We heard a wonderful story recently
of how God miraculously restored the liver of a former alcoholic in
Shetland. He is now going round the islands, sharing his testimony
at every opportunity. The fact that God can give the alcohol
dependent person a new liver (or the abusive person a reformed
character) is a source of profound hope and inspiration, but on some
occasions, it can cause us to put our hope in outcomes that God has
not promised to endorse.
Most of us have discovered that the
boundary between genuine faith and mere presumption can be
surprisingly thin. Faith proceeds from taking a stand and following
a course of action that we believe to be in line with God’s revealed
word. Presumption sets in only when we expect – one might almost say
demand – that God implements our longings and assumptions. Fine
tuning our spirits to the point where we can tell the difference
between what is truly of God and what are only “our” wishes is a
considerable test of maturity – and we should not expect to always
get it right.
If there is any trace of spiritual
pride in our make-up, we are likely to become increasingly shrill in
our insistence that God is going to “come through” for us in a
particular way. God is always willing to work on our behalf, but He
is not honour-bound to grant the outcome we would ideally like in
the way or timescale that we expect. Wisdom lies in knowing when to
“press on” in faith, when to wait, and when to “draw the line” and
hand some particular longing or situation back to Him.
These are not easy issues to grapple
with at any time, but can be particularly disturbing especially when
grief is tugging our emotions in all directions. Close friends and
mentors can sometimes be more clear sighted as to whether what we
are feeling represents God’s true leading, or whether we are merely
indulging hopes that have no real substance.
We have walked the journey recently
with a much loved pastor, whose wife developed an aggressive cancer.
Waves of prayer swept in for her from around the world, without
making any apparent impact on the tumours. The prophetic call on her
life was strong, but it was clearly not destined to find its full
outworking on Earth, as she and her husband came to realise during
their last few months together.
The vision she had certainly did not
include leaving her husband and five children on their own at this
time. The practical and emotional ramifications are enormous. We are
praying not only for the immediate family, but also that none in the
wider Body of Christ look on her homecoming as a “failure,” or lose
the courage to exercise faith for healing in other situations. Her
mission will undoubtedly continue, albeit now from the vantage point