Dr. Arnold interviews Costi Hinn about prayer and God's will.
Conversation topics include:
Costi Hinn (@costiwhinn) serves as executive pastor of discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, AZ. He is the co-author of Defining Deception and the author of God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel.
Welcome to Faith Seeking Understanding, a podcast from Phoenix Seminary—helping Christians grow in their understanding of the faith, hosted by Dr. Brian Arnold, president of Phoenix Seminary.
Brian Arnold (00:17):
Have you ever prayed for something that didn't happen? You poured out your soul before God, begging him to come through, and your prayers seemed to go unanswered? Well, I think that's the experience of a lot of Christians. There are some today who would even teach that if you have enough faith and you pray, God will do whatever you say. That God wants you healthy, that he wants you wealthy, and that faith is the key that unlocks all those dreams. And then you're just crushed when your loved one isn't healed and they die, or the business collapses and you lose everything. When your prayer just isn't answered the way you want it to be answered. Well, with us today to talk about prayer is Costi Hinn, who serves as executive pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible church in Gilbert, Arizona, which is one of the fastest growing churches in Arizona. And he's also the author of God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. Costi, thanks for joining me in the studio today.
Costi Hinn (01:08):
Hey, thanks for having me on.
Brian Arnold (01:09):
It's good to have another Arizona person actually live with us.
Costi Hinn (01:13):
Absolutely. And on a beautiful rainy Arizona day today. Very rare.
Brian Arnold (01:17):
It hasn't rained, I think, in like eight months.
Costi Hinn (01:19):
Because I'm Canadian, and we're going to be together today—and the Lord gave us rain.
Brian Arnold (01:23):
Absolutely. And we won't even hold that against you.
Costi Hinn (01:25):
No, not at all.
Brian Arnold (01:26):
Perfect. Well, every podcast we ask one big question, and today that question is going to be—how do we pray in accordance with God's will? And I think there's really three questions involved here. The first deals with God's will—what is God's will, and how do I know if I'm doing it? And the second one is about prayer. One of those basic questions of all—how do I pray? And then third is—what does it mean to pray in accordance with God's will? I'm pretty sure this is the most involved question we've asked a guest, so congratulations on drawing the short straw.
Costi Hinn (01:58):
Brian Arnold (02:00):
So the first question seems basic, but what is God's will for the believer? I know you deal a lot with younger people, and this question comes up a lot. I know for myself in college, I was just filled with angst all the time about God's will. Who am I going to marry? Where am I going to go to school? What job am I going to get? And if I make one wrong decision, my whole life is ruined. So how do we find God's will?
Costi Hinn (02:21):
Yeah, I get this question all the time and talk to young teenagers, college students and beyond about it. And it often is tied to—who do I marry? Where do I go to school? Because everybody wants their future to be a quote/unquote, "perfect." Or at least as perfect as they would dream it would be in the things that matter most to them. And so I think we need to boil this down first with sort of the Sunday school, Jesus answer. I know we'll all say, "duh." But seriously, you begin with Scripture. We don't begin with our emotions. We don't begin with our own desires. We begin with God's Word. That has to be the baseline authority when we're talking about this topic. And some people again will say, "well, that's obvious." But it's really not, because we're talking about what we're praying for, my emotions are automatically attached to what I'm asking God for.
Costi Hinn (03:06):
Why? Because I want it. You mentioned the book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel—I have another book coming out next year, called More Than a Healer: Not the Jesus You Want, but the Jesus You Need for this exact reason. I mean, because people see Jesus as, "hey, you're the key to getting what I want." And not all those things are bad things. In fact, a lot of what we pray for are good things. And so when we're trying to pray God's will and see God's will done, whether it's through our prayer life or just seeing God enact it in our life, we start with Scripture. So theologically speaking, let's break this down into two simple categories. You've got God's hidden will. You say, "where'd you get that from?" Deuteronomy 29:29, a great passage from the Old Testament in the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible, talks about God's owning of, or belonging to him, are the secret things.
