In August of 1976, a year and a half into our marriage, Cheryl and I moved to Minot, North Dakota (“Why not Minot? Freezin’s the Reason”). I was still 22 when I started teaching at Northwest Bible College. A year later, we had a beautiful baby and an ugly house. (More on the baby later.) The house was an old Victorian, two stories on top of a daylight basement, painted pickle green and trimmed in black. The original plaster was being held on the walls by thick layers of wall paper and paint. We removed the plaster from every room, added dry wall, wallpapered, and installed new carpet. All of this was done while we lived in the debris (household debris is not picked up when the daily high temperature is below freezing, which was five months of every year).
We did all of this while we (both) taught at the Bible College, served as pastor of two churches simultaneously, co-directed the Family Training Hour at the Campus Church of God where I also served on the Church and Pastor’s Council.
In the fall of 1978, feeling totally non-productive (I jest), we felt God was calling us back to school for doctoral programs and we put the rush on completing the remodeling project. In February of 1979 I sat on the new, burnt orange, shag carpet in the den and prayed, “Father, I thank you for this house. You led us to purchase it and now it is going to sell and the profit is going to help us pay for our schooling.” (While I had always rejected the “Word of Faith” doctrine, I wasn’t above a well placed positive confession when I thought it might help.) In the middle of my eloquent hair-splitting, faith without presumption, proclamation, God spoke. “This house is not going to sell. You have a period of testing…” That is not exactly the word of knowledge for which one hopes. It was a true word. We put the house on the market in June. Later our realtor told us more houses sold in Minot the week before we put our's on the market than sold the entire following twelve months.
It was a very difficult year as we returned to school (we came to our Seminary for one year before entering our doctoral programs the next) and struggled to live and pay the mortgage on an empty house. But through it all I had confidence God was in control of our lives. He was working even if I didn’t like what He was doing. It would be alright if we could hold on to our faith in Him. The house did sell one year later. We closed the day we matriculated as students in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The man we bought it from, the one who had painted it pickle green, bought it back for about twelve thousand dollars more than we paid for it. We made a little profit, paid some tuition and bought an electric typewriter. So ended phase one of our test.
My life and ministry has not been especially marked by the gifts of the Spirit. I am humbled that God does on occasion work through me with the charismata. Of all the spiritual gifts, I think God has used me most with words of knowledge. They almost always come when I am praying with someone. I sense the Spirit’s anointing and the prayer shifts to promises and prophetic words, “Father may they know...” I know I am participating in the transmission of a blessing. I know what I am saying means more to the hearer than I understand. They know exactly to what the Spirit is referring; I usually don’t. This is not a frequent experience but neither is it rare.
Between fifteen and twenty years ago I was unusually moved upon during a prayer meeting. The Lord used me to speak specific words of blessing on everyone present except one young woman. I moved around the room trying to work my way back to her but it was as if there was a shroud of silence around her. As I prepared to dismiss the meeting she came to me and said, “bless me too. I want a blessing.” I laid my hands on her and began to pray, but I was not prepared for the words that came. The Spirit spoke of a great test, one in which she would not be able to tell anyone, “not even your mother.” Sometime later she came to us in tears about a situation that she could not tell anyone, not even her mother. She remembered the prophecy.
There have also been words that encouraged. One Sunday about a decade ago one of our church members was concerned for her father who lived in another state and had terminal cancer. He had not left his house in weeks, but he wasn’t answering his phone that day. Neither were her siblings who lived in the same city with him. As we prayed the Spirit spoke saying that her father would be in church again and her siblings would be with him. As I spoke the words I knew it was God but I prayed internally none-the-less, ”Father, please let this be you.” Neither her brothers nor her sister had been in church in years. Later that afternoon she called to report she had finally gotten her father on his phone. He had gone to church that very morning. Her brothers and sister had gone with him.
I wish I could report her father was healed and her siblings were saved. They were not, but that was not the Word given by the Spirit. This experience stands out for me as one of the great moments of grace in my own life. I was in the midst of a trial that was causing me to doubt my ministry. Whatever the word meant for her it meant more for me.
I am thankful for words of knowledge. They serve many purposes including preparation for troubles ahead, strengthening our faith, and encouragement for our hearts. Beyond the specific blessings of these words to their recipients, they reveal the greatness of our God. He is omniscient. He is sovereign. He has a plan. He is working for the ultimate good of His children. In sum, a word of knowledge serves God’s purposes and brings us into the confidences of His Kingdom.
January 26, 2010