THE CHURCH AND HEALING
By Pastor Glenn Pease
One of the enjoyable experiences of being a parent is the experience of exercising the gift of healing. Maybe you are unaware of the fact that you possess such a gift. I was until I noticed how effectively my wife was using it. I then became conscious of the fact that I had the same amazing power to heal. Let me give you a case history of one of my healing experiences so you understand and recognize that you have this same ability.
My youngest son Mark comes running out of the bedroom crying crocodile tears. He is carrying on as if he had excruciating and incurable pain. He points to his head or arm and cries that Cindy did it. He lays his arm on my lap sobbing pathetically. Dr. daddy has already diagnosed the problem, and I say, "Let me kiss it." With that remedy applied the cure is instantaneous, and he wipes the tears from his eyes and heads back to the bedroom to take his chances again in the battle for survival with his older sister. Seldom have I seen this cure fail. It is so powerful that I have seen my wife throw him a kiss across the room, and it heals his wounds in a moment.
No one can see this time and time again and remain a skeptic about faith healing, for that is what it is. A child has faith in its parents, and some act of love on their part can actually relieve pain and heal the wounded heart. The child is so naive, however, and the method is so unscientific that it is downright funny. Many of you have laughed as we have as you see the marvelous transformation take place before your eyes. A miserable moaning child transformed in a twinkling of an eye into the mischievous little mess maker he normally is.
The realm of faith is often strange, and without apparent objective foundation, and so it is difficult to understand, but the fact is, it works. It is my becoming aware of the fact that it works on the merely human and natural level that has challenged me to look deeper into the subject on the spiritual level. I figure that if God has built faith healing into the very family structure between parents and children, it is certainly likely that he would have such a pattern as well in his relationship as heavenly Father to those who are His children through faith in Jesus Christ.
I have always been skeptical of faith healers, for this is an area that can be so easily perverted. However, as in every other realm, we cannot close our eyes to God's Word on any subject just because it can be perverted. Salvation itself is perverted in many ways, and should we then cease to preach the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation? The ostrich approach to anything is never the Christian approach. You can bury your head all you like, but the truth marches on whether you see it or not. Most Christians who are confused and uncertain about healing in the ministry of the church are so for the same reason I was-sheer ignorance.
The average Christian knows next to nothing about the New Testament teachings, and the voluminous historical writings concerning the healing ministry of the church. The healing ministry of Christ has never ceased. It has been going on all through the centuries, but most are not aware of it. Ignorance is always an enemy of truth. To judge and condemn what you do not understand is pure paganism, and it has no justification in the Christian life. Yet Christians do it all the time. When the non-Christian rejects the Christian faith because of ignorance, we laugh at such blindness and folly. But then we turn around and do the same thing because we are ignorant of history. The pagan mind has infiltrated the church time and time again, and we are guilty of terrible pride if we assume that this could never be a danger for us.
A Christian can be wrong even when they are right if they oppose a thing, movement, person, or philosophy without understanding it. Many oppose faith healing just because they cannot tolerate the thought that they are not the most superior of God's children. It is hard for Christians to admit that God may use others in ways that He does not use them. This tends to make them negative, and they are lashing out at everything they do not understand. They make themselves the standard by which all God's children are to be measured. It is not easy for a Baptist, like myself, to admit that he can learn something from a Pentecostal, Catholic, or Episcopalian, who is being used of God in areas where I am not.
My life was changed by Christ, and I yielded my life to His service. I was an object of His great love and grace, and yet I do not have the gift of healing diseases. Therefore, anyone who claims to have such power must be a fake. Such is the logic of the proud Christian who does his thinking with a pagan mind. It happens every time when we throw overboard the Word of God, and make self the captain of the ship. How often do we Christians debate on the pagan level of "I think, or I feel, or I like, or I dislike." Some say they think the gift of healing was only for the first century. Others think different. Some think healing was only for believers, others think different. Some think healing is only for special persons, and is not the ministry of the whole church. Others think different. Some do not like the way healing meetings are carried out. Others do like it. Some do not like the emotions involved. Others just love it.
Who really cares about what you or I anyone else thinks and feels about healing, especially if it is all based on ignorance rather than knowledge and experience? Any conclusions reached have to be based on what God has spoken, and not what man thinks or feels. No truth is true because I or anyone else believes it. And nothing is false because I or anyone else does not believe it. The standard has to be God's Word, and what He has revealed.
The reason for this introduction is that it puts us all on the same level whether we are convinced or skeptical on the subject of healing. There is no alternative for the Christian but to listen to God's Word and be submissive. Our goal is not to confirm or reject anyone's convictions, but to hear what God has spoken. James is one of the very first letters of the New Testament to be written. Many feel it is the very first. This is a good place to start a study of healing, for it shows the very early Christians made provision for a church ministry to the ill. This passage reveals that the organized church represented by the elders had such a ministry.
