My last meetings in Abuja were held in a series of churches that had been primed and ready for the man of God from America to come and bless their church. They fully expected a wonderful evening that will lift them up with a message of all the wonderful things that God has for them, and maybe even get a prophet of God to pray over them for the things they need.
But I haven’t come to preach a “feel good” message, and once I launch into the service, a quietness always comes over the congregation. Sometimes I get worried that maybe I am disappointing them, but in every case, the pastors always reassure me that I have delivered exactly what they really wanted and most desperately needed. They are sick of being told that God is going to pour out all sorts of wonderful blessings on them –cars, homes, husbands, and money – all for free. All you have to do is have the man of God proclaim a bunch of great swelling promises, maybe lay hands on you, and pray for all these things to come your way. Voila!
And when they don’t come, as one pastor told me, what happens to the people’s faith? If their faith was built upon promises that will not come to pass because they are not based on the Word of God, then these poor people will wind up accusing God for lying to them. These false messages of cheap prosperity and free blessings are killing the Nigerian church.
But my message has consistently been the opposite. I am not focused on what this world has to offer, but on what we as the church has to offer. Our position in life is not to get rich, but to get souls. I tell them that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about them – it is about others. Get over yourselves and pick up the Cross, not your crown, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always tell them that there is a price to pay for everything in God. Even Salvation wasn’t free – someone else paid for it. They know this is true … even if they are still hoping for a free ride.
There is something clean about the Truth that slices through deception, but in the final analysis, people will follow their hearts. If their hearts acknowledge the truth but still leap at the first opportunity to return to the words of prosperity and blessings, then at least they had the opportunity to make a choice. Some will and some won’t. Not everybody is going to Heaven.
At my very last service in Nigeria, I was followed by one of these “feel good” preachers. It was as if everything I had just warned them about was washed away with his message of their entitlement to all the blessings of God has for them right now, this very night.
“It’s your time to birth your breakthrough! Tonight will bring your blessing!” “God is going to give you that thing you’ve been waiting on for so long!” And on and on.
You know the drill. Tell them exactly what they want to hear, repeat it over and over, shout and scream, jump up and down, and get them up on their feet yelling and waving their hands. No substance in the message, and they don’t even know what they are shouting and dancing about, but that’s not the point, is it?
Repentance was replaced with a cheap grace.
And this guy can really work a crowd. You should have heard them raising the rooftop because God was going to pour out all this stuff on them simply because they were here tonight.
As I sat there feeling dejected because I had been dismissed so easily and the message that I knew had been from God had been so easily rejected, I asked the Lord for a sign. If I was too hard and not positive and loving enough, please tell me, but if I am right and this guy is a phony, then give me a sign that will give me the confidence to know I am right. Every once in a while you just gotta get a little boost from God.
The answer was so sudden that even I didn’t recognize it at first. Almost immediately after I prayed, some girl ran up to the front and broke out in a seizure, thrashing, screaming, and throwing herself all over the place. This happens a lot in Africa, and these people know how to deal with it when it happens. But this false prophet did not. He thought it was the Spirit of God because he had worked the crowd into such a frenzy that he thought the outpouring was just too strong for this girl. He kept telling everyone, “God was doing something supernatural with her. Praise God! God is giving her something very special right now!”
I couldn’t believe my ears! This wasn’t God; this was the devil, you idiot! But I did not have the floor and did not feel it was my place to step into it, so I watched as he cradled her in his arm and laid hands on her proclaiming his positive stuff. And she kept going on in convulsions all over the front of the church.
I couldn’t just stand there, so I took one step forward, and rebuked the foul spirit right from where I was standing about 20 feet away. With all the noise of the crowd around me, no one would see or hear me, but the devil that had a grip on that girl would. I knew that demonic spirit would recognize me and would hear me from across the room if need be.
Immediately, just as if I had snapped my fingers, that spirit released her and fled. The girl slid down and passed out in a swoon, which is what always seems to happen when a demonic spirit is cast out of someone. I stood there and prayed a covering over her until she woke up and someone led her away.
I felt as if the Lord tapped me on the shoulder to let me know that I had just received my sign. I didn’t think anyone noticed, but after services, the pastor came up to me and told me that he witnessed the whole thing from start to finish. Whew! So it wasn’t just my imagination. God established right there in front of that whole church which one of us was of God, and which one of us was not.
I can’t tell you how important this was for me. For almost 50 days, I have been battling against this “welfare mentality” that is so rampant in Nigeria, and it has been hard – real hard. Sure, the pastors have been overwhelming in their appreciation for the messages I have brought, and I have been told over and over that the messages have transformed many of churches that I preached at. Pastors are calling and calling to tell me how important my visits were and encouraging me that when I return, I will see the overflowing fruits of my labor.
Still, it would be good every once in a while to be the “nice guy” that everybody loves instead of the sourpuss prophet that preaches repentance, but it is the final results in any battle that determines the victory, not how hard the fight was.
But sometimes you need a boost to give you that confidence that, even though you are swimming upstream against the flow, you are headed in the right direction. I needed that sign from God.