Last night in our youth group meeting, we had a time of waiting on God. The Lord gave me a prophecy about how someone felt too dirty to approach Him; but His response was that if they would just step into His embrace, He would clean them completely.
At the end of the meeting, another pastor walked into the room and asked, “Why does it smell like cleaning supplies in here? Did you spray something?”
It didn’t register at first, but when another person came in and said the same thing, I realized something strange (and really cool) was going on. No one had sprayed anything, and the room hadn’t smelled that way all night. Somehow, those of us who were in the room the whole time smelled nothing, but anyone just walking in got a big whiff of cleaning supplies!
I can’t explain why it happened, or why God would choose to do something in quite this way, but I believe He was confirming His message with a “sign and wonder.”
Mark 16:20 — Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (NIV)
Things like this seem to happen to me every once in a while. I remember leading worship at my church several years ago when an unexplainable wind blew over the top of the piano, blowing all the sheet music off. I’ve led worship there hundreds of times, and there are no “mysterious winds” from A/C ducts, fans, or anything like that. Again, I can’t explain it—I wasn’t even asking for it.
Guess what I found out later? That week was Pentecost Sunday—the day marking when the Holy Spirit came to the first church as a mighty, rushing wind!
Also, the last time I preached on a Sunday at our church, a man came up to me afterward to say that his arthritic hand had been healed. No one prayed for him—it simply happened spontaneously as I shared the message. Our God still confirms His word with signs and wonders!
On September 2, I promised I would share about Day 10 of our Honduras trip, and I just realized that it had slipped my mind. That event included some mysterious signs of its own, but one of them didn’t come from God.
As you may remember, our missions team was being used by God to bring significant breakthrough and revival to a school of a few hundred students in Comeyagua, Honduras. We knew through spiritual revelation that we were up against a significant army of evil spirits, so we came fasting for the chapel service.
My primary role was to share a prophetic word with the students and lead the group in worship. The missionaries put together a list of songs that the students knew in English and wrote it on a small half-sheet of paper, which I set on my keyboard.
Before I go on, let me give you a little bit of the back-story. We had been engaged in spiritual warfare for the past ten days. From the time we arrived in Honduras, I was seeing what I can only describe as “giants” in the mountains—spiritual forces of evil that had been granted influence in that region by the people. When I shared all this with the missionary, she said that many people who come to Honduras see the same thing, but we were the first group to offer a solution (The Lord had given me insight in a dream about how to deal with the root issues that were sustaining these spirits’ influence over the people).
So on Day 10 of our trip, we first met with the teachers of the school. I led worship, and the pastor’s wife shared what the Lord had placed on her heart. The response was nothing short of revival—the teachers flooded the front of the room and prayed passionately for some time, repenting of sin with tears and dedicating themselves to God.
Then came the 6th–10th grade students for their chapel time (the oldest students in the school). Again, I led worship, and our group’s leader, Pastor Jason, shared a short message (while I stayed at the piano). Everything He said was exactly what they needed to hear. He was systematically confronting and tearing down sinful mindsets that had kept the students locked in complacency and immorality for years. Then he gave the altar call, and no one budged!
The room was quiet except for the keyboard playing. A couple younger students came to the front, but that was all. Then Pastor Jason approached one young man who the Holy Spirit had revealed to us earlier in the week to be a key leader in the school. He had a quiet, one-on-one conversation with him. Within the minute, that young man ran to the front of the room with tears in his eyes and began repenting before the Lord.
When he got up, something broke loose in the spiritual realm, and all the other kids got up and started engaging in what was happening. The prayer time went on for about twenty minutes until one of the staff suggested to the principal that the students needed to get to their classes. The principal looked around and said, “I can’t stop what God is doing. You try,” and he handed the staff member the microphone. As soon as that staff member went to talk, the microphone popped and shut off. The students stayed praying.
That was the first sign; and that one, I believe, was from God. But the second sign was one of the strangest things I have ever experienced, and I know it was the enemy.
The night before this worship service, a friend of mine was talking to me about the bugs in Honduras. I made the comment, “I hate centipedes. I’d rather wrestle a python than have to step on a centipede. They creep me out!”
Apparently, that was all I needed to say to give ammo to a spirit of fear. I wasn’t at all afraid myself, but the enemy wanted to stop what God was going to do the next morning.
As I played throughout both those services, the keyboard wobbled and shook on its flimsy, little stand; and the half-sheet of paper with the song-list slowly vibrated down to cover the very top of the black keys on the right side. When we finished, I picked up the paper, and underneath—on the keys of the keyboard—I found a dead centipede.
When one of the school’s staff saw what happened, he asked, “Do you believe in spiritual things?” Of course I do! He told me that he sensed this was a demonic attack, and I told him about how I had mentioned my fear of centipedes the night before. When I went to show someone else, the centipede had completely disappeared.
I am convinced that a spirit of fear tried to thwart what God was doing by sending something to stop me from ministering at the keyboard. But God’s power is greater. I was reminded of when Jesus said, “I have given you the authority to walk on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.” Without me even knowing what was happening, God defeated the spirit of fear as we worshipped with passion and interceded with prayer and fasting. As we expressed our love toward God, He fought the spiritual battle. The enemy cannot stand in an atmosphere of true love for God. “Perfect love casts out fear.”
Through a time of follow-up, we found that these older students soon stepped up to take leadership roles in their school and set the spiritual climate for their classmates. The spiritual atmosphere is changing in Comeyagua, and the Holy Spirit is moving among the young people there. The missionaries told us that what happened that day was prophesied nearly a decade earlier, and they have been praying and interceding for the breakthrough ever since. We were all in awe of God and what He can do.
Some signs and wonders are from God, and others are from the enemy. There are a few differences that will help you discern between them:
First, a sign from God will confirm a Biblical, Spirit-filled message; whereas a sign from the enemy will either distract from or hinder that message (or it will confirm a false message).
Second, a sign from God will draw people into relationship with Him, but a sign from the enemy will draw attention to a person (or simply to itself).
Third, a sign from God will always be more powerful than a sign from the enemy. Remember the centipede that died as we worshipped. Consider also when Moses’ staff turned into a snake, and then the Pharaoh’s magicians did the same thing, turning their staffs into snakes. But Moses’ snake ate the others, and Moses was the only one who got to walk home with a staff!
Signs and wonders still happen today, but we need to stay discerning. Keep preaching the message of Jesus, and you may find miraculous signs and wonders taking place. You can’t conjure them up like the Pharaoh’s magicians, but if you embrace a personal culture of obedience, then signs and wonders may become a natural part of your ministry.
God bless! –Art