Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Faith of a Child (by Billy Coffey)

I posted this yesterday. But because it was a holiday I wanted to make sure that everyone who might have missed it had an opportunity to read it today. Few things make me angrier than causing harm to a child and the so called prosperiety gospel. Combine the two? Grrrr....(okay, end of mini rant). Here's Billy:

The television is largely ignored around our house for most of the day, but like all good rules it is relaxed after dinner. By then a day’s worth of school and play have left my children with as much energy as a bowl of Jell-O. Sitting on the couch and being entertained by Phineas and Ferb is all they can handle.

My daughter is generally Holder Of The Remote when I’m not around, and as my own energy level was Jell-O like yesterday evening, I wasn’t around. I had instead camped out in the rocking chair on the front porch, watching the mountains rather than the TV.

I rocked as the cool September breeze blew through the open living room window, letting in the fresh air and letting escape the sounds of my daughter’s channel changing.

News: “Unemployment continues to rise across the Commonwealth…”

A preacher on the Christian channel: “…faith can heal you of your greatest pains…”

ESPN: “…Red Sox continue their collapse…”

And finally Spongebob: “I'm so cold, I can use my nose drippings as chopsticks.”

Which is where I thought she would stay. My daughter loved Spongebob.

But then it was back to the preacher: “…God loves His children and wants to prosper them…”

I kept rocking, gazing out over the porch to the mountains beyond. A slight smile crossed my face, and why wouldn’t it? My daughter had just passed up Spongebob to learn something about God.

“…He doesn’t want anyone to be sick! Disease is Satan’s doing…!”

Still, it seemed a bit odd. A bit over the top. A bit…

“You’re not healed because you don’t believe!!”

“Dang it!” I said, jumping from the rocking chair and bursting through the door as calmly as possible but not quite. I sat beside her and palmed the remote, changing the channel back to Spongebob with as much nonchalance as I could.

“How ya doin’, sweets?” I asked.


“Wanna watch some Spongebob?”


“You okay?”


But she wasn’t. I knew that. And I also knew it was too late. The damage had been done.

At bedtime when I went to tuck my daughter in for the night, I could see her tears from the doorway.

“What’s faith?” she asked me.

“Faith,” I said, sitting down beside her, “is believing that God can do whatever He wants.”

“Do you have a lot of faith?”

I’d been father long enough to know that sometimes parents must lie to their children. But I never made it a practice to do so when it comes to matters of faith, so I said, “Sometimes I do. Other times I don’t.”

She looked at me, crying. “The preacher man said I have diabetes because I don’t have faith.”

“That’s not what he said,” I answered.

“He said if I had enough faith, God would take my sugar away.”

I didn’t answer that time. Because again, I couldn’t lie—that’s pretty much what the preacher man had said.

I sat by my daughter’s bed for a long while that night, holding her hand and stroking her hair until the tears left and sleep finally came.

As I gazed down to her I wasn’t thinking about how special she was or how she struggled with her disease. No, I was thinking about how much I would’ve liked that preacher to be there to hear my daughter doubt her faith. I wanted him to see the tears he caused her to shed. And then I would’ve taken him out back and shown him what happens to adults who hurt my little girl.

The whole prosperity gospel movement is still going strong, and there are no signs that it will slow anytime soon. Check the bestseller lists. Turn on your television. They’re everywhere, standing in front of thousands of people in their thousand-dollar suits and pretty smiles, prophesying that God is just chomping at the bit to make you as rich and successful and healthy as they are.

I don’t normally rant, and I never judge. But as I sat there looking down at my daughter, I knew without a doubt that there was a special place in hell reserved for people who manage to contort God’s word to equate faith with wellness and piety with affluence.

I can understand their appeal, I really can. A God who wanted nothing more than to heap material blessings on anyone who paid enough attention to Him makes religion seem a little more palatable. A little more...human. And their theology is mixed with just enough truth to make it seem right.

But if you think it is, if you think that’s how God operates, then I’ll invite you to spend a day with my daughter.

Maybe then you’ll see that God isn’t after our comfort or our health as much as our faith and our trust.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.


Tina Dee Books said...

My own rant...

In every personal encounter Christ had with people, He never sent them away with more money, nicer clothes, a finer camel, a bigger house, more popular...He said they should give those things up, take up their cross and follow Him. That doesn't sound like an easy life.

