A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
From the eMail I’ve received this week, it’s obvious that healing is a Biblical subject of singular importance and diverse understanding. It’s clear to me that many have formed their opinions from either hearsay or personal observation rather than God’s word.
After years and years of studying what the Bible says about healing it seems to me that while Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and while He said that anyone with faith would do the things He did (John 14:12) the results we’re experiencing in the Western Church today are far different than those described in the Bible. A logical mind can only conclude that something has changed and since it’s not Him, that leaves only us.
To prove my point, count the number of times when you’ve personally witnessed someone being healed. Not heard about, but personally witnessed. If you’re like most people you won’t know of very many, maybe not any. Somewhere along the way there’s been a disconnect, and while I work to find it I am trying to sound the alarm, hoping others will join me in the search.
I lack the resources to examine them personally, but I’ve received first hand reports from people I trust indicating that in some parts of the world, faith healing and other miraculous works are much more prevalent than in the West. So far I’ve received credible reports from China, India, Africa and Iraq. I view this as confirmation that it has to be us.
Those of you who’ve reminded me of the famous people we all think should have been healed but weren’t, please remember this. We can only estimate how much faith we have by comparing ourselves with our contemporaries. We have no idea where we fall on God’s scale. Could we be favorably compared with those who came before us? We have no way of knowing. Many of us think we have great faith, but do you think anything you’ve ever done in faith would qualify you for inclusion in Hebrews 11? Do you know anybody alive today whose faith could?
Elijah challenged the 400 priests of Baal to a public test of faith before a crowd of thousands. As an old man Daniel faced the lions all night long as they got hungrier by the minute. According to tradition John preached the Gospel while being lowered into a cauldron of boiling oil, and then kept on preaching while it bubbled away around him. Paul walked into city after city knowing that he would likely be beaten severely enough to require supernatural healing before he left. Could even our most successful “men of God” pull off anything like that today? Name the mega pastor, Christian author, or televangelist whose work would qualify them. Now think of the growing number of pastors who won’t give an altar call to their own congregation for fear of offending someone! How the mighty have fallen.
Do you suppose Jesus was looking at mankind’s steadily weakening faith between His day and ours when He asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) In the margin of my Bible, I wrote, “Not much.” Faith grows from a day by day dependence on God to fulfill his promises to us. We’ve had things so good for so long that we haven’t needed even a faith the size of a mustard seed to prosper.
Here’s How It All Began
When preparing the Children of Israel for entry into the promised land, God had Moses tell them these things.
He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land-your grain, new wine and oil-the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young. The LORD will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you. (Deut. 7:13-15)
It’s our nature to look to God when we have nothing and are struggling, and He blesses us in return. When I first became a believer, I concluded that one of the most popular products my company sold was not pleasing to God so I stopped selling it. Finding a way to make up for this huge loss in revenue was stressful, so I began getting up early in the morning to pray for guidance and give thanks for the blessings I’d received. Each morning I spent an hour on my knees in the living room before anyone else got up. The Lord blessed me through that time and brought me Christian clients with needs I could meet in a way that pleased Him. The lost revenue was more than replaced.
Remember Who Got You Where You Are
Someone wrote that religion gives birth to prosperity and the daughter consumes the mother. I believe he meant that God has always promised abundance to those who follow Him, but eventually man will make prosperity his religion and abandon God. Here’s how God warned His people against this.
Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God. (Deut. 8:11-14)
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (Deut. 8:17-18)
As the blessings multiply and we become more secure it usually becomes harder to take the time to pray. We begin to feel that we no longer need to spend valuable time asking the Lord for direction. Also our confidence grows and we begin to believe our success is self generated. That means we don’t spend as much time giving thanks. As I got busier and began traveling more, it was harder to devote that hour each day so I began trying to do two things at once, praying while I exercised or while I drove to work. It wasn’t the same, and I saw how easy it would be to justify stopping altogether. I was saved by a series of contracts the Lord sent me that gave me an uninterrupted hour each day on flights to various cities in the Western US. In a 10 year period I logged nearly 2 million miles into my frequent flier account, almost all of them on flights 60-90 minutes long. I often wonder how different things would have been had I simply convinced myself that I was too busy to pray any more, or that my success was due to my own talent and skill so I no longer needed to thank the Lord or seek His direction.
It Doesn’t Take Much
The generation of Israelites who came into the promised land experienced some of the most faith building miracles of all time. But in Judges 2:10 we read this incredible statement.
After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.
Within a span of one generation the people had forgotten the Lord and what He had done for them. The Book of Judges records one of the lowest points in their history. They showed that it doesn’t take much to destroy the faith of a nation. Just one generation of neglecting the Word of God.
And in His letter to the Church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7) the Lord commended the believers there for remaining true to His word. But He also criticized them, saying they had forgotten their first love. They had become so busy in service to the King that they had forgotten the King!
“Remember the height from which you’ve fallen,” He said. (Rev. 2:5) He didn’t need their acts of service, and He really missed their company. They were only one generation from the cross. They went to church every week and spent time doing good works on His behalf. Yet they had forgotten Him.
With individuals it happens even faster. Stop praying for a day or two and you’ll miss it. Stop for a month and you’ll forget it. Oh, you’re still going to Church and may even be involved in a project or two, or serve on a committee or board. Maybe you go around looking for people to minister to and pray for. You may even refer to yourself as a follower of Jesus, not just a believer.
Sometimes we call this “maturing in the faith” meaning we’re not so dependent any more. We don’t need direction. We know what to do and we’re doing it. We forget that Jesus said we’re to become like little children. Little children are naive, trusting, and dependent. The most powerful believers among us stay that way. They never mature. They never get to the point where they don’t ask for His guidance or feel the need to express their gratitude. They never substitute works for faith, or become so busy in service to the King that they forget the King.
We Need More Exercise
In all likelihood we’re entering a time when the world as we’ve known it will be no more, perhaps forever. Our security will be shaken, our freedoms will be restricted, and our faith will be tested. Some of us will find ourselves back at square one after it’s too late to start over. Now’s the time to begin exercising our faith.
The faith to be saved was a gift from God (Ephes. 2:8) and keeping you saved is His job (2 Cor. 1:21-22). But you can exercise your faith to make it stronger by reading your Bible daily (Romans 10:17) and talking with the Lord about what you’ve read, asking for guidance in how to apply it. Faith only gets stronger when it’s accompanied by action (James 2:17). After praying for direction, do something you’re not sure you can do, trusting that God will give you the ability as you need it. You can begin with something as little as talking about the Lord with someone, helping out in a food kitchen or rescue mission, or visiting a sick person. He’ll point you to bigger things from there. Each time you take a step of faith, your faith will grow to prepare you for the next step. Above all, pray about everything, be fearful of nothing, and give thanks for anything. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7) You can do this. Selah 10-25-08