Touch not God’s Anointed: What it really Means

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This post is a quote from the appendix of a book I am currently reading, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century authored by Hank Hanegraaff in 2009 (published by Thomas Nelson).

Hendrik “Hank” Hanegraaff, before his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy in 2017, was the president of the Christian Research Institute, an apologetic ministry founded by one of the brightest Evangelical minds in the 20th century, Dr. Martin Walter. For decades, Mr Hank was the anchor of “The Bible Answer Man.”

The first edition of Christianity in Crisis was published in 1993. It systematically unmasked the Word-Faith movement – a movement which threatens to undermine the foundations of the faith delivered to the saints.

The book was a bestseller and it won the Medallion Book Award for excellence in evangelical Christian literature. The new volume has been “augmented with a ‘Cast of Characters’ section that provides comprehensive information as well as biblical evaluation of the newest and most prolific stars in the faith galaxy—virtual rock stars who command the attention of presidential candidates and media moguls” (from the Introduction).

The following is an excerpt from Appendix A: Are “God’s Anointed” Beyond Criticism?

“During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ exhorted His followers to not judge self-righteously or hypocritically. Is this necessarily what Christians do when they question the teachings of “God’s anointed” preachers and evangelists?

Many teachers who claim such anointing would say so, and many more of their followers commonly reply to all manner of criticism: “Touch not God’s anointed.”

Some of these teachers even add that such actions carry literally grave consequences. Consider what prominent Faith teacher Kenneth Copeland affirmed in his taped message Why All Are Not Healed (#01-4001):

“There are people attempting to sit in judgment right today over the ministry that I’m responsible for, and the ministry that Kenneth E. Hagin is responsible for . . . Several people that I know had criticized and called that Faith bunch out of Tulsa a cult. And some of ’em are dead right today in an early grave because of it, and there’s more than one of them got cancer.

In addition to certain Faith teachers, such sentiments may be found among various groups involved with shepherding and other forms of authoritarian rule (from diverse “fivefold” ministries to a host of large and small “fringe churches”).

The leaders of these groups are commonly regarded by their followers as having a unique gift and calling that entitles them to unconditional authority—sort of a heavenly carte blanche. To dispute any of their teachings or practices is not distinguished from questioning God Himself.

Advocates of such unquestionable authority assume that Scripture supports their view. Their key biblical proof text is Psalm 105:15: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (KJV). But a close examination of this passage reveals that it has nothing to do with challenging the teachings and practices of church leaders.

First, it needs to be noted that the Old Testament phrase “the Lord’s anointed” is typically used to refer to the kings of Israel (1 Samuel 12:3,5; 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16; 19:21; Psalm 20:6; Lamentations 4:20), at times specifically to the royal line descended from David (Psalms 2:2; 18:50; 89:38, 51), and not to especially mighty prophets and teachers.

While the text does also mention prophets, in the context of Psalm 105 the reference is undoubtedly to the patriarchs in general (vv. 8–15; cf. 1 Chronicles 16:15–22), and to Abraham (whom God called a prophet) in particular (Genesis 20:7). It is therefore debatable whether this passage can be applied to select leaders within the body of Christ.

Even if the text can be applied to certain church leaders today, in the context of this passage the words “touch” and “harm” have to do with inflicting physical harm upon someone. Psalm 105:15 is therefore wholly irrelevant to the issue of questioning the teachings of any self-proclaimed man or woman of God.

Moreover, even if we accepted this misinterpretation of Psalm 105:15, how are we to know who not to “touch”—that is, who God’s anointed and prophets are? Because they and their followers say they are? On such a basis we would have to accept the claims of Sun Myung Moon, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, and virtually all cult leaders to be prophets.

Because they reputedly perform miracles? The Antichrist and False Prophet will possess that credential (Revelation 13:13–15; 2 Thessalonians 2:9)! No, God’s representatives are known above all by their purity of character and doctrine (Titus 1:7–9; 2:7–8; 2 Corinthians 4:2; cf. 1 Timothy 6:3–4).

If a would-be spokesperson for God cannot pass the biblical tests of character and doctrine, we have no basis for accepting his or her claim, and no reason to fear that in criticizing his or her teaching, we might also be rejecting God.

Finally, if any individual Christian is to be considered anointed, then every single Christian must be considered anointed as well. For this is the only sense in which the term is used (apart from Christ) in the New Testament:

“You [referring to all believers] have an anointing from the Holy One” (1 John 2:20). Thus no believer can justifiably claim any sort of special status as God’s “untouchable anointed” over other believers.

