A Bible Study by Jack Kelley – gracethrufaith.com
So many people have asked for healing lately, from the internet, the bible study, over the phone, or in person. Does God heal people today? Can we ask Him to heal us? Should we? He promised the Israelites that if they obeyed Him He would protect them from the diseases with which He afflicted the Egyptians, (Ex 15:26) but what about us?
What Does The Bible Say?
Of the Messiah, Isaiah prophesied, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:4-5)
The word “infirmities” in verse 4 translates as sickness or disease, “sorrows” translates as mental and physical pain, and “healed” in verse five means just that. In fact the same Hebrew word is used in Exodus (I am the Lord, Who Heals you) where the context is also physical healing. These words clearly and without condition or question refer to healing from the physical and mental anguish associated with illness and injury, and they’re included in the Mission of the Messiah. His death made our healing possible.
If you net out all the duplicates in the Gospels, there are a total of twenty one personal healing miracles. I don’t think that’s a coincidence; seven is the number of divine completion and three the number of the trinity. These twenty-one miracles were given to show us that we can be healed. In addition a version of the phrase “your faith has made you well” appears seven times in describing them. We should ask for healing and expect a positive outcome.
Paul taught that the Holy Spirit invests some believers with the gift of healing. (1 Cor 12:8) Reading the Book of Acts makes it clear that early believers saw people being healed and expected healing when they asked for it, and from church history we see that the belief that God answered prayers for healing was taken for granted. Groups of believers got together and prayed for healing just as James admonished them. (James 5:14-16)
It’s only when theologians began “spiritualizing” the promises of the Bible that people stopped believing in them. “Jesus didn’t really feed 5000 people.” they explained, “It’s just that He was such a captivating speaker that everyone forgot they were hungry.” And by taking one obscure use of the Greek word for healing where the author is obviously using an analogy, they re-interpreted dozens of clear passages to mean a spiritual healing rather than a physical one. (Hebr 12:13) This of course is a gross violation of the rules of interpretation. You always use clear passages to interpret obscure ones, not the other way around. But in the 20th century alone these theologians have persuaded several generations of believers that the Bible is more a collection of allegories than a reliable source of truth, and not to be taken seriously; certainly not where healing is concerned.
Your Faith Has Made You Well
The Bible states that faith comes through hearing, but we say “seeing is believing.” Regardless of what they read in Scripture, since not many Christians believe in healing and therefore don’t see any folks being healed, it’s hard for them to believe God can do it. But even if only one person has been supernaturally healed then the gift of healing is available now, and in fact many believers have been healed, or have seen others healed, or have even been used by the Lord in healing others. That makes the Bible passages indisputable. He is the Lord Who Heals You!
There are four levels of healing and I’ll list them in inverse order of value. The first is a medical healing without prayer. It’s the least desirable because of the risk involved with modern medicine’s reliance on drugs and human knowledge. The next is medical healing with prayer. It’s better because through prayer we not only tap into the spiritual side of healing, we also invoke the Lord’s help in guiding the doctor’s actions and influencing his decisions. The third is prayer without medical, relying totally on the Lord. For those whose faith is strong enough this is a remarkable experience.
But the fourth and perfect healing is always death, because for the believer death brings new life, a life without sorrow or crying or pain, a life in the presence of the Lord. Now please understand me, I’m not advocating any kind of accelerated death, like suicide or euthanasia, but if the Lord chooses to heal some by taking them to heaven where His promise of eternal joy and happiness can begin for them, who can fault that?
What’s Heaven Like?
Again, because we haven’t been taught to expect a literal heaven and therefore know very little about it, it’s hard for us to see someone going there as a victory. In fact many who pray for healing feel a sense of failure when their loved one dies. We are so entrenched in our thinking about the ways of this world and we know so little about the next one that we always look at any abrupt, and especially early departure from life as a terrible tragedy, when in fact for a believer it’s the ultimate healing.
In Revelation we’re told that a time will come on Earth when the living will envy the dead (Rev. 9:6) because for them, life on Earth will have become unbearable. But that demonstrates how little we know about these things. It’s only after life becomes intolerable that we consider death as an alternative. If we knew what the Lord has in store for those who love Him we’d want to get there as quickly as possible.
Isaiah understood this. “The righteous perish,” he wrote, “And no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.” (Isa 57:1-2)
For many, life is relatively pleasant and not understanding the alternative we can’t imagine how anything else could be better. But as Paul told the church in Corinth, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9) We’re not taught to think about it, so we don’t. But Paul’s next sentence says, “But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:10) Ask Him to reveal it to you so you can get a glimpse of what’s in store. It’ll blow your mind!
What’s The Point?
All that not withstanding, the Bible clearly commands us to ask for and expect healing from our physical and mental anguish. But it never promises immortality. (It always makes me laugh when the nay-sayers point to the death of a faith healer as proof that God doesn’t answer prayers for healing.) One of the conditions of life as we know it is that it’s temporary. The first death, the death of the body, is assured for all but those believers alive at the time of the Rapture of the Church. We’re not privy to the details concerning the span of our earthly life, but we are told that within that span if we suffer illness we are to gather other believers around us, confess our sins, and ask for healing. And our prayers offered in faith will make us well, for the prayers of righteous people are powerful and effective. (James 5: 15-16) Maybe we’ll even be blessed enough to receive the perfect healing. Selah.
