the Bible explained

Various Topics: Sickness and Healing

Let us start with a question: "I understand why God does not heal everyone, but why does He not at least heal those who know Him, love Him, obey Him, serve Him and pray specifically for healing?"

We are on slippery ground when we question why God does what He does. He is the sovereign potter who can do what He sees best with us, the clay (Jeremiah 18:4; Isaiah 55:8-9). Job, whom God commended as "blameless and upright, one who feared God and shunned evil" (Job 1:1), was struck simultaneously with many calamities in one day, losing his vast possessions and all ten of his children. A short while later, he was struck with "painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head". Job struggled with the question of why a righteous man such as he should suffer so terribly.

Disease is indeed a universal problem. Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, disease has been a terrible reality. For millennia the search for cures to alleviate illness and suffering has consumed mankind. Sickness and death have distressed and ultimately conquered every person since Adam. Only Enoch and Elijah have escaped death (Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11). Only Jesus has conquered death and risen again in glory. Aside from them and people still living within a normal life span, every one of the millions of people who have ever been born has ultimately perished either from sickness, injury, or some kind of infirmity. No one, not even those who claim gifts of healing - is exempt.

Why is it that charismatic healers, who claim to have gifts of healing, have not gone into hospitals among the sick and dying and just walk up and down the hall touching people and healing them? It would be wonderful to gather groups of people with the gift of healing and fly them into the great pockets of disease in the world. They could walk through the crowds, healing every one of cancer, tuberculosis, aids, and countless other ailments. Opportunities to heal the sick are unlimited, and if, as Charismatics often claim, such miracles are signs and wonders designated to convince unbelievers, would that kind of ministry not accomplish the purpose best?

Scripture teaches that although God is concerned about our bodies, He is infinitely more concerned about our souls (Matthew 10:28). We must realise that even if Christians could heal everyone at will the way Jesus did, the masses still would not believe the Gospel. After all Jesus' marvellous healings, what did the people do? They crucified Him!. The apostles fared no better. They did miracle after miracle of healing. And what happened? They were jailed, persecuted, and even killed. Salvation does not come through experiencing or seeing physical healing. Salvation comes through hearing and believing the Gospel (Romans 10:17). The gift of healing, however, has been claimed through the centuries by Christians and pagans alike.

Witch doctors and shamans even claim to raise the dead. Oral Roberts and John Wimber (he lists raising the dead as one of the basic elements of the healing ministry) claim to have raised dead persons. Yet it is significant that not one modern occurrence of raising the dead can be verified. Occultists use black magic to do lying wonders in the healing arts. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of "Christian Science", claimed to have healed people through telepathy. Satan has always held people in his dominion by means of counterfeit healings. There are many Spiritualists today who are endowed with this remarkable gift of power by Satan.

WHY DO CHRISTIANS GET SICK?

There may be several reasons.

a. Some sickness comes from God.

In Exodus 4:11 God told Moses: "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" Stated that simply and directly, the idea sounds repulsive. Would a loving God want anyone to suffer? Why would He make a man dumb, deaf or blind? Yet again and again we see in Scripture that there is far more to God's sovereign plan than our finite minds can comprehend. In some cases God may allow the disabled and infirm as part of His creative process. Babies are born every day with defects. Many children grow up with congenital deformities. Some people have diseases that last for years. While it is unexplainable according to human logic, all that God plans for His own is a gift of God's love.

b. Some sickness comes from Satan (Luke 13:11-13).

Here was a woman who "for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit: and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all". God may allow Satan to cause someone to be sick for His own reasons. The classical example is Job.

c. Some sickness is chastening for sin

Numbers 12 shows Miriam getting leprosy because of rebelliousness. And then we see her healed because of repentance. Gehazi the servant of Elisha gets leprosy because of his greed. When one is sick, every area of life should be checked for unconfessed sin.

We should distinguish also between:

  1. Functional disease, and
  2. Organic disease.

A functional disease is one in which a perfectly good organ does not function properly.

An organic disease is one in which the organ is diseased, maimed, physically impaired, or even defunct. Infections, heart attacks, gall stones, hernias, slipped discs, cancers of all kinds, broken bones, congenital deformities, and lacerations are all included in the organic disease class. Nolen claims faith healers cannot cure organic diseases. When 'faith healers' try to treat serious organic diseases, they often are responsible for untold anguish and unhappiness.

