By Pastor Glenn Pease
Art Linkletter, some years back, told about the 4 year old son of a Florida woman who got up one morning dragging his leg. The mother could not find anything wrong with it. This went on for two days, but he did not complain of any pain. On the third day the worried mother took him to her pediatrician. The doctor checked him carefully and could find nothing amiss, and so he sent him to the children's hospital for x-rays. Again, nothing was found to cause his problem. Meanwhile little Geoffrey still walked dragging one leg. Finally after two days of testing one of the doctors asked him, "Geoffrey, why do you have to drag one leg when you walk?" The little guy replied, "I'm Chester. I work for Mr Dillion." Such is the power of TV.
X-rays could penetrate his body and enable the doctors to see his insides, but nothing can penetrate the mind to enable anyone to see the workings of imagination. This is the unseen realm of the human mind where pictures are developed that can radically altar the world of the seen. In his imagination this little guy could see himself as something and someone nobody else could see, and that image was determining his behavior.
I saw this power of imagination at work in my oldest granddaughter many years back. We had just listened to the story of Little Red Riding Hood on a record, and I felt it was well done. It taught the danger of speaking to strangers. Little Red Riding Hood should not have spoken to the wolf and told him of her plan to go to grandma's house. From my perspective it was a good lesson for Sarah to hear. As I turned the record player off, Sarah responded with her evaluation. "Parents should never let little girls go to grandma's house all by themselves."
Not there was an insight I never thought of. She saw it from a different perspective, and sure enough she was right too. You don't just send little girls out into wolf infested woods by themselves. So by the power of her imagination she saw a lesson for adults as well as children in that story.
The point is, there is no end to the possibilities of seeing more and more in everything as we let our imagination grapple with issues. It was by the use of his imagination that Leonardo da Vinci visualized so many of life's modern inventions centuries before they became a reality. He pictured even things like the submarine and the helicopter. Everything that is began first in the mind. George Bernard Shaw said, "Imagination is the beginning of creation." We know that everything that God made was in His mind first, and even the plan of salvation with the cross and resurrection were in God's mind in eternity before they became a part of history. All art, buildings, and bridges, and all that man creates also begins with an image in the mind.
The mind has the ability to see the unseen. It can see something as being real even before it is real, and this seeing of it is the first step in the process of making it real. Faith gets into the picture here by believing what the mind can imagine or visualize. It can, in fact, be made to become a part of reality. Faith, therefore, starts in the mind and its power to imagine or to visualize. Faith sees the mental image and says, that can become an actual physical image.
This has tremendous implications for healing, because the body does not have the ability to distinguish between a vivid mental image and an actual physical experience. In other words, the mind can fool the body. It can, by a powerful image, make the body respond, just as if that image was an objective physical reality. The image is only pre-reality. It exists in the mind only, but it can become reality by its impact on the body. It is the age old idea of mind over matter. It is now a major factor in the world of scientific healing, and it is a major factor in the world of spiritual healing. Science and faith are becoming more and more one when it comes to the recognition of the power of visualization for healing.
Elmer and Alyce Green of the Menninger Clinic tell in the book, Beyond Biofeedback, how people can be trained to control their body by visualizing. They can even cut off the blood supply to a tumor in their body and deny it life. They can also increase the flow of blood to other parts of their body and heal themselves of all sorts of problems. I know a pastor who controls serious pain by his training in bio-feedback.
Dr. Nicholas Hall of the George Washington Medical Center in Washington D.C. has reported that people can, by imaging, cause their body to increase the white blood cells and the T helper cells that make their immune system more effective. Patients who are good at visualization have, by their imagination, caused cancer to vanish, and have cured many other diseases. The literature on this is so vast, and as I became exposed to it my question was, I wonder if there is an example of this kind of healing in the ministry of Jesus? It seemed like there should be, for it ties in with faith so perfectly, and it is universal in its potential. All men can by this means have access to healing.
Such a law or principle of healing should be seen somewhere in the healing of the Great Physician. So I began to search for it. I found it in the experience of this woman who had a flow of blood for 12 years. She became an ideal Biblical example of the millions who have been victims of man's medical ignorance. She is also an example of the millions who have been victors through mental imaging. She was both victim and victor, and, therefore, one with whom a large percentage of mankind can identify. Let's look at her first as-
I. A VICTIM.
After 12 long years of trying every remedy the doctors of her day could dream up she was not relieved of anything but her wealth. She still had her bad health, and the text tells us she was even worse. It would be hard to get excited about your next appointment after 12 years of fruitless treatment. There is no way to know how much torture she had to endure, and how many gallons of nauseous drugs she had to swallow, but we do know she had to have shed many tears of disappointment as one after another of the prescriptions proved worthless to stem the flow of her life blood. We can picture an anemic and anxious woman who left no stone unturned to find a cure, and all she had to show for it was many a turned stone. She was in the category of the incurable.
