Faith and Healing I
Bible Study 10 - Part 1 of 3
A detailed study of the Bible indicates that miracles, including healings occur more frequently in certain eras of the Bible than in others.
Often miracles coincide with the beginning of a new phase of God's plan: for example when Moses was preparing to lead Israel out of Egypt and when the New Testament Church began in 31 A.D. (Frequently miracles and healings happened to those who were unconverted.)
By way of contrast, during the time of the Judges, when Israel was steeped in idolatry, we find the following in I Samuel 3:1 “. . . In those days a word from the Lord was rare, and a vision was infrequent” (New Berkeley Version). The New International Version has it this way, “. . . In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” [emphasis ours throughout].
Also, later in the first century A.D. instantaneous healings became rare and we read of people having to endure sickness (II Cor. 12:7-9; Gal. 4:13-15; Phil. 2:25-30; II Tim. 4:20; I Tim. 5:23).
This does not mean that God stopped performing miracles or healings, but they became less frequent as true believers became scattered and few, while false Christianity came into bloom.
This is the situation we find ourselves in today in the final era of God's Church.
Clearly the spirit of Laodiceanism is displeasing to God (Rev. 3:16), but we are not Laodicean brethren, we are a remnant of the Philadelphia era, the era which took the true gospel into the world under the leadership of God's chosen apostle, Herbert W. Armstrong.
Because of that it is important that we approach our God in a Philadelphian manner for healing. What exactly do I mean by that? Mr. Armstrong, who headed up the Philadelphia era, once remarked that what made him unique in his time was that he simply took God at His word. As a result he expected God to do exactly what He said He would do. Thus, Mr. Armstrong was able to step forward boldly in faith because of his absolute trust that God would follow through on what He promised.
This is a key to answered prayer. Note Paul's words in Hebrews 4:14-16:
Inasmuch then as we have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has passed through the heavens, let us hold firmly to our confession. For ours is not a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who was in every respect tested as we are, yet without committing any sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with assurance, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need (New Berkeley Version).
Yes, we must boldly approach our God without a trace of doubt that not only will He hear our petitions but will answer them in the way that is best for us!
In regard to healing, what does God say of Himself? In Exodus 15:26, He describes Himself to the Israelites as YHVH-Ropheka, which means “the Lord that heals you.” This is one of God's titles. Ropheka comes from rapha, which means, to cause to heal, to repair, to thoroughly make whole or cure. The derivative of rapha relates to mending something through stitching, such as a garment or an open wound. This is the word most frequently translated “heal” or “healing” in the Old Testament. We see it used in Psalms 103:3, where God is described as the One who heals all our diseases.
Moving to the New Testament, we find that the sacrifice of Christ involved more than the payment for our sins. The terrible scourging He endured paid the penalty for the sins which cause our sicknesses and diseases. These have their genesis in the breaking of God's laws, physical and spiritual, now and throughout the generations all the way back to Adam and Eve. This is the essence of what we read in I Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
Just as we depend on the death of Christ to pay for our sins and so enable us to be reconciled to God the Father, we can also be assured that His scourged body gives absolute proof that it is God's desire to heal us when we are sick. We must have absolute confidence in this and confidence simply means faith or trust that God will come through for us. He is a God of His word!
In Hebrews 11:6, we are told “Without faith [trust] it is impossible to please him . . .” The latter part of the verse explains why. “ . . . for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” You see faith at its core stems from our conviction that God actually exists in a concrete way as the powerful Creator of the universe and at the same time as our loving Father Whose desire is to make us well when we are sick. So is He real to us or not? Do we really believe in His power and desire to heal us? Christ's torture was real and through it He clearly demonstrated His love and concern for us. We have to believe and boldly and courageously come before the throne of grace, in a repentant attitude claiming God's promise to heal.
Yes, God has a responsibility to follow through on what He has promised and on what He alone can deliver, yet we too have a responsibility which we read of in James 5.
Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (Jas. 5:14-15).
Again we see faith involved. It is the prayer of faith, of those who absolutely trust in God that moves Him to act.
The Greek word translated faith is pistis and it means the living, divinely implanted principle. Because this kind of faith for healing comes from God Himself. So now we see that not only does God heal as a result of faith, but that He Himself provides it. Where does that leave us?
What then is expected of us? Two things! First ask for faith, and second step out on it. As James said, “faith without works is dead . . . “ so we have to exercise it, put it into action. The work that God did through Mr. Herbert Armstrong could not have been accomplished unless Mr. Armstrong's trust or reliance on God had been accompanied by action on Mr. Herbert Armstrong's part. He proved his faith or trust by his action. Most times that meant stepping out into the unknown.
How so? Well, look how faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The J. B. Phillips translation puts it this way, “Now faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.”
When we are sick, all we know, feel, or see is that we are sick, that we are experiencing pain. Exercising godly faith means that notwithstanding our physical condition, we are, in our minds, already healed. This is relaxed faith and it must also be steadfast, because God does not set any specific time limit on when He will actually remove the physical evidence of our illness.
I remember Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong saying that once you are anointed and prayed over, it is unwise to set your mind on the physical symptoms of the affliction. He said to keep your eyes and your mind on Christ. Why? Because if the symptoms don't disappear within your desired time frame, you might lose heart and give up saying, “I guess God just isn't going to heal me” (See Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Volume 1). This of course is the very attitude that bars God from acting for us, since again, without faith it is impossible to please Him. It is necessary to trust implicitly in our loving God.
And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God--who gives generously to all men without making them feel guilty--and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts. For the man who doubts is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from the Lord, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn. (Jas. 1:5-8, Phillips).
During Christ's ministry, as well as healing the sick, He cast out many demons. An example in Mark 9 is pertinent to this study, because it involves faith. A man brought his son to Jesus because his son was possessed with a demon that threw the child violently into the water and into the fire. The father asked Jesus, “`. . . if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.' Jesus said unto him, `If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth'” (Mk. 9:22-23). The word “believe” is pisteuo and it means to have faith (pistis) in. The answer of the father was touching but honest. “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, `Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief'”(v. 24). This man did not have the Holy Spirit and he knew he lacked of himself what was necessary to have his son restored, yet he had discovered where to get the help. Yes, Jesus Christ is our Mediator with God. We pray to the Father in Christ's name or by His authority . . . and in this case we need to ask the Father for more of that living faith, trust, or confidence, in an invisible God to provide for us in every way.
Remember, everything we see or understand by the physical senses was originally created out of spirit, invisible spirit. Nevertheless, the concept of faith is foreign to us. We want to see or feel the evidence first so that we can be reassured. We don't buy houses or cars on faith do we? No, we want to see them, look them over, or test-drive them before we buy them. With faith we simply have to trust God to provide for our needs without any physical evidence being provided beforehand. It is a bit like a wartime crossing of a raging river by a ford on a pitch-black night. The top of the ford is two feet below the surface of the water and we can't see it. All we know is that it exists and that the enemy is closing in on us quickly. We must cross or be killed. We have to step out in faith or die!
Back in the 1940's and 50's, Mr. Armstrong frequently agreed to buy radio time on important stations when the Church did not have sufficient funds to cover the obligation. He knew God expected him to go through the doors that were being opened to him to proclaim the gospel and God did supply the exact amount of money required, often down to the penny.
Such events helped to bolster his faith in God to supply what was needed. But without him boldly accepting the risk and trusting God, nothing would have happened, nothing would have been achieved.
When God's ministers come to anoint the sick and lay hands on them for healing, they must also be bold in making their request to God to follow through on what He has promised. The sick person has fulfilled his obligation to call for the elders, so all that remains is for God to keep His word. He does so on the basis of faith and therefore the minister must be confident in his request to God on behalf of the sick. This is an aspect of leadership that supports the faith of the recipient of the anointing.
