On May 8, 1977 John Wimber started preaching to his fledgling congregation out of the Gospel of Luke. Four months later, John was at a crossroads. The “problem” is that Luke, as one scholar put it, is the Charismatic Gospel – meaning, there is more about the work of the Holy Spirit in Luke than in Matthew and Mark combined. Preaching through Luke, John Wimber was confronted with the healing ministry of Jesus, the “show and tell” of Gospel proclamation.
John prayed and felt the Lord’s invitation to learn to preach, teach and minister like Jesus did. So they began praying for sick people to be healed. The results were disasterous. The first couple Sundays, the people on the prayer team actually caught the sicknesses of the people they were praying for. No one was healed.
For the next ten months John continued to preach out of Luke, almost every sermon was on healing. After the sermon, a ministry time was offered. People who wanted to receive prayer would go to the designated ministry area and the prayer team would pray – sometimes for hours at a time. One particular time, John had been praying for several hours for a man to be healed and nothing was happening. John fell to the floor and cried. He said something to the effect of “Lord, we’re doing what You’re saying and it isn’t working. It isn’t fair. Why aren’t you backing up Your word?”
(By the way, this is a paraphrased version of the account taken from John’s testimony in Power Healing. I’m doing my best to report it from memory.)
Then, John had two encounters. One was after his first successful healing – as he was driving home, he saw a giant honeycomb imprinted across the sky. Honey was dripping down from heaven and falling on people who were in a variety of postures. Some people were on their knees, gladly receiving and sharing while others brushed the honey off in an aggravated way. The honey symbolized God’s mercy, which includes physical healing. God was saying to John, “My mercy is there, you need to learn how to position yourself under it. The problem isn’t on My end. Don’t beg me for healing again.”
As John was meditating on the Honeycomb Vision he felt the Lord saying to him, “Preach my word, not your experience.” So John continued to preach that God was a healer, that Holy Spirit was still at work and that we, as disciples, were called to carry on the mission and ministry of Jesus. Shortly after this time, God began to do amazing things in their corporate gatherings and what we now know and The Vineyard Movement was born.
John’s story has encouraged me greatly, especially his Honeycomb Vision and God’s command to preach His word and not our own experience. I’ve been as guilty as anyone of elevating my experience above God’s word, of building a case file against God and letting that weigh most heavily on my heart. It has only led to depression, discouragement and wanting to quit pastoral ministry. My experience really only matters when it is in alignment with who God says He is. Otherwise it is just noise.
As John saw in his vision, the problem isn’t on God’s end. The problem is in our inability to posture ourselves to receive what God is wanting to give. I’ve committed in my heart to never again beg God for healing or the healing anointing – it has already been given. Instead, I’ve committed myself to learning how to posture my heart to receive God’s mercy and to learn how to co-operate with Holy Spirit in advancing God’s Rule and Reign on the earth.
One thing that has helped me in this endeavor is watching my son Emory learn to walk. I want him to walk. I model for him every day what walking looks like. I hold him up so that he can practice moving his legs. I hold him by the hand so that he can keep his balance.
But when he took his own independent steps, I was overjoyed.
It didn’t matter that they were wobbly and weak. It didn’t matter that he fell down and cried. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t do it perfectly right off the bat. I was happy he was trying, learning, growing. And that led me to help him less. I started offering my finger fewer and fewer times. I let him struggle and fall more often because getting up on his own made him stronger and gave him more opportunities to practice his skills.
It is the same way with all of us who are learning how to do the things that Jesus did. Father is overjoyed with our weak, wobbling steps. He isn’t grumpy that we aren’t doing it perfectly right off the bat. He is letting us fall so that we can get back up, so that we can practice our skills and get stronger.
God is a healer. God commissioned us to heal, it is one of the things Believers are supposed to do. We can ignore that for our own convenience, or, we can embark on the painful, humbling, even humiliating journey of learning how to posture our hearts and co-operate with Holy Spirit.
What we can’t do is bring His word down to the level of our experience. We can’t dumb down what He says and we can’t elevate what we experience. What we do is seek to experience what His word says. It may not happen all the time, even most of the time… and we set those experiences aside. Then we stand up and try it again.