I AM THE LORD WHO HEALS YOU, PART 2: HEALING BY THE NUMBERS
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley – gracethrufaith.com
I am the Lord, Who heals you, Ex 15:26
Every so often I’ll write something that looks just fine to me at the time, but then several days later I’ll read it again and wonder what I was thinking. So it was with the statement in part 1 that there are seven healing miracles in the gospels that contain a version of the phrase “Your faith has made you well.”
I was writing from memory, and it’s almost right. There are seven accounts of miracles that contain that phrase, but altogether there are actually 21 unique personal incidents in the Gospels that describe healing from sickness or disease. Additionally, an unknown number of people, probably in the thousands, were healed in events described only as “He went among the people healing all their sick.” Variations of that phrase occur nine times in the Gospels. And of course the disciples healed numerous others on their two mission trips. On top of all that there were three cases where someone was raised from the dead, which I believe is something entirely different, pointing more to His promise of eternal life rather than His ability to ease our suffering in this one. And in one case an ear cut off in a sword fight was reattached.
21 Showcase Events
So out of the thousands of people healed during the Lord’s 3 ½ year ministry, the Gospel writers chose to highlight 21 events as examples for our learning. Using the spiritual significance of numbers in the Scriptures, the number 21 indicates both their source and effectiveness. Reducing 21 into its mathematical equation of 3 X 7 we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (3) through whom this miraculous healing power flows, and (7) their capability to completely heal us. (7 implies spiritual completeness.)
We can accept the fact that Jesus, our Creator God in the physical form of His Son, could have the power to heal a person but the fact that He did so through the Holy Spirit means that the Holy Spirit could invest others, like you and me, with this power as well. Jesus promised that this is exactly what would happen (John 14:12), and the hundreds of healings documented in Book of Acts plus the inclusion of healing in the list of spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 12 testify to the validity of His promise.
The seven phrases that refer to faith repeat the notion of spiritual completeness in the context of our part in the process. Since the gospels refer to times where people’s lack of faith hindered the Lord’s miraculous work (Matt. 13:58), faith must play a big part. Seven mentions make our faith a significant if not crucial component of the healing, and the ruins of Korizin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum bear mute testimony to the consequences of a lack of faith. (Matt. 11:20-24)
And even the thousands of healings that aren’t individually described are important, implying that believers without number can be healed. So while there’s no limit to God’s miraculous power, all told 33 people were healed in these 21 showcase events. A closer look reveals more of the story.
Healing By The Numbers
Eleven were lepers. Like yeast, leprosy was often used symbolically as a model for sin. Sin corrupts us spiritually, but since there’s no visible sign, the physical effects of leprosy on a person’s body presented a graphic model of the corruption process. When Matthew chose the cleansing of a leper as the first miracle in his gospel, he was demonstrating to Israel the Lord’s power to take away sin. Eleven is the number of confusion and shows the extent to which the Jews were in disagreement over the Lord’s ability to forgive their sins. The physical healings were plain for all to see, but how could they tell if their sins had really been forgiven? Only God can forgive sins, they argued. Is this man claiming to be God? Even the cleansing of lepers didn’t persuade them, and in fact served to make many of the leaders angry.
Six men were healed from blindness. Six is the number of man, and these healings symbolize that man, born spiritually blind, will only be enabled to see the redemptive Love that God has for Him through the life, death and resurrection of the Messiah.
Five were healed of various types of sickness more common to man. Five, the number of grace, demonstrates that we don’t have to earn our healing, it’s an unmerited favor.
Four were demon possessed. Four is the number of the Earth, because by the fourth day of Creation the Earth had taken on its permanent form with the sun, moon and stars all in place. 1 John 5:19 tells us the whole world is under the control of the Evil One. Casting out demons from four men shows the Lord’s power over Satan on Earth.
Four were paralyzed or crippled. This symbolized man’s inability to “walk” alone on Earth, and how God’s power and protection are necessary to sustain him.
Two men who were mute were enabled to speak. Two is the number of testimony or witness. The symbolism is obvious.
One was both deaf and mute. The Jews had an exorcism ritual that required the demon to identify himself by name. Rendering its victim both deaf and mute placed a demon beyond the limits of this ritual’s power. By healing this man Jesus showed the superiority of God’s power over both the demonic world and man’s religion. One is God’s number. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One! (Deut. 6:4)
But Wait There’s More
In addition to the 21 individual cases, the Gospels record nine mass healings. Being the last numeral, 9 is the number of finality. These nine events signify that the sin problem which brought illness into the world in the first place was finally and forever being addressed at the cross. And as I indicated above, there were 3 resuscitations from death, (I say resuscitation instead of resurrection because all three eventually died again and resurrection is a permanent escape from death) and 1 incident where the Lord reversed an injury inflicted in a sword fight (the ear of the High Priest’s servant).
When a disciple of John the Baptist asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, Jesus replied, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the Good News is preached to the poor.” (Matt. 11:4-5) By His healing miracles He validated His ministry as the fulfillment of Old Testament Messianic prophecy.