THE WILL OF GOD

We are utterly convinced that salvation is God's will: "Who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age according to the will of God" (Galatians 1:4); "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3); "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

There is first of all God's SOVEREIGN will:

Isaiah 46:9-11: "My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please… What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do".

Ephesians 1:5, 9, 11: "He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will … And He made known to us the mystery of His will … In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will".

His will is eternal: "before the beginning of time" (2 Timothy 1:9). His will is wise: "that the manifold wisdom of God should be made known". His will flow only from Himself. "Who was it that taught Him knowledge, or showed Him the path of understanding?"

How does God reveal His will to us? It is often progressive. It cannot be contrary to His commandment. He reveals it through His Word, through inner conviction, (Acts 21:4), through circumstances, through brothers and sisters in Christ, through prayer, and also through visions (think of Paul being shown he must go to Macedonia).It is God's will that all men should be saved, yet we see that all men are not saved. If it is God's will to heal, we see that all men, and all believers are not healed. This is a mystery. There are many cases of illness and suffering which here on earth, we will never completely understand. Sickness can sometimes be a part of a greater plan God has. For instance, think of the case of Job. We therefore may not insist that in every case God wants to heal here and now! As we said before, God did not and does not heal all unbelievers, and in His wisdom He does not heal all believers.

PAUL'S THORN IN THE FLESH

2 Corinthians 12:7-9. We cannot be dogmatic and say that the 'thorn' of which Paul speaks is a particular sickness. However, the answer the Lord gives when Paul asks three times to be delivered from this "thorn", does not mean that the Lord tells Paul that he has 'to learn to live with it'. On the contrary, it means that the Lord's grace was sufficient to give to Paul in this 'weakness' wonderful 'deliverance'.

CONDITIONS FOR HEALING

All known sin must be repented of and confessed. It is necessary to break with wrong friends, wrong habits (drugs, drink etc). There must be faith, either in the sick person, or those who seek his healing.

Has God promised to heal all who have faith?

Charismatics who claim that God wants every believer well are clearly in flagrant error. It is also true that God has promised that He does heal, but He has not promised that He always heals. Yes. The Christian has a right to look to God in times of illness. But let us add immediately that faith not an absolute requirement for healing. Think of Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:2-4, 10-14). Think of the lame man in Mark's Gospel 2:5, Jesus answered the faith of the man's friends; of his own faith we are not told. The man born blind in John 9:36. In some cases, healing may be gradual, for instance when Jesus healed the blind man in Mark 8:22-26.

BUT WHAT ABOUT ALL THE EVIDENCE?

Not one of today's self-styled healers can produce irrefutable proof of the miracles they claim to have wrought. Many of them are transparently fraudulent, and the healings they display are clearly suspect. Yet thousands of intelligent people continue to go to their services. Why? Because desperation often accompanies disease. Sickness drives people to do frantic and extreme things they normally would not do. People who are ordinarily clear-minded, intelligent, and balanced become irrational. Satan knows that, which is why he said: "Skin for skin! Yes: all that a man has he will give for his life" (Job 2:4).

The agony of disease and illness is only intensified when people feel that they are not healed because of their sin, their lack of faith, of God's indifference to them. They reason that if healing is available and they do not get it, it is either their fault or God's. Thus faith healers have left untold wreckage in their wake.

GOD DOES HEAL

We must not automatically discount all claims of supernatural healings just because some are false. Genuine healings may come as the result of prayer and most often involve simple natural processes. At other times, God speeds up the recovery mechanisms and restores a sick person to health in a way that medicine cannot explain.

But the gift of healing, the ability to heal others, special anointings for healing ministry, healings that can be "claimed", and other typical faith-healing techniques have no Biblical sanction in the post-apostolic era.

Most miracles happened in three relatively brief periods of Bible history: in the days of Moses and Joshua, during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and in the time of Christ and the apostles. The miracles that happened involved men who were extraordinary messengers from God - Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and the Apostles.

