Posted - 22 Jan 2006 : 21:37:36
| Healing: Wayman Mitchell - Chapter 2
To Heal the Sick
I studied for the ministry at a denominational Bible School. There, in regard to healing, heavy emphasis was placed on two stories-Job's sickness and Paul's thorn which were portrayed to such a degree that they obscured the powerful healing ministry of Jesus and his clear command to "heal the sick." Our confidence in ministering to the sick and afflicted was taken away even though it is a significant part of Pentecostal doctrine. Healing was portrayed as the result of some special occasion in God's plan we could not figure out.
Theology Of Suffering
These two stories, plus ridicule and tales of excesses in modern healing ministries, were enough to strip us students of any assurance in praying for the sick. The Calvinistic leanings of many of the professors took away the reality of victorious Christian living and replaced it with a theology of suffering. Most instructors taught that suffering (financial or physical) was the pathway to Christian virtue and pleasing God. This was taught in spite of its obvious contradiction to God's goodness, love and compassion as revealed in the Scriptures, a goodness, love and compassion which they taught in every other area of life and ministry. We were taught it was OK to pray for the sick but God's will could not be known especially if we were called to the bedside of someone terminally ill. We could not be presumptuous and pray for their healing but only for their 'comfort'? The same theology exists today. Ruth Anderson, in Things to do for the Terminally Ill, suggests, "Pray out loud. If the person knows death is imminent, don't pray for healing. Let your prayer reflect our faith in the resurrection (War Cry, 6-10-95)." My experience, however, has been that significant numbers of the elderly are healed by the Lord. Apparently He does not view these people as worn out relics waiting only to pass on to eternity. The theology of suffering ignores the aggressive way Jesus dealt with sickness, conveniently excuses lack of victory in a believer's life, and justifies a minister's lack of power in ministry.
The theology of suffering always coexists with a powerless and ineffective church which apologizes for its lack of power with mystery and intellectualism. And it produces a powerless and ineffective church. One writer commented on this mindset of suffering.
The will of God has been a deep shadow…obscuring…blessing with its decrees of sorrow…The will of God is associated with sick room, poverty, loss, bereavement, funerals, the open grave. The will of God, to such [as are schooled in this mindset], is always dressed in black. And this conception of his will gives us sickly Christians, weak faith, empty joy, puny conquests…When we say in prayer, 'Thy will be done,' are we always impressed with its significance? God's will is not. vindictive…His will is a blessed companion, which illumines our way, cheers our spirits, makes glad our lives and brings fruitfulness to all that we do (Pentecostal Theology, p. 372-373).
This thinking robs evangelism of its most effective and compelling witness. Healings are powerful, authenticating both the message and the messenger of the gospel.
Occasionally we get news coverage of our crusades and almost without exception the reporters manage to interview everyone not connected to the crusade. A Redlands newspaper published an article which treated healing skeptically following our crusade. They quoted as an authority the daughter of a denominational pastor. She just happened to come to the crusade because she saw a "large crowd" and wanted to know what was happening. Her comment to the reporter reflects the deep-rooted theology of suffering in the religious world. "You can be spiritually healed," she said, "but you can't come in a wheelchair and just prance out of here…If that's all people had to do, there would be no sick people in the world." Advocates of suffering always leap to extraordinary conclusions whenever God's will to heal the sick is proclaimed. She, along with the reporter, apparently missed the entire crusade. Comments like hers are typical. Often people will say something like, "If healing is valid like you say, then why don't you just go into the hospitals and heal everyone?" A variation of the same theme would be, "I have an aunt (uncle, father, etc.) who's sick and in a wheelchair. Why don't you come and heal her?" As the reporter and so-called authority failed to see (and hear explained at the crusade), Jesus' ministry of healing involved several structural or procedural dynamics. Very clearly healing took place in an atmosphere of preaching and proclaiming the 'Kingdom of God.'