Later He told His disciples, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) By this He meant that by going to the Father, He would be releasing the Holy Spirit into the world, Who would invest believers with similar powers.” (John 16:7)
I’ve seen the prayers of believers result in immediate miraculous healing. I’ve seen prayers that were combined with the skill of a surgeon to produce complete recovery. I’ve seen believers taken immediately into the presence of the Lord following prayers for healing. And I’ve seen faithful daily prayer require years of repetition to produce visible results. I’m persuaded beyond reasonable doubt that the Lord went to the cross so we could be healed as well as saved, and when we gather together and pray for healing for each other powerful forces are loosed in Heaven on behalf of those we pray for. The Lord is sovereign, He acts in His own time and His own way, but He commands us to pray for healing. Based on my experience, I know that His Word is as good today as when He spoke it. Selah.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HEALING:
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley – gracethrufaith.com
Because of my middle daughter’s recent bout with cancer (victorious) I have had occasion to study the subject of healing again. In doing so, I’ve come to the conclusion that most people have formed their opinions about healing through hearsay and false teaching rather than from what the Bible actually says about it. So what does the Bible say about healing? Let’s find out.
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:1-6)
Some people use this passage as an example to show that the Lord refused to heal people sometimes. But a clear reading shows it was their lack of faith, not His refusal to perform, that resulted in only a few sick people being healed. Because the people of the Lord’s home town had known Him from childhood, their faith in His supernatural power was weak, so weak in fact that “all” He could do was heal a few sick people. Could the God of the Universe be constrained by the degree of our faith? It appears that way.
In contrast, all through His ministry, wherever He went, people without number were healed. They followed Him on foot for days, sometimes winding up 50-60 miles from home without food or shelter. On two occasions that we know of He fed them Himself because there wasn’t anything for them to eat. In Matt. 14:13-21 He fed 5,000 plus an additional number of women and children. And in Matt. 15:29-39 it was 4,000 more, plus women and children.
When people heard He was coming to their town they brought their sick into the square where they waited, expecting to be healed, and by the thousands they were. They believed it, they expected it, they experienced it. Look at these examples.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. (Matt. 4:23-25)
When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed. (Matt. 13:34-36)
I Want To Do That
And it wasn’t just Jesus. He gave this healing power to His disciples, too, to show us that He could work these miracles through men of faith. (Later, in John 14:12, He expanded that authority, saying that anyone with faith in Him would do what he had been doing. That means you and I also have the authority to heal the sick in His name!)
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. (Mark 6:6-7, 12-13)
As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. (Acts 5:15-16)
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (Acts 19:11-12)
In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. (Acts 14:8-10)
Things sure are different today. Now if our prayers for healing aren’t answered, we either make excuses for God (it wasn’t His will or it wasn’t His timing) or we blame Him (He doesn’t heal people any more). And yet, no where in the New Testament, when asked to heal someone, did Jesus or the apostles say, “It’s not God’s will” or “It’s not His timing” or “We’re not doing that anymore.”
The one time a man asked Him if He was willing, Jesus replied, “I am willing.” (Matt. 8:2-3) The one time a man asked if He was able, Jesus replied, “If you believe, I am able.” (Mark 9:23) The one time a man’s friends tried to convince him it was too late because his daughter had died, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, just believe and she will be healed.” (Luke 8:50).
That Was Then, This Is Now
Today, some parts of the Church teach that the gifts of the Spirit, including healing, were withdrawn after the time of the Apostolic Church, using 1 Cor. 13:8-10 below as their justification. In my opinion this an incorrect position, based on a misinterpretation of the passage. Let’s read it.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears (1 Cor. 13:8-10).
Those who deny the gifts are still being given say that these verses refer to the completion of the New Testament canon. They say the gifts were for the time when the Church didn’t have the completed word of God and the apostles had to rely on their Spiritual gifts to build the Church.
But Paul went on to say that now we see only a poor reflection, then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part, then we shall know fully even as we are fully known (1 Cor. 13:12). The first time this statement will be true is just after the rapture when we’ll be standing before the Lord in our perfected bodies. That’s the time when John said we’ll be like the Lord for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). That’s when perfection will come and, since we’ll no longer need them, that’s when the gifts will cease. Until then, they are ours to use.
Another group teaches that the gifts of the Spirit were intended to be a sign to Israel that the Holy Spirit could be poured out even on the Gentiles. They claim that after the Council of Jerusalem, when direct entry into the Church was given to the Gentiles, the gifts ceased because Israel was being set aside and the Church would soon become predominately Gentile. As evidence of this they say Paul never performed any more healings after the Council met. And yet, after Paul washed up on the island of Malta, having been shipwrecked, he healed the father of Publius, the chief official of the island, and all the other residents who were sick as well (Acts 28:7-9).
To support their claim that God does not always agree to heal us, some teach that He refused to heal Paul, even though he asked for healing three times. This is another provably false teaching.
