The Difficult Side of Healing Ministry

difficult-side

Today I want to be very real, candid, and vulnerable with you.  I’ve been involved in healing ministry since August of 2009, and if there’s one thing I’ve discovered, it’s that the church’s typical “romantic” perspective of such ministry is a bit delusional.

What I mean is that the picture in many of our minds is that of a man or woman in nice clothes, floating around a stage — their mind and actions beautifully in union with the Holy Spirit — and every person they touch gets healed.  Every disease leaves, and every sickness disappears at the name of Jesus.  I don’t know about you, but I dreamed of being like Peter and having the sick brought out to the streets so that my shadow might touch and heal them.  Healing ministry seems like one of the most spectacular things we could ever practice, and I think it’s safe to say that every Christian who has heard the testimony of Jesus has at least considered how “cool” it would be to minister healing like Him.

But having been at this for the last three and a half years, I can tell you: The trenches are messy.

Not every person I lay hands on is healed.  On occasion, sickness returns to a person (in my experience, this is a demon, but that’s a teaching for another time).  In fact, I was recently rocked by the news of a man who was dramatically healed in one of the meetings I conducted; but months later, his condition returned with even worse symptoms and he committed suicide to escape the pain.

It broke my heart.

So much for all the fantasies and delusions of glory and grandeur.

And yet this news came right on the heels of a meeting where every person who asked for healing received it! Real healing ministry can be an emotional roller coaster.

To be a minister of healing, you find yourself making your heart vulnerable.  You find yourself allowing your heart to empathize with people so that compassion might move you to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment on behalf of the sick, injured, and diseased.  It’s not difficult to become overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of suffering that are suddenly noticed as you go throughout everyday life, unable to touch every single person you see.

Daniel Kolenda in the Movie Paid in FullThis month I interviewed Evangelist Daniel Kolenda of Christ for All Nations for a documentary I’m producing about ministering physical healing.  I asked him, “What is the most personally difficult aspect of healing ministry?”

I resonated with his answer. He said that the most personally difficult aspect is to stand on a stage, declare healing in Jesus’ name, witness hundreds of miracles, and then see people leaving who are still on crutches or being carried out on mats.

Difficult Healing Theology

The weightiness of these things is compounded when your theology of healing believes it’s always God’s will to heal. This is a stance I arrived at after searching the Scriptures and realizing that Jesus paid the price for every healing just as He paid the price for every person to be saved. (See 1 John 2:2.)  The fact that people will perish does not contradict the biblical fact that “God wills that none should perish.” (2 Peter 3:9.) And the fact that not everyone is healed does not contradict the biblical fact that “by His stripes, we were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24.)  This is the same stance held by the great healing ministers throughout history, and it’s the stance that propelled me into healing ministry back in August of 2009.

But with that theology comes some tough questions.

Last night, I had a brief conversation with a friend about the real-life questions that naturally arise in this sort of theology.  He asked, “Have you ever had a father whose child just died of a disease come up to you and ask, ‘Do you mean to tell me that if I’d had enough faith, my daughter would still be alive?'”

He was referring, of course, to the teaching I’ve heard from many healing ministers (and that I too teach) about the epileptic boy:

Matthew 17:14-20 — When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (NIV)

These days, if Christians pray for a person and see no results, we tend to shift gears into a teaching about God’s sovereignty.  But the disciples didn’t look at the disappointed father and say, “Sorry, Pops. It didn’t work, so obviously it’s God’s will for your son to have epilepsy.  Maybe He’s using it to build character in you or in your son. Or perhaps this is the result of secret sin in your life. Or maybe God just has a mysterious higher purpose that we can’t see.  God is good, so simply trust that your son’s epilepsy is an expression of His goodness.”

No. The disciples had spent enough time following Jesus to know that He never made excuses like that.  While Jesus didn’t heal every sick person He saw, He did heal every sick person who came to Him or called out to Him. So rather than making excuses that they had never heard from Jesus, the disciples were confused and wondered why it didn’t work. Naturally, when the boy was brought to Jesus, the demon left, and the boy was healed.

