Thursday, July 14, 2005

Why only some?

To get the exercise accountability out of the way before the interesting stuff ... rode my bike to and from prayer meeting last night, and had a lovely long paddle in the pool around 9:00 pm after all the noisy folks went home. :)

Carol and I have been discussing the idea of God's healing people (physically), and it's given me some interesting food for thought.

Mark 1:
2 And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.
33 And all the city was gathered together at the door.
34 And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.

In other places, it says the Lord healed "all". But here, and again in Mark 3, it says He healed "many". Why not all?

We know that God heals spiritually -- all who ask Him - without qualification

Romans 10
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

And I see that sometimes He heals physically -- in James, God even gives us a picture of how we are to ask for healing:

James 5
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

*the sick person requests it to happen
*the elders go them ... it's private
*they prayed and anointed with oil in the Lord's name

Some will be healed physically here on earth. Others will be healed when they are freed from their suffering by death, and step into God's presence. But either way, they will be healed.

I know of cancer that was suddenly "not there" ... and terminal diagnoses (is that the plural spelling? don't remember!) that were changed to treatable ones.

But I also know of some godly ones who slowly descended into the mist of Alzheimers, and others who lost their bodies to ALS. I've read books by great men and women of faith that were written from sickbeds, and despite great suffering.

What's the difference? Why do some of God's people regain health, and others suffer for decades?

It can't be the amount or quality of their faith ... faith is a fruit of the Spirit ... a gift of God ... and to say that someone remains ill because of lack of faith is a terrible condemnation, not only of them, but of God Himself.

We see people in the Scriptures whom God allowed (or even caused!) to suffer physical affliction.

When God's angel wrestled with Jacob -
Ge 32:25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
Ge 32:31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.

For the rest of his life, Jacob bore that limp as a reminder of that night.

He says that some afflictions, He made:
Ex 4:11 The LORD said to him, "Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

Our natural way of thinking rebels against this! Why would He allow this?
Why did Job suffer in such a fashion, and never know the cause?

He doesn't always tell us! But He does say that
Isa 63:9 In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.

He suffers alongside the sufferer.

Romans 8
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

We know that our suffering has purpose. It "works together for good" ... and what is that "good"? It's in verse 29 - it conforms us into the image of His Son. There's a reason that so much great ministry was born in times of pain ... it's in those times that we meet with God.

Our suffering allows us to comfort others who suffer:
2Co 1:4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Our sufferings become a stream of refreshment to those who follow behind us:
Psalm 84
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca (weeping), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

I suppose that's enough for today ... I've already written more than most people would want to read ... but I'm thankful for the chance to think about these things. It's when I'm healthy that I need to prepare my heart for dark times ...There are treasures hidden in those dark times, and I need to be ready to mine them:

Isa 45:3 "I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.

In closing, a list of those who come to mind whose physical illnesses have been used to give God glory, and encourage others:

Fanny Crosby (blindness),
Joni Erickson Tada (paralysis),
William Cowper (crippling depression),
Charles Spurgeon (gout, exhaustion, depression),
Amy Carmichael (bedridden for decades following a fall),
Frances Havergal (never have figured out what made her so sick, bedridden for much of her life),

as well as some nameless dear ones, currently in my life, whose names are unknown to the world, but whose sufferings are right this very second precious to God, and a testimony for Him.


Carol L said...

The place in Mark 1:32-34 where it tells us that Jesus healed many, since it doesn't specify what that was about, and since it's not really fair to speculate, the only thing to do is to earnestly ask the Lord about it and believe that the Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us into all truth. It seems fair to ask, 'It says they brought all and You healed many. Did all ask? What happened there?'

I mean, did they plop their diseased down and "presume" that Jesus was just going to spoon feed miracles and gifts of healings to them simply because they showed up to the meeting? Perhaps they'd seen Him actually do that meeting after meeting. Could it be that this was one of those rare occasions when God - after performing miracle after miracle for multitudes to see, freely giving and easily giving - decided in this one particular meeting to hold back and have a look to see who would press in? Because, if we really look at the Gospels, we see that every time a person really pressed in they got the miracle they sought. The woman with the issue of blood is one of the strongest examples I know of this. Then there was the blind beggar cryng out as the multitudes went by following after Him, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And the more the disciples tried to shush him, the more and the louder he cried out. He would not be denied. He pressed in. And he was not denied. He received his sight! Ever wonder what would have happened had he not cried out and kept crying out? I have.