To get the context, let’s read Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Now let’s learn what the passage really says. The word for thorn literally means a pointed stake, and recalls a situation in Judges 2 when the Israelites failed to rid the land of all its previous inhabitants as God had commanded (Deut. 20:16-18). Because of their failure to obey Him, The Angel of the Lord declared that these people would become perpetual enemies to oppose the Israelites physically and distract them spiritually. He then coined the phrase “thorn in your sides” to symbolize their physical and spiritual opposition. From that day to this, these people have inflicted incredible physical abuse upon God’s people.
The word torment actually means to rap with the fist, or buffet. It also comes from a root meaning to physically punish.
In both these words there’s a clear implication of physical attack. So the real story of Paul’s thorn in the flesh goes more like this. Everywhere Paul went he was physically abused. Hear his own account from 2 Cor. 11:23-26:
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.”
I urge you to study these events carefully in the Book of Acts. For example, in Philippi Paul and Silas were stripped and severely beaten with rods. The flesh on their backs was bruised and bleeding, and the pain was incredible, but they were taken to prison without medical attention, their hands and feet secured in stocks, forcing them to sit in an upright position, making sleep virtually impossible even if the pain would have allowed it.
But at midnight they were heard singing hymns of praise and the doors of the prison broke open, freeing them. They went to the home of the jailer, who washed and fed them. The miracles he had seen caused his whole family to be saved that night. The next morning when they were officially released, they walked 30 miles to Amphipolis having received no medical treatment and having had no recovery time, not even a night’s sleep. (Acts 16:22-40) The Lord had healed them.
But an earlier incident in Lystra is perhaps the most dramatic A group of angry Jews from Antioch and Iconium had followed Paul to Lystra. When they caught up with him they took up stones and stoned him. (Acts 14:19-20) Remember, stoning was the Jewish method of execution. It consisted of immobilizing a person, sometimes by burying him up to his waist, and then hurling rocks at his head and upper body until he died.
Believing they had been successful and that Paul was dead, they dragged his body out side the city and left it there for the wild dogs to eat. But the believers gathered around him and prayed. Paul got up and went back into the city with them. The next day he walked 25 miles to Derbe. It’s like walking home from your execution; it just doesn’t happen.
These are incredible examples of God’s miraculous power. Contrary to the incorrect interpretation of 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul was physically healed by the grace of God over and over again. He was rescued from the open sea and even raised from the dead. It was a great testimony of God’s strength perfected in Paul’s weakness.
Your Faith Has Healed You
When you net out the duplicate accounts, some variation of the phrase “your faith has healed you” appears seven times in the Gospels. Seven times, the Lord credited the person’s faith for their healing. Seven is the number of divine completion. He knows that His power to heal is constant. The variable is our faith. This has led me to conclude that a miraculous event is simply the intersection of God’s constant power with the faith of a believer.
Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17) Life was so much more tenuous in Biblical times than in ours that we can’t begin to imagine the difference. Nor can we understand how much closer to God they were. Their faith was real, the most critical component of their life. Those who could, read the Bible. Those who couldn’t, listened to those who could. Their lives centered around the study of His word. There wasn’t any entertainment industry so they told the stories of Biblical heroes to their children. They discussed theology with each other. Every male from the age of 12 knew the Torah by heart. All this was done in obedience to God’s word.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deut. 6:4-9)
There were no drug companies and no hospitals. Their doctors were the priests. God promised them that if they obeyed His commandments He would see to it that they wouldn’t get the diseases of the Egyptians. (Exodus 15:26) God was their healer, and when they were obedient, they enjoyed healthy secure lives equal to or longer than ours, and every bit as satisfying. It was preventive medicine in its purest form, and produced life spans in their time similar in length to ours today (Psalm 90:10).
All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:
You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock-the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you. (Deut. 28:2-8)
I have written several times of the Lord’s promise to meet all of our needs if we’ll just seek His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:31-33). These are both imputed to us by faith. We’re not to worry about our lives here because the Lord has sworn to provide for us. Our job is to trust Him. Even in times of trial we’re to live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Paul admonished us not to focus on the things that can be seen because they’re temporary. We’re to fix our eyes on the things that can’t be seen because they’re eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18) God will take care of the rest.
Israel was required to obey God’s commandments to enjoy health and security. The Church is called to believe His promises, like Matt. 6:31-33 and especially the one below.
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:14-16).
In another study, we’ll talk about why prayers for healing don’t always produce immediate results and what we can do about it. See you then. 08-15-15
WHY PRAYERS FOR HEALING FAIL, PART 1
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley – gracethrufaith.com
People come up with all kinds of reasons why prayers for healing aren’t answered, most of them placing the responsibility on God. He’s not doing that anymore, it wasn’t His will, or His timing. He gave you your disease to help you become a better Christian. He did answer your prayer and the answer was no, and the list goes on.
It’s obvious that many prayers for healing go unanswered but in this study I’d like us to consider the possibility that God is not the problem. He calls Himself the God who heals us (Exodus 15:26, Psalm 103:3). His word tells us that one result of the suffering and death of His Son is so we can be healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). When we’re sick, His word instructs us to go to the elders for prayer and promises us that the prayer offered in faith will make us well (James 5:14-16). The New Testament contains many examples of the Lord and His apostles healing people without a single verse to justify man’s opinion that all that somehow stopped. In fact, news from around the world tells us of numerous healings happening in our time.
