Peter Wagner was teaching a class at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is somewhat famously known for his teaching on Church Growth, and the roll of signs and wonders in that phenomenon. He even brought John Wimber into our class for one session. Wimber is well known as a strong advocate for the miraculous and dramatic workings of the Holy Spirit. He was, until his death in 1997, a leader in the Charismatic Movement within the Christian Church.
During a break in one of our class sessions I asked for prayer. I was suffering from a severe sinus infection and could barely speak. He had offered to pray for people during the breaks and I was ready to be healed. When I told him my prayer concern, he asked me about my limp. That was such a constant in my life, I wasn’t even aware of it most of the time.
I explained that I had degenerative arthritis in my left hip and that it would lead eventually to a total hip replacement. He said, “I’m more concerned for your hip and leg than your cold.”
“I agree,” I said.
He sat me down and lifted my feet out in front of me, and asked, “Did you know one of your legs is shorter than the other?” When I acknowledged that I did, he called out to the people still in the room, “Anyone want to see the Lord lengthen a leg?”
I was in no position to refuse since he was holding my feet out in front of me. A group of people gathered around. “In the name of Jesus, I command this leg to grow!”
I don’t know how to explain it but I do know that I felt a sensation in my right thigh, and my right leg moved out about an inch. Wimber (who was not there at the time) would say that was an act of faith on Wagner’s part. “You can’t minister in doubt. You have to have faith,” he said on another occasion.
The lengthening of my leg did not prevent further degeneration, and I eventually had my left hip replaced. But his act of faith and prayer for healing was a powerful experience. I felt loved and cared for, and I witnessed the power of God to do incredible things that day.
God gives all Christians faith. “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Some, however, display faith in an extraordinary way. They heal diseases. They cast out demons. They do remarkable feats of faith in ways that create joy and encouragement for others.
Such faith is not an extra measure of salvation. It is not something given only to super Christians (the best of the best of the best). Nor is this extraordinary faith something we achieve because we have worked harder than others to impress God.
I say all this because we sometimes think of the victory of faith as something only dealing with healings, miracles, or super-heroic acts. For most Christians the victory of faith is much simpler, but no less far-reaching.
- A father takes time to pray with his children before bed because he believes that God hears our prayers and that the kingdom of heaven does indeed belong to little ones. That child grows up to believe in God and honor him his whole life.
- A high school girl remains sexually pure because she believes her body is a dwelling of the Holy Spirit, and she wants to honor God with her body (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:18-21). She goes on to become a mother and Sunday School teacher.
- A single mom refuses the advances of her boss because she values her integrity more than a potential pay raise. She is able to give a powerful witness to others in her workplace about staying true to yourself.
- A school teacher offers to pray for a child who is struggling with math because she values the child more than she fears potential repercussions from the school district. That child goes on to be a teacher herself and has a deeply kind heart toward all her students – especially those who struggle with math.
- An older couple gives a first-fruits portion of their fixed income to the Lord through their offerings at their church, because they believe that God has provided for all their needs and he will not fail them. They inspire others to be generous and the work of the Church is able to go forward.
- A sinner who has failed to do one or more of these things turns to God in repentance, believing that God is merciful and true to his word to forgive us when we confess our sins (1 John 1:8-9). We are able to encourage others to seek God’s mercy when they fail.
- A group of men bring their friend to Jesus on a pallet because he cannot walk (cf. Luke 5:17-26). Jesus shows his glory as God in the flesh.
- A woman touches the hem of Jesus’ garment in hopes that she would be healed…and she is healed (cf. Matthew 9:20-22).
- A young couple sponsors children through a foreign mission agency because they believe that giving even a cup of water to a little one is an act of kindness to Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46).
The victory of faith is not only those heroic acts of extraordinary faithfulness on the one hand, nor merely holding a true conviction about God in one’s heart on the other hand. The victory of faith is seen when our faith takes on flesh in acts of kindness and love for others.