What I teach, and what I practice, is that when healing ministry doesn’t produce visible results, I need to follow the example of the disciples and ask the Lord why I couldn’t do what He would have done if He had touched the person.  And as long as I don’t have an answer, I simply look the person in the eye and apologize: “I’m sorry. If Jesus had touched you, you would be healed right now; instead, I touched you. Unfortunately, I’m not perfectly like Jesus — I’m just a part of His Body.  But I believe someone is out there who can minister this measure of Jesus to you, so keep seeking healing and keep believing. The fact that I couldn’t do it is not evidence of God’s will.  The life of Jesus is evidence of God’s will, and He healed everyone who came to Him.”

Yes, I actually do that.  I take the responsibility — not in the sense that I feel guilty for it not working, and not in the sense that I take personal glory when healing does happen.  On the contrary, if someone is healed, I know it’s because they touched Jesus in me; and if someone is not healed, I know it’s because I’m not perfectly representing Jesus.  And I’m not talking about being holy enough or godly enough. I’m simply talking about faith, which is exactly what Jesus said was the issue when the disciples couldn’t cast out the demon. My faith isn’t perfect, and I’m okay admitting that.

But I have had people — even good friends — become upset with me because I was implying that something was wrong with their faith if they couldn’t minister healing.  They assume that I’m challenging their salvation or passing judgment on their love for Jesus. On the contrary, I’m simply agreeing with Jesus, who made the same statement to His own disciples; and I’m agreeing with Paul, who taught that the proportion of our faith influences how we minister. (See Romans 12:6.)

Many of us would rather blame God than take responsibility.  It’s more comfortable.  If God doesn’t want to heal, then I don’t need to change when healing doesn’t happen.  But if God does want to heal, then I need to realize I’m not perfectly like Jesus whenever it doesn’t work.  That’s uncomfortable.  And it becomes even more uncomfortable when we realize how many dear friends and loved ones have died that would have been healed if someone (like me) had simply had the faith to do something about it.

CPRI was thinking this morning: If God’s will is always done, then why do so many Christians take CPR lessons?  Generally, when we learn CPR, we’re convinced that “if I know this, I can save someone’s life.” But if God wants a person to die, then your performance of CPR will either fail or it will contradict God’s will.  And if God’s will is for a person to live, then you don’t need to know CPR. The person will live some other way.

Of course, I don’t actually believe that.  I have taken CPR certification courses because I believe death is an enemy of God. (See 1 Corinthians 15:26.) And I believe God’s will is not always done (remember, “God wills that none should perish,” and yet people perish).  And I diligently study the Word of God regarding healing ministry because I believe Jesus paid a very high price to conquer the effects of sin.  If people only ever died in God’s timing, then why did Jesus raise the dead?

For that matter, why would Jesus command His disciples, “Heal the sick who are there,” (Luke 10:9) or, “Raise the dead,” (Matthew 10:8) without also giving instructions about the times when it won’t work?  Was Jesus setting His disciples up for failure? Or was He commanding them to do what He had the authority to command?

So let’s return to the hypothetical father who just lost his daughter to disease. Am I saying that this sweet little girl might have lived if someone (like her father) had been a better representative of Jesus through faith?  That’s a difficult question to answer — not because the answer is complicated, but because of the emotions tied to the answer.  So let me pose a different question: If my dear, sweet grandmother — who loved everyone — refused to believe in Jesus, would she be in hell right now? And if she is in hell, could I have possibly prevented that if I had been more effective in communicating the Gospel?

You see, Christianity is full of tough questions. For some reason, we tend to be more comfortable with questions of eternal life and death than we are with questions of physical life and death.  We can be downright dogmatic about heaven and hell for the unbelieving grandma and our responsibility to evangelize; but if a “dear sweet Christian” dies of a disease, we would rather call it God’s will than take responsibility.