Because so much of the Western Church denies the existence of supernatural healing today there are no “official” statistics on the reasons why prayers for healing fail. But having done a fair amount of research on the subject I can give you an unofficial list of the top reasons faith healers from all over the spectrum have compiled over the years.
By far the number one reason is our unwillingness to forgive those who have wronged us. In doing so we think we’re punishing the other person, but it turns out we’re the ones who suffer for it. Here’s why.
In Matt 6:14-15 Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Remember, there are two kinds of forgiveness believers receive. One is the forgiveness that brings salvation and eternal life. It’a a once for all time unconditional forgiveness that cannot be revoked (Ephes. 1:13-14).
The second is the forgiveness believers seek when they sin. It’s the forgiveness that keeps us in fellowship with God while we’re here on Earth. This is the forgiveness John spoke about in 1 John 1:9;
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
(If this is a new idea to you, read our study on Union and Fellowship here.
In Matt. 6:9-13 Jesus was teaching the disciples how to pray by giving them what we call the Lord’s prayer. Only a believer can call God “Our Father in Heaven” (John 1:12-13) so Jesus was not talking about the forgiveness that brings salvation, but the forgiveness that keeps us in good standing with God. Among other things, this forgiveness is conditional upon us forgiving those who sin against us.
Paul explained it this way.
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold (Ephes 4:26-27)
If we let the day end without forgiving the person who has made us angry we’re sinning. This will give the devil a foothold in our life which, if we continue in our un-forgiveness, he will build into a stronghold, causing it to fester until it can actually turn into a sickness or disease. I know of some God fearing born again believers who have held on to their anger toward someone who wronged them for decades. It has made them bitter, unloving, untrusting, and in some cases physically ill, and yet they adamantly refuse to forgive the person who wronged them. What a different life they could have had.
Our prayers to be healed from a sickness or disease caused by this anger will go unanswered until we confess our sin to the Lord and are forgiven. And we can’t just go through the motions hoping the Lord will heal us if we say the right words. He knows the motives of our heart and is not happy when people try to fool Him. We have to sincerely forgive the other person. If we can, we should forgive the person face to face. If not, we can confess our sin to the Lord and ask His forgiveness.
The Unmerciful Servant
The Lord explained all this in greater detail in the Parable Of The Unmerciful Servant (Matt. 18:21-35).
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:21-35)
What Does That Mean To Us?
We’ve often discussed the nature of parables; how they’re heavenly stories put into an earthly context and how the major characters always symbolize others. In the case of this parable the King is the Lord, you and I are His servants, the debts we owe represent our sins, and the jailer is Satan.
The King had forgiven a debt the servant couldn’t have repaid in a thousand lifetimes, and did so simply because he was asked to. The servant on the other hand demanded full and immediate payment from a friend for a much, much smaller sum. But the issue is not the legitimacy or even the size of the debt, it’s the comparative value. Shouldn’t being released from the burden of a debt so large he could never repay it have made the servant more forgiving toward his fellow servant?
The servant’s demand for payment demonstrated his lack of gratitude for what the King had done for him. That’s what aroused the King’s anger, and He turned the servant over to the jailer.
Our debt of sin against the Lord is similarly impossible to repay, but in the Lord’s case He can’t simply overlook it. His requirement for justice demands the debt be paid in full.
Knowing we could never pay it, He sent His Son to pay it for us. This freed Him to completely and unconditionally forgive us just because we ask Him to. Don’t forget, from the Lord’s point of view we were all murderers, adulterers, blasphemers, thieves and such when He forgave us (Ephe 2:1-5). These are all crimes punishable by death. We’ve been forgiven so much, isn’t even a significant sacrifice justifiable under the circumstances? What offense would be too large to forgive in others when compared with what the Lord has forgiven in us?
Our unwillingness to forgive legitimate sins others commit against us demonstrates our ingratitude for what the Lord has done for us. It’s the result of the typical human double standard wherein we demand justice from others while expecting mercy for ourselves. This ingratitude is itself a sin and like all un-confessed sin can cause us to miss out on blessings we might have otherwise received. It also leaves us open to attack by our enemy which may even subject us to torment from the enemy. That’s why, in the parable, the jailer represents Satan.
The great lesson of this parable is in the Lord’s final statement.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matt. 18:35).
Please read this carefully. If your health issues are due to your refusal to forgive someone who has wronged you in the past, you can’t blame God. Holding onto your hurt or anger has put you out of fellowship with Him and given the devil a foothold in your life, which he has turned into a health problem for you.
Matt. 6:14-15 says God can’t forgive you for your sin of un-forgiveness until you forgive the one who wronged you from your heart. Your sin of un- forgiveness is blocking your prayers for healing.
Don’t take this lightly. When I asked the Lord to show me all the people in my life I had failed to forgive, I was amazed at the number. It seems like every day for weeks He was recalling another incident to my mind.
Ask Him the same question and when He brings someone to mind, forgive him or her from your heart. It doesn’t matter if your feelings were justified, the Lord would have been justified in refusing to forgive you, but He did it anyway. Go and do the same.