She was a guinea pig, and they tried everything that could be thought of, but nothing worked. You can't really blame the doctors, even though many use this text to do so. The fact is, doctors did not have any really powerful medicine until the 19th century. For centuries the only reason any of the concoctions they prescribed had any positive effect was because of the placebo effect. People believed it was good for them and so they got better. The Jewish Talmud, for example, recommends that a woman with a flow of blood drink a goblet of wine with a powder of rubber, alum, and garden crocuses, or Persian onions cooked in wine. Some tried sudden shock, or the carrying of a ostrich egg in a special cloth. Ridiculous remedies, but sometimes they worked for psychosomatic reasons.
For some reason this poor woman had no faith in anything she was given, and the result was she was worse rather than better. She was not only physically ill, but she was unclean and a social outcast. She was not much better off than the leper. One of the reasons she acted so secretly was because she was ashamed to be known publicly, and embarrassed to have her problem exposed to everyone. She didn't even want Jesus to know. She just wanted to steal a miracle from Him, and then slip quietly away, and never have a soul know what happened. She was not looking to be on the front page, she didn't even want back page coverage. She just wanted a hit and run healing known only to her. She had been victim enough because of her problem, and she wanted nothing more but obscurity.
It was good to see this humanly hopeless case of the chronically ill victim, for her healing is hope to all who feel their case is hopeless. Spurgeon pointed out that the church of Laodicea was so sick that Jesus said, "I will spew thee out of my mouth." That is really bad when the Lord of the church is ready to spit you out. But it was to this church that Jesus said, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me." Jesus gave that sick church a visual image of Himself at the door ready to come in and heal their relationship. If they get this image in their minds and believed it, as sick as they are, they can be made whole again. This woman was a pathetic victim of her disease, but we want to look at the good news of how she too became a powerful victor.
II. A VICTOR.
This woman is to healing what Roger Bannister is to the world of sports-a marvelous example of the power of belief. Bannister lived in a world where it was believed that the four minute mile was impossible. It was beyond the physical capacity of the human body. Athletes could come close, but nobody could break this barrier. Bannister, in spite of the history of failure, believed he could break that barrier, and he visualized himself doing it, and the result is that he became the first person to ever do it. Once he shattered that image of its impossibility it became possible for other to follow. Six weeks later John Landy of Australia broke it, and soon athletes all over the world were doing it until it became a commonplace event with hundreds of runners doing it. Once the mental barrier was broken it became possible.
It became a vital part of athletic training that the event be first won in the mind before done in the body. Visualization is now a universal method of training. You would have a hard time finding a great athlete in the world who does not practice visualization. They relax and perform their event over and over in their mind until it is perfected. Research shows that those who spend three fourths of their time in mental training do better than those who spend all their time in actually doing their event. It is not practice that makes perfect, but visualizing makes perfect. If you expect to be a victor, you need to be a visualizer.
This same principle has been discovered to apply in the realm of healing as well. Those who are most likely to win in the battle for health over all the foes that would defeat them are the visualizers. This discovery here revolutionized the world of healing just as it has the world of sports. Visualization is now a therapy that does wonders in the world of healing. It uses the mind as the most potent medicine for destroying intruders.
A young boy was taken to the Mayo Clinic because he had a tumor on his brain. The doctor said all treatment was futile, but they heard of this new imaging technique, and they wanted to give it a try. The boy was told to imagine rocket ships flying around in his head shooting at his tumor. The tumor was the bad guys, and the rocket ships were the good guys blasting these invaders out of the universe. He was playing video games in his mind. After a couple of months of this game he told his father one day that he took a trip through his head, and his rocket ships could not find his tumor anymore. When they gave him another cat scan they found his cancer was completely eradicated. He had won the battle with a mind game. He had terminal cancer, but he had terminated the terminator by the power of visualization.
If this was only an isolated incident, we could categorize it as an item for Ripley's Believe It Or Not, or The National Enquirer, and call it a freak event with no relevance for the masses. But it is not a freak event, for this type of healing is going on all the time, and this woman in our text is an example of how visualization was working even in the New Testament. It is simply faith at work. Note carefully verse 28 where it says, "She thought in her mind, if I can just touch His clothes I will be healed." Here is a clear case of visualization. She had an image in her mind of her body being made whole. She did not come to Jesus saying that she had tried everything else, so I just as well give this a shot too. Not at all! She came with a solid conviction that this was finally her answer. If I can just touch His clothes, the battle of 12 years will be over, and I will be a normal well woman again. She had the victory in her mind before it became a reality in her body, and that is what visualization is all about.
The image she had in her mind was only pre-reality, but it was potent enough to become reality. Had she touched Jesus without her vision she would have just been another bump in the crowd, and no power would have gone out of Jesus to heal her. Technically Jesus did not heal this woman. He did not see her and say I have compassion on you, nor did He take any willful action to help her. This is a very unusual miracle. It is one of a kind, and that is why I have called it the stolen miracle. It was not given by Jesus, but was taken from Him. Jesus felt the flow of power out of Him. He did not send it forth voluntarily. It was drawn out of Him involuntarily.