Costi Hinn (03:53):
Those are things you're just not going to know. There are secret things. Why do things happen to certain people? Why did so-and-so die? Or why did they die so young? Or maybe more foolish or silly things in today's world of, you know, what's going to happen to me in five years? Or who am I going to marry? Or who should I marry, et cetera, et cetera? But God owns, or has, a secret will. Those are, you know, when's the world going to end? God knows that—I don't. I can't go, "what's your will, God?" so I can tell everyone. No.
Brian Arnold (04:20):
And there's something sweetly comforting about that, isn't there? That God is sovereign and he's ruling over all things, and I can trust that. And in my finite mind, I can't understand his infinite purposes anyway. So he wouldn't even be able to explain all of those pieces to me. But I can trust that he has a plan, even if it's secret to me.
Costi Hinn (04:38):
Amen. I think of 1 Corinthians 2:9, Paul says "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor the heart of man imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." So his secret will isn't just about the world ending, or this, that, and the other—it's even about the amazing things God has in store for us. And so that would be God's hidden will, or his secret will some people call it. But we can know God's will. That would be what I would call categorically his revealed will. What he shows us in the Bible. His revealed will doesn't have to be a mystery. You don't have to try to read the tea leaves or wonder. Or like I used to do when I was a kid—for real, I would be at a stoplight and I would say, "if that car goes first," or "if this person turns left, God, you want me to do this?" You might think that's ridiculous, but I think young people do that all the time.
Brian Arnold (05:24):
Costi Hinn (05:29):
"God, if my dad says this, or if my teacher says that, then that's a sign."
Brian Arnold (05:33):
And I don't think that's just kids. I think there's a lot of adults who still do those kinds of things with God's will. It's fleecing, right? Lord, if this happens, then I'm going to go ahead and get what I'm thinking you want.
Costi Hinn (05:44):
Yup. And there's maybe a grain of truth in there, in a sense of like, "hey God, if you open that door, I'm going to walk through it." And the Lord does that all the time. Maybe you said that right before becoming the president of Phoenix Seminary—"God, I'm going to wait on you. This seems like a good opportunity. I certainly would love to be the president of a seminary. I have a passion for raising up the next generation and deploying them on—to the church and to the world...if you open the door." Right?
Brian Arnold (06:09):
Absolutely right. Yup.
Costi Hinn (06:10):
But God has made certain things really clear. So let me run through a few and put these under a question we want to ask. First, what has God commanded? Are there things that are low-hanging fruit? Like if my son, who's six says, "dad, so what do you want me to do?"
Costi Hinn (06:26):
And I say, "son, I already told you what I want you to do. You don't need to ask me, you already know." God has made some things clear. First of all, he wants people saved. And he's going to use the church as his plan A on the earth to go and take the gospel, like Acts 1:8, to even the ends of the earth. And so he wants people saved. 2 Peter 3:9 paints a picture of God being so patient, so loving, so careful. Not to just smite us all in judgment and wash us all off the planet, as he well could right now. No, he's patient. He wants to see people saved. And so we think, "well, that's really easy to see then, that I should be sharing the gospel, because who does God use?" Like Romans 10 says, well, faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of Christ.
Costi Hinn (07:09):
And he sends the feet of those who bring good news. So we need to be bringing the good news. Another one, think of the Great Commission, "go therefore and make disciples." And so, you know, why do you do a seminary, or why do you deploy pastors? Or why equip the saints for the work of service in the church? Well, because we've got to make disciples. God has said, "this is what I want you to do." And so there's that. Some other ones that maybe are a little harder to do, but easy to see—1 John, chapter four, really breaks down love. So we're to love one another. If even you were to do something that really frustrates me, or man, I can't stand Brian, it really frustrates me—you know, you don't...but if you did—hating you is not an option. Why? God's will has already said, "look, if you're one of mine, you're following me, you're going to love him.