The Bible spends a lot of time on this subject and so we have, too. In the coming weeks we’ll look at some of the other top reasons why prayers for healing go unanswered. See you then. 08-22-15
WHY PRAYERS FOR HEALING FAIL, PART 2
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley – gracethrufaith.com
I’ve received some blow back from my studies on “What Does the Bible Say About Healing” and “Why Prayers For Healing Fail, Part 1”. People have jumped to the conclusion that I’m part of the Word of Faith movement (I’m not) or a charismatic faith healer (not that either, not even charismatic). For the record I’m an Evangelical who takes the Bible very seriously and who believes it means what it says.
That means I believe God is still in the healing business, because I can’t find any place in the Bible where it says He got out of it. So I’m trying to convey what the Bible really says about healing and why it doesn’t happen for some. With that, let’s look at some more reasons why our prayers for healing sometimes fail and see if we can get to the bottom of this.
Lack of Knowledge
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. Proverbs 9:10
Because the concept of faith healing is neither taught nor practiced in many churches, a great majority of Christians don’t know anything about it. The idea of going to the elders to ask for prayer, as instructed in James 5:14-16, never occurs to them. Neither would it occur to the elders to offer prayer, because they likely have never been told that’s part of their responsibility.
Sometimes, when all the “miracles” of modern medicine have failed them, believers will turn to God in desperation for healing. But even though they know the Lord, they don’t have a relationship with Him based on Biblical knowledge. Therefore they don’t have an understanding of Him, or His character, or the limitations they may have placed on Him by their own lack of knowledge that can prevent Him from responding to their prayers.
We’ve already discussed the view among some Evangelicals that the so-called sign gifts (healing and tongues) were withdrawn when the New Testament became complete, based on an incorrect interpretation of 1 Cor.13:9-12. And we’ve mentioned others who claim these gifts were a sign to the Jews that Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit and ceased after the Council of Jerusalem when Gentiles were given direct access into the Church. This can’t be documented in Scripture either.
Both these groups will have difficulty praying for healing because of this. You can’t very well ask God to heal you when you don’t believe He does that anymore. (There are some believers in these groups who believe God still heals people, but no longer uses individuals to perform miraculous signs such as healing others. And they condition their belief by saying while God can heal us and we should pray for Him to do so, we shouldn’t be surprised if nothing happens.)
As another example, because of the convoluted teachings of Calvinism, some people think God’s sovereignty extends to every event in their life, and that He’s actually the cause of their illness, or their child’s birth defect, or the accident that left a loved one horribly mangled. How does one pray for healing to the same God they believe brought these things into their lives for His Divine purpose?
Aside from this being a serious assault on the character of God, it forms a cognitive dissonance in the mind of believers that makes it impossible for them to be of one mind when praying together. It’s not hard to see that believing God brings illnesses upon His children to somehow make them better Christians can be a major obstacle when praying for healing from the same illness.
What Does The Bible Say?
God never created anything that wasn’t perfect. And so it was with Adam and Eve. After He created them in His image He told them to be fruitful and multiply, to take dominion over the earth and rule over every living thing (Genesis 1:28). From then on they were in charge of bringing new people into the world and God was no longer directly involved. But before they began having children, they sinned and their nature was irrevocably changed. When one of their first two children murdered the other one and was banished, it became clear that their children would be born in their fallen image and not God’s perfect one.
As their descendants reached child bearing age they joined in. That’s why the process is now called procreation. It’s also why John described our first birth, the physical one, as being of natural descent, or a human decision, or a husband’s will. God is only directly involved in our second birth, the spiritual one (John 1:12-13), the one that makes us perfect again.
When Adam and Eve sinned, Satan used the opportunity to steal dominion of Earth from Adam and is now the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4) with the whole world under his control (1 John 5:19). God’s once perfect creation was irrevocably changed, allowing sickness, disease and death to become part of the human condition, along with all kinds of sin. The Creation is now a decidedly unfriendly place where evil things can happen to anyone at any time for any reason or no reason at all.
One of the most serious injustices Calvinism has done to God is to blame Him for the work of the devil. Satan is the one responsible for the sickness and disease, the birth defects, the senseless accidents and all the misery they cause. Once you understand that, you understand that by praying for healing from one of these things, you’re not praying to the one who caused it, but to the One who is the Ultimate Authority with the power to overrule what Satan caused.
We know God wants us to be healed because His name is “The Lord Who Heals You” (Exodus 15:26). His word is filled with promises of healing that cross dispensational lines and carry no expiration date. He’s waiting for us to develop the same single mindedness of purpose He has about it because His nature is such that He cannot deal with a double minded person. James said such a person should not expect anything from God (James 1:7-8).
If you’ve been carried away by hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:8), I urge you to get back into God’s word and rebuild the foundation of your relationship with Him based on Biblical knowledge, rather than on man’s doctrine.
Lack Of Faith
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20).
This verse and many others tell us that with sufficient faith we can accomplish anything. Reading the stories of those who’ve been called into a healing ministry, I was surprised to learn that even though they were called and obeyed the call, they went through a period of praying for people without success before experiencing their first healing. And even then, their first successes were often small ones, aches and pains and such. Then, as their faith grew, they were able to tackle larger challenges successfully. All of them attributed this to their own lack of faith at the beginning.
