It is not great faith to demand something of God.
Let me repeat that.
It is not great faith to demand God to do anything. But that’s what’s happening today. And the #WakeUpOlive movement is only a symptom of a much bigger, and much more terrifying problem in the modern Church.
A Worldwide Movement
A few days ago, my Instagram feed started to fill with post after post from prominent Christian leaders. All of them cried out in great faith, and all of them were asking one thing: for God to resurrect a little girl from the dead. Immediately, my mind went to an image of a little girl in a hospital bed, clinging to life. Perhaps she had been in an accident? Some sort of freak illness? I wasn’t sure–the details were vague. But my curious mind had me search the hashtag and Sherlock Holmes the mystery. It soon became clear that there was no hospital bed. There was no freak illness to speak of. There was only a little girl named Olive who had stopped breathing out of thin air and had been pronounced dead.
Tragic. Absolutely terrible. My heart ached, grieved for the parents–the mother a prominent worship leader out of Bethel Church in Redding, California. I cannot imagine what she is going through. I cannot fathom such a grievous loss. I don’t want to, frankly. But I’m an empath, and so when I hear of things like this, there is a part of me that cannot help but to feel things like this. And I felt the sting of the loss of this child in a profound way.
I think that’s why I kept coming back to the hashtag. I couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. Wake Up, Olive? Were the people of her church praying to God for a resurrection?
My first response was surprise. Great leaders of my faith wrote eloquent prayers, sang heartfelt songs, begging God on Instagram to reawaken this child–this toddler–from death itself. People from all over the world poured out their support–paintings, songs, prayers, beautiful words, all crying out to God for a mighty miracle. An earth-shattering kind of miracle.
That’s faith, right?
It could be. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m just missing it.
The Great Cosmic Vending Machine
Or maybe this entire movement is a symptom of a much, much bigger heresy in today’s Western Church. Is it great faith to demand something of God? Is it great faith to urge the entire world to pray for something so unlikely? On the surface, it is. On the surface, a worldwide prayer movement looks and feels a lot like revival. It parades in the same garments of the coveted awakening that we as Christians profess to long for. But just a small peek behind the curtains reveals a much uglier truth.
I do not believe such prayers are the result of great faith. I believe such prayers–publicly demanding God to resurrect a (as of the penning of this article) five-days-deceased child–are the direct result of the heresy rampant in our churches today. The Prosperity Gospel. The very idea that God, the Great Cosmic Vending Machine, is waiting to hand out blessings to those who have the right faith, the right words, the right prayers, the right lifestyle. That wealth and wellness and wholeness and yes, even miracles are all signs of the favor that God is just itching to bestow upon his creation.
I’ve bought into the concept that I can speak out a miracle if I just have enough faith.
As a Westerner, I totally understand this mentality. I’ve been a part of many churches and denominations over the course of my life, and as a self-proclaimed Spiritual Mutt, I can attest that I’ve bought into this way of thinking before. I’ve believed that I could live my best life now if I just speak it over myself. I’ve bought into the concept that I can speak out a miracle if I just have enough faith. I believed that my mindset played a huge role in how God would bless me. In a sense, that’s true. My heart and mind are both predictors of my mouth. And my thought patterns absolutely affect my day-to-day existence. Yours affect yours too, whether you like it or not. But the danger in this theology is that it can very swiftly morph into something else. The idea that my best life is attainable with the right mixture of words, faith, and attitude leads to a way of thinking that results in expecting God to perform when, where, and how I pray. It leads to a way of thinking that is formulaic. If this, then that, if you will. If I speak with faith, miracles will happen (not could happen, mind you. Will happen. There is a profound difference in that one word.) If I believe boldly, I can call down heaven and proclaim a resurrection over a tragically deceased little girl. And maybe I can. But I never have. I doubt anyone praying over the #WakeUpOlive movement have, either.
My best life came when I stopped seeking my own will for it.
But I do, in fact, live my best life. Already. Every day. I love it. But my best life is not the life I had envisioned for myself. My best life came about when I surrendered my ideas of how my life should look and submitted to a Holy God. My best life manifested when I admitted that I didn’t have it figured out, that my ideas for what’s best for me weren’t best at all. My best life came when I stopped seeking my own will for it. My best life is a life that knows God is sovereign and I’m not. My best life is a life that prays in faith and surrenders in humility. My best life is a life that says, God knows, I don’t, and that’s not only okay, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Do you see it? Do you see the difference?
The rub I have with the #WakeUpOlive movement is not the faith. It’s not the hope. It’s not the unity of the Church. Those are beautiful things. Good things. The rub I have is the very heart of the prayers and the very audacity to demand anything of a Holy God. The very idea that God will bend his sovereign will to those he created in the first place. The rub I have is that no one is talking about caring for the grieving family. No one is having frank conversations about how to navigate unthinkable tragedy well. That’s the role of the Church — to be the hands and feet of God. To love. To hold. To care. To walk alongside. NOT to demand of God that which is not ours to demand. Can God resurrect her? Yes. Absolutely. I 100% know that the Creator of the Universe is capable of the humanly impossible. The question is will he resurrect her. After 5 days, I can answer with a confident “no.” Is that because he’s bad? Evil? Unfair? No. It’s because he’s sovereign. He gives and he takes away. At will. For reasons we can’t always understand. For reasons we may never understand. That doesn’t make him a maniac, that makes him SOVEREIGN. There is a difference.
So if I, as his creation, demand of him, if I say, “God, you MUST do this because you’ve done it before,” I’ve essentially said, “You don’t know what you’re doing. I do.” The #WakeUpOlive movement is not a great testament of faith, it is a dangerous picture that too many Christians paint of God. When we worship a God who will give us what we ask for as long as we come to him with the right heart, the right words, and the right formula, we worship a maniac.
But when we worship a God who is sovereign, whose ways are higher than ours, and to whom we’ve fully submitted ourselves, then and only then do we begin to grasp our place in his world. Then and only then can we begin to make sense of tragedy. He has a reason for all things, including early death. Including untimely death. Including the loss of a child. Teaching anything else, is heresy.
The old man smiled. “Weep, my son. Weep for what you wanted. Weep for the life you thought you would have. And once your soul is purged, look into my face and let me show you what I had for you all along.”
~Excerpt from The Chalam Færytales, Book V (yet to be published). Copyright 2019 Morgan G Farris. All rights reserved. If you share this anywhere, please tag me. It’s just the right thing to do.