Last week I shared how healing is first and foremost a confirming sign of the resurrection of Jesus. But what about we believers? Doesn't healing belong to us?
Healing questions - down to the nitty gritty
When we move from healings being a sign to unbelievers to confirm the claims of Jesus, to healing being one of the 'benefits' of being a believer, the responsibility for healing shifts from God to us. But many believers are still mentally looking to God for a sovereign move as He would for an unbeliever. Often they end up having a crisis of faith, not understanding what is at work. Let us examine elements of our responsibility.
The prejudice and strife of the Corinthians
In I Corinthians 3: 3-15 Paul reveals there are some in Corinth living in envy, strife, and divisions. He tells them that is wood, hay and stubble that if they carry it in their hearts all the way to death, when they stand before the Lord all that will be burned away from them. He says they will be saved, but as ones having been through a fire.
Later in I Corinthians 11: 17-31 he reveals some have such envy, strife and divisions that they won't have the Lord's Supper nor meet with other believers. They met off to themselves first, and then came together for the main meeting. He tells them they have their homes they can eat and drink it, but they need to come together with everyone else instead of being off by themselves, rightly discerning the body of Christ, who made us one in Him.
The background of the church in Corinth is told in Acts 18, where we see Jews, Romans, and Greeks all meeting together in the house of the Roman, Justus. We know historically that Corinth was a sea port with a wide range of social levels, from ship owners to sailors, from store owners to clerks and all of various races. Culturally the upper Roman classes did not meet with lower classes, and Jews would never mingle with Gentiles - and then they came to Jesus and started meeting in Justus' home. So they had a lot in their hearts to deal with.
When Paul addresses the prejudice - racial and socio-economic - of some, he said because they had not "discerned the Lord's body, many of you are weak and sickly, and many have died early." We would say today that their immune systems were compromised because of hate, strife, and prejudice, and that made them weak, sickly, and even many had died prematurely as a result of illnesses their now weakened immune systems couldn't handle.
But if your friend, say a Spirit-filled Roman who took sick, you would not immediately think of relating their hatred for Jews as the reason they got sick. You would pray for them, you might lay hands on them, command some unknown demon out just in case one was the cause, and offer prayers for your friend, wondering why God wasn't healing them. You might even anoint them with oil, wondering where is healing?
Healing is available, but their prejudice, envy, strife, hatred, or other condition of their emotions and heart, prevent them from receiving. If they died you might never know why God didn't heal them. Paul urged the Corinthians to "judge yourselves, for if we judge ourselves we won't be judged of the Lord." The Lord allowed them to die early rather than have their hatred carry them off into deeper sin. That is His judgement on the matter, according to Paul.
Summary: We are responsible for walking in love, and to hold onto sin is to open ourselves to illness that God won't heal, because our heart is our responsibility. To heal a person in bitterness and hatred would only enable them to continue deeper in sin, and God won't be a part of that. So He lets them experience the consequences of their heart.
Another example: Sins against the body.
Paul says in I Corinthians 6:18 that sexual sins are sins against the body, and are manifest in the body. That is a general principle he lays out in the larger context: Sins against the body stay in the body.
Francis Hunter, who along with her husband Charles, were well known back in the charismatic outpouring of the 1970's for their healing ministry. She told the story of the woman who came to her frustrated, saying: "I cast the calories out of my desserts, but I've still gained 10 pounds (5k), what am I doing wrong?" Francis told her we can cast demons out, but calories are our responsibility. A moment on the lips is forever on the hips - that sin against your body stays in your body.
The same is true of abuse of drugs or alcohol, overwork, smoking, or even over exercising. Running or jogging or lifting weights too much as well. Whatever sin against our body we do, that sin stays in the body. That means it is our responsibility. You can't be 110 pounds (50 kilos) overweight with sore feet and joints and look to God to heal those feet and joints - He can give grace, but you over-ate so you must take that weight off. Otherwise, to heal you God is enabling the abuse of the body and enabling you to add still more weight to those overworked joints.
An orthopedic surgeon told me for every 5 pounds (2.2k) extra a person weighs, it exerts 100 pounds (45k) of force on each knee with every step. That means 50 pounds overweight (22k) adds 1000 pounds additional (453k) force with every step taken. That's our responsibility not God's.
Jesus healed people who needed healing through no fault of their own.
What we see in the gospels is Jesus healing injuries not caused by sins against the body. The man with the withered arm in Mark 3: 1-5 was no doubt an injury for it was described as 'withered', meaning it had been whole, but something happened to make it unusable. In Matthew 15:30 it says Jesus healed the maimed, which is injury. We see healings of the man born blind, the lame, deaf and dumb and so on, conditions caused through no fault of their own. We don't see Jesus healing people who caused their own illness by neglecting or abusing their body.
Faith is not something we hide behind because we are afraid to go to the doctor. Nor can we claim faith when healing by doing some practical things is within our ability. A missionary friend once observed the reason for the many miracles they saw was simple: There were no doctors, pharmacies, or medicines where they lived so God healed them. But when all those things became available to the people, the number of miracles became fewer. How do we balance medicine and God and our fears, and is there healing for conditions received before we knew the Lord?
We'll pick up there next week, until then, blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org