According to legend, Gen. George Patton held army chaplains in high regard. At staff meetings where significant choices needed to be made, he always had them. In addition, he constantly urged the Chaplains to “get a hotline to God!”
Gen. Patton asked the Chaplain to write a prayer to modify the weather during the Battle of the Bulge since it was so bad. In response, they prayed something along the lines of, “Restrain these excessive storms, [O Lord], grant us fair weather for battle, graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee, that armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.” This prayer was said by General Patton on December 12, 1944. The weather was cleared by God after a few days. Still, Patton’s force did “advance from victory to victory.” (1) It would seem that George Patton was unstoppable, even by God.
A well-known televangelist gave his thousands of fans green prayer cloths a few years ago. According to legend, God told him that, with one crucial need, the prayer cloth would serve as a point of contact between him and the audience for the blessing to be released. To get the prayer cloth, his audience had to donate a large sum of money, or as he put it, “Sow your very best seed.” The televangelist promised enormous riches to anybody who returned the green cloth along with some cash: “Send me your green prayer cloth as my point of contact with you!” he implored. “Touching your cloth will feel like touching you, I promise! It will be the same as taking MY hand and touching ME if you touch this material. You may rule over your life as a king if you get the anointing God has placed on your life for financial miracles and prosperity. This televangelist claims that one woman received $286,000 in bonds and $65,000 in cash within months of turning in her prayer cloth. In addition, her husband recovered from his alcoholism. (2) I find that intriguing. You can instantly become wealthy and solve your family’s issues by simply sending for a prayer cloth.
And think about this…
The Most Holy Redeemer Shrine in Las Vegas, Nevada, was served by the Rev. Patrick Leary as its rector. He claims that people frequently ask the same thing in the church: “Father, will you pray for me to win?” Father Leary asks: “Do they believe we’d still owe money on this place if it were so simple? He gestures around at the lovely church. Although I firmly believe in the power of prayer, even it has its limits. (3) I find that intriguing. Even prayer has boundaries.
Do you think that prayer has limitations as well? What are you supposed to do with Jesus’ declaration, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it”?
Consider the opportunities: a new automobile, a new house, a treatment for baldness. Our only requirement is to ask. “If you ask Me anything in My Name, I will do it?”
Dr. Leslie Weatherhead recalled having a particularly challenging exam as a high school student. He had, however, come across the phrase, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I perform. He took that verse to suggest that all he needed to do was ask to pass the test. Instead, he expressed to God his desire for a high grade and his belief in God’s promise. Young Weatherhead took the test the following day, but when the results were in, he had failed. He had lost hope. He disobeyed and nearly lost faith. Because God had not granted his request for a decent score, he concluded that the Bible’s promises were not true.
He took that course again the following year. He studied hard, and he succeeded. This time, he came to the conclusion that he could survive without God and that he did not need him. Leslie Weatherhead needed some time to realize that the talents and prowess he thought came from inside him were actually gifts from God. He started to understand that although God had already given him the ability to pass the test, he hadn’t used it the first time. We never receive more power from God than we require. There is no need to beg for more unless we are willing to use what God has already given us, as Dr. Charles L. Allen once said. (4)
“If you ask Me anything in My name,” said Jesus, “I will do it.” that’s a huge claim. So get a little closer, fuckers; let’s get dirty.
First of all, do you see that Jesus is talking to his disciples?
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?” Jesus said. Jesus queries his followers. “The Father who is inside Me executes His works, not the words I utter to you on My own initiative. Believe me when I say that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father. I declare to you that whoever believes in Me will perform the same works that I do and greater works than these because I go to the Father. And I’ll fulfill any request you make in My name so that the Father may be exalted in the Son.
Jesus offers his disciples words of motivation. He states, “You’ve seen the blind regain their sight.” “You’ve seen the disabled healed. But, hey, YOU’RE GOING TO DO GREATER WORKS THAN THAT!”
Jesus was speaking to the congregation. He wasn’t discussing buying a new house, a new automobile, or succeeding in a test. He was discussing the activities of the Kingdom. He claims that nothing is insurmountable for his disciples when they decide to start carrying out the work that God has asked them to accomplish and when they enlist God’s assistance! That is accurate. In the eyes of the church of Jesus Christ, nothing is impossible!
The renowned proponent of Possibility Thinking, Dr. Robert Schuller, claims that two words have crushed more aspirations and hopes inspired by God than anything else. “Be realistic!” are the key two words. Dr. Schuller claims that if Christians were “realistic,” nothing would get done.
He uses Tom Dempsey as an example—a young man with incredible faith born with a malformed right arm and half a right foot.
Despite having significant disabilities, Dempsey aspired to play football. He did play football, though. He developed and became the team’s kicker for high school. However, it wasn’t enough. He aspired to play college basketball. He then took over as the team’s kicker for his college. But as he earned his college degree, his goal expanded and became even more spectacular. He aspired to play football professionally! A professional football player with a malformed right arm and one foot. Impossible! No trainer would take him. Each of them shook their head. All but one, and it is hilarious and more than coincidental that Dempsey ended up being a kicker for the New Orleans SAINTS of professional football! As they say, the rest is history. Dempsey made one of the biggest field goals in history in 1972, measuring 63 yards! A record that’d stand for over forty years, All due to his lack of realism! All of this, according to Schuller, is a result of Tom Dempsey’s faith in Jesus Christ, who gave him the power to carry out his dreams. (5)
People who believe and are persistent in this world do amazing things. According to the text for the day, when we set out to serve Jesus Christ, you and I can accomplish wonderful things. When Jesus said, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it,” he was addressing his church. In the eyes of the church of Jesus Christ, nothing is impossible.
