THE GIFT OF HEALING

The Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12:7-11
(To look up verse references go here)

Of all the gifts, the one gift I wished I had was the gift of healing. I know that in the past I have jokingly said that the reason I wished I had this gift was so our church could grow. But the real reason why I wished I had this gift is because along with the gift of pastoring that the Spirit has given me, also comes compassion for those you minister to. For Jesus not only asks his sheperds to feed his sheep, he asks them to provide tender loving care to them as well.

Through my many years of pastoring I have prayed with people as they suffered tremendously from painful diseases & accidents. I’ve sat with them in the waiting room as they nervously awaited the outcome of a diagnosis of a sick family member, or the outcome of a surgery their parent, spouse, or even child was having. I have the heart-wrenching experiences of praying for people who had terminal diseases. And I have had to weep with people has they mourned the untimely death of a parent or a child.

In each of these situations I wished I could have laid my hands on them, and instantaneously the disease that was causing so much suffering, or robbing the person of his/her life, would not just be temporarily healed, but completely gone. But for some reason, God hasn’t giving me that power. And except for the Lord Jesus, no one has ever had the ability to heal everyone, of every kind of disease.

But that doesn’t stop me from asking God to give me the gift of healing whenever I go the hospital, or you call for the elders. I ask God for the gift of healing because I know that God, at times, in response to prayers, does heal people. But to keep from adding more confusion and distress that we all experience when we get sick, I never claim that God has to heal them. Nor do I ever say that if they don’t get healed it is because of their lack of faith, or God’s indifference to them because of some secret, unconfessed sin.

To clarify the gift of healing in today’s church, let me start off by debunking 3 of the current myths concerning the gift of healing. The first myth is that the gift of healing was only a temporary sign gift given to the early apostles as a way of confirming their calling.
If the gift of healing was only a sign given to the apostles, then why did Clement, at the end of the 1st century, exhort the church at Rome to pray, “Master, Heal those around us who are sick!” Or why we did Ignatius, during the 1st quarter of the 2nd century, write to Polycarp to “Bear the diseases of all.” Church historians have recorded instances where throughout the history of the church there has been manifestations of God healing the sick in response to prayer.

So to say that God no longer heals today, would seem inconsistent of God, who in answer to believing prayer, has healed throughout, not only biblical history, that is healing is seen from Genesis to Revelation, but also in the history of the church, from the first church in Jerusalem, to Calvary Chapel of Aiken. Therefore, I believe it is safe to say that God has not suddenly stopped healing people, nor that the gift of healing is no longer available today. So if you need to be healed, seek the Lord Jesus for healing. Ask him to touch your body or your mind. Never believe for a moment that God no longer heals people who are sick in response to prayers that are offered up in faith.

Having said that, let’s look at the 2nd myth that says that if you’re not healed, it is due to the lack of your faith. While I disagree with those who say that if you’re not healed it’s because of your lack of faith, I do believe there is a direct correlation between our faith in God’s ability to do the impossible, and God working in our lives, especially in the area of healing. If you do a study of the gospels you will learn that faith & healing go hand in hand. In every account of healing, the healing occurred because of someone’s faith in Jesus’ ability to heal.

Where me and the faith healers disagree is that I believe if you have enough faith to ask the Lord to heal you, or to ask others to pray for healing for you, then you’ve have shown God that you have faith in his ability to heal. Now whether or not the Lord will heal you is completely up to him. Our attitude towards healing is that we can’t demand God to heal us. From what the Bible has to say about healing, God encourages us to place our faith in his ability, in his willingness to heal, but not to presume upon him having to heal us.

We are to approach God for healing like the leper did when he came to Jesus to be healed.
He had all the faith in the world that Jesus could heal him, but what he didn’t know is if Jesus would heal him. For he said to Jesus, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” (Matthew 8:2)

Notice he acknowledged Jesus’ right to do whatever he wanted. But he also acknowledged Jesus’ ability. The leper’s faith in Jesus’ ability, and his willingness to submit to Jesus’ sovereignty, moved Jesus so much that “Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Matthew 8:3) From this example we see that acknowledging God’s right to heal or not to heal, in no way shows we lack faith in God.

But how does having faith in God’s ability to heal play a part in our getting healed? Some of those who argue against the gift of healing being a viable gift for today, do so because they say that we don’t see as many people getting healed today as they did during the times of Jesus & the first apostles. I believe that the reason not as many people are healed as often today as they were in Jesus’ day can be traced to the general attitude of unbelief towards anything supernatural that exists in today’s world, and in today’s church. And unbelief is something that can hinder the power of the Spirit to do miraculous things, like healings.

