A Psalm of David:
Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases? [Ps 103:2-3]
[This is a revised posting of a previous article.]
There are a multitude of Christians who are suffering. The reasons are many. It could be financial, or personal, but I want to focus on the physical. In the original posting I listed all of my afflictions, and wondered why God has not answered my prayers for healing. It sounded pitiful, indeed. Job and his friends were saints by comparison.
Many faithful people who read this blog are sorely afflicted, and have endured suffering far beyond what ails me, though my issues are chronic; but these brothers and sisters in Christ have been blessed with so much grace that I feel somewhat ashamed.
People say I am not healed because of a lack of faith, or a sin not confessed. Memo: Don’t make the afflicted feel guilty. Go back and read the Book of Job. When I wonder if God has ignored my requests, I hear a small, still voice from within that simply repeats, “I suffered death on the cross for you,” and then I’m reminded that the LORD told Paul that His grace was sufficient:
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [2Co 12:9]
I cannot count the many times I’ve placed my hands on the television to receive a faith healing. Of course, James did not prescribe the laying of hands upon the TV!
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. [James 5:14-16]
It is necessary that we pray for those afflicted, that we pray for one another.
The promises of healing under the Old Covenant were conditional upon the faithful obedience of the children of Israel. When YHWH said that He would remove all sickness from among the people (Dt 7:15) it was contingent upon their keeping His commandments, statutes and judgements:
And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.” [Ex 15:26]
Of course, the children of Israel were not obedient under the Law, and were cast off into bondage and captivity, but we are not under the Law. How, then, can a person be healed of their sickness in this age of grace? Or, maybe we should ask, how are we saved?
In the Book of Acts we read about a man born lame from his mother’s womb (Acts 14:8-10). Paul was preaching to the assembled crowd when he fixed his gaze upon the man, and saw that he had faith to be made well.
Follow me closely here. I can believe in my mind that God saves; that He will redeem and heal me. But saving faith (even healing faith) is in our heart, a gift from God. So, too, is the grace freely given by which we exercise the obedience of faith. Paul teaches that God gives to each of us a measure of faith (Rom 12:3).
I don’t decide that God is going to heal me, or even save me. Something greater, and more mysterious is going on here. I’m not a 5-point Calvinist, but there is truth in what John Calvin taught. It is written that if you had faith the size of a mustard seed you could move mountains (Mt 17:20). Of course, no mortal being has the power to literally move a mountain. That isn’t what Jesus meant. What He was saying is that even with a little faith we can achieve great things. The problem is that some will revel in their victory, or healing, and deny God the glory. Consequently, the prideful man will see the humble man prosper, and wonder why his prayers are not answered.
Sometimes our affliction is for no other reason, but for the glory of God:
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. [Jn 9:1-3]
Let’s look again at Paul and the man who was born lame. The Apostle saw that the man had the faith to be healed, and commanded him to stand up and walk (Acts 14:10). Now, consider the story of the paralytic who was lowered by stretcher through the tiled roof of the synagogue so that he might receive healing from Jesus. Seeing the man’s faith, Jesus said, Friend, your sins are forgiven you (Lk 5:20). Was not the man lowered through the roof to receive physical healing? Not to mention that the scribes and Pharisees were outraged that Jesus spoke blasphemy for who can forgive sins but God alone (Lk 5:21)?
But Jesus, aware of their reasoning, said:
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’ But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, — He said to the paralytic — ‘I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’ [Mt 9:5-6]
This is amazing to me. A man comes to Jesus for physical healing, and the Lord forgives his sins. Either way, the man was able to pick up his stretcher and walk home. This creates another problem, though, for now I’m worried that unforgiven sin is the source of my affliction, but that would be a lie of the Devil (1Jn 1:9).
If we cross-reference the healing of the paralytic with the story of the lame man we learn something very interesting. Paul had seen that the lame man had faith to be made well (Acts 14:9) even as Jesus saw that the man lowered through the roof had similar faith. To be made well, from the Greek word (σωθῆναι, sōthēnai), is translated 9 of 10 times in the New Testament to be saved.
We must grasp the meaning of this. To be saved and to be made well are the same thing. Saving faith and healing faith are the same kind of faith. There is only one faith (Eph 4:5), and the measure of faith (Ro 12:3) by which we are saved (or healed) is a gift from God.
This may sound too Calvinistic for some readers, but Paul is very clear:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8).
There is nothing I can say, nothing I can pray, nothing I can do absent grace and faith to receive healing, or salvation. People will ask, “What about Acts 2:21?” Those same people forget about Jn 6:44. We cannot call upon His name unless He draws us first. If we are saved, or healed, it is by the will of God.
See: (Mk 5:34, Mk 10:52, Lk 8:48, Lk 17:19, Lk 18:42, Mt 9:22)
It was not their faith, though, but that which was given them by God. Maybe we shouldn’t pray for healing specifically, but for the power of faith to be healed.
We won’t delve into this, but in some instances sickness is caused by an evil spirit as Luke records in his Gospel (Lk 13:11). Multitudes came to Jesus to be healed of every affliction, sickness, and demonic possession; and Christ, by His mercy and compassion, healed them all. The miracle of healing has not been removed from the church (1Co 12:28), but James wrote that a doubting man should expect to receive nothing from the Lord (James 1:6-7). Take, for example, the story of the two blind men who cried out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus replied, Do you believe that I am able to do this? (Mt 9:27-31)
Lord, grant me the faith to believe.
Finally, we might consider by whose faith was Lazarus raised from the dead? A dead man has not faith. Luke tells us of the widow’s deceased son who was being carried out of the city gate just as Christ was approaching (Lk 7:12-17). Jesus had compassion for the mother, touched the coffin, and commanded the young man to arise (Lk 7:14). Through faith the power of the Spirit is exercised. By the faith of Christ, then, the young man was returned to his mother.
We learn from this that God is merciful, and there is power in the name of Jesus. Yeshua told His disciples that He will do whatever they ask in His name (Jn 14:13-14). I don’t even want to argue with those who say that the miracle of healing died with the Apostles. Paul is very clear that the gift of healing and the gift of miracles are given by the Spirit, to the body, for the common good (1Co 12:9-10).
Sha’uwl wrote that outwardly we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Our afflictions are achieving in us an eternal glory that outweighs them all (2Co 4:16-17).
In our times of trouble, and doubt, may His grace be sufficient.
Suggested Reading: How Does God Heal?
Next: The Bible Says What?
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