We see in another place - the only time I have found, actually - when Jesus refused to heal someone, yet the person's importunity compelled Him to change His mind about it. It was the Canaanite woman whose daughter was vexed by a devil. When she sought Him and asked him to help her, He told her it wasn't fitting to toss the children's bread to dogs. Jesus called the woman a dog! Yet she didn't get all huffy (like many of us do today when someone whom God has raised up in leadership addresses an attitude or outright sin to bring correction - and we're not even talking insults but correction here[!]). No, this woman said (this is all paraphrased, of course), "True enough, Lord, yet even the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table!" At that point Jesus made note of how great her faith was. Essentially, she believed so strongly in the power of God that she could say, "Lord, I may be a dog in Your eyes, but I know that just a little crumb from You will more than meet my need." And she was right. The Bible tells us her daughter was made whole that very hour.

I mean think about it: God lavished the multitudes over and over again with His miracles, essentially just tossing them out, as it were, like candy from a parade float - enough so that everybody got something. And if we really read the Gospels and watch the pattern, we'll see that there will come places where Jesus will be led by the Father to hold back and let some come forward who to press in for the power of God to touch their lives and meet their need. And so many of those times, Jesus would acknowledge their faith saying, "Be it done to you according to your faith," or "great is your faith." I believe this is to serve as an example to us; for without faith it is impossible to please God.

On another note, in James, it does not specifically state that the elders are to pray for the sick in private. It is fair to assume that this can work both in private and in the public assembly since it does not specifically say that calling for the elders in the church is a call to come pray privately for the person who is sick.

It does say in 1 Corinthians 12:28 that God has set miracles and gifts of healings in the church. Would it not stand to reason that healings can, therefore, take place in the public assembly? (This is just something I began thinking about and grappling with very seriously less than a week before my back was miraculously healed in the church meeting.)

Yes, I know there are people who loved God who died with disease in their bodies and/or who lived with sickness or disease for a long time. And to be honest, I cannot agree with the concept that living and sufferering with sickness is a testimony nor is it something that glorifies God. Does that mean these people don't have faith? Certainly not! They believe in their hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, and they confess with their mouths the Lord Jesus, and the Bible says that in so doing they are saved. Are they dear people? Yes. Does God love them any less because they did not get physically healed? No! Absolutely not!

There is something to this, though - there has to be - in the Gospels, Jesus said many times to people, "Be it done unto you according to your faith."

If people aim their faith at staying sick, then be it done to them according to their faith. There are people who do this. Any of us who've been around for any length of time have seen this.

I know people who were sick with an ailment for years, and pressed in for years - and years and years - and after years and years finally got the miracle they were seeking. They didn't give up. So this testimony can work both ways. We've all seen people who sought God to be healed of their physical ailments and who died anyway. They sought Jesus and asked Him to come and pray for their sick in the case of Jairus and Lazarus, and they died anyway. Yet God raised them from death to life.

Now that the price has been paid, those who die in Christ get to be present with the Lord. Before Jesus died and rose again, the righteous were in Abraham's bosom. I'm sure Abraham is a wonderful man and pleasant to be around, but he's not Jesus. Personally? Me? If I were to die - no matter what the cause - and someone had faith to raise me from death to life, I would refuse to come! Who wouldn't want to be present with Jesus? If it happened before the fact of His death and resurrection, and if I was accounted righteous so that I was in Abraham's bosom, I suppose I'd be willing to cooperate with the commandment given by the power of the Holy Ghost to come back - especially if it was Jesus giving the command! Now that Paradise and all of heaven belongs to Jesus? Forget about it! Once I get there, I'm staying - no matter what put me there!

And you know? I don't know about anyone on that list except for Joni Erickson. I've heard the names Charles Spurgeon and Amy Carmichael, but I've no idea who they are or what their stories are. And the other names I don't know at all.

I love Joni Erickson. I truly do. But as much as I love her, I have to say I was very grieved in my heart when I heard her say on Larry King Live that God gave her the affliction of paralysis so that she could come to be the person she is now through the experiences she's had. I understand, on one hand, that she was making her heart known that, through her ordeal, God has been with her and that she has had to learn to take her thoughts captive when she starts going down a road of dread in her thought life in dealing with day-to-day situations and be thankful just as the Bible says to. We all have to do that.