With this in mind, it is significant that the apostle John does not use this term with reference to inspired or dynamic preaching or teaching, but to the ability and responsibility of each believer to discern between true and false teachers (vv. 18–24). Nobody’s teachings or practices are beyond biblical evaluation—especially influential leaders.

According to the Bible, authority and accountability go hand in hand (e.g., Luke 12:48). The greater the responsibility one holds, the greater the accountability one has before God and His people.

Teachers and other leaders of the Christian community should be extremely careful to not mislead any believer, for their calling carries with it a strict judgment (James 3:1). They should therefore be grateful when sincere Christians take the time and effort to correct whatever erroneous doctrine they may be holding and preaching to the masses.

And if the criticisms are unfounded or unbiblical, they should respond in the manner prescribed by Scripture, which tells them to correct misguided doctrinal opposition with gentle instruction (2 Timothy 2:25).

There is, of course, another side to this issue: criticism often can be sinful, leading to rebellion and unnecessary division. Christians should respect the leaders that God has given them (Hebrews 13:17). Theirs is the task of assisting the church in its spiritual growth and doctrinal understanding (Ephesians 4:11–16).

At the same time, believers should be aware that false teachers will arise among the Christian fold (Acts 20:29; 2 Peter 2:1). This makes it imperative for us to test all things by Scripture, as the Bereans were commended for doing when they examined the words of even the apostle Paul (Acts 17:11).

Not only is the Bible useful for preaching, teaching, and encouragement, but it is equally valuable for correcting and rebuking (2 Timothy 4:2). In fact, we as Christians are held accountable for proclaiming the whole will of God and warning others of false teachings and those responsible for them (Acts 20:26–28; cf. Ezekiel 33:7–9; 34:1–10).”

[Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2009, pp. 382-386]

Word Faith Teachings and Mind Science Cults

 

Recently, while discussing with some friends on Facebook about the Word-Faith movement, I realised that the varying doctrines and nuanced terminologies found within the WOF can sway even sincere Christians to innocently embrace their heretical teachings and techniques.

Unravelling this aberrational hoodwink requires an exploration of the origin of such false teachings. Once their roots are exposed, you can easily discern when a teaching or practice has crossed the lines of Christian orthodoxy and is skating on the thin ice of curious cults.

First, let’s remind ourselves of what the Bible says about God and faith, because these are key areas through which WOF peddlers smuggle their load of errors through the back door.

  • God

The God of the Bible is “the Living God who made the heaven, and earth, and the sea and all things therein” (Acts 14:15). Not only that, He has a present interest and an active hand in the affairs of men:

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” (2 Chr. 16:9).

This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites” (Josh. 3:10)

…For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and saves; he performs wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (Dan. 6:26-27).

Since God is the Creator of the universe, He’s not the universe and He is not subject to the laws of the universe. This is called “the Infinity of God.” A scholar puts it this way:

“The infinity of God is that perfection of God by which He is free from all limitations. In ascribing it to God we deny that there are or can be any limitations to the divine Being. It implies that He is in no way limited by the universe, by this time-space, or confined to the universe” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1958, p. 59).

The Bible also shows us that God is sovereign. He has absolute authority over all His creatures and upholds all things by His almighty power. God – not man – has absolute rule.

He shapes the whole present history of the world and all things are dependent on Him and subservient to Him:

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes” (Deut. 10:17)

“With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please” (Jer. 27:5).

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns’” (Rev. 19:6).

  • Faith

Faith generally means having an unhesitating assurance of the truth of God’s testimony, even when it is unsupported by any other evidence.

Hebrews 11:1 describes it as: “the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Amplified).

Faith rests on the unseen because it rests upon the foundation of God’s Word. Noah was “warned about things not yet seen” so by faith he responded in obedience.

Abraham went forth in obedience to the land of inheritance without having seen it. Sarah was enabled to conceive Isaac without having seen him. Joseph didn’t see the exodus of the Israelites, but it happened as he believed (Heb. 11:7, 8, 22).

All these happened because they took God at His Word; they believed that God is willing and has “power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:21). Biblical faith acknowledges that God knows what is best for us. (Job. 42:1-6; Matt. 26:39; Rom. 8:26; 2Cor. 12:7-10).

True faith necessitates believing in God and His Word (e.g. 2 Chr. 20:20); therefore, God doesn’t need to have faith in Himself to do anything. To assert that God “used the force of faith by speaking faith-filled words to create the universe” presupposes that there is a ‘higher God’ he rested his faith on. This is an error.