We’ve lost our child-like faith in God’s ability to heal. Remember as a child going to your mom or dad and saying, “I got a boo-boo, kiss it and make it feel better!” And as soon as they kissed it, it quit hurting. Now is there some medicinal power in a kiss? No! But what caused the pain to go away was our faith in our parents’ ability to make it quit hurting. And this is the same kind of faith God wants us to have towards him in all areas of our Christian life, even healing.

Let me ask you this, before the advances of modern medicine, where did the people go to get healed? The answer is they went to someone who had the gift of healing. Unsaved people went to a doctor, if there was one available. But normally, they went to a witch doctor or a sorcerer. And when they got saved, they went to the church to find someone who had been anointed by the Holy Spirit with the gift of healing.

They did this because of the apostles’ exhortations like, “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.” (James 5:14-15) Church historians teach us that praying for the sick was a common part of the worship services of the early church. It would be nothing to see people coming forward, or bringing their sick loved ones, to a worship service to have those with the gift of healing, or the elders pray for their healing. And guess what happened? They often were healed.

Having said that, then let me encourage you to start to look to God first when you get sick. When you get a headache, before you pop a pill, call for prayers. When you get a cold or the flu, before you pop a pill, call for prayers. When are diagnosed with depression, before you pop a prozac, ask the elders to pray for you. When your child is diagnosed with ADHD, as you put them on Ritalin, also bring them to us and let us lay hands on them asking God to reach out from his heart of compassion for children, and bring peace into your child’s life. If you were to be diagnosed with cancer, please call the elders to pray for you before you start radiation or chemo therapy.

In the last case, I got a feeling that that’s kind of no-brainer. But what in those other cases? Would you ever think to ask for prayer that God would heal you of something insignificant as a headache or a cold, or something a little more serious, but not life-threatening, like depression or ADHD? Some of you yes, but for the most, no. And this is sad because we used to go to our parents and believe that by them kissing our ouches, the pain would magically go away.

Brothers & sisters, our God loves us so much more than our parents do. The God that we know and serve is such a loving Father that he has provided healing for his children. He told Moses that “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26)

This healing that God promised was not just for the Israelites, but for us today as well. For Matthew said that the Lord Jesus’ ability to heal was the fulfillment of that “Which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities. And bore our sicknesses.’” (Matthew 8:17) What I find interesting about that verse is that the word “sicknesses,” in the Greek, means an ordinary kind of illness, like a headache or a cold. This tells me that whatever kind of illness we are fighting, big or small, we first ought to seek healing.

And I think this is important because it is a way for us to build our faith in God’s ability to heal us. If we experience the Lord healing our small problems, like a headache or a cold, we will go to him with bigger problems, like depression. And when the really big diseases hit us, like cancer, we will have no problem believing that God can actually heal us.

The reason I bring this up is because when major things do attack your body, I want you go to God out of faith, not out of fear. Nowhere in the Bible does it ever say that God responds to our fears. Now before you misunderstand the point I’m trying to make, let me say that there is nothing wrong with taking a pill if you’ve got a headache, or the flu, or if you are depressed, or even putting your kids on Ritalin if they have some kind of hyperactive disorder. But the point I want to make is that the pill should only be taken after, or at least in conjunction with prayer. For no matter what, the pill can only do so much, the rest is up to God.

I also don’t want you to think that I’m opposed to us going to doctors, because I’m not. I believe that doctors are a part of God’s gift of healing. For the past month I have been in excruciating pain as my sciatic nerve is pinched. Sometimes it hurts so bad to stand up that I want to cry. During these past weeks I have cried out, over and over again, for God to heal me. In the midst of my suffering, I started to understand why people who suffer would, in sheer desperation, grab hold of something like the half-truths the faith healers proclaim.

But despite the pain I suffered, I didn’t put my hands on the TV set while I was watching Copeland or Hinn in the hopes that they could heal me. Nor did I send off for some anionted prayer cloth to put on my back in the hopes of getting healed. Instead, after a couple of weeks of praying for God to supernaturally heal me, he impressed upon me to start seeing Dr. Shane, and trusting that through the gift of healing God has giving him, and through the prayers of the saints, that in God’s timing, God is going to heal me.

The final myth I want to debunk is the myth that God wants everyone to be healed. Let me give you a couple of examples where godly people experienced sickness. Paul, when writing to Timothy, told him that he had “Left Trophimus sick in Miletus.” (2 Timothy 4:20)

I can’t believe that a man of faith, like Paul, had the nerve to leaven a sick friend behind rather than healing him! That doesn’t sound like Paul was much of a friend, does it? We know that Paul had the gift of healing. So why would he leave his friend while he was still sick? The only possible answer is for some reason the Lord choose not to heal Trophimus.

