Following a weeklong prayer effort from around the world, interceding for the resurrection of a 2-year-old child who died suddenly earlier this month, Bethel Church Senior Leader Bill Johnson is elaborating why his church prayed as they did. Bethel Music's Kalley Heiligenthal, the mother of the child, is calling this a "victory story" despite her daughter not being raised back to life.
In a Dec. 23 sermon at Bethel, a charismatic church of several thousand members in Redding, California, Johnson spoke at length about their approach to praying that 2-year-old Olive Heiligenthal, who stopped breathing Dec. 14 and was pronounced dead by doctors, be raised back to life. Emphasizing that the Christian faith is founded on the resurrection of Jesus, the pastor reiterated previous comments he made — that Jesus raised people from the dead. Jesus sets precedent with ruining every funeral He attended, including His own, Johnson noted.
"Resurrection is at the heart of Jesus' behavior but it is also in His command to those who follow Him," the pastor said, referencing Matthew 10:8, where Jesus sends out the 12 apostles and tells them: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give."
Although some maintain that those instructions were only for that group of disciples in that age, and not for everyone, Johnson stressed that the Great Commission says otherwise because Jesus told them to teach everything that they had been taught.
"Just because it's not common does not mean it's not normal. Just because resurrection from the dead is not common does not mean it's not normal," he emphasized.
Around the world it has become more common, he went on to say.
"Jesus illustrated it and commanded us to do the same. We live, I live without options. I have never been more impressed with a body of people than I have this last week, where thousands of believers gathered to worship and to pray, no hype, no manipulation, no trying to persuade Him to do as we please. It's not about that. Worship is about absolute surrender to Him and His purposes," Johnson said.
"I refuse to try to hold God hostage to what I want in a given situation. He owes me nothing. He is God. I am a son. I am a servant. But He is the one who not only welcomes me, He is the one who instructed me, instructed us to pursue specific things."
The pursuit of the Kingdom of God is not a pursuit of going to Heaven but of bringing heavenly solutions to death, loss, and destruction here [on earth], he noted.
"It's an immediate expression of God's dominion in a given situation. Where there is death, there is resurrection, where there is brokenness in relationships, there is healing, where there is disease, there is restoration of the body ... My responsibility is to seek first and foremost God's solution, His supernatural intervention in a given situation."
Worship artist and songwriter Heiligenthal posted her thoughts on her Instagram account on Saturday.
"Olive, we miss you, love you so much and we’ll see you soon. We know now more than ever that King Jesus is good and His every word is worth believing and following at any cost. That’s the song we’ll sing until we’re with you again and we finally sing it together. We cannot wait," she wrote.
"It’s a new day, and we’re awake for it. This is a victory story."
Olive Heiligenthal was buried on Dec. 28. A GoFundMe page that was set up for the family has raised over $72,000.