Healing - problem or promise?
'It is time for you to act, O Lord.'
Cured at once
When I was a schoolboy sitting in a church service, the Spirit of God powerfully led me to put my hands on a woman on the other side of the room. She was cured at once '“ and I do not know who was more astounded, she or I! It was the first time anything like that had ever happened to me.
Today I am amazed to see the great crowds that come to hear the gospel and they are amazed by the healings that follow the preaching of God's Word. People who cannot see or hear and others who had lost the power of speech or the use of their limbs are suddenly able to do what they had not been able to do for years, if ever.
Watching out for the supernatural
The kinds of superstitious beliefs which pervade Africa and Asia open people's minds to the supernatural, as do the occult and witchcraft, but these practices are unable to provide answers to questions about heaven and how to get there. The things people believe in are all about the world immediately around them, the one that they can see. They seek protection, good luck, witch-doctor cures, and sometimes bad things, too, such as evil spells and wicked enchantments.
I do not preach sermons on healing; I preach salvation. And people gladly receive it. But in Africa and Asia people are used to watching out for the supernatural. They have no problem seeing that the Christian faith can be applied to life around them as well as give them spiritual security for the future. It covers them body and soul, protecting, delivering, healing and blessing in all things, which is, in fact, just how Old Testament people understood salvation. In our evangelistic campaigns, after we have invited people to receive salvation in Jesus Christ, we pray for the sick. The great healings and other signs that God grants are in a category beyond their dreams of the supernatural and are convincing evidence of the reality of God.
The two great truths
The God of the Old Testament declared two great truths about himself: first, he is the Healer and, second, he never changes. In the New Testament the curtain goes up on Jesus as the image of the Father; crusading against sickness. Even a tassel on his robe gave health back to a sick woman who was considered a social outcast because of her illness.
We preach Christ crucified, but which Christ? A Christ shorn of his ability to heal? Or the Christ of the Bible? Some interpret Scripture in such a way as to set the Jesus who heals in a long past dispensation; roughly meaning that he is not allowed to heal any more! Not a single line in the New Testament warrants such a view. We know God by his acts and if he does not act in the same way today as he did in the past, he can go on telling us until the cows come home that he has not changed; no one will believe him.
The only Jesus I preach is the Jesus of the Gospels '“ the Jesus who passed through Galilee leaving behind him villages full of thankful people who had been healed and the Jesus who took Jerusalem by storm with his gracious compassion on the afflicted.
Even his enemies knew it was in his nature to heal. When he appeared in a synagogue where a man stood with a shrivelled-up arm, they waited for him to heal him so that they could condemn him and plot his death (Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11).
The meaning of 'Christ'
Preaching in Nazareth, Jesus described himself as the One anointed to heal (Luke 4:18). 'Christ' means the 'Anointed One'. 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever' (Hebrews 13:8) '¦ still anointed to heal.
Christ's healing work was not incidental. He acted in obedience to his Father and what he did was essential to his revelation. It was not a temporary policy, adopted for some inscrutable purpose, or a sudden whim. God does not do things just now and then, on the spur of the moment; in fact, he does not think 'short term'. Everything Jesus did was always in character, perfectly in tune with the person who is described as 'changeless.' What he was the Father was, too. After restoring a sick man at Bethesda, he said, 'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working' (John 5:17). The context makes it clear that the 'work' Jesus refers to is healing. What he does tells us what he is. That is how we know him and why we trust him.
God inspires hope of healing
God is a God of order, and he therefore seeks to rectify disorder. The Bible begins with the Spirit of God moving on the earth, which was shapeless and empty. He performed a million miracles, bringing light and life to the dark wastes. When the work of creation was done, he did not retreat from it. He is not sitting in heaven, worn out after all that excertion, perversely letting things take their course.
We find the state of the present world intolerable. Of course! God made us like that, like himself. Just as he brooded over the primeval waste at creation, he broods over things today, bent on changing things, on restoring order where there is now chaos. Romans 8:10-23 looks forward to universal renewal and the end of all suffering. In Revelation 21:5 God proclaims, 'I am making everything new.' He is not going to wake up one day with a jolt, burst in on the scene in some unexpected fashion and get busy putting it all right. He is always working on improving things. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of renewal (Titus 3:5). He has nothing in common with immobile deities like Allah or with a firmly seated image like that of Buddha. By his very character, God inspires hope of healing.
The promise of a sickness-free age
Physical healings have taken place throughout the whole Christian age. God responded to faith even when Bible ignorance confused people. The twentieth century saw an ever-rising floodtide of signs and wonders. The third millennium did not dawn as the Millennium of Christ, yet the multiplication of physical cures around the world today naturally remind us of the Biblical Millennium, the promise of a sickness-free age. Miracles today are a sign that the golden age will soon dawn.
Despite the Bible and despite a million testimonies, many scoff at divine healing. Believers themselves are often discouraged, because some people are not healed. It is too problematic for them to have the kind of hope that includes physical healing. That some go unhealed is an indisputable fact, but let us face some other facts.
God has told us to pray for healing
First, problems do not negate divine promises. Healing is actually part of the promise of God to answer prayer. We do not stop praying if sometimes our prayers do not bring the desired result. Why should anyone stop trusting God for healing?
Second, there are problems about everything, even salvation itself. Many profess salvation and yet show no fruits of a changed life, just as some go home from healing meetings showing no improvement in their physical condition. Jesus himself told us in the parable of the sower to expect the effects of the Word to be varied.
Third, if we never believed things that were problematic, we would never believe anything. Controversy rages around all teaching, Bible inspiration, the church, the Lord's Table, baptism, and the person of Christ, predestination or whatever topic one might choose to discuss. There are opposite opinions in every sphere of human understanding because we are finite, limited, and see 'through a glass, darkly' (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV). Hesitations, reservations and mental conundrums can deprive us of healing. So often we are just too clever by half and reason ourselves out of it. God merely asks us to put our trust in him for everything we need. God has told us to pray for healing and God does heal. In fact, human salvation itself is a form of healing.
Don't stop trusting God for healing!
Nonetheless, there is plenty of evidence that God still heals physical ailments today. So why doesn't he always do it? God's will is to heal, but his will is not always done on earth as in Heaven. It is not yet the Millennium reign of Christ and the Kingdom has not come. There are blockages to healing that could be removed but perhaps we do not know what they are. Faith is not built on reason or even on one's own personal experience of healing or the lack of it, but on looking to Jesus.
A thousand years before Christ's incarnation a Psalmist wrote, 'It is time for you to act, O Lord' (Psalm 119:126). Two thousand years after Christ's incarnation that same Jesus is still 'acting,' working as he did when he walked this earth.
It is time for us to acknowledge it.