What about Timothy? He was not only one of Paul’s dearest friends, he was also Paul’s spiritual son. So you know Paul had a special love for Timothy. Yet there was a time when Timothy was sick, and Paul either didn’t or couldn’t heal him.

Timothy was pastoring a church in Ephesus and probably had to deal with all sorts of problems. Because of the problems that come with pastoring, Timothy developed a stomach problem. More than likely he had developed an ulcer from worrying about the people so much. Do you realize that I didn’t have any gray in my beard until I became your pastor.

Paul’s recommendation to Timothy was to “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:23) Knowing Paul, I’m sure that he had previously encouraged Timothy to go to God with any sickness. And yet, when God didn’t heal Timothy, Paul didn’t rebuke him for not having enough faith to be healed. Instead, Paul accepts the fact that God didn’t see fit to heal him instantly, so he reminds Timothy to use a common remedy of the day.

His advice is like the advice given to us before we go to a foreign land: “Don’t drink the water; for you never know what’s swimming in there.” Paul tells Timothy to use a little common sense and take the well-known rememdy of the day for stomach aches: Wine mixed with water. This shows us that taking medicine is not out of the will of God, nor does it show a lack of faith on our part to trust God to heal our sicknesses.

There are other examples in the Bible that show us that even though this is a gift that the Spirit wants us to use in today’s church, we always have to acknowledge that God does not have to heal in the way we want him to. We always have to acknowledge that God’s ways are not our ways. And sometimes the reasons he chooses not to heal is because he wants to use the sickness to draw us closer to himself, and to cause us to have total dependence on him.

We see this in the life of Paul. Paul tells us that he had some kind of physical ailment, a thorn in the flesh, that came from Satan, that wouldn’t go away. We don’t know for sure what this thorn was. But because the word thorn can be defined as some kind of a constant nagging pain, some said it was Paul’s wife. I’m not going there. But most believe it was a problem with his eyesight.

Three times Paul prayed that God would heal him. But instead God choose not to heal him. And through this ailment Paul heard the Lord say to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Satan is so stupid that he thought that through the illness Paul would turn away from God, but instead, Paul turned towards God. For Paul tells us that “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Let’s now look at how the gift of healing is manifested. The most important thing we need to know is that in the Greek the word gift is plural. So in reality, Paul is talking about the gifts of healings. This would suggest that there are different manifestations of this gift. That is, there are different ways in which the Spirit accomplishes the healing.

First of all the Spirit may heal instantly. As you read through the New Testament, one of the words that is used 100% of the time, in those cases where someone was healed, is the word “Immediately.” As long as people had faith in his ability to heal them, Jesus healed them.

We’ve seen this kind of healing in our midst. I am reminded of Beverly Rapp. About a year ago a test showed a presence of a tumor. She asked for prayers. We prayed. And when she went back in, the tumor was completely gone.

But that isn’t the only way God heals. Sometimes the Spirit heals gradually over a period of time. This is a point that faith healers miss. They have overlooked the examples in the Bible where God didn’t heal right away, but the healing eventually came.

Paul tells us about a man named Epaphroditus, who was sick. In fact, Epaphroditus was so sick that he almost died while in Paul’s very presence. I’m sure that Paul must have prayed many times for the Lord to heal him. And eventually the Lord healed him.

Yet Paul doesn’t suggest that when he was healed that he was healed instantaneously. Instead he gives the impression that the Lord healed him as the sickness simply ran its course. Paul tells us that “Indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him.” (Philippians 2:27)

I’ve seen this kind of healing in my wife’s life. Carol has a birth defect that causes her to experience great pain in her back. When we first got saved, the people at the church we were attending said they wanted to pray for her. She agreed, and the Lord partially healed her. That is he healed part of what was wrong, but he hasn’t finished healing the rest, yet.
Back then, when her back started to hurt, she often would also get a horrible headache.

When this occured, things really got bad. For if she could lie down, her back would start to get better. But when the headaches occured, lying down only made it worse. When the saints prayed for her healing she received both an instantaneous and a gradual healing.
Immediately the Lord healed her of her headaches. And 24 years later, she has never had another headache that was associated with her back hurting. But the healing of her back is still in process. And I know that one day, either this side of glory, or the other side, her back is going to be completely healed.

The third way the Spirit heals is through medical science. James says that if there “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.”(James 5:14)

The word James uses for anoint means to oil the skin by rubbing. He uses this word to show us that this practice is more than a symbolic putting on of oil, like we see in most churches today. Before the days of drugs, rubbing with oil was one of the most common medical remedies of the day. What James is telling us to do, is that when a sickness isn’t instantly healed, then we are to incorporate both the best medical know-how with the methods of healing that come from God. In doing so, we acknowledge that God is still the source of the healing. And that in this case, God is healing through both the medical world and the spiritual world.

