Perhaps the most prevalent error made by people seeking healing, including those who are fully convinced of this truth, is the confusing of hope with faith. Sick people, when prayed for, naturally hope that they will be better, but hope is by no means faith. Hope is only passive, quite different from faith, which is active, creative. Hope has the element of uncertainty; it looks forward to a possibility, while faith looks backward to an accomplished fact. Faith rests with confident assurance on God’s word, though it receives no encouragement at all by what the eye may see. By faith, God created the worlds when there existed nothing but the eternal emptiness of space.
The natural man is a creature of his senses. If he still sees or feels the symptoms of an affliction he insists on believing what his senses tell him, rather than what God’s word has said. Faith, by contrast, is not influenced by what the eye sees, and indeed is indifferent to it. It is not a creature of the senses but draws its strength from the immutability of God’s word. If this were not the nature of faith, no such thing as faith would be necessary. Why should faith be needed for that which already exists, and the eye sees it and the hand feels it?
THE PARALLEL BETWEEN SALVATION AND HEALING
It is this misconception of what faith is that makes it difficult for some to understand and to appropriate physical healing. Yet really there should be no reason for this ignorance. The Bible teaching concerning healing is quite as simple as that of salvation. The truth is that the healing of the body and the salvation of the soul involves a similar work of the Spirit – and are governed by very nearly, it riot exactly, identical laws. The key to the understanding of the whole subject of Divine Healing lies in a recognition of the almost exact parallel between the faith necessary for healing and that necessary for salvation. Therefore, if we have a knowledge of the faith by which salvation comes, then by simple comparison we may understand the principles of faith for healing.
Let us note the similarity between the problem of securing deliverance for the soul from its sinfulness, and that of the deliverance of the body from its sickness. Most sinners, except perhaps the brashest of fools, entertain at least a secret hope of being eventually saved. But though the sinner recognizes the value of heaven, and may agree that the prospect of being eternally lost is infinitely more tragic than merely being sick, yet this powerful incentive to repentance is not sufficient in many cases to result in the sinner’s conversion. Moreover, even after the sinner has some appreciation of the awfulness of the disease of sin, and expresses a willingness to forsake it, yet he will not be saved until lie believes the good news that Christ died for him. Only when lie accepts the Finished Work of Calvary can he be saved! If the sinner will not believe, until lie feels saved–he will never be saved! Have not most of us witnessed people who have made this very mistake? It is only in the act of believing the Finished Work of Calvary that the sinner’s conversion takes place.
THE FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST
This belief in the Finished Work of Christ did not become the inheritance of the Christian church without a struggle, which indeed shook the church to its foundations. The truth came as a fruit of the Great Reformation. Luther and others discovered that prayers, penances, fastings, tears, and great strugglings of the soul, did not bring them to an enjoyment of peace with God. It was only when they boldly accepted the promise of the Finished Work of Christ, that heaven’s peace came. Nor was it easy in those days, to take such a stand. All the traditions of men, the myriad dogmas of the Medieval Church, all the instincts of the natural, unconverted man, clashed and revolted against such a truth. Nevertheless, men of daring boldness fought the battle through and won It! The truth that “the just shall live by faith,” once scarcely believed by anyone, eventually came to be the foundation stone of the faith of countless millions!
This truth, born of the Great Reformation, is understood by every successful soul-winner; and in helping the sinner he carefully instructs the candidate what he must do to be saved. He knows that it is a mistake to attempt to bring the sinner to a decision until the Spirit has deepened his convictions, and until he has a clear knowledge of God’s promise concerning salvation. The Christian worker realizes that it a man’s mind is confused, or it he has not fully taken hold of the promise, he is apt to succumb to the first strong temptation that comes his way. For this reason, a wise minister does not press action upon a sinner the first moment he enters a service. There is a preliminary work of the Spirit that needs to take place in his heart. There are instructions for his mind to receive. The Spirit must not be asked to do His office work of the New Birth before He has first done His work of conviction.
A PRELIMINARY WORK OF THE SPIRIT NECESSARY TO HEALING
The tragedy is that many Christian workers who clearly realize these things throw this wisdom to the winds when it comes to the matter of Divine Healing. Often they are anxious to have the sick person they are interested in, ministered to immediately, and if results are riot forthcoming in the way that they anticipate, they may even be indignant. People travel thousands of miles to clinics, they may spend a fortune to obtain the best of medical skill, and will accept the failure of physicians philosophically. But when they come for Divine Healing, they want to lay down the rules. To them, such Scriptures as “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” and, “lay hands suddenly on no man,” have little significance. Some, in ignorance of God’s Word, suppose that one with the gifts of healing should go from hospital to hospital, healing all that are sick. The often seem unaware of the Biblical account of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda where He healed one and left the other cripples and the infirm sitting there. Or that Jesus, while at Nazareth, could not (not would not) do mighty works there because of their unbelief. They overlook the fact that Christ’s teaching on healing anticipated a willingness on the part of the individual to submit his life completely to God, or, that when the Lord replied to a Gentile woman’s request to heal her daughter He declared that healing was the “children’s bread.” If we are to understand Divine Healing we must realize that it is the same power that heals the soul and forgives sin, that also heals the body. (James 5:14-16).