John, ch 9: Jesus heals the man by making clay with His spit. He rubs it on the mans eyes and tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam (and that wasn't even the closest pool). The man was blind, hadn't ever heard of Jesus, and now Jesus heals him before he even knows who Jesus was. Where was this man's faith when he was being healed?

I know so many Godly people, people who are passionate for Christ, who are in pain and suffering. They have faith. But God has His will, His plans and His timing, and hardly any of it follows our agenda.

I would say it takes more courage and faith for a little girl to live with pain knowing God loves her and she's unique and wonderully made--than for a man who should know the Truth, but believes a lie, to say what he's saying. He has it wrong. Look at a lot of the 'prosperous' people around us, many don't know Christ, and many of them aren't even happy--why would He prosper them--they have no faith?

My faith is not in 'faith', it's in Who I place my faith and my yielding to His will, not Him to mine (if I think I should have wealth or healing because I have faith, then I'm expecting God's plans to match my own, or He should change them to do so--nope, don't work that way, Mr. Preacher man!)

Does God want us to have more stuff? Or is character more important. Do we get stuff for faith, or character from faith?

To the preacher man: I don't think God withholds healing from little girls because they don't have faith. God's grace and mercy cover Billy's little sweetheart, and the better thing than stuff is to have a real relationship with Jesus.

You know all this, I just needed to get it off my chest, I'm so riled!

In the meantime, Billy, hug that little girl, block that channel, pray for that man, and know we're praying for your baby-girl!

Sorry about going off. His words are very upsetting, and I'm sure others will chime in likewise.

We love you, Billy. We love your family too. Please hold that little girl. God's got a special plan for her life, one He's made just for her. It will be neat to hear as you tell us about it in the years to come. Thanks, friend!

sherri said...

I ditto all that Tina said.

You know all of this anyway, but a little one...so vulnerable.

God bless your little girl- and you for being there to share His love to her.

Luke said...

Great post, Billy!


jasonS said...

It's brokenness that enables us to see who God really is. Jesus did say that everything we give up in this life, materially or relationally, will be given much more in this life and the life to come. The sad thing about many preaching this way is that they've never given everything, never experienced devastating disease (as Billy said). It's been my experience that people who have tread a lot more lightly in these areas... Needs to be a lot more fear of the Lord and reverence of the whole Word.

Carmen said...

That is so sad! I wish people would think before they speak. There are a lot of scriptures that prove otherwise. What of Paul, with his thorn in the flesh that God did not take away from Him...though He sought God three times regarding it. No faith, I guess (rolling eyes).

I wonder if the preacher you mentioned is familiar with Matthew 18:6?

Thank you for a really thought provoking post. My thoughts and prayers are with your family and your little girl!

Janet Oberholtzer said...

Excellent - both the writing and the thoughts!

My sister Rosene was as sharp as you and I mentally, but she was born with Cerebral Palsy, so she had no muscle control. Her entire body was contorted and in pain most of her adult life - until she went to move freely with Jesus last fall.
Every now and then, she struggled tremendously with questions after someone would say something about how having enough faith would bring healing. When I was younger I wanted to kill them. Now, after going through traumatic injuries, I feel sorry for them, for the view of God they live with.

The other thing that upset me, is when someone would say that God wanted her to have CP. Really? And which of us parents wants our children to be in pain their entire life?!
Why do so many people forget that this is earth (a fallen world) which the devil rules right now and he's out to steal, kill, lie and destroy? So he causes havoc on lives. Because God is amazing, he can bring good from pain/suffering if we ask him, but that doesn't mean the pain/suffering is good.

And yes, there are times when God disciplines and/or teaches adults through pain/suffering (don't think he does that to children) But even for adults - who are we to determine which is which?

Spherical said...

I am sorry for the pain that this has caused your daughter and you, Billy. But I am also sorry for the preacher who speaks the lies.

Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

I pray that Jesus would heal your daughter. But her pain is temporary. I really pray for those who preach and believe such lies. FOr I fear their pain will be eternal.

Nick the Geek said...

I think when Jesus talked about the Goats that bragged on all the things they did in Jesus name while ignoring Jesus' presence He was thinking of proponents on the Prosperity doctrine.