This opens up the whole fascinating world of healing based on obedience to the laws of healing, which can be independent of the healer. Visualization is a method of healing that is used by secular science, the world of the occult, the new age movement, and by pagan religions and witch doctors. In other words, there is nothing exclusively Christian about this principle of healing. It is popular everywhere, and this has lead many Christians to be very anti-visualization. It is a basic tool for healing that is often anti-Christian. This is where the Christian needs to be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. We need to be discerning so as not to be caught up in superstition and occult practices. On the other hand, we need to make sure Satan does not rob us of what God wants us to have. He robbed Adam and Eve of paradise, and he could rob us of precious gifts God desires us to possess. We need to pay attention so we do not lose a victory God wants to give us.
The Bible is the sole authority for our faith and practice. If something is not Biblical, it has no authority in the Christian life, even if the whole world raves about it. If it is Biblical, then it is legitimate for the Christian, even if the whole world rejects it. Visualization is a unique concept. It is a Biblical concept, however, and we see it in practice here, but it is so effective and so universal that non-Christians also use it. This confuses Christians, for they wonder how we can practice the same things as they do. It seems like we are falling for their ideas if we promote the things they promote.
All though history this has been the problem of orthodox Christians. The cults pick up a truth that the orthodox Christians have ignored, and they make it central to their theology. In order to distance themselves from the heretics the Christians reject the truth they highlight. This gives the cults all the more power for growth because they can show that the truth is Biblical that the orthodox Christians reject. This becomes a big tool for their opposition to Christians. The wise way of dealing with this sort of thing is to admit the truth has been neglected, and then start giving it its rightful place in orthodox theology. This is the way the issue of visualization needs to be handled. Don't give up this powerful tool to the anti-Christian forces, but recognize that the laws which make it powerful are God given, and will work for all who will obey them.
If you follow the foolish route of rejecting all that is made a central part of the cults, you will have to be consistent and reject prayer itself. There is not a false religion or cult in all the world that does not use prayer. If your philosophy is to find out what the bad guys are doing and stop doing it, you will soon be anti-Christian yourself. The devil even uses the Bible, and so if you refuse to use a tool because the devil uses it, you will have to even reject the Bible.
My point is, visualization is a powerful tool for healing, and everybody under the sun has seen this. Do not reject it or refuse to use it because it works for non-Christian forces as well. Electricity also works for them, but I have never heard anyone giving it up because satanic forces use it. Printing presses also work for evil forces, but we ought not to stop printing Bibles and Christian literature because of it. Most Christians who study visualization in depth see it as a powerful tool God has given to men, and we are to use this tool for healing just like all other tools God has given. Jesus did not rebuke this woman for her visualization, but linked it with faith, and said her faith made her well. Faith is a visualization of what could be real, and a trust that Christ will make it real.
After 12 years of failure this woman had the faith to believe that success was only a touch away. Many preachers are convinced that this was superstition. The great Spurgeon even called it superstition, and a great blunder in thinking that there was any healing power in the garment of Christ. But he said in one of his 6 sermons on this, which he considered one of the most fascinating miracles in the New Testament, "She truly believed in Him, and if you believe in Christ, though you are in dark about a thousand things, your faith will save you." If your mind is open to an image of what Christ can do, that image can become true, even if the means of getting there is strange, and not necessarily an approved method. Stealing a miracle is nowhere recommended, but this woman did it successfully. But is was her faith and her ability to visualize that is the value for the rest of the world. As far as we know, no one else ever stole a miracle from Jesus, but millions have by faith visualized His healing power and have been made whole.
Jesus was not like the arch of the covenant. Anyone who reached out and touched it would receive a flow of power that would electrocute them. Jesus was far more sacred then that sacred object, for He was the very Son of God, but He was touchable. Those who see this have developed a whole new concept of healing we can only mention. People are taught to visualize Jesus coming into their lives at various points in their experience when they have sinned. And they ask Jesus to forgive them and heal them. The more real the visualization, the more powerful the healing. Others come before the throne of grace and visualize Jesus reaching out to touch and heal them. The point is, Jesus is still in the healing business. Nobody is always healed, but everybody may be, and visualization is a key tool for helping it to happen.
How can anybody see beyond 12 years of complete failure and worthless treatment? The only way is by faith; a faith that is able to visualize in the mind what can be. This is the only healing miracle in the New Testament where all three Gospels record it with a focus on faith. It is the greatest faith healing in all the Bible. Such faith can even steal a miracle, but that is not necessary. Jesus gladly wants to give miracles of healing with such faith. There is no telling how many miracles we might experience if we could practice this art of visualizing Jesus at work in our lives-forgiving, healing, and making real that which we have been able to imagine. Let us pray that we will be motivated to use our minds more effectively for the purpose of healing in the body.