James says in verse 14, "Is any sick among you?" Christians in the first century, like those today, and all those in between, did not have an exempt status from the burden of bearing sick bodies. Germs cannot tell a Christian from an atheist, and even if they could, they would not by pass the believer, for sickness is no friend of the Christian. It is of the kingdom of darkness, and not of the kingdom of light. This is a basic concept that must be established if we are going to think in a biblical way about sickness and healing. If sickness was a servant of God rather than an enemy, then one could be opposing God by fighting disease. If it is an enemy, however, one is always right in trying to defeat sickness. Since we are always grateful to get over being sick, it is obvious that we consider it to be of the kingdom of evil.
So often we talk of the value of sickness and suffering in a confusing way, and it leads to some distorted conclusions. Illustrations are numerous, for example, of people who have overcome handicaps and illnesses, and have by their very battle against these obstacles risen to heights of greatness they may never have achieved without their handicap. It presented a challenge which called forth discipline and determination, and they use suffering as a stepping stone to greatness. But the lesson we are to learn from these examples is not that sickness and suffering are good, but that in spite of the fact that they are evil, if one looks to God and calls upon Him for grace and wisdom, good can be brought out of the evil. This can even happen in the lives of those who are not Christians, but who are determined.
The danger is that we confuse God's wisdom with His will, and come to the conclusion that God willed the evil that led to the good. If this was the case, the evidence would demonstrate that God's methods are not wise, but foolish and exceedingly cruel, because for every gallant hero that has risen triumphantly over his illness, there are millions who have been crushed, defeated, and destroyed. It is superficial optimism to think that all suffering and sickness is of value in the light of the millions who die of malnutrition every week. Who would dare be so bold as to accuse God of being the author of such a cruel mismanaged program as this?
An honest look at life, and the clear teachings of the Bible compel us to shun such a conclusion, and to see sickness as a product of sin, satanic forces, and a curse upon man, and not a stepping stone to greatness. The woman at the well was a great sinner, and she became a great witness for Christ, but it is folly to conclude that her loose and immoral life was good, and that it is a blessing for the millions of others who have lived in immorality. It is always a mistake to use an example of great victory over evil as evidence that it was good that the evil was a part of the life of the one who gained the victory. It was only by the grace of God that the victory was possible. It is always better when there is less evil to overcome because there has been less ignorance and less folly.
James says that if anyone is sick they should get busy getting rid of it. Call the elders of the church to do so. There is no hint here that there is some value to be gained by being sick, or that God is teaching something through it. Just get rid of it; fight it; overcome it, and here is one method of doing so. Through prayer and the anointing of oil in the name of the Lord try to rid yourself of sickness. God is the author of the cure, and not the cause of the sickness. The kingdom of God is not divided, and God is not causing the very thing he is overcoming. This is the same impression you get everywhere in the New Testament. Sickness and disease are the works of the devil. They are evil, and they are to be overcome in the name of Christ.
The Apostle John in his first letter in 3:8 writes, "The Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil." All we need to do then is to look at the life of Jesus, and see what it was that He fought most and sought to destroy, and we can then identify the works of the devil. It is as obvious as anything can be that sin and suffering were the two major foes that Jesus fought in His earthly ministry. His healing miracles were a demonstration of His victory over the devil. They were signs that the kingdom of God had really come.
There are 26 individual cases of the healing of Jesus in the Gospels. There are ten cases of multiple healings, and 4 very broad statements of his healing ministry. Matt. 4:23 says, "And He went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people." Notice how Christ's ministry was totally positive. He was teaching to overcome ignorance. He was preaching to overcome the sense of lostness, despair, and sin. He was healing to overcome sickness. Ignorance, sin, and sickness are all works of the devil which Jesus came to destroy. Notice also, that every disease was healed. It is not just certain diseases which are of the kingdom of evil, but all of them are. There is no such thing as a Christian illness, or even a good sickness.
Disease is not divine but devilish, and is the enemy of man. Listen to the impressive testimony of Christ, and the two greatest Apostles Peter and Paul on this matter. In Luke 13:16 Jesus said of a woman He had healed on the Sabbath, "Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for 18 long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?" The Peter in Acts 10:38 explains the ministry of Christ to Cornelius and his household: "....and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." Then Paul in II Cor. 12:7 calls his famous thorn in the flesh, "A messenger of Satan, to torment me." Here is a case where God clearly permits suffering to continue, but even then it is the work of Satan. God is using it, but is not the author of it.
We need to learn to never confuse God's permissive will with His positive will. That God permits something does not mean that he approves of it at all. He despises much of what He permits. He permits murder, adultery, stealing, blasphemy, and every evil known to man. But who would dare suggest that God is the author of all this sin, or that He approves of any of it? He so despises it that He will severely judge it if there is not repentance and forgiveness. I have heard Christians suggest that because God permits suffering and sickness that He must approve of it, and that it must be His will. This is as foolish as to suggest that murder is God's will because He permits it.
We haven't begun to scratch the surface of the subject of healing, but we have laid a foundation that none can remove. We have seen that sickness is definitely of the kingdom of evil, and that it follows that healing is of the kingdom of light. Healing has been a Christian weapon to destroy the works of the devil from the beginning. Some form of healing should always be a part of the ministry of the church.