Life

Spiritual Authority

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SPIRITUAL - PART 3

Spiritual Authority
Sunday, May 12, 2019
Acts 9:36-43

Peter sent everyone out of the room, then knelt and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. 

Acts 9:40

Have you ever been in the room with someone in a coma? Sometimes the family is there and we may offer a few words of comfort or a prayer, but there are times as a pastor I have visited hospital rooms where nobody is present and the patient is completely unresponsive. In some cases they are completely brain-dead and will never recover. I cannot imagine walking into a room like this, standing over the hospital bed and saying, “Jim, get up!” or “Ann, get up!”.

Could you imagine the response if the nurses overheard you, or worse yet, a family member. Everyone would think you were crazy.

When I read today’s passage, however, I wonder if I, and we, might be underestimating our spiritual authority.

Peter walked into the room of a person not only in a coma, but a woman who had already died, and he simply had the audacity to tell her to get up, as if she were a child struggling to get out of bed for school in the morning. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t offer a prayer. He didn’t whisper words of encouragement to her family. He walked in with the certainty that Tabitha would get up and walk out of that room with him.

When I was doing my CPE (clinical pastoral education) at the hospital, I loved talking to one of the ICU volunteers. She sat with families in the waiting room and offered them whatever comfort and care she could as they waited and worried about their loved ones. She told me about the time she was in a deep coma for several months. Nobody expected her to live. It was a spiritually dark place for her. She has vivid memories from that time of seeing visions and hearing voices. She describes darkness in her visions, like black smoke and even dragons reaching out to claw at her mind. But she also remembers the voices. I know she was not hallucinating because when she miraculously awoke, she recounted specific things certain people said when they were alone in the room with her. No one else could have known what was said.

Much of her darkness, however, came from what she heard the voices saying. Her own family members would stand over her hospital bed talking about funeral arrangements as if she wasn’t in the room. As the weeks passed, they moved from worry and grief to frustration and hopelessness. There was no way she would ever wake up, the doctors said, and so they treated her like she was already dead. She could not see them, but she heard every word. She tried to reach back with her own voice. “I’m right here!” she shouted over and over again through her tears, but on the outside there were no tears and no sound came from her mouth.

Somewhere deep within her, God’s Spirit breathed new life into her darkness, but part of her darkness always remained because she heard so many heartless things people said about her in their grief and anger and she could never see her loved ones the same again. That’s why she volunteers at the hospital. She wants people to know that even at the brink of death, their loved ones can still hear them and respond, even if we never see or hear a physical response on the outside. She doesn’t want patients to feel alienated by their families in these incomprehensible circumstances.

I don’t know if we will ever see a dead person raised before our eyes, but I imagine the Spirit wants us to speak and live with the kind of authority Christ gave to Peter and his disciples to raise the dead. Whether a person is fighting for their final physical breath or lost in a bottomless pit of emotional or mental death and despair, we have the authority to speak life… not death. We have the authority to encourage them to “Get Up”, no matter how long and painful the process might be. But it is indeed a process. They cannot get up on their own. With our spiritual authority comes the responsibility to walk alongside them for the long haul until they can once again stand and walk on their own.

How are you using your Spiritual Authority to speak life into someone right now?