Nov 06 - Miraculous Healing?

Miraculous Healing?

November 6, 2016

James 5:14-16: 1 Corinthians



November 6th, 2016

James 5:14-16; 1 Corinthians


You know it will be a bad day when ...


Your twin forgets your birthday.

You wake up to the sound of running water and remember that you’ve just bought a waterbed.

You compliment the boss’ wife on her unusual perfume and she isn’t wearing any. 

Your 4 year old tells you he was able to get a grapefruit down the toilet.

Or, like this poor fellow, the poop hits the proverbial fan.


Now, joking aside, how many of you have had a BAD day?  I mean a really bad day?  The day you got laid off.  Or the day that your spouse left you.  Or the day that your best friends turned on you.  Or the day that you failed an important exam.  Or the day that someone you deeply cared for died.  Or the day you didn’t make the team.  Or the day when the doctor gave you a scary prognosis.  Or the day that your business failed.  Or the day that you lost your investments.  Or the day that your child walked away from you.  Or the day that you had that horrible fight.  Or that day when you got into that terrible accident.  Or the day the house burned down.


You get the idea, right?


Jesus told his followers, “You are going to have bad days.[1]  To which his followers likely didn’t reply: “Awesome, high five, that’s going to be great!” Yoohoo!


So how do we cope when we’re having a bad day?


We might find a shoulder to cry on.


Or we might withdraw from any situation or person where we might be hurt again in the same way.  In other words, we isolate ourselves from potential hurt and run into the danger of isolating ourselves from life itself in the process.


Or we might lash out in anger, frustration or pain.  We become miserable and miserable to be with.


Or we might lose hope.  We could think that the bad day will never end.  That there will never be a positive change.  That absolutely nothing good can come from this.  And depression and despair can overtake us. 


Or we might demand some kind of explanation:  Why is this happening to me?  When our prayers aren’t answered or when we see bad things happening to us or others, when God doesn’t heal, the first thing we want to know is “why?”  Problem is that some of the answers will need to wait until we get to heaven.  The first sound in heaven:  “Oh yeah, that’s why that happened.”  “Ahh, of course that’s why this happened.” 


Or we might lose our trust in God.  After all, if God allowed this disaster to strike us, how can he be on my side?  Often people push God away because they cannot believe that pain, sickness, suffering and death are just part of our fallen world. 


Or we might draw nearer to God, knowing that he will give us strength and healing in our brokenness.


Back in the days of the divided kingdom, there was a king in the line of David by the name of Jehoshaphat.  By the way, don’t name your kid this. 


He was the fourth king in the southern kingdom of Judah (at bottom right of the overhead).  And unlike the very bad king Ahab in the northern kingdom of Israel, Jehoshaphat actually stayed true to God and brought some very positive reforms, especially when it came to weeding out corruption from the judicial system and personally encouraging the people throughout the kingdom to be faithful to God. 


The greatest time of crisis during his reign, his very bad day, was when he was told that three different armies, from Moab (Ruth the Moabites), from Ammon, and from Edom,[2] and had assembled themselves at a place called Engedi,[3] on the west shore of the Dead Sea, only about 45 km away from Jerusalem.  Their hope was to drive the Israelites from Canaan (20:11).  We are told that he was filled with fear when the news was brought to him.


How did Jehoshaphat deal with this news?


He went to prayer (2 Chron 20:3 - he set his face to seek YHWH).


He called a fast throughout the land (20:3).


He assembled men, women and children (20:13) from the nation at Jerusalem to seek God and his help (20:4). 


Here is just one line from Jehoshaphat’s prayer: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (20:12)


He then sent out his forces into battle with the priests in the front line singing praises to God, “Give thanks to YHWH for his steadfast kindness (chesed) endures forever.” (20:21)


This was their bad day prayer, their bad day song.  Give thanks to God, because his chesed, his faithful, unending lovingkindness, endures forever. 


God is bigger than the situation that they were facing.  It’s bigger than any bad day situation we may be facing. 


When we give thanks in our bad days, if we trust Him to somehow help us through, then the mountain we seem to be facing will get smaller.  Then the peace of God can be with us.  We can sing a song of trust to God in our bad days. 


