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Beni Johnson, Wife of Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson, Has Died (Healing – Part Two)

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In the previous article I spoke about the nature of healing gifts in the life of the local church. In this second article I want to focus on the question of faith and its relationship to healing.

If I have enough Faith, will I always be Healed?

When it comes to the relationship of our faith to physical healing, Christians will often gravitate to one extreme or the other. Some argue that the sort of faith God honors by granting us healing is altogether devoid of doubt. The believer is called on to drive from her conscious thought any possibility that God might not will to provide healing. One must believe, without hesitation or fear, that God’s will is always to heal. Only then will he do so in response to our prayers. Others regard that perspective as bordering on sinful presumption and thus, swinging to the other end of the spectrum, minimize the importance of faith altogether. Faith is largely irrelevant to whether or not God will heal. He is sovereign and will do what he desires irrespective of our faith or its absence.

The first thing we must consider is the way in which faith is actually described in the NT and in the ministry of Jesus. There are certain instances where healing occurs in the absence of anyone’s faith. In John 5:1-9 we read of the man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. There is no evidence of faith on his part, either in the will of God relative to his condition or in the ability of Jesus to restore his health. Still, Jesus healed him. It actually comes as something of a surprise that faith is never mentioned anywhere in John’s gospel as a prerequisite for healing.

That incident aside, in most cases where Jesus healed it was in response to someone’s faith. Here are a few examples. In the case of a particular paralytic, it was only when Jesus “saw” the “faith” of his friends that he healed the man (Matt. 9:1-8). Jesus restored the sight to two blind men “according to” their “faith” (Matt. 9:28-29). The interesting thing about this incident is that Jesus didn’t ask them if they had faith in his will to heal, but only if they believed that he was “able” to heal. When the Canaanite woman called on Jesus to heal her daughter who was severely oppressed by a demon, his response was remarkable: “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Matt. 15:28).

How much faith is required? That may be the wrong question to ask. Perhaps we should focus on the kind or quality of faith, or better still on the object or focus of our confidence. When the father of a young boy asked that Jesus might cast out a demon from his son, our Lord responded by saying: “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23). Immediately, “the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24). Although some measure of faith was present in this man’s heart, it was clearly qualified by his own confession of unbelief. Still, Jesus responded by driving out the demon (Mark 9:25).

All doubt about the role of faith should be silenced on reading a text such as this:

“And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease’” (Mark 5:34).

When approached by Jairus, whose daughter was near death, Jesus said to him: “Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36). But believe what? That it was the will of Christ to heal her? That Christ possessed the power to heal her? That Jesus would in fact heal her? Jesus said much the same thing to the one leper who returned to give thanks for his healing: “Your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). Again, Jesus spoke to blind Bartimaeus and said: “Go your way; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:52).

It is highly instructive that nowhere in the gospels or anywhere else in the NT are we told to believe that it is always God’s will to heal the sick. Jesus never asked that of those whom he healed. He was only concerned that they believed he was able to heal. In light of this, we may identify several expressions of faith, not all of which operate at the same level of confidence. In other words, faith is never monolithic in the Bible, as if every experience of trust in God is the same.

If we should ask why faith appears to play such a crucial role in our response to God, it isn’t because God is otherwise lacking and our faith supplies him with the incentive or power to do for us what we ask. Faith is required because faith glorifies God. It redirects our spiritual and emotional energy away from self and on the God who sustains us. Faith is not a force that compels God to act or in any sense “creates our own reality.” It is an expression of weakness and utter dependency. The focus of faith is not in our ability to believe but in God’s ability to do what otherwise seems impossible. It is not the mere fact of faith that brings results but its focus.

We know that faith can have as its focus the reality of God’s goodness and his provision for us on a daily basis. We find this expression of faith in the words of the psalmist:

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:18-22; see also Ps. 147:10-11).

As already noted, Jesus always seems to respond positively to a confession of faith in his ability to heal (see Matt. 9:28-29). We must not overlook what Jesus didn’t say in this regard. He did not ask the two blind men, nor anyone else in the course of his ministry, if they believed that it was his will to heal them. He only asked if they believed he was able to do so. The leper in Matthew 8 made no presumption on the will of our Lord, but in faith declared his confidence in his power: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (Matt. 8:3). It was the leper’s belief that Jesus could do it, not necessarily that he would do it, that resulted in his healing.

At all times it is essential that we have faith in God’s compassion and love for the sick. In other words, our trust is in God’s goodness and his commitment to do what is best for his children. “If you then,” said Jesus, “who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). This is simply a matter of unwavering confidence in the kindness and mercy of our heavenly Father’s heart.

It is also important that we believe God actually does heal today. We are nowhere expected to believe that he always will. But if you do not believe that healing is still today a part of God’s gracious and merciful provision for his people, it is unlikely (but not impossible) that you will be the recipient of his power in this regard. If I may be allowed to cite an obvious example, I don’t believe that it is God’s design that we discern his will by the casting of lots (see Acts 1:24-26). Therefore, I will not devote my energy in doing so, nor will I have any degree of confidence that, should I choose to cast lots, God will assuredly respond in disclosing his will by such means. Similarly, if you don’t believe God still heals, the likelihood is low that you will spend much time in prayer asking him to do so.

But might there be certain occasions when you or I are stirred by the Holy Spirit to believe that it is God’s will to heal someone right now? Yes. This sort of faith, however, is not the kind that we can crank up at our own initiative or by our own strength. This is likely the kind of faith that Paul has in mind when he speaks of it as a spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12:9) and that James refers to as the “prayer of faith” (James 5:15). This is the sort of faith that we are supernaturally enabled to exercise by God’s will, not our own. I can’t independently choose to have this sort of faith. I can believe that it is God’s will to heal someone at this precise moment only when the Spirit prompts me and empowers me with that degree of unshakable confidence. When God wills to heal, he produces in our hearts the overwhelming and unwavering assurance that such is precisely what is about to occur.

To be continued . . .

 

2 Comments

Thank you for these two articles. Many of the friends that have been influenced from Bill Johnson, Bethel, Andrew Womack etc are very clear.

What should a father with a legally blind child say to a pastor that says: “Jesus healed everyone that came to Him, your faith is impacting your child.”
Thank you for these two articles. Many of the friends that have been influenced from Bill Johnson, Bethel, Andrew Womack etc are very clear.

What should a father with a legally blind child say to a pastor that says: “Jesus healed everyone that came to Him, your faith is impacting your child.”

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