When Jesus commissioned the disciples, he told them to heal the sick in the houses into which they were received, saying to them ""he Kingdom of God has come near you (Luke 10:9)." Of great importance in healing is the issue of faith. Jesus says, "your faith" has made you whole to the woman with the issue of blood, to the leper who returned and gave thanks and to blind Bartimaeus. People came to Jesus for healing and requested it. Even the man at the pool of Bethesda was not healed until Jesus had asked him, "Do you want to be made well?" In fact, as far as we know, He healed only the one in that vast place filled with the infirm. Paul, preaching at Lystra, perceived a lame man who had been listening to him had faith to be healed. Paul then commanded him in a loud voice to stand to his feet (which had never been done) and the man leaped to his feet and walked (Acts 14:8-10). All things are possible to those who believe (Mark 9:23); if we have faith in God anything is possible (Mark 11:22-24); and Jesus makes clear that faith is necessary eve if it is only the size of a mustard seed (Luke 17:6). We pointedly preached in the Redlands' crusade about man's condition before God and laid out God's requirements of repentance and faith. We included God's promises to the believer and how Jesus had paid the price for sin in His atoning sacrifice. Healing was never presented as 'just prance in sick and prance out healed.' The issue today, as always, is one of believing God. God helped only one widow woman, and healed only one leper (Naaman) in the days of the prophet. The issue was not need. It was faith. Having a need has never been enough.
Many prayers are not prayers of faith. Many will add, "If it be thy will," to the end of their prayer. This is the standard Bible school prayer. This is actually a prayer of unbelief. Taught commonly in Bible Schools the "if" nullifies faith in almost every realm. The Bible clearly teaches the will of God and his commission to heal the sick. Believers are to use this knowledge and move in authority against sickness and disease. Jesus, "called His twelve disciples together and," after giving them power and authority over diseases, "sent them to preach and to heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2), " saying to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you (Luke 10:9)." To the healed leper Jesus said, " Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well (Luke 17:19)." Once you discover the believer's authority in Christ, it changes how you pray.
The Spiritual Nature of Disease
In the Bible record of healing, we see clearly the intertwining of the spiritual, physical and demonic. Luke's gospel documents Jesus casting out an unclean spirit, rebuking a fever (physical disease), and speaking to and commanding demons which came out of people (4:31-41). Jesus is dealing with spiritual forces as personalities, not as germs. He deals with them as enemies, not as benefactors. Matthew calls these spiritual powers tormentors, not comforters (18:35). They are realities, not superstitions. They are direct demonic links to disease and are somehow able to exercise a tangible dominion over a person's body and life.
My son, Greg was four years old when I was pastoring in Emmet, Idaho. He got an ear infection that would not go away. We were spending both time and money on doctors and he was no better. One night Greg was suffering again and I finally ran out of patience. I got mad. I was incensed at the torment that was in our home and Greg's life because of this ear, and remembered saying to myself, "This is the devil!" I called for Greg, laid my hands on him, rebuked the devil, and prayed for his healing. To my amazement he was instantly healed. I formed two opinions about sickness, particularly ear infections in children. First, sickness has a spiritual nature. It is something more than a germ, bacteria, hormonal imbalance or genetic defect. Second, using authority brought victory over this demonic realm. This was startlingly different from what I had been taught. I had been taught to pray "if it be thy will" and then wait for a mystical moment when God would sovereignly move. Very clearly that was wrong. By aggressively confronting sickness I found instant and complete victory through the authority of Jesus Christ. Had I used the Bible School "if," Greg would still be sick.
