There are many false teachers advocating the heretical “word of faith” teaching, which says ‘God will answer your prayers if you just have enough faith’. This heresy also teaches a ‘speak it and claim it’ “theology”. Likewise, there are many movies covertly presenting the same message. One example of this is Raising Izzie (2012), which is currently showing on the Dove streaming channel. Spoiler alert: I will be giving a synopsis of the movie, giving a lot of attention to the ending, so you may want to watch it before reading on.
Raising Izzie tells the story of two girls living alone after their mother dies of cancer. Gertie is the oldest and is taking care of Izzie, paying the bills with funds their mother set up before she died because she didn’t want them separated in foster care. When Mrs. Freeman starts teaching Gertie’s class mid-year, she eventually discovers the girl’s situation and brings them in to stay with her. Gertie tells her teacher about how they prayed for their mother and God didn’t do anything. Gertie has lost her faith in the existence of a God because her prayers went unanswered. Mrs. Freeman is also having trouble with her faith because she is unable to get pregnant. Her husband tells her to have faith. He says, “you have no idea what miracles God has in store.”
On a Sunday morning, an argument breaks out between Gertie and Izzie about the existence of God, and Izzie runs out of the Freeman home. Mrs. Freeman runs after her and is struck by a car which puts her in the hospital. Several days go by, and Gertie is again arguing about the existence of God, this time with Mr. Freeman. He insists that his wife will be healed because he prayed. Gertie says she prayed when her mother was sick, but nothing happened. “So where is God?” she asks him. “He will let you down just like he let us down.” Eventually, the hospital calls with news that Mrs. Freeman is not getting any better, and decisions have to be made. They go to the hospital to pray over her. Gertie says, “it won’t help. I’m not falling for it again.” Izzie tells her that they need her to believe so that Mrs. Freeman can be healed.
Gertie prays, “I’m so scared. I don’t think you can hear my voice. I’m stepping out on faith one last time, and if you don’t answer me, I’ll know you’re not real, or that you don’t love me. Please hear me. We need you to heal Mrs. Freeman.” She looks at Mrs. Freeman who is still in a coma and says, “There’s your God!” Mr. Freeman says, “you have to give God a chance,” to which Gertie replies, “I’m such a fool.” Mrs. Freeman then wakes up and Izzie yells, “see Gertie, I told you!” Mrs. Freeman tells Gertie that she saw her mom and that she had told her to tell Gertie to not give up so easy and that God is real. The movie ends with Gertie’s narration, “God is real, because I saw a miracle with my own eyes.”
The first thing that I thought after watching this movie was, ‘if she had died, then does that mean God isn’t real?’ After all, she prayed for her mother, but she still died. Should we abandon God when we don’t get the answer we were hoping for, only to love Him again later when things are looking good? I think about the book of Daniel and how Nebuchadnezzar told Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that they would be thrown into the blazing furnace if they did not fall down and worship his manmade image. They replied, “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
The very important point that many people miss in this story is the “even if” principle. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew that God had the ability to save them, but they wanted it to be very clear that even if God was not going to save them, for whatever reason, they would still serve only the One True God. That whatever happened, their lives were in God’s hands and they had full confidence that God knew what He was doing.
Likewise, let us not forget about Job, who lost his property and his children in one day and his health the next. Job’s wife said, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). But Job’s reply to her was, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Job continued to trust God even though so many things were going horribly wrong in his life. His faith did not shake when he lost his children. Even through his grief, he blessed God’s holy name, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).
We need to keep in mind that we were never promised an easy life, we were promised eternal life. Jesus even said that we would have trouble, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Paul also talks about suffering in Romans. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
The other thing that troubled me while watching this movie, was Gertie’s prayer, “if you don’t answer me, then I’ll know you’re not real.” What blasphemy! God is not a magician. He does not perform on command, and we should not be manipulating Him by asking for signs. Deuteronomy 6:16 says, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test…” This passage is quoted by Jesus when Satan tests him on the pinnacle of the temple (Matt. 4:5-7).
If God must continually prove His existence to turn unbelievers into believers, how can we even call that faith? In Luke, the rich man thought that if Jesus would raise a man from the dead, then surely his brothers would believe that they needed to repent so that they could escape the torments of Hell. Jesus replied, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). If you don’t believe in God now, then seeing a miracle will not make you believe, only the Word of God has the power to produce faith in a person. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63).
Now, one might say that Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matt. 21:22). ‘Doesn’t that mean that if I just have enough faith, God will grant my wishes?’ No. Again, God is not a magician, or a genie. That verse is not a never-ending coupon to get whatever you want. The more faith you have, the more your prayers will align with His will. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” 1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” The emphasis is not on our will, it must be in align with God’s will and God’s plan.
The examples of “faith” in this movie are superficial and reveal a narcissistic worldview, “God abandoned me, so I’m abandoning Him.” It demonstrates God proving His existence to non-believers but the bible teaches that faith is believing what we haven’t seen. “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). The very definition of faith can be found in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is not seeing a miracle with your own eyes, it’s trusting God, no matter the circumstance.