Costi Hinn (07:58):
And you're going to love him well, and you're going to love him, not just in your words, but in your deeds." And so those of you listening—God's will is for you to love others. Another one, 1 Peter 4:7-11, Peter commands the church who's enduring, or about to endure some of the worst suffering churches could ever go through, to use their grace gift. He commands it. It's an imperative to serve. So clearly God even wants his church when they're going through tough times to be serving one another. And then Peter says, it's a special gift, a unique gift. Which means every one of you are like a thumbprint. God has wired you a specific way. He's called you to a purpose. Even if you're going to college right now and you're going, "I don't know what my purpose is." Well, he will make that clear to you, and you'll see what you're gifted with and strengthened for and use those things.
Costi Hinn (08:44):
And so serving is God's will. 1 John 1:9, another one, confessing sin. Hiding your sin is not God's will. Getting it out in the open is his will. And that doesn't mean you need to get up at church and air out all your mail for everybody. But it does mean finding a pastor, a friend, if you're a young-married, your spouse, a professor—and talking to them about your sin. But first and foremost, confessing it to Christ. A few more, Brian. If you're married, Ephesians 5. I don't need to ask God, "how do you want me to love my wife?" He says—if he were to talk to you in your car, this is what God would say—"I already wrote it in the Bible. So go read your Bible." Right? God's Word already made it clear.
Costi Hinn (09:26):
Ephesians 5, go love your wife like Christ loved the church. Love her sacrificially. If there's a wife, "God, how do you want me to behave towards my husband?" Ephesians 5 as well—be submissive and respectful, as unto the Lord. Now a few more that are really obvious, because there's places in the Bible where God actually says, "this is my will for you." So now we're not just commanded to do something, but actually God says, "this is my will." One that's really helpful for you if you're sort of a next-generation Christian—1 Thessalonians 4 makes it obvious that we are to control our bodies. And that is in relation to sexual immorality. We're not to be out, like the world, sewing our wild oats and just going with our feelings and giving into all our impulses. It says that God's will is for us to be sexually pure. And so that's why your churches, your pastors, people, encourage you, your professors, to stay sexually pure. Or to—1 John 1:9—your impurities, confess those and deal with them. And then the last one that I really appreciate, because sometimes I go through days where it's hard, go through mood swings and whatnot. We all go through it. Well, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, a few real short verses—"rejoice always, pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." God's like, "hey, I know this one's going to be really hard, especially in 2020..."
Brian Arnold (10:50):
Right. Yeah. Rejoice!
Costi Hinn (10:55):
It's become a verb. 2020's just being 2020. Rejoice. Give thanks in all circumstances and pray. So those are some of the practical ways you can see what is commanded as God saying, "here's what I want you to do with your life." And then "here is what is my will." And I don't know about you, but I could stay plenty busy just living in that list, without saying, "God, where do you want me to go to lunch? God, what's your will for me regarding what to do?" No.
Brian Arnold (11:22):
Yeah, I think what's more challenging for me, when I was pastoring and talking to people about these types of issues, is those who are always searching for what God has not revealed in those ways, but who were not obeying the things that God has clearly said. Or when somebody comes to you in the church and they say, "you know, I just, I feel like it's God's will for me to leave my husband to be with that other man in the church...and it just feels like what God wants me to do." When we have very explicit commands of Scripture—that that's not what God is commanding you to do. So we can't disobey the things that God has explicitly said, and then also think he's going to be especially revelatory to us in those other areas of life, as we ask some of those challenging questions about the details.
Costi Hinn (12:07):
So good. And so wise. Well said.
Brian Arnold (12:10):
So God's will is...it's knowable in multiple ways, but especially in Scripture, as he tells us explicitly at times, "this is my will for you." So the second question that we might have is—what is prayer?
Costi Hinn (12:25):
Yeah, that's a great question. Prayer, basically, is communicating to God. Real simple. Just talking to God. I heard it real funny from, I think it was Darryl DelHousaye, actually, who hangs around...