God created everything by and through His own omnipotence. He is infinite and there is no being higher than Him.

Having this understanding, when we pray in faith, we let God be God and trust in His wisdom and goodness. Even though God can do all things, we recognize that He reserves the right to determine the terms and timing by which we will receive what we ask from Him (Rom. 11:33-36).

Faith is not an impersonal force that can be harnessed to create a new reality. The right faith is a willingness to believe what God had said (2 Cor. 12:7-10; Phil. 4: 10-13).

Regarding Mark 11:22, Word Faith teachers disregard the standard “Have faith in God” translation in favour of an erroneous rendering of the text, which reads, “Have the faith of God.”

Indeed, the literal word-for-word translation of the Greek used in Mark 11:22 (echete pistin theou) is “Have [echete] faith [pistin] of God [theou].” But where WOF teachers miss it is that the grammatical construction of Mark 11:22 makes theou an “objective genitive.”

This means that the noun (i.e., theou) is the object of the action mentioned (i.e., having faith). In other words, God is the object of faith, not the possessor of faith. Hence, a proper, meaningful translation is: have faith in God.

True faith is not hinged on an idea; an institution; an image; a feeling or a ritual. It is based on God, His Word, Jesus Christ and His finished work.

In Christianity in Crisis, a 447-page critique of Word Faith doctrines, Hank Hanegraaff contends that the movement’s entire theology “rests on the word ‘substance’ in Hebrews 11:1: ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’”

He goes on to explain and then refute their argument:

Faith teachers interpret the word “substance” to mean the “basic stuff” out of which the universe is made. … Faith cannot be rightly understood to mean “the building block of the universe,” since it is never used in that sense in the book of Hebrews, much less the entire Bible … The word translated “substance” in the KJV [hypostatsis] is more accurately rendered “assurance” (see NASB). … Faith is a channel of living trust—and assurance—which stretches from man to God. … True biblical faith is faith in God as opposed to  faith in substance (or “faith in faith,” as Hagin puts it). … True biblical faith (pistis in the Greek) encapsulates three essential elements … knowledge … agreement … trust.”

The earliest preachers to introduce the ideas of faith as a tangible or conductive “force” were Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) and Essek Kenyon (1867-1948).

Due to scant documented evidence of Wigglesworth’s power and exploits, it has been stated that much of the tales and claims attributed to him were mythical (see Gerard Fisher, The Quarterly Journal, January-March 1995, pp. 1, 11-14).

Essek Kenyon absorbed the teachings of the Higher Life movement as well as mind science concepts which birthed WOF teachings. This leads us to briefly explore mind science religions.

New Thought, Mind Science and the New Age

The 19th century wasn’t just an era of industrial revolution; it was also an era of religious revolution.

In the middle of that century, Western society was entering a new and scientific era, where reason, experimentation, and observable results were becoming the standard means of measuring progress and assessing truth claims.

In a bid to sustain the social mechanics of that time, some people attempted to create a dubious mix of science and religion giving rise to metaphysics or mind science cults.

After being influenced by Phineas Quimby, an occultist and founder of New Thought philosophy, Mary Eddy Baker founded the Christian Science cult.

She taught that Jesus was a scientist who applied dynamic laws of the mind – which govern the universe – to heal people. She also taught that sin, sickness or death were illusions of the mind which can be dispelled with what she called scientific faith or positive thinking.

Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, who founded Unity School of Christianity in 1889, essentially taught the same in Dynamics for Living:

God cannot create without law. God is the Mind force carrying forward creation under law… Whatever Mind commands to be brought forth will be brought forth by and through the law of evolution inherent in Being.

Ernest Holmes of the Church of Religious Science also taught that:

Science of Mind teaches that Man controls the course of his life… by mental processes which function according to a Universal Law… that we are all creating our day-to-day experiences … by the form and procession of our thoughts” (“The Viewpoint in the Science of Mind Concerning Certain Traditional Beliefs” by Science of Mind Publications).

These were concepts that emerged later as New Age philosophies. John Randolph Price in his book The Superbeings says:

“Like attracts likeWhat you think in your mind will produce in your experience … All the Power of the Universe is within you and this Power you can have anything on earth you desire” (The Superbeings John R. Price Quartus foundation, 1981, xv).

Though some of these mind science cults deceitfully use Christian terminologies, they give them different meanings to suit their own beliefs:

  1. They don’t believe in a personal God who directly, sovereignly governs the universe as Christians believe, but in an impersonal god (called “the Force,” “the Infinite Power” or “the Spirit of Infinite Life”) who rules the universe indirectly through immutable laws.
  2. They believe man is the one in control of all that happens to him. Since their god is like energy, he holds no one morally accountable: he only exists to give man what he wants. So, man needs to control his situations or the world with his mind. With positive thinking, he can activate the god energy for his own good.

