My Journey Of Faith And Suffering
Nov 25, 2008
I am a “faith” person. What I mean by that is that I believe that “God is a good God and the devil is a bad devil”, as Oral Roberts would say. For many years, I was a part of what has been called “the Word of Faith” movement within the Charismatic Church. I was the ultimate tape junkie. I would spend my days and nights listening to faith teachers such as Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland as well as many others. (Those were the days before mp3s and Ipods, and even CDs of audio messages. I wore out several cassette Walkmans a year!)
I was really extreme. Because I came out of a severe emotional breakdown as well as a suicidal depression in the mid 1980’s during my last year at Juilliard, I had to take drastic measures, it seemed, to come out of it. So, for over five years, I immersed myself in this world of the “Word of Faith” message.
I thank God that He used this to bring victory and freedom from condemnation to me. I also developed a very strong prayer life out of a necessity to survive emotionally and psychologically. I still confess the promises of God over my life and others every morning. It is true that God’s Word in our mouths produces mightily in our lives what He has promised in His Word for us. While there are many things that are correct in this “theology”, there are other things that I do not now believe are correct. Or, if they are correct, it is so unbalanced that I can no longer accept everything that is taught in that world.
I still remember the time in 1997 when the Lord spoke to me and said,
“Now, son, put away all your faith tapes and books, and read My book. In fact, don’t just read it, I want you to EAT MY BOOK.”
At that time, I was traveling around the world ministering, but inside I felt more and more dissatisfied. I see now that it was a “divine dissatisfaction”. I started praying in the Holy Spirit in the supernatural languages of tongues night and day. I was hungry for more. Somehow, I knew that there was something that I was missing. So I obeyed and did just what the Lord said: I spent hours every day in the Bible. I read it out loud. I read entire books of the Bible in meditation over and over. I just LIVED in the book. I made the commitment that I would become a part of it and it would become a part of me…another words…I ATE the Bible. I lived in it night and day. I still try to do that to this day, by God’s grace.
What happened was that I began to change. God, by the Holy Spirit, started changing me profoundly from the inside out. And I wasn’t happy with most of the changes, either. It got to the place where I couldn’t just listen to the mixture being preached I conferences and church services anymore. You see, as a musician, I began to hear and recognize the sound of God’s voice and resonance in His Word. What I was hearing from the pulpits was something different. It didn’t have the same resonance and sound as the Master’s voice. What was even more troubling, what I was hearing preached and taught was sounding more and more skewed and twisted. The Bible majors on subjects like the cross, denying self, holiness, the fear of the Lord, consecration, love, purity, hell, and separation from the flesh and the world, missions, caring for the poor and needy, putting the gospel first and going into all the world to make disciples of the nations. It isn’t about joining a country club and living selfishly only for this life. It is all about the life to come. These subjects seemed to be avoided like the plague in the messages I was hearing.
Then God began to purge things out of me like the love of money, selfish ambition, and my desire to build a ministry “empire” down here on earth to impress everybody. Now, this became a big problem. I could no longer get on the phone and book myself for the primary purpose of financial gain. Unfortunately, I had begun to live too high financially. I had to bring in thousands and thousands of dollars each month just to keep up and pay my bills. I had gotten myself into a financial trap because of greed and luxury. The financial “monster” had to be fed every month. I was exhausted, and was totally out of balance. Because of my gifts, primarily on the violin, I was merchandising the anointing. Somehow, though, I managed to hang on for the next four years and kept current with my bills, etc. Then, 9/11 came. I was preaching up on Long Island, outside of NYC when the towers came down. When those towers came down, so did I. I had a relapse of the depression from 1986, and I couldn’t go on that way any more. I quit. Like the song that Phil Collins sang in the early 1980’s, I was singing, “I don’t care ANYMORE!!!” I came home to Tulsa, OK. and just collapsed. For ten years, I had traveled for nearly 20 days each month. My family was neglected and my marriage was in trouble. I finally did something radical: I divorced money. I had been married to money. Money had ruled my life, not Yeshua. I was so beat up by ministry and all the abuse I had been through, that I had to quit it all. So I did.
Sadly, my wife could not divorce money with me. She had gotten used to the big house, the luxury cars, the nice neighborhood, not working, and all the perks which went with the upper middle class of Tulsa, Ok. in that false, white-washed, “Christian faith culture”. Now, I realize that I was to blame in many areas for leading my family into that. But, I still needed help. I was really UNABLE to produce at that level anymore, no matter how much I wanted to do so. It was over, and that was that. She refused to go with me if it meant that I wouldn’t provide for her at the level she was used to. Another words, when I divorced money, she didn’t. Instead, our marriage failed. So, on top of the exhaustion, the depression, and my inability to travel and minister, I was forced to leave my wife, my children, and my home.
The Lord said to me,
“You must leave. If you don’t, you are going to die and you will not fulfill your calling.”
I was broken hearted and completely hopeless in my soul. I felt like such a failure that I don’t even have the words to describe it. I did finally leave after a year and a half of trying to save my home and marriage. That was in January of 2003. I felt abandoned and betrayed by God. I had pressed in and prayed, but instead of things getting better, my whole life was destroyed. Everything that I had loved and had meant anything to me at all had been ripped out of my life. I had totally failed, in my own estimation. Since that time, only by God’s mercies and grace, I have made a gradual uphill climb to restoration.
