‘Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic.’ Acts 8:9-11
A number of years ago people started taking notice of a man in Nigeria who called himself ‘the anointed man of God’. I heard of him when a couple from my congregation told me that they were going to Lagos to receive ministry for healing. The husband was suffering from a debilitating wasting disease and the wife’s brother had full blown aids.
I made some enquires, scanned the internet, and viewed a video that someone gave me. What I discovered distressed me considerably. The ‘anointed man of God’ showed every indication of being anything but what he claimed to be. The video showed him contorting into weird animistic postures and appearing to strike down people with a gesture or even a look. He mesmerised and confused, bamboozled and bluffed, and claimed great healings and miracles. I counselled the two not to receive ministry from this man but they went anyway.
The one with aids came back to South Africa and got retested only to find that his condition had not changed. He contacted the ‘anointed man’ in Lagos and was told to come back and to testify to the crowds there that he had been healed. This act of ‘faith’ would heal him, he was told. He flew back to Lagos and testified to his ‘healing’. A few months later he died. I saw his brother in law just the other day. His disease has progressed and he definitely is not healed in any way.
In the days of Acts, Simon the magician claimed to be someone great and amazed the people with his skills and occult powers. He was animated, for sure, but not anointed of God. So too in our day, there are people who claim what Simon Magus claimed, and behave as he did. If it is not the faith healers of the Philippians performing psychic surgery, then it is the ‘prophet’ of Lagos working his magic under the power of water spirits and other animistic influences.
The anointing of God is real but the counterfeit is not always obvious at first. We need to be very discerning in these days. The apostle John wrote, ‘test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world’. (1 John 4:1-2). This was true of his day and it is true of our day. In times of revival genuinely anointed men and women of God arise to lead the church into the mighty presence of God. Unfortunately, in times of revival there are also the frauds and the false who try to lead the people of God into error. But don’t despair. Perverse as this may sound, it is sometimes the presence of the counterfeit that highlights the authentic. When God is doing something real then be sure that the devil will attempt to distract and distort. When we see hell-fire flickering in the darkness, look more earnestly for the true fire of revival, for it is probably near at hand.