One of the reasons, why we may get upset with God when we are having a bad day, are passages like the one from James 5 about what to do when we are sick.


Is any one of you sick?  He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.  The Lord will raise him up.  If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.                                James 5:14-16


By the way, the anointing with oil is not something magical.  The oil symbolizes God’s power and presence on the one being anointed.  


At first glance, it seems that all we need to do is to call the church leaders together, have them pray over us and anoint us with oil, and presto-chango, we are healed.  Well, it may not be as simple and straightforward as this.  I want you to notice three things about this passage. 


1. There is some connection between faith and healing.


The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.


Our passage is speaking of the faith of the elders who are praying.  They should have no doubt that God is able to bring about the healing they are asking for. 


However, there is also the faith of the person being healed.[4]  When a woman touched Jesus’ garment and was healed, he said to her:


Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.                                              Mark 5:34


When one of ten lepers whom Jesus healed came back to thank Jesus, this is what Jesus said to him: 


Stand up and go.  Your faith has healed you.                                                                                                     Luke 17:19


Once when Jesus was in Nazareth, we are told that he couldn’t heal many people because of the lack of faith among the people there (Mark 6:5-6). 


So faith is not just some intellectual assent, but also indicates the kind of trust that leads to action


The worst application of the principle of faith is telling some people that they are not healed because they lack faith.  That’s just detrimental and deeply wounding. 


I have known individuals who told me that they completely believed that they had been healed when they hadn’t been.  They had all the faith in the world, and Jesus said, we would only need a very small faith in order to move mountains.  In fact, the whole idea of so-called “faith healing” is rubbish


Faith healing states that all we need to do is believe that God will inevitably do what we ask of him.  If that were the case, our faith, our beliefs, would override God’s free will, his sovereignty, because our faith would obligate him to bring about what we ask of him. 


It would mean that we could ask God for anything, a yacht, a sports car, a small fortune, and as long as it isn’t immoral, God will answer that request in the affirmative. 


One could be forgiven of holding this view if some verses are taken in isolation.  For example, Jesus told his followers:


And whatever you ask in prayer you will receive, if you have faith.                                                    Matthew 21:22


However, Jesus also said that prayers that would be answered had to be “in his name.”[5]  And I don’t think by that he meant that we add on the little “in Jesus’ name” at the end of our prayers, as if it was some magical formula. Rather, if something is asked in Jesus’ name, it implies that the request would be something that is characteristic of Jesus, that Jesus himself would have prayed.


Similarly, Jesus said that prayers will be answered for those who abide in him and his words abide in them[6] other words, that there is such a close connection between Jesus and the person praying, that the teachings of Jesus would become part and parcel of one’s heart and mind, and guide the request and prayers.    


In 1 John, there is a caveat that likely says something very similar.  Answered prayer depends whether or not it is “according to God’s will.” [7]


If we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.                                                                              1 John 5:14-15


So, we should not take just one verse in isolation without knowing what the rest of Scripture says about a topic.  Faith itself doesn’t heal nor is it a guarantee for healing.


Nevertheless, in the end we pray with faith, with the expectation that God can and will bring healing ...

We pray in humble confidence, asking him to do what only he can. And we keep praying, as Jesus taught us, trusting that God will answer in his time. 


And when that healing isn’t as we would want it or imagined it to be, we rest in the knowledge that God’s strength and love and kindness is sufficient to carry us in our suffering


So there is some connection between faith and healing, and then,


2. There is some connection between confession and healing.


Confess your sins to each other ... so that you may be healed.


This is one of two NT passages upon which the sacrament of penance, or the confessional in RC churches, is based on.[8]


While confession of sins to God is spoken about throughout the Bible,[9] we only see confession to other humans in this passage and in what happened in the church in Ephesus:


Those who became believers came and confessed and divulged their previous practices.                       Acts 19:18 


In Proverbs we find the general principle of confession, although it isn’t clear if that is confessing to God or other people:


Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

                                                                        Proverbs 28:13


Personally, I thought that the private confessional had some cathartic effect and purpose, particularly because priests were obligated not to speak about anything that they might hear at confession, and because confession was combined with penance, the attempt to do better in the future


In any case, unconfessed sin, or a lack of repentance, may stand in the way of receiving healing. 