This idea is seen in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, where he quoted a poem which says:

“It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my own fate, I am the captain of my soul” (p. 86).

Napoleon Hill was the key figure who brought the “Positive Mental Attitude” (PMA) mind formula into the hearts of many Christians and non-Christians in the 20th century. He explains:

PMA attracts good luck. Success is achieved and maintained by those who try and keep on trying with PMA. This is a universal law … that we translate into physical reality the thoughts and attitudes we hold in our minds, no matter what they are” (Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone, Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude, Pocket Books, 1977, p. 55).

Hill also admitted he got his teachings from “9 invisible counselors” he met through intense visualization:

I can truthful say that I owe entirely to my ‘Invisible Counselors full credit for such ideas, facts or knowledge as I received through ‘inspiration’…” (Think and Grow Rich, p. 86).

Who were these “invisible counselors?” Your guess is as good as mine. These mind science occult beliefs came into the church in the 20th century through three key figures:

(a) Robert Schuller who had gleaned much of his “possibility thinking” ideas from Napoleon Hill (who admitted being inspired by demons).

In one of his tapes, Schuller said: “You don’t know what power you have within you! … You make the world into anything you choose. Yes, you can make your world into whatever you want it to be” (Possibility Thinking – Goals. Amyway Corporation tape).

(b) Norman Vincent Peale, a 33 degree Mason who taught that:

“God is energy. As you breathe God in, as you visualize His energy, you will be reenergized! (PLUS: The Magazine of Positive Thinking 37:4, May 1986, 11).

He also taught on mind power: “Your conscious mind… [has a] power that turns wishes into realities when the wishes are strong enough” (Positive Imaging, Fawcett Crest, 1982, p. 77).

In 1984, on the Phil Donahue program, Peale said, “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine … I’ve been to Shinto shrines, and God is everywhere:”

Shocked, Phil Donahue responded, “But you’re a Christian minister; you’re supposed to tell me that Christ is the way and the truth and the life, aren’t you?” Peale replied, “Christ is one of the ways. God is everywhere” (Christian News, May 12, 1997, p. 11).

(c) Agnes Sanford, an Episcopal mystic healer who taught visualization and Jungian psychology. She wrote:

The same principle is true of the creative energy of God. The whole universe is full of it, but only the amount of it that flows through our own beings will work for us” (The Healing Light, Penguin  Random House, 1983, p. 1)

Strands of mind science concepts were adopted by Word Faith preachers and couched with different terms like “the laws of faith”, “the laws of the fourth dimension” or “the laws of miracles.” Though the terminologies differ, the concept is the same.

David Yonggi Cho: “You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth … He is bound by your lips and your mouth … through intense visualization and dreaming, you can incubate your faith and hatch results … Sokagakkai [a Buddhist sect] has applied the law of the fourth dimension and has performed miracles…” (The Fourth Dimension, 1979, pp 64, 83)

Frederick Price: “You are in control! … God cannot do anything on earth unless we…give Him permission through prayer” (The Word Study Bible, p. 1178).

Charles Capps: “This is not theory. It is fact. It is spiritual law. It works every time it is applied correctly … You set them [spiritual laws] in motion by the words of your mouth… everything you say – will come to pass” (The Tongue – A Creative Force, Harrison House, 1976, pp. 24, 131, 132).

Sam Adeyemi: “This world is governed by laws. God invested tremendous energy in this world; energy which He put within the bounds of certain laws. When you satisfy the conditions of those laws, you generate tremendous force in your life to get things done” (Success is Who You Are, 2008, pp. 25-26).

Kenneth Copeland: “Any image that you get down on the inside of you that is so vivid when you close your eyes you see it, it’ll come to pass. When God came at the Tower of Babel, He said, ‘Anything they can imagine, they can do.’“ (Copeland, Inner Image of the Covenant, side 2).

Myles Monroe: “Prayer is man giving God permission or license to interfere in earth’s affairs… God could do nothing on earth… nothing has God ever done on earth without a human giving him access. [So he is] always looking for a human to give Him power permission. In other words, God has the power, but you get the permission. God got the authority and the power, but you’ve got the license. So even though God can do anything, He can only do what you permit Him to do” (“This is Your Day” with Benny Hinn, July 2004).