However, I am a completely different person. My priorities have totally changed. I still regret many mistakes and sins that I have done, but one thing is clear to me: God is the only One that I can say has kept me and not myself or anything I have done. You see, I quit the ministry and moved back to New York City. Or I should say that I tried to quit. God wouldn’t let me quit. He opened a huge door to Asia in May of 2004 through a wonderful man of God, Dr. Ernest Chan of Agape Renewal Center (www.agapecenter.net) and I have been back in ministry ever since. Actually, I never could totally quit. In my darkest time, still, the Lord would use me. I saw great healing miracles, salvations, amazing music and preaching coming out of me, my time with Benny Hinn was even greater than before as he wouldn’t let me quit him, either, and I could go on and on. Nevertheless, I was so angry at God! I didn’t even want to minister and the anointing was twice as powerful as before. I remarried shortly after to Devorah, a New York Jewish woman who God anointed to do everything that I could no longer do. I still don’t “run” the ministry. If she wouldn’t go with me and totally help with every practical detail, I would never travel like I do now. So, that’s my true story.
Now, according to my understanding before, the closer I got to God, and the more “faith” I had, the better and more victorious my life should be. But, my dilemma was, that the closer I got to God, the more my life got worse, and the less victory manifested around me. This was very hard for me to understand. The truth is, I still battle with depression almost daily. Why Lord? Must I suffer like this for the rest of my days?
I still believe firmly in healing, in prosperity, in victory and the abundant life that God promises in the Bible. But, I also see another side to things. First of all, we are called to follow the EXAMPLE of Jesus. No one suffered more than He did. All the twelve disciples were martyred. Some were tortured first. The only exception is John who was exiled to the island of Patmos at nearly 100 years of age because, according to tradition, they couldn’t kill him by boiling him in oil. The Apostle Paul outlines his suffering very clearly in 2 Corinthians where he talks about being shipwrecked, going without food, sleep, and shelter, being beaten with rods, stoned, left for dead, being throw in prison, the care of the churches, and the demonic torment of his thorn in the flesh, whatever that was. In the book of Acts, the early church rejoiced to be counted worthy to be beaten and flogged for the name of Yeshua. These are the greatest examples we have of the victorious Christian life. But, does that sound like they were successful in this life?…not from my reading of the New Testament. They all suffered with the Lord’s grace working mightily in and through them, IN SPITE of their suffering.
The Bible describes a completely different life than what all the faith teachers taught me. It isn’t a life of luxury. It isn’t about “becoming a better you”, as the popular Houston pastor’s book proclaims. It isn’t finding your self, or getting more blessed, or more healed, or more fulfilled, or living with “a millionaire mentality”. That did NOT come from the Bible. My Bible reads exactly the opposite: Yeshua said, “Lose your life to find it. Deny yourself and forsake all and follow Me.” Paul says, I DIE daily so that Messiah can live in me. He rejoiced in all his suffering. He wasn’t delivered out of suffering. His anointing and obedience to God actually brought on more suffering. It did nothing to stop it. It seems the modern church’s goal for believers is to be happy, healthy, wealthy, comfortable, and to have a perfect life free from as much conflict and opposition as possible down here. The goal is to build a big empire down here with your wealth so that you can live like a king. Enjoy your life, be fulfilled, satiate every lust and desire and STILL go to heaven! Beloved, THAT is not what the Bible teaches. It is a false message. It can never conform you to Messiah’s image, because that isn’t the way He is.
I have total faith for God’s abundant life here on this earth. But, what is that abundant life? It is a total paradox, actually. It is a life of moment by moment obedience. It is a life of denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Yeshua. It is dying daily so that He can fully live in you. It is loving others more than yourself and sacrificing everything to express that love into your world. It is forgiving over and over even when you have been betrayed and broken, hurt and abused, abandoned and forsaken by those you love the most. When you live this way, everyone in your world can see that Yeshua is real, especially your enemies. And here is something else to think about: If you are not encountering any opposition and suffering in your life, than I seriously doubt that you are really following Yeshua. Here is the bottom line:
If you are truly living the Christian life as a disciple of Yeshua:
YOU WILL BE PERSECUTED, MISUNDERSTOOD, ABUSED, STOLEN FROM, BETRAYED, AND HATED BY ALL WHO HATE GOD AND LIVE IN SIN AROUND YOU. THE MORE YOU LIVE FOR HIM AND LOVE OTHERS THE WAY HE DOES, THE MORE THE GOD-HATING WORLD AROUND YOU WILL HATE YOU AND OPPOSE YOU AT EVERY TURN. NOT ONLY PEOPLE, BUT THE DEMONIC REALM WILL DAILY TRY TO ASSAIL YOU IN YOUR MIND AT EVERY TURN ALSO.
So, you ask, how can I have faith? My answer is: I know that THROUGH ALL MY SUFFERING, God brings victory and success FOR THE ETERNAL KINGDOM – and not necessarily for this life. I believe that any suffering that I go through God turns into the winning of souls for eternity, as long as I respond correctly to it.
IT IS WORTH IT ALL! Amen.
My dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Messiah, I have learned from my experience that this is the REAL Christian life. Any other is a counterfeit one. That is what the scriptures teach.
If we suffer with Him now, we shall reign with Him in eternity.
Beloved, do not be afraid to enter into our Lord’s suffering by laying down your life for Him and those in your world that so desperately need Him. He gives abundant joy and rejoicing when we go through all these things. So count it all joy! Amen.
All my love in our Messiah!