Never forget that despite all the advances in the medical field, a person will not get better unless it is God’s will. I have heard too many doctors say that they didn’t understand why the person isn’t getting better, or even worse, why they died. Listen to me, all doctors and nurses can do is to perform surgery and administer drugs. But when we combine what they do with prayer, we invite God to administer spiritual aid to ensure the healing.

So if you have to go to the doctor, if you have to have surgery, don’t feel like God has let you down. Neither feel like it shows you have a lack of faith. Instead, call the elders before you go to the doctor. Call me before you have surgery. Let us pray that God will sanctify the doctors, nurses, and the medicine, so that they will become instruments of healing in his hands.

I am glad that the medical world is finally starting to see the importance of the spiritual component in healing. They have noticed that when a person is prayed for before surgery, that the person is less apprehensive going into the surgery. And that the person gets out of the recovery room a lot quicker. Plus, they notice that when a person is prayed for regularly while they are recovering, that they get better quicker. So let me say once again, call me or your elder before any kind of surgery, or if you have to go to the hospital.

The final way the Spirit heals is the least favorite one of all. For the Spirit also heals through the resurrection. Jesus indicated that there is a sickness that leads to death. As much as we hate to admit it, part of God’s will for us is that each one of us is going to die. And most of us won’t be in the same kind of physical shape Moses was in when he died. The Bible says that “Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.” (Deuteronomy 34:7)

Most of us are going to get some kind of disease that is going to cause this temple to deteriorate, and eventually collapse. The only thing we can hope for, is that if the rapture doesn’t happen before we die, is that our death will glorify God. That is why when I am ministering to someone who is teminally ill, that I have no problem praying that God will either heal them miraculously, or be merciful to them while they die. I can do that because I have accepted the fact that some sicknesses do lead to death, and sometimes God answers our prayers for healing by allowing that person to die.

Now this may not seem fair, but if you think about it, the only true healing we will every receive is the one that comes after we die. For even if the Lord were to take away a cold, or even cancer, eventually some kind of disease is going to kill you. But not once we get to heaven. For when we finally get to heaven then “There shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.” (Revelation 21:4)

And despite the pain we suffer here on earth, once we get to heaven, we won’t even remember the pain. When I was 6 yrs. old, I fell off the monkey bars and busted my head wide open. My mom says that I bled like a stuck hog. And I ran around screaming at the top of my lungs. Yet despite the pain I must have felt, almost 50 yrs. later, I don’t remember any of the pain I went through. In fact, if it wasn’t for the bump that’s still on the back of my head I won’t even know that I ever got hurt.

The same is true once we get to heaven. Years after you’ve been in heaven, you won’t remember the years you lived with pain & suffering here on earth. I promise you that any anger, or disappointment you may now have towards God for the physical sufferings you’ve experienced so far in your life, that once you get that new, glorified body, all that anger, all that disappointment, will be gone, forever in eternity.

Before I close, I want to emphasis the fact that God is far more concerned with the healing of your soul than he is with the healing of your body. A good example of the importance of curing the disease of sin more than curing the diseases that attack our physical bodies is seen in the time that Paul was in Lystra. There he healed a man who had been unable to walk for his entire life.

Dr. Luke tells us that Paul told the man to stand up on his feet! In response to Paul’s request, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what had happened, they went crazy.

These pagan people understood that only the gods could heal people. And they put 2 and 2 together and arrived at the conclusion that since this man was healed, Paul and Barnabus must therefore be gods. Paul immediately rebukes them for this false conclusion as he points them away from himself to God. Paul knew that the healing merely opened the door for them to preach the gospel. For he said, “We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.’” (Acts 14:10-11, 14-15)

In closing, let me ask you what good does it do for you to be healed only to die later in your sins? Oh you may be a good looking corpse lying in your coffin, but those good looks won’t do you any good as you spend eternity in hell. Even the strength you now have won’t help you overcome the pain that comes from being burned by the flames of hell that are so hot that they torment you, yet they never kill you. That is why it is essential for you to have a relationship with the only one who can give you eternal life.

If you’re not a Christian, let me encourage you to right now ask the Great Physican, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come into your heart, and heal your sin-sick soul. He can do this because he is the one who let the Roman soldiers beat his back with a whip, 39 times, just so his blood could flow from those wounds so that he could rescue you from the terrorist Satan, who is holding you as a hostage. Jesus also let the Roman soldiers nail his hands & feet to a cross so that through the blood that came forth from those wounds could pay the ransom to set you free from the penalty & power of sin. And he did all that just because he loved you. So how can you reject one who has such a love for you?

Letís pray

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