Miracles introduced new eras of revelation. Miracles authenticated the messengers of revelation. These were designed to convince people that God was with these men and that He was speaking through them. Clearly Jesus' miracles served a purpose: they authenticated Him and His message. Miracles called attention to new revelations. The miracles Moses did in Egypt were meant to enlighten two groups of people, the Israelites and the Egyptians.

But nothing in Scripture indicates that the miracles of the apostolic age were meant to be continuous in subsequent ages.

DOES GOD PROMISE MIRACLES FOR EVERYONE?

Many charismatic believers insist that God wants to do miracles for every believer. They often say: "God has a special miracle just for you". Those who are credulous about claims of modern miracles - especially those who are the most zealous defenders of contemporary signs and wonders - often seem reluctant to deal with the possibility, or rather the likelihood, that those marvels may actually be authenticating a diabolical variety of "revelation". Indeed, Christians who pursue miraculous signs are setting themselves up for satanic deception.

Are we saying then that God's power had diminished? That is hardly the case. In Acts 5:16, early in the apostolic age when the church was just getting started, we read that multitudes were being healed by the apostles. Twenty-five years later Paul, the greatest of all the apostles, could not be delivered from his own troublesome thorn (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).Though he at one time seems to have had the ability to heal others at will (Acts 28:8), as Paul neared the end of his life he showed no evidence of such a gift. He advised Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach's sake, a common way of treating illness in that day (1 Timothy 5:23). Later on, at the very end of his career, Paul left a beloved brother sick at Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20). He surely would have healed him if he could.

Why would God give miracle power to people who teach heresy? Why would God authenticate bad theology? Yet every movement today that highlights miracles as a central theme is tainted with shoddy theology, confused and inconsistent doctrine, outright heresy, or a combination of these.

WHY NOT ME?

In Luke 7:18-35, we read that during a great period of miracle working, the Lord Jesus asked the people about John the Baptist. He tells them that John the Baptist is the greatest among all the prophets who have ever lived (verse 28). John was a fervent preacher but his preaching was never authenticated by one single miracle (John 10:41). John's motto was: "He must increase, I must decrease".

At the very moment that Jesus is praising his faithful servant, he is actually in prison. At that time, Jesus had given power to His twelve disciples against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease (Matthew 10:1). Then we read further in Matthew 11:2-7: "Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him, 'Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?' Jesus answered and said unto them, 'Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me'".

Was John thinking of that passage in Isaiah 61:1: "He sent Me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound". Was it at this moment that John perhaps in his heart said: "And what about me? I am in prison and Jesus did not come to me, His cousin, to set me free". Doubt has filled John's heart: "Art Thou He that should come?" The One of whom Isaiah prophesied? John had dedicated his entire life to the service of Christ. Yet we do not read that Jesus Christ even went to visit John in prison to comfort and encourage him!! No doubt John rejoiced that so many people were getting healed and blest - but what about me, he might have said? Is that what some of us are saying? Are you saying: "Many people are getting healed, why does Jesus not heal me?"

There are believers today who hear that others are getting healed in answer to their prayers, but who are not getting better themselves and their prayers for healing remain unanswered. They run a great risk that they are offended by the Lord's apparent neglect of them. They risk becoming bitter. But, to paraphrase the answer the Lord gave to John the Baptists, let us look at the answer the Lord gives: it sounds like a blessing: "You are really very blessed and privileged if, in spite of the disappointment of not getting healed, you do not become jealous and bitter of those who are getting healed, and you do not get offended and make accusations against God and the Lord Jesus".

You are to count yourself blessed and privileged if you can accept that, for reasons you cannot understand, the Father seems not to answer your prayers. You are only able to accept this because God has given you a special measure of grace and help from Him. Certainly to get healed is wonderful, but the Lord looks upon you with greatest affection when you trust Him in spite of disappointments.

Satan is watching and is ready to slander God's character, tempting you to doubt the Lord and to become bitter. There will be many Christians who will remain sick in spite of years of prayer and supplication and the prayers of friends and fellow-believers. There will always be couples who have beseeched the Lord with tears for a baby but have never had a child. There will be others who have an intense desire for a partner to share their lives with, but remain unmarried. People with unanswered prayers are very sensitive. They are touched in the very depth of their being, and hurt. These dear believers need our prayer support.

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