Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Faith-healing or Healing Faith?

     "I am trusting God to heal me," is a common declaration many good Christian people make when faced with an illness or disease.
     They take a stand on faith.  They trust God will see their faith and heal them.  Done.
     In going deeper into this, I find they are trusting Him to heal them miraculously, right now, no muss, no fuss.  It appears that the faith they have mustered combined with their spoken declaration is what will unlock God's healing power.   So, they stand and wait.
     Is that Biblical?  First, let's take a quick survey on how Jesus healed people while He was here.  His methods of healing are instructive.
     In John 4:46-54, Jesus is at Cana in Galilee, and is approached by a "royal official" whose sick son is in Capernaum.  He wants Jesus to come with him but Jesus does not.  Instead, He tells the man his son is healed.  The man leaves, believing what Jesus had said.  The son is found to be well, and the man realizes the healing took place when Jesus spoke the words.
     So, healing can take place at a distance.  The key here is Jesus did not have to present with the afflicted person.
     In Matthew 9, we witness several healings:  First, Jesus not only heals the man of his paralysis, but also his sins.  So, healing is just not physical, but has a spiritual component as well.  Jesus determined that this man was afflicted in both body and soul, and He choose to heal both.  The man and his friends, while trusting in Jesus, did not see the man's deepest need, and focused only on the physical.  But Jesus saw more. 
     Next, we see a woman reaching out and teaching Jesus' cloak.  She knew in her heart that a mere touch would heal her.  Jesus turned and affirmed her faith.  So, healing can be a mere touch from Jesus.  Words are not always needed.
     Then we hear of two blind men calling out to Him.  He then asks if they believe He can heal them.  They say, "Yes, Lord" and He does.  So, sometimes He first poses a question, to search the person's heart.  The fact they said "Lord" shows their willingness to believe in Him.
     Then a possessed man is brought before Jesus.  The evil that has made this man unable to speak is driven out with the most powerful words possible.  So, sometimes illness has an evilly destructive aspect to it and that has to be dealt with as well. 
     Jesus heals a blind man in John 9:1-11.  Jesus mixes mud and spit and rubs the mixture into the man's eyes.  He then tells the man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.  The man does so, and can see.  So, sometimes Jesus uses very earthly means to achieve heavenly goals.
     What is my point?  There is no single formula that Jesus used while here on earth to impart a healing.  The common denominator is the person had to have a measure of faith when facing Jesus. Having faith is essential, to be sure, because we are acting on the trust we have placed in the Savior and Who He says He is.  But Jesus responded differently because the settings where different: Some healings took place while He was among the crowds outdoors; sometimes it was in a synagogue with a smaller group; sometimes it was in a quiet room.
     But always, Jesus took compassion on the afflicted one as well as the ones who knew the patient. 
     But the method of healing was of His choosing.
     So, the person's faith did not dictate how He would heal; only that He would heal.
     Today, Jesus has a wide variety of ways to heal us. 
     When I am trusting Him to heal me, I stand on faith.  Yes, that is my part.  You see that in all of the healings where the person was in their right mind and could focus on Jesus.
      But I have to trust His method.  I have to wait on Him to find out what that method is.  I can't just stand on a formula or ritual and away I go. 
     Jesus is about our relationship and wanting me to come to know Him more deeply as a result of this encounter with my morality. He sees me in eternal terms; I see me in temporal terms.  He wants me to shift my view from me to Him.  That is why Jesus interacted with those He healed:  He wanted to establish a relationship with them before the healing.  Once the healing is over, He did not want to see the newly established relationship go likewise.  The healed person would celebrate the here and now, and lose sight of the there and eternal. 
     Today, we are faced with more choices for our health than the first century people could even imagine.  So, let's take a moment to see how this all fits in with healing and faith. 
      I fear that the reason many people are so angry at the medical profession is that they expect miraculous results.  They wouldn't use the word "miraculous," to be sure; the word they would use is "complete" or "quick" if not "instant." They go to the doctor long after they sense something is wrong; by the time they reach out, the illness is advanced and the doctor's hands are tied by the illness' progression. 
