I got an ear infection a few months ago and it never really went away. Whenever I tell certain Christians how I’m feeling, their first response is, “Don’t speak that” or “Stop speaking death. You’re healed in the name of Jesus.”
I used to go along with it, thinking that if I simply spoke of and prayed for healing that it would come. Almost a year later, I’m still suffering from the same symptoms, finally understanding where the “name it and claim it” doctrine comes from and why it’s so problematic.
The Word of Faith teaches that God wants his people to be “healthy, wealthy, and happy all the time, and that speaking the right words, in faith, compels God to deliver on his part of the covenant.” (About.com) I, too, grew up believing that God was an omnipresent, all-powerful Santa Claus. I viewed hard times, sickness, and singleness as a curse and assumed that whenever my life wasn’t going according to plan, I had done something wrong.
It wasn’t until I started studying the Bible that I realized God never intended for us to live the “good life” in the American sense of the word. Not only does God guarantee suffering for Believers, He expects us to rejoice in the midst of it. (James 1) But it’s impossible to rejoice in something that you refuse to acknowledge.
The Word of Faith movement not only opposes the Gospel by encouraging denial and stressing prosperity, but also suggests that we as mere humans are just as powerful as God. By believing that we can speak things into existence, we’re essentially saying that we could create another earth if we wanted to. (It all started with a word, right?) The idea that our words have supernatural power may seem Biblically sound given scriptures like Proverbs 18:21 (Death and life is in the power of the tongue…) and Matthew 11:23 (“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”) But while Jesus invites us to submit our requests to God in prayer and in faith, the Bible makes it clear that our requests are granted only in accordance with God’s will, not our own.
James reinforces this point in James 4:2-3.
…You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
In other words, you can pray for a new car, a spouse, or even your health all day long, but unless God wills it to happen, it won’t. Moreover, 1 Peter 4 instructs us to expect trials, not to avoid them and pretend they’re not real once they arrive. In the words of Minister Paul Tripp, “Biblical faith never requires you to deny reality.”
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV)
While it’s important to speak life and make our desires known to God (Philippians 4:6-7), we must realize that God alone reserves the power to create and destroy with His words. Sadly, there has been a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding this dynamic. For example, you’ve probably been told to “speak those things as if they were” in order to finally receive whatever you’ve been hoping for. When you take a closer look at the scripture people think they’re quoting, however, you’ll see that Paul is speaking of God’s sovereign way with words, not ours.
As it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. (Romans 4:17 ESV, emphasis added)
So yes, I think that I have a chronic ear infection and though I am praying it doesn’t result in permanent hearing loss, I recognize that God will still be good regardless. And yes, you are indeed struggling if you have less than $5 in your savings account. Refusing to say the word “broke” will not change that. (A job will, though.) God can turn all types of situations around, but since we don’t have the power to speak anything into existence other than our voicemail, we cannot determine whether or not He will.