Spiritual Entitlement: Are we practicing low grade snake handling?
Here is the report by By ARLETTE SAENZ at ABC News: A “serpent-handling” West Virginia pastor died after his rattlesnake bit him during a church ritual, just as the man had apparently watched a snake kill his father years before.
Pentecostal pastor Mark Wolford, 44, hosted an outdoor service at the Panther Wildlife Management Area in West Virginia Sunday, which he touted on his Facebook page prior to the event.
“I am looking for a great time this Sunday,” Wolford wrote May 22,according to the Washington Post. “It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good ‘ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers.”
Robin Vanover, Wolford’s sister, told the Washington Post that 30 minutes into the outdoor service, Wolford passed around a poisonous timber rattlesnake, which eventually bit him.
“He laid it on the ground,” Vanover said in the interview, “and he sat down next to the snake, and it bit him on the thigh.” Vanover said Wolford was then transported to a family member’s home in Bluefield about 80 miles away to recover. But as the situation worsened, he was taken to a hospital where he later died.”
This is a terrible, terrible event and we respect and grieve with the family this man left behind. However, we must see what happened and see if there is a message here for all of us.
Here are the verses that drive the snake handlers: Mark 16: 17 “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
They are tempting God by violating the context of these verses. We are to cast out devils on purpose. We are to deliberately speak in tongues. There will be signs of divine protection for accidents with snakes and poison. Even the snake handlers must subconsciously sense that this is true because we do not see them deliberately drinking poison to prove their faith.
Intervention with snakes was literally fulfilled in Acts 28:3-5. “But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” 5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.”
But is there a subtle sister to this sin, and is it widely accepted? My humble opinion is yes. I call it SPIRITUAL ENTITLEMENT and I consider it the greatest threat to the fledgling revival of signs and wonders.
To see how entitlement works in the spiritual we must first see it in the natural. The spirit of entitlement is so pervasive that the American Psychological Association (APA) now defines an entire generation as the Entitlement Generation: “the group born between 1979 and 1994 who believe they are owed certain rights and benefits without further justification. Example: The entitlement generation expects higher salaries, flexible work hours, and ample time off.” In other words, by some strange occurrence, between 1979 and 1994, millions of Americans were somehow born French! (Sorry, I couldn’t help it).
Let me get serious. Spiritual Entitlement is low grade snake handling. It is insisting that God owes you gifts, success, and exotic experiences. It is boasting of spiritual authority without justification. It is instantism. “I am instantly an Apostle. I am instantly in charge. I am instantly deserving of recognition.
Here are vivid examples of spiritual entitlement:
1. Feeling entitled to extreme emotional outbursts even if it drives away lost souls. We must stop outbursts that are not generated by the Holy Spirit, but are generated by the need for attention. No one who attends our meetings can accuse us of quenching the Holy Spirit. Our meetings are boisterous but not emotional melt downs. I believe that there are times where God asks us to sacrifice our dignity to Him in worship. However, I have found that when it is God even the lost see the wonder in it.
Paul understood that we can lose souls by selfish manifestations. 1 Corinthians 14: 23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
2. Feeling entitled to titles with no proven character. “I am Apostle so and so,” or “I am prophet so and so.” I wish we would dispense with the titles altogether, and just focus on proving and functioning in our gifts clothed in humility.
3. Feeling entitled to miracles: God heals out of mercy. We must never forget that. We cannot assume that we are going to walk out and produce mass miracles. The Holy Spirit moves as He wishes and is under no obligation to operate on our terms. We all know when we are in a meeting where someone is trying to force something to happen.
4. Acting over familiar with God. Whatever happened to reverence? We see people talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit as if they were beer buddies. Too many people are running around saying, “God told me this and God told me that.” What we should be saying more often is “the Bible says.” If in fact God has told you something, say it with fear and trembling or God will stop talking to you.
5. Assuming that God will always repeat Himself. We should never assume that God is going to do it the same way every night. We should not try to copy the style that God has worked in another Church. Jesus wants to do something original to your city. It is designed to touch the special cry of those in your area and to destroy the demonic power that is unique to your city.
Losing your sense of entitlement and gaining a sense of God’s Grace is an awesome thing. You lay down the frantic quest for significance, and the exhausting work that accompanies it, and instead rest in the fathomless love that God has for you and the deep assurance that you will reap great rewards if you do not faint. You will see that the gifts God wants you to have are infinitely greater than the ones you may be trying to grasp on your own.
The devil wants to discredit the revival. In many ways we must face the fact that we are not ready for primetime. We are not ready for the glare of public scrutiny. It is time to hide ourselves in Jesus and let Him lead us forward into battle.