, drive out demons, feed the hungry, look after widows, orphans and those who are vulnerable, and raise the dead. That is just for starters! Only when we become convinced that the whole ministry of Jesus is for the whole Church of Jesus will we have the motivation to step out into action. It seems to me that (to use rather outdated terminology) we have largely won the charismatic battle but lost the charismatic war.
Most Christians have learned about and now believe in the gift of tongues, but how many pray in tongues every day? Many of us have learned about and believe that Jesus can heal today, but how many of us regularly pray in faith for healing miracles? Lots of churches make space for the gift of prophecy, but how many have moved beyond “I see a waterfall and God says he loves you”? We have to move from armchair belief to the obedience that is the outworking of faith. Faith without works is dead.
Faith is a verb
The problem here is that many of us have misunderstood some key aspects of faith. We are not called to have great faith in faith, but great faith in God. This means faith and trust in his character, in his goodness and compassion, as well as his power. It is all about relationship. When I focus on my faith alone I come up short. However, when I focus on the Lord and meditate on his love, kindness and ability to keep his promises, my faith grows. It is all about relationship, not rules and techniques. Faith needs to be exercised to grow. Faith is a verb: a doing word.
In Mark 2:1-12 we read the story of four friends lowering a paralysed man through a hole they had made in a roof so that Jesus would heal him. When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralysed man that his sins were forgiven and then healed him. How did he see their faith? Did he see the word “faith” written on their foreheads? Did they smile in a faith-filled way? No! He saw a hole in the roof. Faith makes holes in roofs! It is something we do even more than it is something we think or feel.
Unknowingly speaking Romanian
A few years ago we were in an evening meeting at Soul Survivor and we prayed for people to receive the gift of tongues. Every year we get visitors from different countries, and this year there happened to be a youth group from Romania. The youth leader from this group didn’t believe in the gift of tongues so as we invited the Holy Spirit, he got up and began to walk out. As people were beginning to pray, the rest of us in the Big Top began to speak out praise to God, either in English or in tongues. I happened to be praying over the microphone in tongues and I noticed it seemed a little different to me. I even wondered if I was subconsciously trying to make it sound better as so many people could hear me.Afterwards a couple of young people from the Romanian group ran up to me and said that as I’d started speaking, their youth leader had stopped in his tracks. He has been stunned because he recognised the language I was speaking in: apparently it was ancient Romanian. According to him I was reciting an eleventh-century Romanian poem called the “Prayer for Protection”. To add to that, he knew the words because the poem was one that had been tattooed on his father’s back. That youth leader now believes in the gift of tongues!
Why is this important? Because there are captives who need to be set free, folk who don’t know that Jesus loves them and knows them by name, people in a prison of chronic anxiety and depression who need to be released today. The gospel is meant to be very good news indeed! Only an utter conviction of these things will spur us into action.
His power in our weakness
Secondly, I believe we need to understand how God wants to use us. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is such a key verse. The Lord says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I believe this to be a vital biblical principle. His power is not made perfect in our strength, but only in our weakness. This is true of the whole of the Christian life, and especially true in the realm of the supernatural. God puts his treasure in our jars of clay, and the life seeps out through the cracks!
Why? Because the Christian life is to be a life of dependence on God. Listening to him, looking to him, aware of our need and of his limitless supply. It is about learning to tune in to his presence when we are vulnerable and weak and feel as though we are sinking.
Four tips to hearing God speak
The key is not asking God to be louder but to make ourselves quieter. Here are Mike’s tips for hearing God in your daily life.
1. Read the Bible each day This is the key way you will hear God speaking.
2. Pray each day Be sure to leave a time of silence before God.
3. Keep a journal If you feel like God is speaking to you about something, keep a record of it.
4. Make the most of times alone Most of our days are filled with people and we cram the rest of them with noise – music, TV, the Internet. But our days also have little spaces in them, perhaps when you wake up, are walking to work or just before you go to sleep. Find a place where you can be still for a short time.
On the second night of Soul Survivor B 2015, about 200 young people gave their lives to Jesus. We were thrilled! The following night as I was preparing to speak, the thought came into my head, “There is someone here called Sam who is not a Christian, and this morning he told his friend that if an invitation for people to give their lives to Jesus was given that night, he might go forward.” My initial reaction was, “We did a call for salvation last night, and we can’t do another one. Also it doesn’t fit in with my talk!” And then I thought, “I will do the talk and maybe add it as a tag-on at the end.” Then a thought came into my head: “No, Mike, I want you to say it now.” I objected strongly. “What if there is no Sam? What if there is a Sam and he doesn’t come forward? I will look foolish and lose credibility in front of 9,000 young people.” I tried to begin the talk but I kept thinking, “What if this is Jesus speaking?”
I spoke the words. At first no one came forward. I was in agony. I felt like I was drowning. Then Sam began to walk forward. I asked him if he wanted to give his life to Jesus. He nodded his head. He was trembling. I nearly passed out. I had the joy of leading him in a prayer of salvation. It was a moment I will never forget.
This is how it works: “in weakness with great fear and trembling.” (1 Corinthians 2:3). Each time it is an opportunity to lean into him, to experience greater intimacy with the Lord. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4, my italics) The power is in his presence. Healing is in his presence. Revelation is in his presence. Life is in his presence.
Sam's brave obedience
My friend Sam Miller has served faithfully in the inner city of Birmingham for 20 years. There have been both joys and sorrows, good days and bad days as he has sought to introduce unchurched young people to Jesus.
This past June, Sam was walking through a park when he noticed a man sitting alone on a bench. As he was passing, Sam sensed the Lord say, “His name is Daniel and he feels as though he is in a prison from which he can’t escape. I want you to tell him that I love him and want to rescue him from his prison.”
In fear and trembling Sam went over to the guy, introduced himself and asked if his name was Daniel. The guy responded rather aggressively with a “No”. Sam was rather deflated but decided that he may as well tell the guy the second part of what he thought the Lord had told him. At this the man began to weep and told Sam that his name was indeed Daniel (he’d lied because he was freaked out that Sam knew his name) and that he was sitting on the bench preparing to commit suicide.
The power is in his presence
Sam sat with him for two hours, introduced him to Jesus, prayed with him and the following Sunday took him to church. Now Daniel knows there is a God who loves him and loves being part of his new church family. I know Sam. He does not come across as “God’s man of power for the hour”. He is a normal guy who, in his weakness, chooses to be obedient when he thinks God is speaking to him. This didn’t take place in Sam’s church context, but as he was walking through a park. He could have chosen to keep walking, but instead he followed God’s spirit even though he was fearful, and God came through.
This is how it works. It is not about a few “powerful ministries” working great miracles from stages to the many. It is about the many stepping out in weakness and a dependent obedience to Jesus in the parks and shopping centres and school gates of our nation. It’s not just a job for church leaders, it’s a job for the whole Church. Following God’s spirit in the messiness of our daily lives. This is where we will see many lives changed. Ordinary people holding hands with an extraordinary God. This is what the everyday supernatural is meant to look like.
Mike Pilavachi co-pastors Soul Survivor church, Watford. He has authored "Everyday Supernatural" (David C Cook) with Andy Croft.
To hear Mike Pilavachi in conversation with Sam Hailes, listen to Premier Christian Radio at 4pm on 19th November. Or listen again at premierchristianradio.com/theprofile