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  Healing - The Hard Questions Sunday, December 10th, 2023  
© John Mark Ministries

Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation ...lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. Mark 16:15-18.

In spite of a universal desire to have good health, the sum total of human illnesses does not diminish. Infectious diseases may be decreasing, but emotional illness is on the increase. Questions about sickness and healing are numerous and complex. Powerful emotions are sometimes stirred up over the issue. In the Gospels miraculous healings constitute the largest single element in the narrative. But Christians are divided over it all. Here 'the zealous lack knowledge, and the wise lack all conviction'. At one extreme are the charlatan 'miracle-workers' selling the gifts of Christ as Simon Magus did. At the other, are established churches lacking both faith and power. (One Australian church excluded a lady from fellowship because she was miraculously healed by God through the prayers of some Pentecostals!).

Let us look at some of the hard questions about healing.

Does God want everyone healed? Pentecostals usually say 'yes' (if you aren't, the problem is with your - or your praying friends' or church's - lack of faith). Evangelical Christians often say 'no': Paul had his thorn in the flesh; Timothy apparently had recurring stomach troubles and the suggested cure wasn't prayer but a little wine, (1 Timothy 5:23); Trophimus was so sick Paul left him behind, (2 Timothy 4:20); Jesus only healed one person at the pool of Bethesda (John 5).

Lord, save me from the two errors of having a naive faith, or no faith at all. Amen.

Why are you cast down, O my soul...? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. Psalm 42:11

Both the 'naive faith' and 'no faith' approaches to healing have problems.

Consider Francis McNutt's more balanced view: 'In general, it is God's desire that we be healthy, rather than sick. And since he has the power to do all things, he will respond to prayer for healing unless there is some obstacle, or unless the sickness is sent or permitted for some greater reason...

Sickness is in itself an evil, although good may result from it... There comes a time for a person to die, and we should pray for light as to when to ask God to take away the sickness and when to pray for a happy death...

Some sickness may have a higher purpose (there has been a long tradition of redemptive suffering among the saints)... and yet, by New Testament standards, it should be normative for the Christian to pray for the removal of sickness rather than its acceptance.' (Healing, pp. 84-86).

Lord, I accept your will, whether healing through the removal of painful symptoms, or healing through suffering them. Amen.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching..., proclaiming..., and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. Matthew 4:23.

How does healing occur? First, we must affirm that all healing comes from God! He may heal through doctors, through drugs, through the removal of stress factors, through prayer either miraculously and instantaneously or more slowly, through death (the perfect healing) or through resurrection.

Doctors don't cure patients - God does. They simply help remove the cause of the illness, and allow the Creator's healing processes to do their work. As an eminent doctor put it, 'I dressed his wound, but God healed him'.

It is a mistake, therefore, for a Christian to choose only one method of healing. Here we use both faith and works - we pray, and go to the doctor, in most instances. And doctors should pray, too!

A footnote: I haven't heard of any instance where God chose to replace a missing limb (lost in an accident for example). Nor do I know of any 'instant' healing of deep emotional trauma. God heals, sometimes, more slowly and surely.

Today, Lord, I pray for doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and other counselors, paramedics... particularly those known to me. Amen.

Jesus did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:58.

Why are some people (including atheists) healed, and others some very godly people among them are not? Ultimately, this is a mystery: we don't know. However, there are some clues:

* Lack of faith (see Mark 9:19). Even Jesus' power to heal was limited where faith was absent (Matthew 13:58, Mark 6:5,6). We, too, need to grow in faith, so that God may use us more.

* Sin. Some Corinthian Christians were ill some had even died - because of sinful attitudes and actions (1 Corinthians 11:29-32). Resentment, bitterness, failure to forgive these bad attitudes can cause sickness (what you eat is not as important as what eats you!).

* Faulty praying - our prayers are either not specific, or earnest, or our diagnosis is wrong (eg, should we be praying for physical/inner/ emotional healing or deliverance from evil spirits?)

* Ignoring other means to health - medical help, exercise, correct diet and sleep, etc.

So, Lord Jesus, who still heals today in many kinds of ways, increase my faith! Amen.

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9.

On our journey towards wholeness, suffering and trouble can play a significant part. Even if physical sickness is not relieved we may still learn, with Paul, that God's grace is sufficient in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12). Sometimes God desires something more than a healthy body to be more like his Son, Jesus, for example.

A little boy was present when a butterfly was struggling to be born out of the chrysalis of a caterpillar. He watched with amazement as the tiny creature pushed and pulled agonizingly to get out of the resistant encasement and only after great effort was finally able to break free and fly away. He was so touched by the awesomeness of this struggle that he found another caterpillar and watched very closely until he saw the first movements of the birth process. At that moment he took his father's razor blade and cut open the chrysalis so that this butterfly would not have to struggle so hard.

To the child's amazement the butterfly did not have strength enough in its wings to fly away. What he didn't realise was that the struggle to get out of the chrysalis is precisely what develops the strength called for in the next phase of its existence.

Save me, Lord, from the despair of thinking the struggle isn't worth the effort! Amen.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18.

Sometimes God is the 'One who lets us be'. The pains emotional, physical, spiritual - are the prelude to a new birth of some kind. God's not doing everything for us is an expression of love, not indifference. With us, too, sometimes, not to act is the essence of authentic caring, for to do otherwise would be to infantise or pauperise the other person.

God can heal anyone of anything, at any time! He wants to heal our anger and hatred, as well as our cancers and ulcers. We ought to expect some miracles in the area of physical healing, and also in our suffering spirits. The person who finds it easier to be sick than to be well needs more than healing in his or her body! (Probably most of our praying is too late!)

Heal me Lord, in every part of my being: body, mind, emotions, memories, spirit. And if you choose not to heal me, or to postpone the healing, I will still praise you! Amen.

Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick. James 5:14,15.

James 5:13-16 ought to be studied by every church leadership at least every year!. If a church member wants special prayer, they ought to know they can come to the elders or pastors, and be prayed for - privately or perhaps sometimes deliberately in services of worship.

Morton Kelsey says that in early Christianity healing was considered as God's ordinary will. Today's Christians often consider sickness to be God's ordinary will for them. The great shift took place between the 3rd and 5th centuries.

We need more faith! And we need more obedience, and less pride and prejudice. Often the problem isn't lack of faith, but failure to use the faith God's already given us. Jesus actually chided the disciples when they asked for more faith (Luke 17:5). Small 'mustard seed' faith in him as the object will begin to do wonders. We in our pride will only commit ourselves to something we know will 'work'. 'But what if we pray and they're not healed?' is the kind of faithless question that thwarts all our growth in this area. Our calling is to be faithful and obedient. It is God's business whether he heals or not!

Lord, help me to know, with Augustine, that the whole point of this life is the healing of the heart's eye through which God is seen. Amen.

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