27th September 2019
What is Christian healing?
Roy Laurence said, "Christian healing is the difference that Jesus Christ makes in body, mind, spirit and lifestyle for those who take him seriously."
Morris Maddocks said, "Christian healing is Jesus Christ meeting you at the point of your need."
And, if might add my own definition, "This is Christian healing: Get as close to Jesus as you can, stay there as long as you can, be honest with Him, and see what happens."
Christian healing doesn't always have the effect we desire. The same could be said of the medical profession, but that doesn't stop us seeing the doctor.
Here are three true propositions:
God wants to heal us
Surely this is a true statement. Indeed, I can't imagine a loving God who doesn't want to heal us. Since God wants to heal us, and since God is all powerful, what's the problem?
There are 1,000 reasons why we don't experience healing as and when we want to. And there's a real risk is identifying any one of those reasons, because it can make people to whom that reason doesn't apply feel bad. On the other hand, there's real value in identifying one of the reasons, because doing so may equip somebody to address the reason, and get healed.
Here's an example. In the gospels, some people were not healed because of their lack of faith. Matthew 13:58 says Jesus "did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." But that doesn't mean that everybody who isn't healed lacks faith. Paul said that God gave him a thorn in the flesh "to keep me from becoming conceited" (2 Corinthians 12:7) and then refused to heal him, presumably because the need to be free from conceit was more important for Paul than physical healing. I'm sure Paul had faith to be healed, but God wanted to heal his tendency towards arrogance before he healed his body.
What I'm trying to say is this: there is no one-size-fits-all healing sermon, or healing technique, or healing prayer. And God knows how to heal us, and in what order, and healing isn't merely physical, because we're not merely physical.
Christian healing is holistic
To quote Roy Laurence again, Jesus "made a difference to people physically, but the difference was much deeper than that. Not only did the lame walk, the deaf hear and the blind see, but new peace and sanity came to those who were mentally and emotionally tormented, and tarnished evildoers became clean and new. Lifestyles were transformed. Aims and attitudes were changed. There was a new relationship with people and with God."
You are one person, and the components of your personhood are interrelated. Your body affects your soul. We know how hard it is to pray when we're unwell. Your mind affects your body. Stress can make us ill. Your spiritual state affects your mind and your body. Sin and guilt can stop us sleeping, make us tense, and dominate and twist our thought lives. Your mind affects your spiritual state. A refusal to repent or to forgive can damage your prayer life.
Sometimes repentance leads to healing. Sometimes healing leads to repentance. Sometimes emotional healing leads to physical healing. Sometimes spiritual healing leads to emotional healing. And so on.
Here's passage that shows us that spiritual health leads to physical health:
Is that literally true? I think it is. What about these passages, also from the book of Proverbs:
If we care for our heart, not only our physical heart but also the centre of our emotional and intellectual life, our whole body will be healthier.
What if that's literally true? What if envy sometimes – but not always – leads to osteoporosis?
What if that's true? What if the way you speak to people affects their physical health as well as their emotional health?
Surely this means that if you're cheerful, you'll be healthier than if you're grumpy. And so will the people around you.
And some people have what can rightly be described as a crushed spirit. Life, or illness, or an individual person, or a group, has crushed their spirit. We, as God's church, can help people find healing by being a loving, gentle and cheerful community, so their hearts can heal up here.
Every time we pray, God does something. God knows in what order you need to be healed. Maybe he wants to heal you spiritually first. Or maybe he wants to heal you emotionally first. Maybe he wants to modify your lifestyle first. Let God speak, let God touch you, and respond.
To return to our example about the relationship between faith and healing, it would be highly irresponsible, untrue, painful and deeply damaging, to suggest that everybody who isn't healed has failed by not having enough faith. And it's equally irresponsible to suggest that faith is unimportant, or that it makes no difference.
Here's the truth: healing is far too complicated for us to write a definitive theology of healing. We're all different, and God treats us individually.
But we do know that, sometimes, if we increase or faith, or if we repent of a sin, or if we modify our lifestyles, or if we spend more time in prayer or in worship, or if we forgive somebody who sinned against us, or if we spend more time in helpful company, or if we eat and drink more healthily, then, sometimes, some of us will be healed.
But it's also true that sometimes we're just ill because we sat next to an ill person on the bus, or we're injured because we had an accident. Sometimes stuff just happens. There's not always some deep spiritual or emotional reason.
Many sermons are preached on the subject of healing, and they're all incomplete. When you hear the next one, it might apply to you, and it might not. It might be life-changingly relevant for you, or it might be a pleasant recitation of truths you already know. But don't be offended by it. It might be talking about a blockage to healing that you haven't got. Perhaps it's helpful for somebody else.
Here's another truth: physical healing is less important that spiritual healing or emotional healing. God is working on our spiritual and emotional health now, to prepare us for eternity. We will always be the person we are now, but we are being healed – made perfect – spiritually and emotionally, for ever. We'll get a new body at the Resurrection. As Russ Parker sometimes says, physical healing is the only one you don't get to keep.
And here – I believe – is one more truth: spiritual and emotional healing leads to physical healing more often that we realize, and physical healing is delayed by our reluctance to embrace spiritual and emotional healing, more often that we care to admit.
So let's trust God, and get as close to Jesus as we can, stay there as long as we can, be honest with Him, and see what happens. And let's try to obey any prompting of His Holy Spirit. Since God wants to heal us, and since God knows the best order in which to heal our spiritual, emotional and physical problems, let us seek to co-operate with him.