THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Miracles of Healing
By Steve Webb
I have been active in church ministry of various kinds for many years and have a Master of Divinity degree. I say this because I want to explain that even though I have a good theology background, there are different views among Bible-believing Christians as to God's miraculous work in the world today, and I cannot give each of these views justice. I will explain what I believe and I encourage you to seek the viewpoints of other knowledgeable Christians for comparison.
First of all, let me remind you that God is not equally active at all times in all places with respect to the outward working of miracles. As shown in the Bible, I believe that God most powerfully shows His miraculous hand at work during the historical times when there was important revelation being given. Specifically, these times were during the days of the Patriarchs, during the prophets (Elijah, Elisha, etc.), and during Jesus' ministry followed by the establishment of the church in Acts. Miracles were virtually absent at other times. The accompanying miracles during these three times were designed to provide God's clear affirmation to the revelation being given. That we may believe in this revelation was the main purpose of the miracles (John 10:38).
Outside of these periods of time, God continues to work His miraculous gifts, but less openly, and I believe, less frequently. As examples of this, you may be aware of statistical studies that show Christians, on average, live longer than nonbelievers, but not dramatically longer. The rather small lifespan discrepancy can be readily explained by healthier lifestyles (less smoking, drinking, lower stress, less AIDS, etc.) rather than God extending lifetimes via miraculous healing. In contrast, I would expect Christians to live considerably longer than nonbelievers if miracles were prominently involved. Similarly, surveys that have been done of hospital patients who have received prayer for healing versus those without prayer. These studies generally show a greater amount of healing for those who receive prayer, but only by a slim margin. Once again, I would expect there to be a huge difference rather than a small difference if miraculous healing was commonly occurring. ScienceDaily.org has an article that would be a good place to start for those who wish to dig further into the statistical side of this subject.
Somewhat similarly, people who are desperately seeking relief for themselves or loved ones from dire health problems are not stupid. If it became obvious that Christians, and only Christians, were receiving the gift of healing, then this would become openly acknowledged and would result in a nonstop flood of people seeking healing in a Christian venue. People will do most anything to avoid a medical death sentence and there is no doubt that they would go through whatever the church requested of them in order to achieve their healing.
There are very important implications to this. If God heals Christians, and only Christians, this is actually not a good thing. It is a terrible thing. It turns God into a tyrant instead of a loving Father. People no longer would have the free will to seek or not seek God. Pretty much everyone, however reluctantly, would be forced to come to God in order to receive His miraculous gifts. People would no longer be seeking God from an open heart, but rather seeking Him because they had no other choice in order to receive miraculous healing. This is not the God of the Bible who brings rain on both the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45). God wants people to seek Him from a humble heart, loving Him as their father, rather than because He will reward them with healing miracles. I encourage you to do a study sometime of the word "seek" in the Bible to see its importance. In the New American Standard Version the word "seek" (with its cognate forms) is used 452 times, mostly in connection with man seeking God. God wants people to voluntarily search for Him. He does not want to display the power of His hand. He could easily shake the foundations of the Earth and announce His presence from the heavens in a manner that would instantly knock everyone to their knees. That is not our God; that is not the God of the Bible. He does not work that way. He wants people to knock on the door and to seek so that it will be opened.
Let me repeat that these thoughts are my own. I am not trying to speak for all Christians, many of whom disagree with me. In my opinion, the prominent faith healers of this generation are mainly hucksters who are either consciously or unconsciously deceiving people. I don't believe that they are doing significant healing. Have you ever seen someone healed who suffered from an arm or leg being chopped off? Or a quadriplegic having their limbs restored? Or Siamese twins being separated without surgery? Or a person born with a tragically deformed face having their face instantly healed? Most likely not. Is God too weak to do these kind of miracles? Of course not! He could heal all of these, and cases worse than these, in a microsecond. Instead you have heard mainly of headaches, arthritis, back pains, etc. "healed" that are known to commonly respond to psychosomatic suggestion similar to how placebos work. It is only because of our desperation to believe in such faith healers that they continue to draw their followers.
Having said these things, let me tell you in no uncertain terms that I continue to pray diligently for healing both for myself and for others, and likewise encourage others to do the same. I believe wholeheartedly in miracles. God does heal and He may be willing to answer your prayer in the positive. I just caution you to realize that this is not God's normal way of doing things in this generation for the reasons I have spelled out. Whether or not God answers our prayers the way we want, we must keep communication channels open with Him. He is our Father who loves us and knows our problems and weaknesses. But in the same way that God did not allow Jesus' request to "Let this cup pass from me" (Matthew 26:39) nor did He grant Paul's request to have a thorn in the flesh removed (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), likewise a request to avoid pain or death is not likely to be excused from us. This world is not our home. We have trials to go through. If we did not have these trials we might begin to mistake this life for our home. God may not spare us from pain and suffering, but He will be there walking with us just as He walked with Jesus. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." And indeed He will be with us.
Image Credit: Carolynn; "discharged"; Creative Commons
Tags: Christian-Life | Current-Issues | False-Teaching | God-Father
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