A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
I’ve studied what the Bible says about healing for years and years, and two things remain clear to me. One is that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Another is He said anyone with faith in Him would do the things He did (John 14:12). But the results we’re experiencing in much of the Western Church today are far different from those attributed to Him in the Bible. A logical mind can only conclude that something has changed. Since it can’t be Him, that leaves only us.
I’ve concluded that many of us have formed our opinions about healing either from hearsay or personal observation rather than God’s word, while the Bible tells us to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). 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.
Maybe we don’t see people being healed because we no longer expect to. Somewhere along the way, there’s been a disconnect to the point where many believers are convinced that without giving us any warning God simply stopped healing people. Some of those who promote this idea say it happened once the New Testament had been compiled. They base this on 1 Cor. 13:8-10 which says in part,
“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.”
The Greek word for perfection in this passage also means complete, so they interpret what Paul wrote to mean that once the New Testament was complete, the gifts of the Spirit ceased. The problem I have with this interpretation is that it never appeared anywhere in the Church record until about 1900 AD when it was used as a rebuttal against the appearance of Spiritual gifts in the Pentecostal movement. Many Protestant denominations (those where Spiritual gifts are not in evidence) hold this view today. It should not surprise us that supernatural healing does not occur in those denominations.
Then there are believers who call themselves mid-Acts dispensationalists. They assert that healing and other Spiritual gifts were signs to the Jews that Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit, and as soon as Israel was officially set aside and the gospel went to the Gentiles, these signs ceased. They say the epistle of James, which contains the most direct promise of healing through prayer anywhere in the New Testament (James 5:14-16), was not intended for us today but was written only to Jewish believers in the early days of the Church. Some of these folks hedge their bets by assuring us that God can heal people and sometimes does, so we can still pray for healing. But we shouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen. Our healing may not come until the resurrection. At least they leave the door open for God to heal someone if He decides to.
Many of us think all believers have lots of faith, so if we don’t see anyone being healed it must be that the Lord no longer heals people. But we only have those around us with which to compare ourselves, and maybe today’s average person’s faith is not as strong as we think. For example, do you know anybody alive today whose faith could qualify them for inclusion in Hebrews 11, called “The Hall of Faith” by many?
Here are a few who could qualify so you can see how high the standard is. Abraham agreed to sacrifice his son, even though God’s promise to him had not come true. He reasoned that God would raise Isaac from the dead rather than break His promise. 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 a 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 if Hebrews 11 was being written today. Now think of the growing number of pastors who won’t give an altar call to their own congregation for fear of offending someone!
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). Faith grows from a day by day dependence on God to fulfill his promises to us. In the West, 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)
With nowhere else to turn we look to God when we have nothing and are struggling, and He blesses us. 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 from this line of thinking by a series of contracts with out of town clients the Lord sent me. They gave me an uninterrupted hour each day on flights to various cities in the Western US when I could pray and read my Bible. 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 many 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 the powerful miracles He had performed for them. The Book of Judges records that period as one of the lowest points in their history. It shows us that it doesn’t take much to destroy the faith of a nation. For Israel, it only took one generation of neglecting the Word of God.
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’ll still be going to Church and may even be involved in a project or two, or serve on a committee or board. Maybe you’ll 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 as dependent on God as new believers typically are, but have developed the ability to function more independently. But the most powerful believers among us never “mature” that way. They never get to the point where they don’t ask for the Lord’s guidance or feel the need to express their gratitude. They never substitute works for faith. Remember, Paul said everything that was written in the past was written to teach us (Romans 15:4). If we don’t learn the lessons of Israel’s history, we’ll be doomed to repeat them.
We Need More Exercise
In all likelihood, we’re entering a time when the world we grew up in will be no more. 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 believe God is calling you to do. You can begin with something as little as talking about Him with someone, helping out in a food kitchen or a 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. As your faith grows you’ll be more likely to witness a miracle, even a miraculous healing.
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 almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah 01-17-15.