Eyes like Pollyanna
Johnny Enlow's “Pollyanna” Encounter
June 1st was the day that Johnny finished his notes for his final sermon as the senior pastor of Day Star Church in Atlanta, “God's Pollyanna's”. (He and his wife Elizabeth and their family have now relocated to the Los Angeles area to carry on their at-large ministry.) It was during this conversation that Johnny first shared with Bob his parallel prophetic message regarding Pollyanna.
From time to time in the course of sharing a message with God's people, Johnny would preface certain statements that hold great divine promise for this age by stating, “I'm not just being a ‘Pollyanna' when I say this…” Being “Pollyannaish” has become a well-known negative label to describe someone who expresses hope that is viewed as unrealistic in the eyes of her/his surrounding culture. Being “Pollyannaish” is to process life in an overly simplistic way. It implies that such a person is naive and in denial. They are viewed as being excessively cheerful or foolishly optimistic.
Recently when he made this qualifying phrase, the Lord responded suddenly and clearly to Johnny and said, “What's wrong with Pollyanna? I like her. I want a ‘Pollyanna' People. I want a ‘Pollyanna' Bride!” This stunned him and sent him on a course to research the story of Pollyanna and to look to the Scriptures for confirmation.
The essence of the story revolves around the orphaned daughter, Pollyanna, of a missionary family whose wise and loving father taught her to play the “glad game” as a way of life before he passed away. This game involves continually looking for something to be glad about in every situation one faces in life and to focus one's attention upon that good thing.
The carefree and vivacious Pollyanna is sent to live with her proper, stern and legalistic Aunt Polly in a small town in Vermont. Pollyanna's cheerful ways are an affront to her aunt and her aunt treats her quite harshly. Despite this opposition, Pollyanna continually plays the “glad game” and teaches others to do the same. She endears herself to many townspeople, old and young alike, and her infectious joy quietly spreads among them and makes an indelible mark upon them. When Pollyanna has an accident that paralyzes her legs, her own hope is deeply challenged and she becomes temporarily depressed.
However, Pollyanna reaps the good that she has sown and the townspeople respond to her situation with great love and kindness bringing cheer back into her heart. She even wins over her stubborn Aunt Polly whose heart is melted by the joyful love of her young niece who proves to be wise beyond her years. Finally, Pollyanna regains the use of her legs and she becomes more grateful and hopeful than ever.
Of course, we know from the Bible that God loves to use stories and parables to reveal His heart to us. So, it shouldn't surprise us that the Holy Spirit might use the 100th anniversary of the tale of Pollyanna (which neither Bob or Johnny knew at the time of their encounters) to speak a fresh word of prophecy to the Body of Christ. God has always enjoyed confounding the wisdom of the wise by simple childlike truths.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men…But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:25, 27-29).
Is it Biblical to be Like Pollyanna?
But is it Biblical to be “Pollyannaish”? Consider these quite serious and clear apostolic injunctions.
…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:18-21).
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these thing. (Philippians 4:4, 6, 8).
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:2-5).
This Greek word for “count”, heggemia, in the above passage involves the concepts of “lead, rule and command”. In other words, we have been given grace from God to take authority over our response to trials in order to obtain the correct divine perspective on our situation. This is why James says to ask for and expect wisdom (divine perspective) to come to us in the context of trials. This will ensure for us the positive results and outcomes that our good Father intends through any challenging situation or circumstance. This is pretty clear “Pollyannaish” thinking and living!
Paul and Silas modeled this extremely hopeful and unashamed way of processing negative life situations very clearly in the account of their imprisonment in Philippi. Also, notice both the amazing divine and human responses in this circumstance as you read on in the account.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened (Acts 16:25-26).
Many people will say that this way of life is not “realistic”. But is moping, complaining, grumbling, and being oppressed with an impending sense of doom and gloom honestly more “real” than having hope – when the truly good and living God is always active in our world and on our side?
How has despair, worry and anxiety been working for us anyway? “Keeping it real”, from the angle of some, will only keep us in defeat!
The Holy Spirit said to Johnny, “When you magnify God deliberately enough to be able to see and then praise Him in the most adverse conditions…a dunamis power of God can be released to burst into circumstances and even liberate the ‘prisoners' around you.”
The world is watching and we should never waste an opportunity to “see” and praise God in a contradictory situation. These apostles had gone on a mission trip and were rewarded with persecution instead of the expected blessing or breakthrough. Yet, they magnified God in their prison until they saw Him. Paul and Silas' “Pollyannish” spirit released the freedom of God's Kingdom not only into their circumstances, but it also loosed the observing prisoners to bring salvation to many. Paul and Silas viewed themselves as the “prisoners of hope” prophesied by Zechariah more than the prisoners of men.
…and He shall speak peace to the nations; His rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the Blood of My covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double (Zechariah 9:10b-12a).
In the mysterious quantum world, inanimate matter behaves differently depending on if it is being observed and who is observing it. Particles are activated in various ways by the power of observation. What if the living God's invisible power can simply be activated for good by the anointed observation of His sons and daughters?
Jesus said that unless we are born again we cannot see the Kingdom of God (see John 3:3). But the implication is that if we are born from above, we are enabled to perceive the Kingdom of God, thereby acknowledging and anticipating the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God is in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17).
We are challenged in the New Testament to see God at work in the midst of our trials so that amazingly positive outcomes are secured. Isn't this what Paul and Silas “saw” in the darkest hour with bleeding backs and bound in the prison stocks? The Holy Spirit is promising us that in these days we are going to begin to “see” the invisible God at work in ways that we have not recognized before. This spiritual insight is what distinguishes this “Holy Spirit optimism” from the mere “power of positive thinking”.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Of course, we also “see Him” in the midst of the many blessings He provides for us as well.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow(James 1:17).
Conclusion: Voices of Hope Rising Up
• The invisible God becomes activated when we “see” Him. • Look for the silver lining (redemptive purpose) in every cloud (trial). • Good things are always going on, even when we're in a test of hope or faith. • Ask “Where is God working?” and magnify that. Not, “Where or why is God not apparently working?” • If we see what God is doing and thank Him for this, He will cause His blessings to multiply and will go to work in those yet untouched or unmoved arenas. • Like with the account of the loaves and fishes, offer to God the “little” breakthrough we do have and trust Him to miraculously bless and multiply it. • Praise and gratitude pave the way for the release of greater power.
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10-11).
In this divine interchange, Johnny was aware that the Holy Spirit was using “Pollyanna” as an inspired word play on poly (manifold) and anna (grace) or “multicolored grace”. God wants a Pollyanna people who will have a courageous and childlike spirit that praises Him greatly for all His goodness, smack in the face of the evil despair, pessimism and cynicism of this world. They will not be ashamed to show their fullest and truest colors that display the multi-faceted genius and nature of the living God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, who freely takes the things of the Father and the Son and reveals them to us.
The “Pollyanna's” of God will be winsome and compelling hope reformers who usher in a New Renaissance of a divine kind into all the seven mountains – the primary spheres of influence upon our societies. (The first Renaissance was limited in its scope by its humanistic center.) They will not do this as worldly sophisticates or protesters of evil, but they will disarm evil through a divine innocence, presence, and power that only the Holy Spirit can impart to and through human beings.
In Bob's encounter, the Lord also revealed to him that we have now crossed over into an hour in God's purposes when millions of dormant Hope Reformers – God's “Pollyannas” – will be raised up and activated by simple words of prophetic declaration and the laying on of hands through those who have become “voices of hope”. Those so activated will also become “voices of hope” to many others in need.