I believe that we have to know that things between us and God are right if there is going to be any power in our prayer.  And confession, as Proverbs points out, is not a license to keep doing wrong, but a way of turning around our lives.  Which brings us to the third thing I want you to notice. 


3. There is some connection between right conduct (obedience) and answered prayer.


The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.


The “righteous”, those who do what is right in God’s sight, are those to whom he inclines his ear.  This is a principle that we find in both OT and NT.


The eyes of YHWH are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.                              Psalm 34:15


Keep in mind, that God is sovereign.  He may decide to answer a sincere prayer even if a person is living a debauched lifestyle. Or he may decide not to answer a prayer of a person who is in fact living a life that is pleasing to God.


However, it is more likely that God will respond to a person who lives a godly lifestyle.


Whatever we ask we receive from God because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

                                                                        1 John 3:22


Let me give you an example of someone who was living according to God’s will, who had Jesus’ teaching deeply implanted in his heart, who had a huge amount of faith and who saw many of his prayers answered. Yes, it’s the apostle Paul. After relaying this great vision that he had in which he saw marvelous things, Paul writes:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

2 Corinthians 12:7-9


Paul had a physical ailment, something that physically weakened him.  We don’t know what it was.  Some think it may be his very poor eyesight that meant he needed others to read and write for him. It may have been something else.  But it was debilitating and likely painful.  Whatever the case, his prayers for healing were not answered.  God said “no.” 


So the reality is that sometimes we end up burying the people for whose healing we pray. 


Illustration: Samantha (Reddy) a 7 year old who had a brain tumour.  Probably one of the most traumatic events that happened to me as a pastor.  So many people and churches praying for this girl.  Was all that I could think about for months.  Once when I was driving and I asked God to let me know whether or not he intended to heal this little girl.  Very few times in my life that the answer was this clear, “No!” 


When I think of Samantha, I think of the passage in Isaiah 57:


The righteous perish, and no one ponders (the reason) in his heart. The devout are taken away, and no one understands. The righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.  Those who walk uprightly enter into peace and find rest even in death.                          Isaiah 57:1-2


Why did God not heal her?  Why doesn’t he always heal us from every malady that we or our loved ones may face?  I mean, if I was God, the first thing I would do is empty every children’s hospital in the world.


But in the process I would destroy any notion of freely turning to God.  After all, if God always answered our requests for healing, who would not believe in him?  As it is, God allows for evil and undeserved suffering and illness and death. 


The apostle Paul saw this in himself.  In that same letter that he writes about his thorn in the flesh, he mentions that he really thought that he would be killed on his missionary journey[10] and then adds,


Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.            2 Corinthians 4:16


Why could Paul write this?  Because he had an eternal perspective.  On the one hand he hoped that God would continue to deliver him from being executed.  On the other hand, he knew that even if he was killed, he would have eternal life.


Why doesn’t God heal me every time?  While the ultimate reason may be hidden from us, at least this side of eternity, here are some suggestions: 



  1. To keep me humbly dependent on him to carry me through


  2. To allow me to learn a lesson, ultimately to strengthen and refine my faith - learning to trust him to carry me through.


  3. To allow me to become a better person. 


To mold my character or change my life.  Rarely do I find people who have suffered a lot, who are not gentle and kind. 


For God, the process of refining us is just that, a process.  In other words, what happens to us throughout life, both good and bad, is to be part of the process of becoming more like Jesus in our attitude and behaviour.


This is why the miracle of inner healing (inner transformation) is a much greater miracle, much more profound and important, than that of outer healing.  


If something terrible happens to us, we never remain unchanged and unmarked.  It will either diminish us or cause us to grow.


[That is why the traditional Jewish prayer for healing included both the healing of the nefesh, the soul or spirit of a person, as well as the healing of the guf, the body of a person.[11]]


[Why doesn’t God heal me every time?]


  1. To take me home to be with himself.


We should realize that this body is what we live in, but it isn’t who we are. 