     Why do people wait?  I think the main reason is fear:  fear that the diagnosis will not be an easy one; that what they don't know won't hurt them; that they really aren't in control and that they will have to rely on others to help them.  The advanced condition and the doctor's limited response then justifies the person's anger that doctors don't know what they are doing.  
     Doctors for many people are the ultimate authority figure; they don't like people over them, so they view the doctor more as an enemy than an ally.
     People have experienced poor or inept care at the hands of doctors and so they feel justified in condemning the whole profession. 
     Worse still, they will go to the doctor, and then not follow the doctor's instructions.  They do not take the prescription; they do not control their diet and increase exercise; they do not stop smoking; they do not go to follow-up appointments to see how they are progressing.  They do not comply and they do not get better.  They then assume that the doctor is ignorant and that the Internet is more competent to diagnose and treat their condition. 
     In other words, people go to the doctor assuming a quick and relatively easy fix:  the secular equivalent to a miraculous healing. 
     They do relatively little but go to the doctor and expect the doctor to do all the heavy lifting of healing.
     People do the same thing with faith healing.
     They do relatively little but stand on faith and expect Jesus to always do an instantaneous miraculous cure.   When the healing doesn't come as expected or their condition grows worse, they think they need to just muster up more faith and wave it in Jesus' face. 
      May I propose a better way?  Jesus wants a relationship with us, pure and simple.  "Be still and know that I am God" is one of my favorite verses.  Why?  I have to be still--no running around and trying to fix it myself and then expect Jesus to rubber-stamp what I have done.  I have to know Him:  I must sit at His feet, drinking deeply from the water of the Word and listening for His voice.  Relationships take time and I must invest my time in Him, and not in everything else but Him.  Then I will know that He is God--not me, not the doctor, not anyone or anything in this earthly realm.  His powerful love and wisdom will be mine.
     Now, armed with His wisdom and coupled with my faith, I ask Him, "How do we proceed, precious Lord, with this health challenge?" 
     Now I wait for His response.  Remember:  I must trust Him and the method of His choosing.  
     If it's to go to a doctor, then I pray for the right one to go to.
     If it's to take a recommended medication, then I pray for peace in taking it and for positive results.
     If it's a lifestyle change, then I do what I must do.
     If it's a miraculous instantaneous healing, then I am grateful.  I will, like the healed leper, go to the priest (the doctor in my era) and seek a confirmation of His healing.  I will ascribe it to Him and let that doctor know that. 
     I am guided by His voice, to choose His method and act faithfully on what is revealed to me. I will not let fear of the unknown isolate me, while I call my stance, "faith."  Faith is not a whitewash over fear.  Fear leads to inaction; faith is rubber to the holy road:  I actively seek Him. 
     Let me share a story in closing.  When I first met my husband, he suffered from a terrible ulcer.  He took medicine for relief, and yet he was never really pain-free.  At a Bible study he started attending (where he met me) the pastor asked him if he would like to be healed.  My husband had just started going back to church and had recently reunited with the Lord.  He is very intellectual and scientific in his thinking, so you can just imagine his response to the pastor's question.  But, he was tired from the pain.  So, we all stood up and placed hands on him.  The next day, he went to his already scheduled doctor's appointment, and lo and behold, no ulcer.  It was truly a miraculous healing.
     Thirty-five years later, as I shared in a earlier blog, Clayton was involved with a series of medical emergencies.  A painful attack of a kidney stone lead him to dash to the ER.  After all the tests they ran on him, the doctor commented that his heart sounded strange.   A follow-up appointment reveal a aortic heart valve that needed replacing. 
     One year after that surgery, he had a heart-attack.  The whole time the Lord was speaking to me as we dashed to the ER:  where to go, not to panic, all was in His hands.  He was whisked to the operating table and during the course of that surgery, he suffered a stroke.   Eight weeks later, my husband came home.
     The whole time in the hospital, we were impressed with the level of care he received, all the way from the CNA's to the doctors.  Clayton cried several times, so touched by the loving care he received.  Clayton also grew immensely in a spiritual way while dependent on God's love in a very trying situation.
     Spiritual healing.  Physical healing.  It's all important to Him.
      So, it's a Person, not a procedure.  It's a Relationship, not a ritual.  Jesus healed my husband both instantaneously and over time.  But, His love shone through in both, and that is the greatest miracle of all.  

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