Mr. Herbert Armstrong learned this lesson back in 1927 from a man he invited to come and ask God to heal Mrs. Armstrong when her doctor gave her just twenty-four hours to live. The account is found in Volume 1 of Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, pages 326-330. Mrs. Armstrong was miraculously healed. Let me now quote Mr. Armstrong's account of this incident.
The Meaning of FAITH.
We knelt in prayer beside her bed. As he anointed my wife with oil from a vial he carried, he uttered a quiet, positive, very earnest and believing prayer which was utterly different from any prayer I had ever heard.
This man actually dared to talk directly to God, and to tell God what He had PROMISED to do! He quoted the promises of God to heal. He applied them to my wife. He literally held God to what he had promised! It was not because we, as mortal humans, deserved what he asked, but through the merits of Jesus Christ, and according to God's great mercy.
He merely claimed God's PROMISE to heal. He asked God to heal her completely, from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet.
`You have promised,' he said to God, `and you have given us the right to hold you to your promise to heal by the power of your mighty Holy Spirit. I hold you to that promise! We expect to have an answer!'
Never had I heard anyone talk like that to God!
It was not a long prayer--perhaps a minute or two. But as he spoke I knew that as sure as there is a God in heaven, my wife had to be healed! Any other result would have made God out a liar. Any other result would have nullified the authority of the Scriptures. Complete assurance seized me--and also my wife. We simply knew that she was released from everything that had gripped her--she was freed from the sickness--she was healed! To have doubted would have been to doubt God--to doubt the Bible. It simply never occurred to us to doubt. We believed! We knew!
We had learned a new lesson in the meaning of faith. Faith is not only the evidence of that which we do not see or feel--it is not only the ASSURANCE of what we hope for--it is definite knowing that God will DO whatever He has promised. Faith is BASED on God's written PROMISES. The Bible is filled with thousands of God's promises. They are there for us to claim. They are SURE. God can't lie.
If there is any one attribute to God's character that is more outstanding than any other, it is God's faithfulness--the fact that HIS WORD IS GOOD! Think how hopeless we would be if God's word were not good! And if a man's word is not to be trusted, all his other good points go for naught--he is utterly lacking in right character.
This man had read the scriptures which confirmed that God is our Healer, then he had simply demanded that God fulfill His promise to heal. As Mr. Armstrong said, the impact on him and his wife was “complete assurance . . . . We simply knew that she was released from everything that had gripped her - she was freed from the sickness - she was healed!” There was absolutely no doubts in their minds. This is what is required for healing.
In Mark 5, we find two examples of healings by Jesus. Both involve people who did not have God's spirit dwelling in them, but who recognized the authority and power of Jesus of Nazareth. One was Jairus the president of a synagogue whose little daughter was dying and the other was a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years.
The following account is from the Phillips translation,
Then came a man called Jairus, one of the synagogue presidents, And when he saw Jesus, he knelt before him, pleading desperately for his help. `My little girl is dying,' he said. `Will you come and put your hands on her--then she will get better and live.' Jesus went off with him, followed by a large crowd jostling at his elbow. Among them was a woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years and who had gone through a great deal at the hands of many doctors, spending all her money in the process. She had derived no benefit from them but, on the contrary, was getting worse. This woman had heard about Jesus and came up behind him under cover of the crowd, and touched his cloak, `For if I can only touch his clothes,' she kept saying, `I shall be all right.' The hemorrhage was stopped immediately, and she knew in herself that she was cured of her trouble. At once Jesus knew intuitively that power had gone out of him, and he turned round in the middle of the crowd and said, `who touched my clothes?' His disciples replied, `You can see this crowd jostling you. How can you ask, “Who touched me?”' But he looked all round at their faces to see who had done so. Then the woman, scared and shaking all over because she knew that she was the one to whom this thing had happened, came and flung herself before him and told him the whole story. But he said to her, `Daughter, it is your faith that has healed you. Go home in peace, and be free from your trouble.' While he was still speaking, messengers arrived from the synagogue president's house, saying, `Your daughter is dead--there is no need to bother the master further.' But when Jesus heard this message, he said to the president of the synagogue, `Now don't be afraid, just go on believing!' Then he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John, James's brother. They arrived at the president's house and Jesus noticed the hubbub and all the weeping and wailing, and as he went in, he said to the people in the house, `Why are you making such a noise with your crying? The child is not dead; she is fast asleep.' They greeted this with a scornful laugh. But Jesus turned them all out, and taking only the father and mother and his own companions with him, went into the room where the child was. Then he took the little girl's hand and said to her in Aramaic, `Little girl, I tell you to get up!' At once she jumped to her feet and walked round the room, for she was twelve years old. This sight sent the others nearly out of their minds with joy (Mk. 5:22-42).