Brian Arnold (12:36):
I'm sure. He's our chancellor of Phoenix Seminary, for those who don't know.
Costi Hinn (12:41):
He finds himself donning the hallways at a time or two. And he's always good for a fun joke. I think he said one time to me early on—because he's over at our church all the time doing some ministry—"you know, prayer is a real complicated Greek word, it means, you know, talking to God." He said something funny like that. And that really is how simple it is. It's talking to God. And now I think we have to ask the question, well—how should we be praying? Or how should we view prayer? You mind if I share a quick personal background in this? I used to think prayer was all about just getting God to do my will. And I found out the hard way that prayer is not about me getting God to do my will. It's about preparing my heart to submit to his will.
Costi Hinn (13:26):
I grew up and was very enthralled with what's called the prosperity gospel. Maybe some of you guys know. If you don't and you're young, more and more, just go to like PreachersNSneakers or something. Watch one of those, or listen to one of those shows. And you know, he flew in a private plane and we were pastors and ministers and staying in the nicest hotels and driving Bentleys and all that stuff. And wearing $10,000 watches and shopping at Gucci. I mean, that was life as a pastor. It was a lot of those guys that hit the news sometimes. And people think like, "man, I thought that guy was just a celebrity." Like no—pastors. That's the life I lived.
Brian Arnold (13:57):
Well, let's introduce that even more. You are the nephew of world-renowned prosperity preacher, Benny Hinn. And so that's where all those experiences were coming from. You were traveling around the world with him, all these big crusades. So you had a front row seat to the prosperity gospel.
Costi Hinn (14:13):
Absolutely. I mean, not...yeah, that's the descriptor. If you just were to refer to Uncle Benny and the white jacket and all that stuff. So you can capture that picture right there. And prayer in my mind was, "okay, well, God, I decree that you do this. I declare in Jesus's name that you are going to bless. I declare that job promotion. I declare wealth and health and healing in Jesus name." And that was a guarantee. And we would say that we are anointed and have power and have authority, because Jesus died and through the atonement, all these things have been unlocked. That all I simply must do is name it and claim it. And that's where that phrase comes, "name it and claim it." And so I was claiming Bentleys in Jesus's name and Hummers and Jesus's name."
Brian Arnold (14:58):
And you were getting those. In Jesus's name. But a lot of other people who were naming it and claiming it continued on in poverty, continued on with cancer, continued on with all these other issues that they were saying, "Jesus, take this away or give me these things." And weren't getting them.
Costi Hinn (15:12):
And that's the twisted part of the Ponzi scheme, if you will, of the prosperity gospel or prosperity theology—is the guy at the top of the pyramid is winning. And so he's standing up there going, "look at how this works in my life." Meanwhile, he's saying, "give your best offering and God will do it for you too." Well, where do you think all the money comes to stand up there and say, "look at my life?" And so we're clearing $88 million a year back then, and anything you want it's yours, and so of course I think it works. And then I'm telling people the same thing, you know, "God will do it for you too." Well, unless you're at the top of the pyramid, it doesn't work. So where does that leave us with prayer? Well, I remember when I first got saved out of that movement and I began to be humbled by the doctrine of God's sovereignty, that I don't play God.
Costi Hinn (15:56):
He's not the magic genie who I rub right with my faith or my offerings or my decrees, and tell him what to do. I'm the human, the finite servant who comes and says, "God, what do you want me to do?" And then I do it. My life exists for his glory. He doesn't exist for my glory. I may be glorified one day in glory, but I'm really not here for my own glory while I'm living on earth. And so I see that in the Bible. The sovereignty of God just wrecks me. And then prayer becomes much more like the Lord Jesus—you remember what he's in the Garden of Gethsemane—this just messed me up. I don't know if it was always there in the Bible. You know, the old joke—that's been there the whole time, from the very beginning. Yeah. And Jesus is there and he's talking to the Father and his sweat drops are turning into blood in Luke 22.
