Sensationalism is defined as “the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement.” In the church, sensationalism is too often used to attract crowds, likes, and followers, and is often successful because the church is filled with charismatic thrill-seekers who are looking for the next sensational “sign from heaven.”
John 5:1-15 tells the story of a crippled man who almost missed out on a supernatural miracle of healing because he was so preoccupied with a certain sensational phenomenon.
This paralytic had been lying at the Pool of Bethesda, probably for many years, waiting for an angel to come down and “stir up” the water. John says that when the angel “stirred up” the water, whoever stepped first into the pool was healed of whatever disease they had.
Any results at this pool were obviously minimal for John says the place was occupied by a “multitude” of weak, sickly, and helpless people. The man Jesus talked to had been in his paralytic condition for 38 years. Despite his unflagging preoccupation with this sensational angelic phenomenon, he had found no relief.
Many today are running from one exciting meeting to another looking for a charismatic thrill or sensational miracle, but like the people around the pool have found no relief. In many cases, their preoccupation with the sensational is keeping them from experiencing the supernatural power of God.
This was George Whitefield’s concern in 1739 when he wrote to John Wesley in the midst of the great Methodist Revival and cautioned him not to make too much of the sensational phenomena that were occurring in their meetings, such as falling, weeping, visions, shouting, laughing etc. He warned,
That there is something of God in it, I doubt not. But the devil, I believe, does interpose. I think it will take people away from the written word, and make them depend on visions, convulsions, etc., more than on the promises and precepts of the gospel.
Jesus did not encourage the man at the pool in his pursuit of the sensational. He did not offer to sit with him and help him into the pool the next time the angel stirred the water. In fact, he took the man’s attention away from the pool by asking, Do you want to be made well? In other words, if you really want to be made well, this is not the path to be on.
We must remember that this man, and all the others around the pool, were Jews with a healing covenant from God. All the Old Testament promises of healing belonged to them. Exodus 15:26 belonged to them, where God revealed Himself to Israel as the LORD your Healer. Psalm 103:2-3 was theirs, where David exhorted God’s people to, forget not all His benefits; who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.
What are they doing lying around this pool! The angelic stirring of the water has become a distraction for them. They have placed their hope in an unpredictable, sensational phenomenon rather than the sure promises of God’s word. Their pursuit of the sensational is causing them to miss out on the supernatural.
After a brief exchange with the man, that was designed to get his eyes off the pool, Jesus commanded him, “Take up your bed and walk.” The man, who had been paralyzed for 38 years, responded to the words of Jesus and simply took up his bed and began to walk.
There was nothing sensational surrounding this miraculous healing. No stirring of the water in the pool. No bright light shining down from heaven on the man. No angel appearing and touching him. No gold dust floating in the air. He simply obeyed the words of Jesus and was made whole.
I had to learn this lesson in 1989 when I became deathly ill while living in Tulsa, OK, which at that time was the mecca of the charismatic/healing movement. Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborn, Kenneth Hagin, and other renowned healing ministries all had their headquarters there. I too believed in Divine healing and taught Divine healing.
God, however, would not allow me to lie around the pool (so to speak) hoping that a healing gift would be manifest for me. He made it very clear that I was to trust Him and His covenant promises, not the sensational claims of a healing evangelist. In the midst of the battle, He gave me 3 keys to answered prayer: Promise, Praise, and Perseverance.
He made it clear that I was to keep myself preoccupied with His Promise, rather than running here and there hoping for a sensational miracle of healing. I was to surround myself with Praise, for praise is the voice of faith. Finally, I was to Persevere and not throw in the towel just because I did not see an immediate manifestation of healing.
So, I got my eyes off the pool and on God and His promise. I praised and persevered and over the next 3.5 years my faith became firmly rooted in God and His covenant promises. I also received practical instructions for seeing my health restored. I did not experience a sensational miracle, but I was completely healed and thirty years later I am still well and taking no medication. Hallelujah!
If God chooses to manifest some sensational phenomenon to me or through me, I have no problem with that. However, I have discovered something far superior and more exciting than an angelic visitation or gold dust floating in the air—knowing God Himself and His covenant promises. And that is where I have found God's supernatural power at work.