There are a number of factors to look at in these accounts of healing by Jesus. In the case of the woman, Christ confirmed that she was made whole, restored or healed as a result of faith. He also explains how healing is accomplished. He said that power [virtue (AV)] had gone out of Him to heal her. The Greek word used here is dunamis from which we get the English words dynamite and dynamo. This invisible dynamic power removes all trace of disease or sickness, purifies the blood, seals up open wounds and restores crushed bones. It is the same power that Christ used to create the entire universe and which holds it together. It is the power of the Holy Spirit and it is at our disposal if only we would believe. Christ attests to its power and strength in even the smallest amounts. In Matthew 17, we find a man's son possessed by a demon which Christ's disciples were unable to cast out. Let's note Christ's words beginning in verse 17:
Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matt. 17:17-20).
Jesus said it was lack of faith on the part of His disciples that stopped the demon from being removed. Then in verse 21, He gives two keys to strengthening faith, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Brethren, we too must ask on a daily basis for more of God's faith which is necessary for the release of His healing power.
Returning to the account of the healing of Jairus' daughter in Mark 5, you will note that in verse 35, Jairus is told that his daughter is dead! Christ's reaction to this news in verse 36 is “Now don't be afraid, just go on believing!” Forget the physical evidence, simply keep trusting in Me the Creator, to restore her to life. This would have become even more important to bear in mind as they came to Jairus' house and heard the mourners weeping and wailing. We have to be careful that unbelievers don't distract us to the point that we take our eyes off God who heals us and Christ whose scourging made it possible.
Healing is a wonderful gift from God for His physical children. How different is the spiritual from the physical? The spirit lives for ever. The physical is subject to decay and aging. God first made us physical to live in a world He knew would be dominated by Satan the Devil. Satan's influence would inevitably lead to spiritual and physical transgressions of God's law, and the result would be sin and sickness.
God hates to see His children suffer. So through Christ's sacrifice man can be reconciled to God and his physical ailments removed. In both cases faith is required for reconciliation and for healing.
The experiences we go through, the illnesses we have to cope with, are for a special purpose. That purpose is to enable us to draw ever closer to our Father in heaven and our elder Brother . . . and there is a reason behind this too. Do you know what that reason is?
It relates directly to why God called us and Christ chose us. Revelation 17:14 tells us that when Christ returns from heaven to rule this earth he will bring with Him those “called, chosen and faithful.” Faithful simply means full of faith. That is what we are here to develop in every aspect of our lives, including healing.
You see, the greatest test of our faith is believing that when the seventh trumpet sounds we will be changed from the temporal to the eternal and will rise in the air to meet Christ and ever be with Him!
None of us has perfect faith. Sometimes we are weak, too often we falter but God promises never to desert us if we get back up and stay in the fight.
Let us be able to say what Paul said in II Timothy 4:6-8:
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Hold fast brethren, never give up, for God says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
Other Important Articles:
Faith and Healing I
God's Church, Worldwide