Costi Hinn (16:40):
And he says, "Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me. And then the whole thing ends with "not my will, but yours be done." He's taking the weight of the world on his shoulders. He's about to experience the full, unbridled wrath of the Father. And he says, "not my will, but yours be done." That's the way we pray. That is prayer in a nutshell. "God, I really want to have a great job. God, I really want to do well in school" Yes and amen. "God, I really want to marry an amazing spouse. God, I really would like my children to have a future in America that is better than the one we're living in right now." Yes and amen to all those things. But what if, like the early church, he calls you to stand for truth in the midst of persecution? What if you had the American dream in mind, but he sends you to China like Hudson Taylor? What if you're the next Adoniram Judson? What if you're the next Amy Carmichael? What if—on and on and on? God may call you to do something great for his great name. And so we always do want to pray for our desires in our heart, but we want to say, "thy will be done." Then, you know, the passage that was often quoted around, at least my circles back then, was "delight yourself in the Lord." And he will what?
Brian Arnold (17:58):
Give you the desires of your heart.
Costi Hinn (18:00):
Which means, give money, and have faith, and get excited about God, and make sure to show up to our healing crusades and do all that we tell you. And then he's going to give you what you want. No. Think of it like this, delight yourself in the Lord. Or maybe even better said, as you delight yourself in the Lord, as you live for his glory, as you pour out your heart and devotion to him...you know what he'll do? Because you're so enthralled with him and he is everything to you. Well, your desires are going to be from him and for him. He's going to put the things in your heart and mind that he wants you to do. Which begs the question—am I delighting myself in the Lord? How am I delighting?
Brian Arnold (18:40):
Well, and part of that goes back to the original question of the will. The more I'm following the revealed will of God, the more I'm delighting myself in God, the more that I'm going to be asking in accordance with his will. And when I ask in accordance with his will, it's going to happen, because a lot of that's going to be, "God, make me more like Jesus. I want to be transformed into the image of the Son. I want to grow more in my faith. I want opportunities to share the gospel." These types of things that God just loves to pour out on willing vessels who say, "God, I'm here to do your will."
Costi Hinn (19:12):
Amen. And one more challenge that I want to put in front of our listeners today is from an assignment that I had to do in seminary on prayer, of all things. I had to write out and study at least 40 of Paul's New Testament prayers, And brother, I ended up turning it into a blog article and post—is it okay if I share?
Brian Arnold (19:34):
Costi Hinn (19:34):
So forthegospel.org, there's categories, you just click prayer. And it's an article that I titled How to Become a Prayer Warrior? And the article is from an assignment in seminary. I mean, you think about...just sort of a side rabbit trail here—if you are a seminarian or a young person that's like, "why in the world do I need to go there and sit around with suits and ties and bow ties and talk about, you know, textual criticism?"
Costi Hinn (19:57):
No, no, no, no, no, no. Seminary will equip you to have the knowledge you need for life. Not only to trust in the inerrancy of God's Word and deal with textual criticism and deal with the original language, but you're going to come out the other side of it with so many papers. Don't waste them! Give them to your people. And so this professor has me do this study, and brother, I couldn't find a prayer where Paul is praying for things that I had been praying for. No, it's—open the doors for the gospel. I thank God—so now prayers of thanksgiving—I thank God for your faithfulness. I thank God for your endurance. I thank God for this person and that person and this person and that person. Oh, please ask that doors be opened here. He's praying for provision for the gospel.
Costi Hinn (20:41):
He's praying for doors to open, and then he's thanking God for people. He even prays prayers of gratitude for suffering. I mean, brother, it wrecked me and I thought, all right, it doesn't mean I can't pray for healing. Paul prayed for the thorn, which you know, many scholars agree, it wasn't necessarily a sickness, but perhaps something else. But either way, let's just say the thorn in the flesh. God goes, no, right? 2 Corinthians 12:7—my power is going to be shown through your weakness, okay? You're going to see that. Well, we learn about God's no, even there. Paul's model means that I should be praying for things that are maybe even outside of my daily scope of need. So it's not, "God give me a promotion. God help my 401k. God, get my kids in that private school. God, please help Phoenix Seminary accept my application."