This tells us that the faith to be healed is not something we can take for granted. After all, most of us haven’t done anything to develop such a faith. At the first sign of a little ache or pain, we don’t look for someone to pray for us, we head for the medicine chest or the drug store for a pill or potion. As a result our faith never has a chance to grow. Then, when something serious happens we’re not prepared with the faith to meet the challenge so we look instead to doctors, hospitals and such for healing. We don’t realize we’ve replaced our Lord’s promise to heal us with the medical profession. As a society we spend billions on health care every year while the God who promised to heal us for free stands by waiting for the call that never comes.
Then, if all else fails and we do go to someone for prayer we say, “I had the faith, but the Lord didn’t heal me. How come?” Well, according to a literal reading of the Bible, if we had the faith we would be healed, to which I add, if we had exercised and developed our faith we would have it. Remember, Jesus never said, “My faith has healed you” but He often said, “Your faith has healed you.”
Perhaps this is why so many of the reports of supernatural healing we hear today come from underdeveloped countries where there is no alternative to God’s provision and where faith is a necessary component to successful living. It’s reported that thousands come to faith every day, many because they’ve been healed and others because they saw someone else being healed.
Faith Comes Through Hearing
When you were searching for better solutions to the problems of your life you began to give consideration to the Gospel. God, in His grace, invested in you the faith to believe the death of His Son had paid the penalty for all your sins. For it is by grace you have been saved by faith, and this is not of yourself, it is the gift of God (Ephes 2:8).
Because of that gift of faith, you believed and were saved. If you’re like most new believers, what followed was an immersion in the gospel of your salvation. You read and listened to everything you could find on the subject. You began attending a Bible Study. You discussed it with like minded friends. You heard the message repeatedly in church. You saw others being saved. As a result, your faith grew stronger until you no longer have even a shadow of doubt about your eternal destiny, and today you eagerly await the Savior you know is coming for you.
Now, compare that with your experience where healing is concerned. That same gift of faith that saved you was meant to grow into a belief that the God who saved you can also heal you. But for most of us that hasn’t happened. We haven’t read and listened to everything we could find on the subject. We haven’t attended Bible studies on healing, or discussed it with like minded believers. We don’t hear messages about healing from the pulpit. We haven’t seen other people being healed, nor have we asked for prayer for our own healing. As a result our faith in God’s power to heal us has never grown, but has all but withered away.
I am by no means trying to justify all the excesses of the Charismatic movement, but perhaps one of the reasons why they’re the ones who are experiencing healing in their midst is that they’re the ones teaching it, preaching it, talking about it, studying it, and practicing it.
One of the dangers in taking these reasons one or two at a time is it’s easy to conclude that each one is the only one. But I’d like you to think of them as diagnostic tools instead, using each one to give yourself a check up. Each time you find something amiss, and can act to correct or eliminate it.
In the case of this one, you can start building your faith by study and exercise. Go back and really read “What Does The Bible Say About Healing” carefully, taking time to look up the citations I’ve included. If you have some like minded friends ask them to join you in a study group on healing. Be careful not to invite anyone who isn’t open to the idea. Commit to pray for each other for healing. Then, before you automatically reach for that bottle of pain reliever for some minor ache or pain, ask one or two of them to pray with you instead. If nothing happens the first few times don’t be discouraged. Keep studying and learning. As your faith grows you could soon see a miraculous healing. See you next time. 08-29-15
WHY PRAYERS FOR HEALING FAIL, PART 3:
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley – gracethrufaith.com
In our series titled, What Does the Bible Say About Healing, we’ve been looking at reasons why prayers for healing fail. Today we continue with Part 3. Please don’t look at any one of these reasons as being necessarily applicable to you. Such a conclusion would be premature. Rather, you should see them as a set of diagnostic tools. A way to check your spiritual health, if you will, to see if any of them apply so you can take the appropriate action.
In the NIV translation, the New Testament contains 82 references to “demon” or “demon possessed” and 8 more for “evil spirit”. The King James does not distinguish between “the devil” and “a demon” using only the word “devil” to describe Satan and all of his horde as well. But it’s clear that Satan, not being omni-present, could not perform all of his evil work alone but needs a vast army to assist him.
Most of us will never receive his personal attention, but that doesn’t make us immune to his schemes. His associates are well trained and vigilant, looking for any opportunity to help advance his cause.
Compare them to criminals in the physical world who know what they’re doing is wrong, but they do it anyway thinking they won’t get caught. When they see an open window or a flimsy lock they see a chance and in they go. It’s up to the police to catch them.
Demons operate the same way in the spiritual world, only there the “open window” is behavioral. Paul showed us an example of this in Ephes 4:26-27 when he said, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Anger that’s not resolved by sundown that same day is an open window through which a demon can crawl and establish a foothold in our mind. Unfortunately, there are no demon police to catch him and carry him away. Once he’s in it’s up to us to get him out.
Other behaviors besides unresolved anger that can leave us with open windows include all kinds of addictions, habitual sexual sin including pornography, and other flagrant sin.