THE FINISHED WORK OF HEALING
It requires no long time for the sinner to be saved, once his heart is prepared to receive Christ, although sometimes it may take years for a person to get into a place that he is willing to yield to God. But once that moment arrives, salvation comes almost instantly. This is possible because of the Finished Work – salvation accomplished once and for all at Calvary. As long as the sinner does not believe, or postpones his salvation to the future, he will not be saved. Once he believes that God does it now, the work is done.
Christians do not reproach the work for encouraging the penitent to believe at once. There is no way for the sinner to be saved until he believes. No one accuses a worker of using deceit (except railers against the Gospel) if he urges the repentant soul to take God at His Word and to believe that salvation is an accomplished fact. Yet in the matter of Divine Healing, just such a charge is made, and that by Christians.
TWO FATEFUL ERRORS
We are now in a position to note two fateful errors that the Church makes in the matter of Divine Healing. First: Although it is generally accepted that a God-anointed teaching of the Word is required before ordinarily a true work of conversion may take place, often the same persons will not concede the Spirit of God the same opportunity in the matter of healing.
Too often they will encourage the sick person to be prayed for without teaching and may resent it if the minister advises the sick person first to prepare his heart. Second, although they will encourage a penitent sinner, to believe in the FINISHED WORK of salvation, some with fine inconsistency will reproach those who deal the same way in securing the healing of the sick. Some mischievously will point to some sick person who was supposed to have thought he was healed and who is still sick. This is criminal unbelief. It is similar to the act of one who would discourage a sinner from getting saved, by pointing to some backslider, who once thought he was saved but is now backslidden. Let God be true and every man a liar! According to God’s Word they were saved if they truly believed. So the sick person is healed if he believes. Both salvation and healing are a Finished Work of Calvary.
THE INTERRUPTED MIRACLE
Of course, if the new convert allows doubts to take refuge in his heart, the work of salvation becomes a miscarriage. The sick person who has received healing may likewise lose it if he allows doubts to secure a foothold in his heart. Did not Peter walk on the water? Yes, and it was truly a miracle. But the miracle miscarried when a doubt crept into his heart – which, we may add, was caused by Peter looking at the waves instead of Christ. Healing is a Finished Work, as far as God is concerned. But we have to appropriate it, and not allow the enemy to challenge our right to it. Peter declares, “by whose stripes ye were healed.” (Read also Isaiah 53 and Matthew 8:14-17). We do not pray healing down from heaven or persuade God to do what was fulfilled at Calvary. What we do is to appropriate healing in identically the same way that the sinner appropriates salvation.
THOSE WHO RECEIVE WITH JOY AND FALL AWAY
Jesus told of some who hear the gospel and “receive the word with joy and “…for a while believe, and in time temptation fall away.” Others said he, “are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life and bring no fruit to perfection.” (Luke 8:13-14). There was nothing wrong with the word that was sown in their hearts. There was nothing amiss with the encouragement it gave these people to believe, nor with the joy that came to them as a result of believing. The trouble was that they allowed something to disturb their believing, which “choked” or interrupted the work of the Spirit. This circumstance is also true of those who believe for healing. The moment a man believes for his physical deliverance, he receives it as far as God is concerned. “Whatsoever ye desire when ye pray, believe ye receive and ye shall have.” (Mark 11:24). Therefore if temptation comes, and one yields to the symptoms, he does the very thing the devil wants him to do. He does exactly as an erring new convert who, under temptation gives way to the enemy’s suggestion that he never was really saved. So is the man who believes for healing, then doubts and afterward declares he didn’t get his healing.
The truth is that the majority of people who come for healing are healed so far as God is concerned. The real problem is to keep these people from unbelief and from skepticism, and all those who are slaves to their sense knowledge. At this time as at no other, it is important to keep these people under the word of God and from association with unbelievers. The problem is identically the same as a pastor experiences when a large group of converts accept Christ. How he labors with these people, giving them loving attention, and feeding them with the sincere milk of the word. If he did not, in many cases they would fall by the wayside. Satan tempted Christ and said, “It thou be the son of God …” He tempts the sinner who has been truly saved. He will tempt every person who has been healed. But while the young convert is encouraged to resist temptation and the devil, and to look away to Christ, the person who is healed will all too often be given suggestions by friend or foe, by the weak and the well, by the preacher and the pew, to not be too sure of his healing, and to be on the alert for the return of his old affliction.
SIN OF UNBELIEF
We might as well face the truth. Unbelief is sin. It is condemned by the Lord, even worse than obscenity. Unbelief is war against the very law of being. It is a slavish loyalty to sense-knowledge and a disloyalty to the word of God.
A true pastor encourages his new converts to stand steady in the faith, even though they go through the fires of temptation as many must. He warns them to hold fast and not give way to the wiles of the enemy. Even so, the person who has been healed should be taught that it is God’s plan that sickness should be taken from his midst, (Exodus 23:25) and that God’s will for him is that he “should prosper and be in health even as (his) soul prospers.” This is the promise and it will be fulfilled in the lives of all who are bold to believe.