Costi Hinn (21:29):
Those are all fine prayers. But when's the last time we prayed for the gospel doors to be opened? And God's going, "yeah, you're in the checkout line at Trader Joe's. There it is." Or "God will you help me grow?" And then that professor pulls you aside, or that pastor or friend says, "hey, I want to challenge you on something." And you go, "man, I don't want to hear that—who are you to judge me?" No. All the time God is answering our prayers in those senses. And Paul's ministry is such a great model for us when it comes to prayer.
Brian Arnold (22:00):
Absolutely. I appreciate you saying that in part as well, with it's not that we shouldn't be praying for a lot of those things. Like when I would go to a prayer meeting and you hear, you know, we're praying for people's second cousin, twice-removed's cancer surgery. Well, we should be doing that. We should absolutely. And God is a healer, and God can do those things, and God has done those things, and continues to do those. But I rarely heard the other pieces of prayer. I rarely heard people saying, "pray for me as I share the gospel with my neighbor. Pray for me that I would rejoice more, because I'm in a season of sorrow and I want to be praising God through this." So it's even less at times about what people are praying, and more that they should be praying more in accordance with what Scripture is saying.
Costi Hinn (22:44):
Yes. You just reminded me of a story—real quick, I'll share this story. But James Montgomery Boyce gets terminal cancer. Gets up in front of his church. You know this story? When he tells them, "a lot of you have been asking what you can be praying for, and a lot of you have been wondering how you can go on with your praying, listen"—and I'll paraphrase him—he says, "you pray for healing, that's fine, but understand the same God who allowed the cancer into my body is the same God who could have miraculously healed it already. But more than that—and so fine, pray for healing basically—but more than that, pray that he be glorified through this." That is a Pauline prayer. That's the prayer that makes me tear up. It's the prayer that wrestles my flesh to the mat. It's the prayer that takes my perspective off of myself and my own glory and my own desires, which aren't necessarily sinful and bad, and should be and can be prayed for, and veers them back to that moment in Gethsemane,
Costi Hinn (23:46):
when the Savior says, "not my will, but yours be done." Just down the road, I've been to Phoenix Children's Hospital since we moved out here. I'm thankful for their work there. Our two year old son, Timothy, has cancer. And brother, that became a reality when I was sitting in that waiting room last year, even when first moving here. And it was last Christmas, our first Christmas in the valley. And Timothy's doing well, by the grace of God. And we have prayed for healing, but we've also prayed that God be glorified through it. But I look across the waiting room and there's two moms. And one has chemo on Christmas Eve, and the other chemo on Christmas Day. And we had experienced some of that. My wife had, back at CHOC in Orange County, California, and it's humbling. It's humbling that we want to pray for healing, but we also want to realize that God's glory can be seen, and also our perspective enhanced, as we see that so many people are going through things. And so be praying for something even bigger than what is temporary. People need eternity, they need heaven. And we want to be praying for that as well.
Brian Arnold (24:54):
Well, what a great way to bring us to a close. Thank you for sharing that story. We'll be praying for your son, for your family, and in accordance with God's will.
Costi Hinn (25:01):
Brian Arnold (25:02):
In a way that that recognizes he is a Divine Healer, but we need to be faithful in these trials, in these times, seeking him through prayer. So believer, I hope you're taking all these things to the throne of God, and praying now in accordance with his will, because God loves to answer those prayers. Thank you, Costi, for being with us today.
Costi Hinn (25:19):
Thank you, brother.
Thank you for listening to the Faith Seeking Understanding podcast. If you want to grow more in your understanding of the faith, consider studying at Phoenix Seminary, where men and women are trained for Christ-centered ministry for the building up of healthy churches in Phoenix and throughout the world. Learn more at ps.edu.