But there is another equally significant factor… Jesus then adds a caveat: “And whatever you ask in My name, I will do, that the Father may be glorified. ” If it honors the Father, Christ will comply with every request we make. This is where we frequently make mistakes. Not everything we do is done in the church for God’s honor.
A funny tale about Rabbi Feldman, who was having issues with his congregation, was once shared by Isaac Asimov. They appeared to have no areas of agreement. But, Rabbi, this can’t go on anymore, the congregation’s leader cried.
Come, a conference is required, and we must finally resolve all points of contention. Rabbi Isser agreed.
Thus, at the allotted hour, the rabbi, the president, and ten elders gathered in the synagogue’s conference room, seated around a fine mahogany table. The problems were addressed individually, and with each problem, it became more evident that the rabbi was a lone voice in the desert. Come, Rabbi, enough of this, the synagogue leader commanded. Let’s cast our votes and let the majority rule. Each man made a mark on the slips of paper he distributed. Finally, the president collected the slips and said, “You may check them out, Rabbi. You are down by an eleven-to-one margin. We hold the lion’s share.
The rabbi then sprang to his feet in a show of insulted majesty. “So,” he said, “you now believe you are correct, and I am mistaken because of the vote. That is not true, though. Therefore, I stand here and ask the Holy One of Israel to provide us a sign that I am correct and you are mistaken,” he said as he powerfully lifted his arms.
A terrifying burst of thunder and a spectacular lightning strike split the mahogany table in half while he said this. The president and the elders were thrown to the floor as the chamber filled with smoke and smell. The rabbi stood upright and unharmed throughout the bloodshed, his eyes sparkling and a gloomy grin. The president slowly raised himself above the remaining table. His clothes were a mess, and his hair was burned. His spectacles fell from one ear.”All right, eleven to two,” he finally said. But we continue to hold the majority. (6)
We know that not everything in churches is done in God’s honor. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a vision for our church that was so expansive that we would need God’s help to realize it? And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we prayed about it to ensure our dreams aligned with God’s?
Church growth expert George Barna questioned a group of pastors about how they thought Christ would evaluate their church if He were to return right now. Unfortunately, 53 percent of these pastors claimed that Christ would consider their church to have little to no positive influence on people’s souls or society. (7) How depressing. That is so sad. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have demonstrable proof that the presence of this church has improved both our town and our community?
In Christ’s words, “If we dream great dreams and if those dreams are to God’s glory and not our own, then we will see such evidence. Lastly, YOU AND I CAN PARTICIPATE IN THE GREAT THINGS GOD IS DOING. Great things will occur, and we can play a part in them if we dream a dream for this church and if it is genuinely God’s dream.
Philadelphia’s Grace Baptist Church is one of the best churches in America. The church and Temple University were founded by Dr. Russell H. Conwell, who also wrote the bestseller ACRES OF DIAMONDS, which has touched millions of people’s lives. Conwell preached to almost 4,000 people at the Sunday morning worship service at the height of his ministry. However, the history of how the church, formerly known as the Baptist Temple, was created is not widely known.
Little Hattie Wyatt attended Sunday school in the previous structure, which was behind the present church building. She attempted to attend Sunday School one Sunday. Still, she could not do so because too many youngsters were attempting to go, and the facility was already filled. Little Hattie returned home disheartened but determined to take action. She set aside her pennies so that a church edifice big enough to fit everyone might be constructed. Hattie accumulated savings till she had fifty-seven cents, at which point she developed a terminal illness. One day after her passing, her distraught mother gave Conwell the fifty-seven cents. She said Hattie had been setting money aside for a new church structure. Conwell addressed the congregation the following Sunday after sharing Hattie’s vision with them. The Lord used those fifty-seven cents in His use. It served as a starting point for gathering thousands of dollars to construct Grace Baptist Church.
When the enormous structure was completed and consistently occupied to capacity, people stopped referring to it as “Conwell’s Folly,” which they had done while it was still being built. But the story doesn’t end there. Temple University and its colleges of liberal arts, education, business, music, and fine arts were founded from Grace Baptist Church. Law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and medical technology are just a few of the many graduate degrees it offers. The school has tens of thousands of graduates and thousands of students. Hattie Wyatt and her fifty-seven cents are responsible for founding the church and the university. (8)
Impossible? No, it is merely the realization of the promise made by Christ to his church. How do you envision our church developing? Why not challenge Christ? Let’s create a big enough dream for our church—a dream that will force us to rely on God—and then let’s go out and make that dream a reality. Since Christ promised, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son… “we know He will fulfill our requests.
- Porter B. Williamson, PATTON’S PRINCIPLES (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), p. 150.
- CHRISTIANITY IN CRISIS, 186. Cited in Jack Kuhatschek, THE SUPERMAN SYNDROME (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), pp. 80-81. 3. Robert Macy, The Associated Press, QUOTE, March 1995, p.
- Charles L. Allen, JOYFUL LIVING IN THE FOURTH DIMENSION, (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1983).
- Contributed by Dr. John Bardsley.
- ASIMOV LAUGHS AGAIN, (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993), pp. 31-32.
- “More Than Christians,’” by James Hoobler, ALLIANCE LIFE, February 1, 1995, p. 20.
- Clarence W. Cranford, HIS LIFE OUR PATTERN (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1950), pp. 53-54. Cited in J. B. Fowler, Jr., ILLUSTRATING GREAT WORDS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1991).
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