That is the reason why God is a lot more concerned about our eternal souls than our physical bodies

This physical life is a mist. While our bodies return to dust, our souls survive.  And we will spend the vast majority of our existence in the afterlife, not here.


Do you remember the time when Jesus sent out 72 of his followers?  When they returned, they were all fired up about the miracles (even the demons submit to us in your name).  But Jesus told them, “don’t be too fired up about the miracles, instead, rejoiced that you’re going to heaven.[12]    


The problem that most of us have is that we may lack that eternal perspective. We may be too earthly minded. We do not want something in the by and by, we want God to do for us what we want him to do ... NOW!  We want him to work things out the way that we want him to work things out.  However, God is not nearly as earth-focused as we are


We focus on what is happening TO us.

God focuses on what is happening IN us.


Despite the fact that God at times doesn’t answer our prayers as we may want, the passage in James 5 is important because it is based on the fact that God still heals people because he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (cf. Heb 13:8).


Illustration:  Something that left an indelible impression on me as a young believer when a home group I was involved in prayed for the husband in the home because a spot was found on, I believe his kidney or liver, and the specialist thought that it likely was not something benign. 

More tests were ordered prior to the operation to remove the tumour.  While the wife was a Christians, her husband wasn’t.  He allowed a group of us to lay hands on him.  When he went to have the tests, to the puzzlement of the doctor and surgeon, the spot had disappeared.  The man became a Christian that day. 


We can celebrate the miracles when they happen.  In fact, we should expect God to heal us, as long as we realize that God is sovereign.


So we pray with anticipation.  We don’t say, “You know, it’s unlikely God will heal you.”  We pray for miracles, but our ultimate focus should still be on eternity.


Let me close with recounting the time that Jesus healed man who had been brought to the house that Jesus was in and lowered on a stretcher after his friends had climbed up on the flat roof and punched a hole through the sticks and mud. 


First Jesus told the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). It was only afterwards that he told him to get up, take his mat, and go home (Mark 2:11). 


When Jesus met people, he didn’t merely deal with them on the level of their physical need.  He dealt with them as a whole person and addressed physical and spiritual needs


So let us pray about physical healing, by all means.  Like I said, expectantly and boldly.  But this is not all that is needed for us to be healed, for you to be healed, for me to be healed and made whole! 


Maybe what you really need this morning isn’t physical healing at all, but spiritual healing.  Maybe you simply need to come today in confession and repentance to God.  Maybe you need to tell God that you do believe that Jesus died for your sins to restore you to Him.  Maybe you need to come and renew your desire to obey him in all areas of life.  Maybe you need to come and have your spirit restored and your soul saved.  Ask for forgiveness, for the Spirit to work, for you to be made whole ... body, spirit and soul. 





[1] In this world you will have trouble (or: tribulation). John 16:33; They will hand you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues - Matt 10:17; They will deliver you to great tribulation, will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations - Matt 24:9; Luke 21:12; they will persecute you - John 15:20; cast you from synagogues, kill you - John 16:2; The apostle Paul to Timothy - all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

[2] Meunites likely came from that region; see also 2 Chron 20:2 for a direct mention of Edom.

[3] Engedi = fountain of the kid.  Also called Hazezon-Tamar in reference to the many palm trees in the area (Tamar = Palm).

[4] Acts 14:8-9 - Paul saw that a person had faith to be healed; Matt 9:27-30 - Jesus asked the blind person if he believed that Jesus was able to heal him;

[5] John 14:13-14: I will do whatever you ask in my name ... if you ask me anything in my name I will do it; John 16:23: Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

[6] John 15:7: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

[7] 1 John 5:14-15:  If we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him

[8] The other is John 20:23, “whose sins you will forgive are forgiven them ....”  See IV Lateran Council (1215), can.8, where Christians are told to go to the confessional at least once a year.  Private confession may be implied in canon 13 of the first Council of Nicaea (325).

[9] See Psalm 32:2-5; 51:1-5; 1 John 1:9.

[10] 2 Cor 1:8-9:  We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about the hardships we encountered in the province of Asia.  We were under a burden far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, we felt we were under the sentence of death ...

[11] Mi Sheberach “... a healing of spirit and a healing of body.”

[12] Luke 10:20: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”.