One of the great obstructions to ministry is fear! Unanswered questions can often immobilize a person with fear. Often the fear comes from not being equipped to answer hard questions, not only for ourselves but for the ones to whom we are sent to minister. Questions must be dealt with authentically. Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address (March 4, 1933) “that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”[ref]Wikipedia. “First inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Accessed. 5.16.2020.[/ref] Fear may cause us to not ask the hard questions about healing and keep us from doing a careful study of Scripture about the subject. In this session, we will tackle some of the most commonly raised “problems” from the Biblical text and discuss them in a frank and open way. Knowing some possible answers to these difficult questions will give you confidence in God’s ministry through you to others, which includes dialogue with others about their fears concerning healing.
Question #1: Does Everyone Get Healed?
In the Gospel stories, Jesus healed everyone that was brought to him (sample Scriptures: Matt. 4.24; 8.16; Mark 1.32; Luke 6.18-19). Obviously, there were special times of anointing as seen in Luke 5.17 where he states, “the power of the Lord was present for him (Jesus) to heal the sick.” In Acts, Luke told his readers that Peter’s shadow and handkerchiefs from Paul provided healing for everyone. At a closer look, we may note that Jesus healed only one man at the pool of Bethesda, which was a type of hospital (John 5.1-20). He explained the reason in that context for why he reached out to only that one person: he only did what the Father was doing (John 5.19). Some scholarship believes that Jesus is using a parable to demonstrate his relationship with the Father. In Palestine, a trade was passed on from father to son. The son did not act on his own initiative; rather he watched his father at work and performed each operation as his father performed it. The affectionate father would show the boy all the secrets of his craft. The result of this is that the things that the Father does, Jesus did also. Jesus had seen from eternity past the Father’s concern to bring wholeness to individuals that met his purposes. The same was true on this day as those who were ill lay beside the pool and Jesus apparently saw the Father pick out this one man to receive his mercy and grace. We can conclude that not everyone will be healed. Luke told the readers of his Gospel that as Jesus’ fame grew, so did the crowds who wanted to press in to hear him and to be healed. What was his reaction? He would withdraw and pray (Luke 5.15-16)! Could it be that Jesus was inquiring about what his Father was doing before he reached out his hand to heal?
Question #2: Does Healing Occur Immediately?
The record of the New Testament is that the preponderance of the healings that Jesus performed was immediate (Mark 1.31, 42). We could note, however, that Jesus had to pray two times for a blind man after the first prayer only yielded a response of seeing men like trees walking about (Mark 8.22-26). James implies that healing and sin may be connected to each other. We may suggest that we are an interconnected being. Every part of us is tied to every other part. Sometimes healings are progressive because emotions, sin, or other areas of life prevent the healing from occurring immediately. Francis MacNutt in his book Healing says, “Our spiritual and physical sicknesses are so interrelated that we need God’s light often to untangle the complexity of human existence so that we will know how best to pray” (221).
Question #3: Can Believers Use Therapy or Medicine?
The writer of 2 Chronicles 16.12 condemns Asa, the third king of the independent state of Judah, for using a physician. Two things should be noted: First, the point of the story is that he did not seek the Lord’s help for his foot condition. The physicians that he chose were most likely pagans who used magic in the treatment of their patients. We should note that oil and spittle were regarded as having some healing qualities and were used by Jesus and his disciples in healing (Mark 6.13; 7.33; 8.23; John 9.6). It appears safe to suggest that Jesus did not avoid association with medicine. He may have sanctioned its use. Timothy was to take some wine for his stomach condition. Finally, Paul had his own personal physician to travel with him. He refers to him as “the beloved physician” in Colossians 4.14. We may conclude that it is not wrong to use medicine. Since God is the source of all healing, he may choose to use the medical profession to bring about the healing that he desires.
Question #4: What About Death?
Ecclesiastes tells its readers that there is a time to die (Eccles. 3.2; Heb. 9.27). None of us is in control of the time when God takes us away from this realm of eternal life into the next. However, Paul told the readers in 1 Corinthians 11.30 that they did not need to die prematurely because of sin, sickness, or judgment. God has the final call on death. He is ultimately in control. When Jesus heard of the illness of his friend Lazarus, he told his disciples that it would not result in death. He must have meant permanent death because he stayed two extra days before he left to go to the home of Lazarus. Four days after his friend had died, Jesus raised Lazarus to life (John 11.1-6).
Question #5: Does Sin Always Cause Sickness?
In the First Testament, we can observe a direct relationship between sin and sickness (Deut. 28. 15, 21). In the Second Testament, we may note that some sickness is because of the power of the devil (Acts 10.38). The man who was born blind (John 9) was not blind because of any sin that he or his parents had committed. He was blind so that the works of God might be manifested through his healing. We may say that sickness is ultimately caused because we live in this present evil age which has come because of sin, but not all sicknesses may be caused by specific sins.
Question #6: Does The Second Testament Say Anything About Those Who Do Not Get Well?
- In Paul’s first book (Galatians) he suggests that he had an eye affliction. There is no suggestion in any of his letters that God ever healed him of that condition. In his second book to the Corinthians, he told them that he had a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12.7-10). This was not a physical illness as is often taught. The context suggests that his “thorn” was the opposition of other people to the ministry that God had given him to accomplish (cf. Numbers 33.55; Joshua 23.13; Judges 2.3).
- In Philippians 2.26-27 Paul had to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi because he was ill and almost died. The implication was that he improved, but not enough to stay with Paul in Rome.
- Paul’s prescription of some wine for Timothy’s persistent stomach weakness points out that Timothy may not have been healed of this physical ailment.
- Finally, Paul left Trophimus ill in Miletus. It is fair to say from the evidence in the Second Testament that not everyone will get healed. If you have the occasion to pray for someone who does not get healed, you might ask God and them about unforgiveness, emotional stuff in their life, faithlessness, unbelief, or resistance to God.
Question #7: Is God The Cause Of Sickness And Suffering?
We must separate sickness and suffering. Scripture nowhere indicates that suffering means or includes sickness. It is not recorded anywhere that Jesus was sick, but it is recorded that he suffered persecution (Acts 10.38; cf. Phil. 2.29). God’s nature is to heal us, not teach us through our sickness. Sickness is not beneficial to life. The man who was lame (John 5) had made a friend of his sickness and it robbed him of thirty-eight years of his life. We should not easily come to the conclusion that unnecessary suffering in innocent children and helpless people can be blamed on God. The curse of sin in this present evil age results in war, famine, and all kinds of needs. Until Jesus comes and straightens out the mess, we will live in the tension between the times.
Community Discussion Questions
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- What should happen to you when you minister to someone and they do not get healed? Remember, healing is more than just physical.
- In what ways does it help to understand that we are interrelated people, that what affects one thing may be the cause of yet another?
- Who should get first shot at healing you: the medical world or Jesus? Why?
- How does it affect you to know that some that you pray for will not receive healing? How do you treat that person?