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The Horizontal Dimension of Personal Breakthroughs

This is the third and final video John Piper made before his leave. It is about experiencing spiritual breakthroughs through the gifts of other believers. (See the first one on justification and the second one on loving others.) It ends with some implications for how we do small groups.

Scroll down to read an edited transcript of the video.

The following is an edited transcript of the video.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about relationships and about the way you being gifted one way and me being gifted another way relates to answers in prayer, or non-answers in prayer, or breakthroughs in struggles in life, or non-breakthroughs.

Here’s what I’m thinking, and I just offer this to you to think about: suppose you’ve been praying about an issue in your life, say some intractable sin that doesn’t seem to go away. You don’t get the victory that you think you should have. You keep fighting it and that’s an evidence that you’re born again. And that’s good, because none of us is without sin, and we have an Advocate and so we fight on.

But you’d like to see more victory. You’ve been praying for years and things haven’t changed.

Now we think about possible reasons why God doesn’t give answers, and sometimes we think of timing: “Well it’s just not the time yet. He’s storing all my prayers up in a bottle. He’s going to pour the prayers out in due time. And so the time will come.”

And we have Joseph in the Bible who, no doubt, for 13 years was praying, “Lord, why was I sold into slavery? Why has it taken 13 years for me to discover the reason for all this pain in my life?” Then suddenly he discovers that he is going to be vice president of Egypt, he’s going to save his family from starvation, he’s going to be the heir of the Messiah—and now it all makes sense! But in those 13 years it didn’t.

But could it be that there are other reasons besides timing issues for why we don’t get certain victories in answer to prayer? Here’s the new idea. I’m sure its not new to everybody, but its been fresh to me. 

What if God has given a gift to another person in your small group or in the church, a gift of healing, or discernment, or knowledge, or miracles (I’m taking the list from 1 Corinthians 12“>1 Corinthians 12)? You’ve been struggling with something. It could be physical. It could be psychological. It could be spiritual. It could be sin. Or it could be non-moral. And you’re not getting anywhere. Could it be that God has a gift out there for you? And the gift is supposed to come not directly, vertically, in answer to your prayer in your little private room, “Lord fix me right now,” but rather it’s supposed to come through another person?

Because I can’t think of any reason why God would create such a thing as spiritual gifts in the church if that were not the case. There are gifts of knowledge, discernment, miracles, faith, and healing that he means for you to have, but somebody else has the gift and you’re not asking for the gift.

The implication is that in our small groups we’re just really honest and we confess, “You know, I’ve been praying about this issue for a long time and God has seen it fit to this point not to give me the answer. And I’m just wondering that maybe he is waiting till I humble myself and come to you and say, ‘Would you pray for me and ask God whether you might have the gift of healing or the gift of the knowledge I need? Or the gift of faith, or whatever that will get a breakthrough for me?'”

So I just commend to you to reread 1 Corinthians 12“>1 Corinthians 12-14 and think about the horizontal dimension of personal breakthroughs. God created a church! He didn’t just create a series of individuals who go vertical with him and never take that vertical gifting, power, love, insight, and faith and bend it out horizontally to touch other people.

Lets grow together in this. Let’s avail ourselves of miracles, power, faith, knowledge, and discernment from others that God may have for us but we have not felt because we have not gone to the other people in a kind of community relationship or small group and asked.