Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1 Corinthians 8:1 KJV)
As I noted in Deshen Daily devotional “The Mystery of Speaking in Tongues,” there is controversy, confusion, and disappointment about this gift. I am thankful to those of you who reached out with questions and the concerns you have. Speaking in tongues has divided God’s people, and we have to pay attention and be careful with anything that divides the Church. Dividing God’s people is fighting against Christ Himself, and none of us wants to dare that in any form. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1, knowledge can make us proud, argumentative, and belittling if we do not allow the Spirit to make us respond in love and humility; and to consider the different perspectives of other believers, understand and work with them. Love builds up and unites, but the pride from knowledge divides us. It does not mean agreeing with what you think is wrong but instructing us to love one another and not hurt others who hold a different opinion. While this is not what I intend to share today, it is essential to remind us of this paramount truth before sharing my story below.
Even worse than the controversies are the disappointments, struggles, and hurts that many believers endure from seeking the gift of speaking in tongues. Interestingly, those who struggle this way do not often talk about it. They suffer in silence. Let me briefly share my experience of silent disappointments and offer some encouragement and hope for the next steps.
My Early Christian Days
I was raised in a Pentecostal background. As I have shared before, I am thankful for this spiritual exposure in my early days as a Christian in the Apostolic Church in Cameroon, Africa. However, as I grew up in the faith, I recognized a few problems here and there with the way things were done. It was not all perfect; even so, I will not trade the experience of witnessing the moving of the Spirit in those early days of my Christian walk.
Paradoxically, my frustrations and disappointments began when I desired to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. I had just consecrated my life to God and wanted to be filled with the Spirit and speak in tongues— too. I prayed and asked to be filled, nothing happened. Hands were laid upon me, from one altar call to another, and still, nothing happened. Yes, I saw others being filled and manifesting the gifts of the Spirit, but a few others also did not. I began asking myself questions, the same questions many of you reading this article typically will ask if you were in my place. My concern was not so much about the reality of speaking in tongues because I could see around me the unmistakable evidence of the moving of the Spirit and knew these were not people playing games or faking something. One possibility finally became established in my heart: something was possibly wrong with my Christian life.
I struggled inside with the thought that something was wrong with me. If not, then why can’t I be baptized with the Spirit and speak in tongues like others. God was probably withholding this gift from me because of something; to make matters worse, I did not know what this thing was. I did not yet know the theology that speaking in tongues is for only some believers, as it would have made my problems worse. Brethren, I can tell you that if one thing in my early Christian life could have driven me far away from God, it would have been this thought and inner struggle. Satan probably engineered this thought into my mind, and thank God for rescuing me. You never honestly know what is happening inside of people. How easily people can move slowly away from God because of inner struggles such as this one.
I was disappointed but silent. I remember deciding to take a seven-day fast, for the first time in my life, because of these inner struggles. Since I was sure something was wrong with me or my Christian life, maybe fasting, which does “wonders” as I was taught, could bring me closer to God and help me find out what the problem was or at least cause me to receive the gift of speaking in tongues. As you probably guessed, nothing spectacular happened to me after the seven-day fast. I was just worn out, but I was never the same. Please do not say “praise the Lord” because I was not the same but worse off than before. I was more disappointed and frustrated. Fasting is good, but you can see right here how the wrong motives in doing what is good are dangerous and can be devastating.
Maybe Just Stop Seeking
I had stopped asking to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and stopped going for altar calls. What’s the point, going for one more? Or another one? To be disappointed again? In a Pentecostal circle, speaking in tongues is almost an unspoken requirement to belong. You feel estranged if you do not. Speaking in tongues was practically a sign of spiritual maturity. The more “mature the tongues,” the more mature your spiritual life probably is—so the thought was. This is just one of those unfortunate attitudes I mentioned above.
But God kept something alive in my heart that saved my walk with Him and the ministry you are now following. Despite the disappointments, I had a deep-seated hunger to know God intimately that all the Pentecostal drama around me, and the profound discouragement and disappointments within, did not quench. In those early years as a Christian, I thought speaking in tongues would satisfy it. But it did not. Even after I received the baptism of the Spirit and began speaking in tongues, the water from heaven which finally quenched that initial thirst for God for the revelation of Christ in the Word by the Holy Spirit. Today I am still hungry for more, but not in the same way. You will find this story in another article. However, God used the hunger in my heart to keep kept me from turning away from Him.
The Day Everything Changed
Then something happened that changed the story—nothing dramatic or spectacular. I discussed with my dearest uncle, Rev. Orock Martin, a minister with the Apostolic Church. I told him I desired to be baptized with the Spirit and to speak in tongues. We sat down and talked about it. He was patient to listen, and there was no tension or pressure. We prayed for the first time, and nothing happened. He told me I was thinking about it too much. And he was right. At this stage, too many things were going on in my head. I came again, and he prayed, and …there you go. That was it! I got baptized with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. And the Lord added a bonus to the gift that day. He gave me an understanding of the tongues I was speaking. I heard myself saying, “Son, I love you.” You will quickly understand why these words were so important if you think about what I described above. The Father told me that all the self-condemnation, discouragement, disappointments, or even feeling unloved by God were not from Him. He used the gift of tongues, putting my intellect to sleep, so it does not interfere with Him, and telling me in pure divine words what He thinks about me.
This is my story. I still do not understand why some people speak in tongues quickly and others, like myself, struggle and struggle. But there is one thing you can be sure of– it was not God who made things difficult for me;It was not God who withheld the gift from me. Something in the posturing of my own heart and the environment made it difficult for me. As I interact with believers as a minister today, I realize there are many of God’s precious children struggling in different ways with obtaining this gift, and many of them end up harboring strange beliefs, doctrines, or even attitudes against the gifts of the Spirit or the Holy Spirit Himself. I have begun asking the Lord to teach me more about this to help others. Well, thank God speaking in tongues or the baptism of the Spirit is not a requirement for salvation, going to heaven, or spiritual maturity. However, there is a reason God gives this gift: its mysterious ability to edify the one who has it and activate God’s miraculous power. I am yet to see someone who operates with visible demonstrations of the power of God or power spiritual gifts who doesn’t speak in tongues.Go beyond the obstacles—different for each of us– and receive press forward for this gift.
I will share more articles and devotionals on the baptism of the Spirit and speaking in tongues. I will share this on Thursday at 7 pm Central Time for Deshen Live Bible study on “How to Be Baptized with the Holy Spirit and Speak in Tongues.” You will find it under Messages.