I find it interesting that when we fail to represent Jesus in character, we gladly go to the Lord and ask Him to help us change — to strengthen us in weakness and give us the grace we need to live transformed. And yet when we fail to represent Jesus in power, we respond as though we’re perfect and God said, “No.”

If your theology is based on disappointing earthly experiences, it’s bad theology.  And if your theology is based on the avoidance of tough questions, then it’s bad theology.  The only right theology is that which is consistent with the life of Jesus.

Jesus healed everyone who came to Him.

Coming to Terms with Difficulties in Healing Ministry

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation [Greek: sozo – complete wholeness of body, soul, and spirit] of everyone who believes.”  I will not compromise this message in response to disappointment or missed opportunities.

To the hypothetical father whose daughter just died, I would encourage you: The fact of what happened does not change who God is.  He loves you and your daughter immeasurably. He understands our weaknesses and is not angry with you or anything like that. Nevertheless, His desire would be that this tragedy would stir you to discover His heart and motivate you to be strengthened in your faith so that the next person you encounter with this disease doesn’t have to die.  You’re not guilty for missing it with your daughter, but you do have a choice in front of you: You can decide that it was simply God’s will, or you can decide to devote yourself to accomplishing God’s will in the future.  You can turn inward and focus on what you did or didn’t do, or you can look upward and ask the Lord where to go from here.

Healing ministry isn’t easy.  Those who think healing ministers are arrogant or out of touch with reality simply don’t understand the emotional struggles we go through on a regular basis.  I believe if we will be real about the inner battles (as I have been in this article), it will help others step into healing ministry.  And that is my goal: Every Christian ministering the healing power of Jesus.

Don’t be afraid of the tough questions.

Minister the Gospel without compromise.

God bless,
–Art

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20 Responses to “The Difficult Side of Healing Ministry”

  1. Steve BellFebruary 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    Art:

    Excellent article – could not have said it better myself. I follow the exact same philosophy and Theology: I take the blame when healing doesn’t occur, and go back to the Lord to learn how to overcome it next time.

    As we keep pressing in, keep praying for greater revelation, greater healing, more of Jesus in us, we will see greater success manifest in those we pray for. And we will see things healed that we didn’t see in the past.

    Blessings,

    Steve

  2. JoyceFebruary 1, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    I don’t believe that Father God anointed every healing minister to be a healing minister. Was it your will or Father God’s?

    • Mike Shea IIIFebruary 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

      Joyce, even if you were correct, which I don’t believe you are, did you know that even the most “successful” healing ministers only see 80% healed. Which begs the question how do we get the rest heealed?

    • ArtFebruary 1, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

      Hi Joyce,

      I think I understand what you’re saying. As far as I can see in Scripture, every Christian is anointed to be a healing minister. Jesus said that “those who believe…will place their hands on sick people, and they will recover.” (See Mark 16:17-18.)

      With that said, not every healing minister is a Christian. Jesus said there would be those who cry out, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” and yet Jesus will reply, “I never knew you.” (See Matthew 7:22-23.)

      So every Christian is anointed to be a healing minister, but not every healing minister is a Christian. If you’re a Christian, it’s God’s will that you minister healing.

      Be blessed!
      –Art

  3. Santha kumarFebruary 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    Very good explanations about healing. I love it. Thanks.

  4. Eugen KrahnFebruary 1, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Excellent article, Art! Keep going brother!!

  5. Mike Shea IIIFebruary 1, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    My question is, has Art ever seen where one healing minister was not able to get healing working for someone, but in the same meeting someone else was able to help the person get healed. My understanding is once faith is excited past the healing threshold, then healing happens 30, 60 or 100 fold…

    • ArtFebruary 1, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

      Hi Mike,

      Many times, when I have tried ministering healing without results, I’ll have a little child come over and help me pray. Almost always, it works. Also, I often have groups of people pray for the sick person — that way no individual (including myself) can take credit for the miracle, and Jesus receives the glory.