Jesus had some advice on this subject for those who have gotten rid of a demon. “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26)
Leaving a demon’s habitation empty is like hanging out a welcome sign. It must be occupied by something else. One of the reasons AA is so effective is that it replaces the spirit of alcoholism with the Spirit of God. Every recovering addict should receive this advice and take it to heart to avoid reacquiring the addiction.
And Paul said we can demolish the stronghold a demon has built in us with divine weapons we’ve been given as believers.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)
Demons want us to believe false doctrine. Once they’re in our mind they begin feeding it to us to cause us to doubt the promises of God, just like the Serpent did to Adam and Eve. These promises include the fact that we can be healed. If the demon can cause us to doubt that, he can hinder our prayers for healing.
When we know what the Bible really says we can dispute the demon, tearing down his arguments, taking the thoughts he feeds us captive to make them obedient to Christ. In the process we demolish his stronghold and force him to leave. James said, Come near to God and He will come near to you. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Demons can seem like powerful creatures, but John said, “He who is in you greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4), and Paul reminded us, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)
Remember, these demons know their Bible too, so you can’t just make this up as you go. You have to know what you’re talking about. This is exactly the way Jesus defeated Satan in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11) and it’s the way you can defeat the demon you’re fighting, too.
Failing To Steward The Natural
For the most part people ignore their bodies, taking them for granted and acting like they’ll last forever. It’s commonly known that much of what we eat and drink is not what our bodies really need and a lot of it isn’t even good for us. But we go blissfully on not paying any attention to what we ingest, as long as it tastes good, and most of us get away with it.
But there comes a time when some of us get a warning that all is not well. It could be mild or it could be serious, but for most, a couple trips to the doctor and a hand full of drugs with a warning that we should start watching our diet usually puts us back on track, at least for a while. We quickly forget the doctor’s dietary advice, maybe even forget to take the medicine, and go on as if nothing happened.
This is the time when we should get serious about “stewarding the natural.” Signs like this tell us our body needs attention. If we give it what it needs now, better food, reduced weight, no more smoking or drinking, reasonable exercise to work off the stress, faith building prayer and Bible study, we can avoid big problems later. All these things will result in better health, But we don’t apply them, and because we don’t we’re not prepared mentally, physically or spiritually later.
I know a man who actually got into a huge argument over a scratched fender while he was still in the hospital after suffering a major heart attack, and made his wife, who was responsible, leave the room. The monitors attached to him showed the effect of his anger but he paid no attention. Another acquaintance stopped by a fast food chain on the way back from a trip to the emergency room for a burger and fries. Just minutes earlier the doctor had warned him about the need to reduce his cholesterol.
People like this keep smoking and drinking even though they know they’re poisoning themselves. They maintain their high stress lifestyle, knowing that it’s killing them, but convinced that they’ve beaten the odds. Finally it all comes crashing down and as they listen while their loved ones ask God for healing they finally realize they haven’t taken very good care of themselves. They’ve neglected their mind, their body and especially their faith and are in no way prepared for the ordeal they’re facing.
Our Allotted Time in Life is Fulfilled
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16)
After Adam and Eve sinned God withdrew the eternal life with which they had been created and they became mortal. He said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22). He banished them from the Garden and placed a Cherub with a flaming sword at the entrance to guard it.
Since that time man has been mortal and God has written in the Book of Life the total of days appointed to each one of us. None of us can know what the total of our days is, but when that total has been reached our time on earth has come to an end.
It’s not that God chooses how many days we’ll get, but having seen the end from the beginning He has seen our last day and appointed it to be so. In the meantime we can be healed to prevent our days from being shortened, but once our last day has come our time on earth has ended.
The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. (Psalm 90:10)
According to this Psalm, the average life span is about 70 years. But this is a principle and not a rule. And is not meant to imply that we’re guaranteed 70 years of life. However, when a person reaches the upper levels of this 70-80 year range, it does appear likely that his time on earth is nearing an end.
As an example, one night I was called to the hospital to pray for an elderly friend who had been admitted that night. Upon arriving at her bedside, she looked at me with piercing eyes and said, “Are you here to pray for me?” When I said yes she said, “Then pray for Jesus to take me home.” This woman had been in pain for years. She said she was tired, and although she knew her husband would prefer her to stay with him, she felt that it was time for her to go. This woman was sure that if she died she would be with Jesus. So I prayed and I asked for her to be healed, but added that it was her desire to be taken home. It was her desire that the Lord answered, and later that night she died and received the ultimate healing, eternity in the presence of the Lord.
Based on my research, these represent the major reasons why prayers for healing can fail. Certainly there are others, and there are admittedly many unknowns. But my purpose here is to show that God is not arbitrary. He doesn’t heal some and not others based on His own reasons, anymore than He saves some and not others. The idea that He would do such a thing is simply man’s attempt to justify not being healed. Remember, when we try to justify ourselves, we end up condemning God. Better we should spend a lifetime trying to understand the human component of healing than to spend even one hour trying to make God responsible.
Next week we’ll conclude this series with a chapter on who we are in Christ and how it impacts our prayers for healing. See you then. 09-05-15