by Dean Helland
The secular news media is quick to point out the failures and inconsistencies as they are exposed in the lives of Christian ministers. It will always be so, for God did not send angels to do the work of spreading the Gospel. It seems that the more a man or woman of God gets into the limelight due to the excellence of their spiritual gifts, the more their faults and failings are highlighted in order to keep people from believing in God. If they can’t find anything valid to criticize, they may even invent scandal and proclaim it as being true, and so attempt to distract observers from the message these frail vessels of the Gospel are holding forth.
Despite these distractions, God has a way of convincing those who are called to serve Him to hold the line, continuing to follow Him and promote the Gospel despite their own weaknesses and fragility. Many who start after God fall by the wayside; such are the wiles of the enemy. And yet, the power of the Gospel to save men’s souls continues its onward march!
The secular world will only commend the works of the church which it can duplicate. Feeding the hungry, clothing the destitute, providing shelter for the helpless—these are works of the church that the secular world can imitate and commend. However, when the Gospel sets forth moral standards which show the way God wants His followers to apply to their lives, the secular world becomes hostile.
I was raised hearing both sides. Yet I always believed in God and the Power of God. I marveled as a child, hearing the wonderful miracles Jesus did, opening the eyes of the blind, healing the deaf and the crippled, raising the dead. If there was anything I was sure of, it was that I wanted to follow the marvelous man of Galilee. When I grew up, I wanted to help people learn to love and serve Jesus Christ.
God, in his mercy and kindness, taught me to respect and study His ways, which are found in the pages of the Bible. Even as a preschooler, I longed to grow up and shine for Jesus! When I heard messages telling how children tend to leave the paths of holiness when they become teen-agers and wander after the fallen ways of the world, I would cringe. I even remember weeping on my pillow at nights, asking God to take me to heaven before I became a teenager, so I wouldn’t be tempted and end up losing my soul and going to hell.
Fortunately, my family moved to Arizona when I was twelve years old, and there I was exposed to the great evangelistic ministries of the time: T. L. Osborn, A. A. Allen, Oral Roberts, William Branham, Katherine Kuhlman, Leroy Jenkins and others who moved publicly in the spiritual gifts. I also read about previous missionaries and evangelists who had been mightily used of God in years past: Jack Coe, Smith Wigglesworth, Amy Semple McPherson and others.
It so happened that previously, within a week of my being baptized in water at the age of 12, I had my first experience of speaking in tongues. I learned that all of the above-named ministers believed “speaking in tongues” to be part of the Spirit-empowered ministry, and I looked forward to being able to experience other gifts of the Spirit myself.
Skipping over other details of my life which are detailed elsewhere, I want here to give insights as to what it is like living the Spirit-empowered life.
San Francisco, California--Miracles of healing early became part of my ministry. I also came to know what is involved in direct spiritual warfare and the casting out of demons. Starting while working at Teen Challenge, I actually experienced demons speaking out in a spectacular way when we came against them in Jesus’ Name, ordering them to depart.
Tulsa, Oklahoma--Later, while working in the group at the Prayer Tower at Oral Roberts University, I not only led people to salvation, but was able to expel demons from some who asked for it.
Preaching around in different churches exposed me to a variety of expressions of worship of different Christian ethnic groups and practices. Especially after getting on the mission field, I witnessed experiences of witchcraft in some churches which those people thought were gifts of the Holy Spirit. I and my wife at times confronted such practices with solid Bible teaching in order to get the people back on the right track.
Suffice it to say, we saw so many actual and undeniable miracles before our very eyes day after day that sometimes I almost got bored with it! I know that may seem hard to imagine for those who have never lived such a life, but for those involved in heavy spiritual ministry, they know how it can get. Even the emotional strain of seeing people not get healed can take a toll. Sometimes, I wanted so much to see certain people get healed who didn’t that I would get angry with God and threaten to leave the healing ministry! God understood my weakness, though, and would always come through at such times and manifest his power to me in such a dramatic way that I would feel ashamed of myself. The power is of God alone, not of us. While we may carry this treasure within us, it is not ours to use as we like. God has a gentle and loving way of reminding us of this when we need it.
Santiago, Chile--On one such occasion, I actually told God that I would no longer pray for the sick. I would just preach salvation. That evening I went to a church in Santiago, Chile, with that intention. However, after I finished my message and sat down, the pastor announced that I was then going to pray for the sick. I was disgusted with the Lord at that point, and sure that nobody would get healed. I always talked with the person before praying for them, and a little girl 9 years old came up and said that her right arm was partially paralyzed. She was born that way, and could only lift it about as high as her waist. She said that she wanted to be able to raise both arms up to praise God!
I prayed for her and asked God to heal her arm, not believing He would. Then I asked her to raise her arm. She lifted it with great effort, but it seemed to me that it went up as far as her chest. I asked her if she had ever been able to lift it that high before, and she said she had not. I told her to put her arm down, wait a moment and then raise it again. She did so, and this time it went as high as her shoulder. All the church was witnessing this. I asked her to put her arm down again for a moment and then raise it again. That time, she lifted both arms way up over high her head! Of course, the church exploded with praise to God.
As if that were not enough, the next girl in line was her 12-year-old sister. When I asked her what she wanted prayer for, she answered that she was blind in the right eye. I had prayed for many blind eyes before without seeing many results, and I again felt discouraged at such a request, but after praying for God to open her blind eye, I asked her how it was, and she replied simply, “I can see with it now!” I tested her eye from the back of the church, having her put her hand over her left eye, and she could perfectly imitate my hand movements, to the delight of the church!
There were many more healings that night, to the extent that another minister who visited that church the following week “complained” to me that after my visit, there were no more sick left for him to pray for! With that, I got the clear message that no matter how emotionally wearing the healing ministry is on those who move in it, God wants it for His church today!
Culver City, California--Another example of this mercy of God with his servants took place in Culver City, California. The pastor wanted me to come and hold a healing service. His wife was in the last stages of life, suffering from diabetes. We had a great service that evening with a number of good healings, but I left his wife to the end, hoping that her faith might be built up by then and she would be able to receive healing. Well, she died soon afterward. I really felt bad about that and told the Lord so, too. He didn’t seem to care much how I felt, I thought.
On our next furlough from the mission field, I went back to that church, and a family there asked me over for lunch the next day. While I was eating lunch with them, they asked me if I remembered one of the boys out in the yard playing. He was about seven or eight years old, and I told them I didn’t. Then they asked me if I remembered the little child that was 18-months-old that I had prayed for some years before who had severely bowed legs. I did remember that because I know that when I had prayed for him, there was no apparent change in his legs.
“Well, he is that boy,” they told me.
It turned out that he had been scheduled to have his legs actually broken in several places and put into a cast to straighten them out, but over the next three weeks, they gradually straightened out and the procedure was unnecessary. Infants' legs do straighten out normally, but not at his age! Praise God! That was how God gently let me know that He really had healed the pastor’s wife earlier, by taking her home to be with Him. As the old hymn says, "We'll understand it better by-and-by."