I realized that I had dealt with the spiritual nature of sickness in Greg's healing. My conclusion concerning the spiritual nature of disease has been greatly strengthened over the years. Not long ago Valerie Symens from our Prescott congregation met and eighteen-year-old midwest girl. This girl was walking in an area of Prescott where there had been a murder and in concern for her, Valerie wanted to tell her she would be safer walking in another area. In talking to her, Valerie discovered that the girl had environmental disease, a problem with the immune system which meant she had to avoid crowds and public places or she would experience violent and dangerous reactions to odors and pollutants in the air. This girl's parents had spent $50,000 in four months on doctors and treatments trying to find relief for her any possible way, but she was no better. Valerie witnessed to her and then gave her my phone number. She called and asked to meet with me, which she did. I found a connection to occult religion in her life which we renounced in prayer. She called again the next day to inform me she had suffered the most miserable night of her entire life.
"I was eager to share what I had learned with all of our pastors and began doing this…"
But she wanted to meet with me again. In our second meeting she remembered more connections to the occult, contacts with spiritual healers, and some other issues. We prayed again. She was completely healed and began to attend church-something she had never been able to do. For her, sickness was a spiritual issue, not an organic one and had to be treated as a spiritual issue. I was not surprised to find this family had, like so many others, spent a large amount of money for healing. Their quest had led them into many non-medical areas for relief, to the occult and magical healers. The answer, however, was in Jesus. He alone finally and completely set her free from disease.
It was not surprising as well to discover her immune system had been affected by non-physical factors. Medical researchers have confirmed in many different ways that chronic 'feelings' of hopelessness or unforgiveness can affect the immune system. Holding, retaining, grasping and nurturing bitterness and resentment releases a hormone which suppresses the activity of the immune system and makes man susceptible to disease. Upwards of 85% of those visiting doctors do so because of guilt and shame. People working with chronic pain sufferers, especially lower back pain, point out that much of the pain is related to stress. Current research is bringing to light many such connections between health and spiritual factors. I am convinced that it is the spiritual issues which are most important in healing.
The Role Of The Devil
The great healing evangelist to Africa and many other nations, T.L. Osborn, tells in his book "Healing the Sick" of the night his ministry was transformed. At a revival meeting in Portland, Oregon, the minister explained the issues of disease.
Here is what the evangelist explained:
Every disease has a life-a germ causes it to grow. That evil life in the germ did not come from God because it kills and destroys human life. It is from Satan. It is that evil life, or spirit of infirmity, that give life to the disease, or growth, just as your spirit gives life to your body.
Just as your body, when the spirit leaves it, dies and returns to the dust, so your disease, when the spirit of infirmity is cast out, dies and disappears.
We all matured from a tiny germ. The life of that germ came from God. The body, living by the germ or spirit of life which God caused to exist, developed until it became a complete human body.
So long as that life, or spirit, remains in the body, the body continues to live. But as soon as the spirit leaves the body, the body is dead; it decays and returns to the dust.
Many human sicknesses and diseases begin from a tiny germ, and evil satanic life, sent to live in and posses the human body and destroy it. As long as that life, the spirit of infirmity, exists in the body, the growth or disease lives and continues its destructive work.
But as soon as the evil spirit, the evil life, or spirit of infirmity has been cast out of the body, in Jesus' name, that disease or growth is dead. It will decay and pass from the body. This is the process of healing (p. 219-220).
It is my firm conviction that the devil is the author and perpetrator of all disease. Disease had its opportunity in the Fall of Man and exists as incipient death. Prior to the Fall there was neither disease nor death. NO injury, accident or illness was able to strike man until he fell and became vulnerable because of sin. With the Fall came the curse and accident, injury, sickness, weakness and infirmity, all foreshadowing death which came upon all. Physical death is a shadow of spiritual death. All sickness is energized by a spirit of death. Man is a spiritual being. He is not primarily a physical being with a spirit but rather a spiritual being inhabiting a physical body. This is not merely semantics. This thinking will change the way you deal with the sick.
