Manifest in the dictionary comes up with the following definition: to demonstrate a thing by one’s actions or appearance.
The New Age application of the word that is perhaps better known.“Manifesting is turning your desires into a physical reality.” How do you do this? By the power of your mind, the modern day kind of alchemy. This claim has been made famous in books like “The Secret” and “The Celestine Prophecy”. Most do not realize these books are citing a very old theology, “New Thought”, founded by Phineas Quimby and made popular in churches via the word-faith movement. Those taking this road seem to be fuelled by greed, impatience and pride. They want to sidestep God’s overarching plan which might involve a bit of trust, pain and waiting. To “manifest” sums up what the serpent said to Eve in the garden…“Hath God truly said…?” right before he suggested she could just name it and claim it.
Manifest coincidentally, is also the name of a popular Netflix series, now three seasons deep. A plane vanishes in mid flight and the passengers mysteriously arrive at their destination five years late. Something happens to them along the way. They go back to the real world, only to experience weird prompts from the “universe” they refer to as “callings”. The callings inexplicably lead the characters down esoteric pathways like Buddhism and the Tarot as agents of the universe, telling them that we are all one, everything is connected, and all things work together for the good, a saying oft repeated on the show.
There is a Christian connection to that dictum, all things work for good - it comes from Romans 8 verse 28 in the Bible. You might get the notion the Netflix series is selling Christian beliefs but it is not. Using the verse is a classic example of proof texting. A Bible verse is plucked from its original setting and used to prove something else. In this case, the series is pushing New Age notions - “the universe is trying to tell you something”, and there are no coincidences because “its all connected”. Without doing a deep dive, these ideas are not Christian. They come from eastern religions, and they are not what that verse in Romans 8 is about.
This becomes clear if you simply read to the end of that chapter in Romans?
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ (reference to Psalm 44:22) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That’s a bit more to that than the sound bite “All things work together for good”. The chapter informs us that we will go through trials and troubles, but at the end God triumphs. It’s not the path to peace and power and plenty, as sold in such notions as “manifesting” your own future. Spiritual maturity especially for Christians, demands that we take verses in their original context, because the Bible tells us what it means quite plainly.
Sometimes Jesus made the Gospel plain by way of a story. The parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke chapter 15, informs us of the personal nature of God. What the 8th chapter or Romans is really talking about, is the unstoppable love of God. There is no impersonal force, no accident involved, and nothing for us to do. We don’t have to manifest our destiny, we can see it plainly when the prodigal son comes home. His father sees him from far off, runs to him and embraces him, rags and all.
God’s all-seeing and eternal love for mankind is called the Gospel, and it comes to us by way of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the Cross. In that context all things do work together for good according to God's eternal purposes. No assembly required. No mantras, and no methods, and no need to manifest.