This is actually part two to a post I wrote quite some time ago, just never got around to finishing. In it, I challenge the common teaching that “if you believe, you will be healed.” But that’s not always the case – especially when a greater purpose is involved. Read on:
Does God heal all those who ask? Some think so, but that teaching is not found in Scripture. God does not promise healing to everyone who asks for it. Rather, He promises grace and peace. SOME may be healed, but only if it’s within God’s perfect plan. For some, He may have a different plan in mind, one that is yet perfect for that person.
Paul is an easy place to start. The Apostle Paul is known for many things. His faith, the Biblical books he penned, the trials in his faith. Some of the most famous phrases we use today can be traced back to his words – and we are going to look at one of them now.
He has not had an easy road. In other places, he makes mention of the many trials he has faced. Acts gives a play-by-play of the difficulties he encountered in sharing the Gospel, the persecutions he endured. Yet there is one that stands out above the others, one thing that he specifically asks for God to remove. Now, it doesn’t say what that thing is – it’s rather quiet on that, actually, probably with reason. It doesn’t matter. Plug in your own problem in your own life, and there you are. It’s whatever it needs to be.
So what does God tell him? “My grace is sufficient for thee.” One of those oft-repeated phrases. But like with most quotes, half of it is left behind. It’s nice to think that God’s grace is sufficient, and it is, but it’s also important to remember WHY. “For my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
When we are weak, whether physically or spiritually, that weakness is used to reveal God’s strength. We are weak, we suffer – but God will not automatically heal. Sometimes, yes, but then sometimes, He finds that our suffering is a better testimony of His grace.
God is always looking to bring us to a place of closer fellowship with Him. At the same time, He is always looking to use us to reach others, so they could have that same fellowship. Sometimes, that means healing, so that you and those around you can see the awesome power of the mighty God that we serve. God can do great things!
On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that will always be the case. Sometimes, His glory is instead shown through the grace He gives to those who are suffering. When someone is going through great trial, others look to see how they will handle it. Some are looking for God to bring immediate healing, while others question why it would even happen in the first place. Where is God in all of this?
That answer is played out in the grace and strength that person displays. Healing is an inspiration, sure, but to be so buffeted by trials and still stand strong – that is an even greater inspiration. It is stories like these that bring others to Christ, after seeing the peace that He can give even in the greatest of trials.
Job is a common example of suffering. The first two chapters illustrate a side of a story that we rarely see: a conversation in heaven between God and Satan. In this conversation, we see that God points out Job as an example of a faithful man. Satan challenges this statement and in an effort to prove his point, sets about wreaking all sorts of havoc in Job’s life. Satan’s efforts leave the man, once one of the wealthiest men in the region, penniless and childless. His health is also in decline as he was struck with extremely painful boils all over his body. To add insult to injury, Job’s wife chastises him for his continued faith in God, and his friends are insistent in pointing out the sin in his life as the cause of his troubles.
Now, this “health” doctrine would have you believe that all Job had to do was envision himself well, rebuke the illness, and pray to God, and he would be well. But that would have defeated God’s purpose, which was to show how faithful His servant could be, even when pressed. Giving Job an easy out by granting him health as soon as it was asked would have countered that aim. Job would not find healing or restoration until God’s purpose was achieved. Incidentally, in order to receive restoration, Job had to forgive his friends and pray for them; it was not a prayer for healing that saved him.
“But that’s in the Old Testament,” they say. “We’re in the New Testament age now.” As if everything that happened before is moot and doesn’t apply, never mind that God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever”, but we’ll take it anyway, just for the sake of discussion.
So what New Testament examples can we come up with? We’ve already covered Paul, on several counts. Is there more?
What about other tribulations, other than health? Steven was stoned, John was exiled. All but one of the apostles were executed, usually in torturous manners. Peter was crucified. Oh, but these aren’t physical illnesses – does that make the trial any less great? Is one affliction different from another, so that God will heal 100% of one, but not of the other?
John chapter 9 tells the story of a man who was blind from birth. The disciples asked who had sinned to cause this man’s affliction. Listen to Christ’s response here: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3) Christ was saying that this man was born blind specifically so that God could work His purpose. Yes, that purpose was healing, that is true. But it was not based on the man’s faith. No doubt, both his man and his parents petitioned the Lord for healing. Now, we don’t know about the faith of either of them, but we can at least say that it didn’t matter. Even if the man was the most faithful man in Israel, had the greatest faith of anyone, his petition still would have gone unanswered.
Why? Because it wasn’t the appointed time. That man was born blind specifically so that at the right moment, Jesus Christ could come along and heal him, thus showing the power and glory of God. Had he been healed before that point, that purpose would not have been achieved. This man’s healing was not based on his faith, but on the purpose of God.
Sometimes, healing comes as a result of faith. James tells us that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And the centurion’s servant was healed even as Jesus marveled that He had not seen so great a faith. It is true that prayer can bring healing. But it’s only a possibility, not a promise. It is all about God’s purpose.
To say otherwise is to make God into little more than a wishing wand – if you wish hard enough, it will come true. God is not here to be at our beck and call. He may heal us, but it’s not promised. It’s not a certainty. It’s not something He does just because we said it loud enough.