Oral Roberts was one of the healing ministries that received a good amount of ridicule when I was in Bible school. His story is enlightening. The Washington Times (June 26, 1995, p. 25) reports, "As a teen-ager Mr. Roberts dreamed of being a lawyer and eventually governor of Oklahoma, and it was not until he contracted tuberculosis that he discovered the healing power of faith in a tent revival…As Mr. Roberts tells the story…the Rev. George Moncey, a traveling evangelist, laid his hands on his head and commanded the disease to leave him and he felt his lungs open as a flower. 'I actually yelled, 'I'm healed! I'm healed!' Then I cried [sic], laughed and praised God…'" The actual words of Rev. Moncey, recorded in Oral's own book Expect a Miracle, My Life and Ministry were, "You foul tormenting disease, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazereth, come out of this boy! Loose him and let him go free (p. 33)."
This is a dramatic testimony. There may or may not be germs, bacteria, parasites and deformity present but the power of disease is spiritual. Its energy, its power to make ill and eventually destroy is spiritual. If that power is destroyed, cast out or neutralized, so is the disease. Jesus can in the same circumstance forgive sin or command healing. Both are as easy and both accomplish the same thing. Once again, all sickness has its roots in the activity of the devil who exploits man's fallen nature and involvement in sin.
God gave man dominion with a condition. Disobedience brought death. A clear connection exists between sin and sickness, which is incipient death. "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Gen 2:15-17).'"
We find the connection again in Moses' account of Miriam's Leprosy.
"When the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. So Aaron said to Moses, 'Oh my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. Please do not let her be as one of his mother's womb!' So Moses cried out to the LORD saying, 'Please heal her, O God, I pray!' Then the LORD said to Moses, 'If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may received again.' So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again. (Num 12:10-15)."
She is shut out from God because of sin, sin manifested in the physical disease of leprosy. God makes this connection over and over, showing that the devil is at the root of disease. "The LORD will make the plague cling to you until He has consumed you from the land which you are going to possess. The LORD will strike you with consumption, with a fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish (Deut 28:21-22)." Again, the LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from witch you cannot be healed. The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of heart. And you shall grope at noonday, as a blindman gropes in darkness; you shall not prosper in your ways; you shall be only oppressed and plundered continually, and no one shall save you (Deut 28:27-29)." And again, "The LORD will strike you in the knees and on the legs with severe boils which cannot be healed, and from the sole of your foot to the top of your head (Deut 28:35)." And one more time, "then the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues; great and prolonged plagues; and serious and prolonged sicknesses. Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in this Book of the Law, will the LORD bring upon you are destroyed (Deut 28:59-61)."
Many stress the story about Job but miss the source of disease. "So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (Job 2:7)." This theme is repeated in Luke 10:10-16. "Now [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to him and said to her, "Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity." And He laid his hands on her and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God … So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound; think of it; for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" Clearly the source of infirmity was the devil.
Consider the following story in Mark's gospel.
"And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and the scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, 'what are you discussing with them?' Then one of the crowd answered and said, 'Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.' He answered him and said, 'O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.' Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, 'How long has this been happening to him?' And he said, 'From childhood. And often he has thrown him into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.' Jesus said to him, 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.' Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!' When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!' Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so many said, 'He is dead' But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked him privately, 'Why could we not cast it out?' So He said to them, 'This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting (9:14-29)."
The source of infirmity is spiritual. The power is from the devil and it seeks to destroy. Jesus deals with the disease as a personality and rebukes it.
All of these graphic and detailed accounts directly tie sin, man's spiritual nature and the devil to sickness and disease. One of the greatest revelations a young minister can have is to understand that healing is not simply something God does. It is His nature to heal. He gives specific promises of healing through the work of Jesus on Calvary. The Bible promises healing by the prayer of faith and anointing with oil by the elders, by a sound heart, by preaching the gospel, and by laying on of hands. It is imperative that the promises of God be preached to the needy.
And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hat you (Deut 7:15).
A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones (Prov 14:30).
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed (Isa 53:4-5).
And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 'He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.' So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen (Mark 16:15-20)."
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing Psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:13-15).
These specific promises, the commission to "heal the sick," and the nature of God our Healer allow confidence in ministering to the sick.