These mind science beliefs relegate God and exalt man. The idea that there is a universal law or “faith force” which Christians and non-Christians can tap into and use to experience miracles or achieve success is not a Bible teaching.

These teachings have confused many sincere Christians into imagining that “faith” is a force that makes things happen because they believe. This faith is not placed in God but is a power directed at God, which forces Him to do for us what we have believed He will do.

True miracles are not governed by laws – they override all laws. We receive from God by faith, not by applying some impersonal laws. If everything works according to the cosmic “law of faith” or “laws of success,” then God is irrelevant and grace obsolete.

A study of the Bible shows that there is no fixed technique, ritual, formula nor “laws” that can be used to force the true God to work miracles or answer our prayers. We must all be very careful of what we glean from some preachers or books so that we don’t fall into the trap of practising occultism passed off as mind-power.

The devil knows Christians would never listen to the ravings of a shaman reciting his cult corpus and waving his rattle. We won’t even allow him get past our church doors.

But if a shaman shows up in a three-piece suit, has some degrees under his belt, carries a big bible and mouths off the same cultic ideas, this time, laced with familiar Christian clichés, many Christians will fall for his deceptive teachings.

The Two Sides of Faith

We are all familiar with Hebrews 11 and the heroes of faith listed there: Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Samuel, Rahab, Gideon, Jephthah, David and the prophets. Many books have been written about Hebrew 11 and many sermons preached about the heroes of faith who “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (v. 33-34).

Reading their feats ignites our excitement. It makes us want to leap over the pews and shout from the rooftops: “Amen, Hallelujah! Glory!!” And unfortunately, a number of “Faith teachers” have majored on verses 1-34 of Hebrews 11 but curiously set aside the proceeding verses. Is there something wrong with those verses? Let’s see:

Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheep skins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised” (vv. 35-39).

Okay, I see why this part hasn’t been equally emphasized. It’s not “exciting” stuff. It doesn’t make people want to jump over the pews. More so, they refute the theory taught by Word-Faith teachers that: “Once you are born again, all your problems will disappear because you are now a god.” Or “Once you have the key of knowledge and key into my formula of the God-kind of faith, you will never again suffer; you will never fail or become poor or fall sick.”

Hence, in order to sustain their novel theological structure, these folks screen out uncomfortable parts – like unsavoury parts of a mega million movie edited out to soothe fray nerves. But the Bible presents us with truth and reality. Heat and cold are opposite, yet both are real. We can’t set one aside for the other because it’s not palatable to us.

Biblically, faith is not only about receiving breakthroughs, wealth, success, victory or supernatural power from God, but also about standing up for Christ, enduring hardship and opposition, being faithful to Christ to the point of death, being joyful in suffering and refusing to deny the faith even when you have no money, no job, no home, no friend and not receiving what God promised to give you. These are the two sides of faith.

Hebrews 11 presents us a balanced picture of the heroes of faith: those who enjoyed the exploits of faith and those who endured the outworking of faith. “Positive” Christianity has replaced the latter with the former. Thus, many Christians who have been fed with sugary teachings and motivational philosophies end up with spiritual diabetes; a skewed perception of reality.

When these Christians suffer opposition, experience crisis or financial setbacks, they start to flounder. They start to think that maybe God has forsaken them or they have committed an unpardonable sin. Some backslide and begin to doubt if Jesus, God or the Bible was ever real. But these experiences are normal, because the Bible prepares our minds about them:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own … No servant is greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also...” (Jn. 15:18-20)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33)

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41)

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil. 1:29)

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which you are suffering” (2 Thess. 1:5).

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:14-16)

Jesus didn’t promise us a free ride as some people teach. In life, our faith, patience, integrity and hope will be tested. We must not give up in defeat because our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17)

As I type this, I think of that young man who lost his job for being honest; that lady who has had her official benefits withheld for not committing sexual immorality with her boss; that woman standing up for Christ in the face of Islamic persecution; that Christian father or mother diagnosed with a terminal disease. By the world’s standards, they are “losers,” “fools,” or “pathetic”, but in God’s record, they are heroes of faith.

I look into the Bible and I don’t see any Godly man or woman who had a perfect life. They were all tested in God’s furnace. It’s not about what you are passing through in life, but your attitude to it that matters. We can’t really know how great, powerful and merciful God is unless we’ve failed before.

Personally, I don’t think I would have known God as I do today if I hadn’t been whipped with life’s lashes. But in everything remember: “And surely I am with you always, to the every end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). One of my favourite Bible verses is Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

In life, we will pass through the fire or wade through the waters, but let us remember that God is ever present with us and He will give us victory.