(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
8th February 2008
We looked last week at the truth that the reason Jesus heals us is because He loves us. Let's consider another passage of the Bible that teaches the same thing:
We often miss connections in the Bible because we don't read over chapter boundaries. The passage we just read is an example of this. The end of chapter 9 gives us Jesus's motivation for what He did in chapter 10. Because of His compassion for us, He sends His disciples out to heal us.
We're used to hearing 9v37-38 taught as being exclusively about evangelism, but the context is both evangelism and healing. Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching, preaching and healing (verse 35). Then, out of His compassion, He sent others to share in the work, so that more of us could receive both preaching (see 10v7) and healing (10v1).
The first thing for us to understand, then, is that Jesus's compassion for ordinary people is so great that He sends His disciples out to teach and heal them.
Who are His disciples? Then, it was the Twelve - Peter, James, John and the others (10v2). But now it's US. Isn't it? There's no-one else. Either the church goes, or no-one goes. "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (9v38). If you're a Christian then - as I said last week - I really hope you pray for the sick. Just as I really hope you look for ways to share the gospel with the lost.
But there's something else to notice here. Jesus gave His disciples authority. That authority was "to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness" (10v1). And - as we're still His disciples - He gives us the same authority. Consider, for example:
(Do you think that instruction only applied for a few years after the resurrection? What's your Biblical basis for such a belief? How much of the New Testament are you prepared to throw away on the same basis? Why would you suppose God has stopped wanting to heal people? His compassion has not dried up!)
In many churches, no-one even prays for the sick - so it's no wonder that none are healed. We've made our theology subject to our experience, when we should make our experience subject to our theology. We've said that we don't see people healed, so Christian healing must have died out, so we won't pray for it. So we don't see people healed.
In other churches, we pray, because we know that's part of our job, but we don't have any expectation that God will answer, or any grasp of the authority Jesus has given us:
In Verse 20, Jesus starts by saying that the reason why Christians fail to heal others is a low level of faith. I expect most Christians would accept that (including those who claim to believe that healing doesn't really exist any more). But then Jesus says "I tell you the truth", which is always used as a wake-up call - it means "pay attention" - and, having got the disciples' attention, he said "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move". That is, if you have faith to use the authority you've been given, you can move mountains. And, just in case that wasn't clear enough, Jesus then says "Nothing will be impossible for you".
But would you command a mountain to move? Or would you rationalise this scripture away, saying that it only applied then, and not now?
By God's grace, I have been healed through prayer. But I've also been prayed for and not healed. By His grace, a number of people have been healed when I've prayed for them. But also, many have not. I know Christian healing is real - both because the Bible says so, and because I've experienced it (from both sides). But I have to confess that it's still a surprise when God answers a prayer for healing. Why? Because of statistics.
Statistically, I have more experience of not seeing a prayer for healing resulting in healing than of seeing God respond in power and answering the prayer in the way we wanted. But I have seen God's mighty power at work in human bodies sometimes! Many of us grapple with the question, why does God heal us sometimes and not others? There isn't one single, easy answer to that, but here's one answer:
My friend and colleague at Acorn, Sean Larkin, says "It's time we stopped complaining to God for not doing more, and started to learn to use what He's already given us". Now, perhaps you've never complained at God. Or perhaps you've shaken your fist at Him for not answering a prayer that you really wanted answered. Either way, I'm convinced that if you and I really believed in the power of prayer, and if we learned to use the authority that Jesus has already given us, a lot more of our prayers would be answered.
I'm a slow learner. But I'm determined to learn. I've seen a number of healings, but I want to see more. I know God is compassionate towards men, women and children, but I want to see more of that compassion resulting in miraculous aid for those who need it. Jesus sends His disciples to preach and to heal. I know that it's His power, not ours, that heals. But I also know that it's our responsibility to heed the call, to go and preach and to pray for the sick, and to take up and use our God-given "authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness". I expect that learning to pray for the sick, and learning to speak to diseases and demons and mountains with our God-given authority is a bit like learning to preach, or cook, or dance, or anything else - the more you do it, the better you get.
I don't know if this is a true story, but I've heard that someone asked John Wimber why God seemed to answer more of his prayers than other people's. His answer (I'm told) was "the only difference between you and me if I've prayed for 10,000 more people than you have". I don't think that answer tells us the whole truth, but I know there's a lot of truth in it.
Have you prayed for healing and been disappointed? You could give up, of course. But it would be better to study the Bible - to learn all you can about Christian healing, to pray for faith and for wisdom, and to keep on praying.
And use the authority that Jesus Christ has delegated to us.