But to sit there and say that God gave her this condition of paralysis? I am certain that she has no idea what this means logistically. I am certain that if she knew that saying this is an accusation against God, she would never, ever, ever say this! To say that God gave this paralysis to her is essentially saying that God pushed her off of the spot where she was standing into that shallow water and shoved her head into that rock. If it was a person in the earth in the flesh doing that, the person would have been arrested and tried in a court of law. A jury in such a trial would have more than likely found the defendant guilty of so many counts of assault and battery, and this finding would more than likely have resulted in the person being sentenced to prison for a very long time - and rightly so! God is not in the business of assaulting people and battering them. Someone can sit there and talk about Jacob 'til the cows come home and go back out again, but that was a fair fight - which Jacob initiated! He challenged God, and God said, "Okay, bring it on; let's have a go!" And the Bible says that God said that Jacob fought, or wrestled, with God and prevailed (that's what the name Israel means). There's a huge difference between those two scenarios that it doesn't take the brightest and best of minds to figure out.

We need to really THINK about the things that we say - no matter what we mean by them, you know???

I am certain that I have not addressed the heart of the matter that you have brought up here. I know that what I've done here is bring my heart and thoughts to the table - just as you have. We'll work through these things together, eh?

Love ya,
Carol :)

glorybeam said...

Great discussion! This is one of the major themes of my life, struggling with the question of Divine Healing and the Sovereignty of God.

Browse on over to my blog; hope you don't mind if I break in on this conversation!

Trinka said...

Thanks for your comments - glorybeam, nice to meet you!

Carol, before I mention healing, I've got to say, you've got some WONDERFUL new biographies waiting for you. The people whose names you don't know (yet) have great stories waiting for you! I wish you lived close enough that I could loan you books!

Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India. She rescued little girls from Hindu temples, where they were being made temple prostitues, and brought them into an orphanage she founded, and taught them to know and love the Lord. Her biography is a treasure (the most recent one is by Elizabeth Elliott, and titled "A Chance to Die")

William Cowper was a great hymn-writer and poet and a good friend of John Newton (the slave trader who was saved and wrote "Amazing Grace"). He's written hymns we still sing - "There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel's veins, and sinners plunged beneath the flood lose all their guilty stains." He struggled mightily with depression, and one night, left his house with the intention of throwing himself into the river. A fog descended, and he got totallyl lost. He wandered all night, and in the morning, the fog lifted, and he was standing at his own front door. It was then he wrote,
"God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform,
He plants His footsteps on the sea and rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill,
He purposes His grand designs and works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful stains, fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head."

Fanny Crosby was a blind hymn-writer. She wrote "To God be the Glory" "Praise Him! Praise Him!" "Tell me the story of Jesus" "Blessed Assurance" "I am Thine O Lord" "Jesus Keep me Near the Cross" "All the Way My Savior Leads Me" "He Hideth my Soul" (lots more too, but I tried to pick the best-known ones) :)

Charles Spurgeon was one of the greatest preachers ever ... his sermons are still wonderful reading. He explains the Scriptures in a very simple, heart-warming way. Here's a quote: "We have ever found, beloved, that when a time of chilling doubt has come over us -- and such ague fits will come -- we have only to return to meditations upon Jesus, and He becomes His own evidence by making our hearts burn within us with love of His character and person, and then doubt is doomed. We do not slay our unbelief by reason, but we annihilate it by affection."

Frances Havergal was a well-known author and hymn-writer. I just recently did some proofreading on a re-print of some of her writings. She also wrote some hymns you would have heard of: "Take my Life and Let it Be" "I Gave my Life for Thee" "Who is on the Lord's Side" "Like a River Glorious" She was writing a book called "Starlight through Shadows" at the time of her death that was intended to minister to those with constant health problems. The partial manuscript was printed, and the book is a real blessing to the sick and handicapped.

OK ... enough church history (though it IS one of my favorite subjects)! :)

I've been reading a very good book called "Not by Chance" that talks about God's providence in all things - even those we see as negative. He doesn't waste anything, even sickness, and suffering. He allows it, and He will use it.

I actually agree with Joni. Look at how God shines through her. It's because NOBODY can say, "oh, sure, she loves God, but look how easy her life is." Nope. Her life makes everyone's look easy. Yet she loves Him, and takes it as a good gift from His hand.

I also posted this idea in the Bible & Theo. area of MC. There have been some good replies there that have me thinking too.