      I’m not aware of a “threshold” for faith other than “the size of a mustard seed.” Generally speaking, only one person needs to have a little tiny bit of faith in order to ignite the miraculous. When I’m out in public — like at the store or a restaurant — I don’t have the luxury of exciting all the people in the room into faith. Instead, I recognize that Christ is in me and that He has commissioned me to represent and reveal Him regardless of anyone else’s faith.

      So I have indeed seen times when I couldn’t minister healing while someone else in the room could. And in my experience, the only threshold to overcome is no bigger than a single mustard seed.

      I hope that helps! Be blessed!
      –Art

  6. Dawn StoreyFebruary 2, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Hey Pastor, when administering any kind of healing, I too, believe Jesus paid the price already and His will is that all be healed. When I pray, and instantaneous miracles don’t occur I encourage perseverance in continued prayer and using our authority against the enemy.
    I encourage those to desire timing in how a healing will bring Him the most glory. (hope that makes sense) We can’t begin to understand the ways of God, but trusting and believing is what our part is. We don’t need to explain or have an answer for everyone about why or why not. We just need to be obedient and pray as He told us to. Keep it simple servant of the Most High.

    • ArtFebruary 3, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      Hi Dawn,

      I used to teach the “timing = more glory” perspective as well. I’ve since changed my perspective. The main reason is that we can’t find it in the Bible. What we can find is the phrase “Today is the day of salvation.” (See 2 Corinthians 6:2.)

      I’ve had to really wrestle with this one because of the testimony with my own back being healed. As you know, I suffered with degenerative disc disease and bulging discs for four years before the Lord suddenly healed me. And when He healed me, I was invited to share my testimony from the stage at the event where it happened. Immediately after, the minister, Will Hart, stopped me and prophesied everything that God was about to do in my life and ministry (most of which has already come to pass). I used to say that God hadn’t healed me for those four years so that He could get me up on that stage to receive that word of prophecy literally days before launching into full time itinerant ministry.

      But as I’ve studied the nature of God, I’ve discovered another explanation.

      First of all, my original perspective was inconsistent with the life of Jesus. Jesus never said to anyone, “Look, I feel for you in your condition, but you have to understand that in two years, Peter and John are going to be walking by here, and God is going to get SO much more glory out of this when He heals you then. God needs you to suffer in your condition for two more years. Hang in there!”

      Second, that perspective was inconsistent with the nature of a father. If I broke my son Josiah’s legs so that everyone could watch me nurse him back to health and marvel at what a good father I am, people would have me arrested. And yet we assume that God — the greatest Father — actually does this…allowing His children to suffer so that He can have glory. Any time Jesus compared Father God to earthly fathers, He did so in a way that pointed out how much better God is than any earthly father. And He is always depicted as being better from an earthly perspective — not some unknowable, divine, mysterious perspective that we can’t grasp.

      Third, I realized that this perspective keeps me from seeking to change, which ultimately robs God of receiving more glory. If I assume that my faith was perfect but God said, “not yet,” then I won’t ask the Lord to increase my faith or reveal what needs to change in me. But if I believe that it would have worked for Jesus but didn’t work for me, then I need to examine what in my life is falling short of Christ’s standard and step into my true identity with help from the Holy Spirit.

      Fourth, we would have to explain all the many miracles that have happened in ways that do not bring God the greatest amount of glory. Many miracles happen in secret. Many happen in front of a couple people while others happen in front of multitudes. I’ve been healed of many conditions, and I can think of many ways God could have received more glory by healing me a different way. Why didn’t He wait for the right circumstance in all those situations? Could it be that love values the other person more than one’s own self?

      I think you see my point.

      Today, I see a different answer for the principle of God receiving more glory after delayed response, and I believe it’s more consistent with the example of Jesus, the nature of a father, the principle of love, and the process of Christians growing from glory to glory and from faith to faith: The justice and righteousness of God.

      God’s righteousness demands perfection. Righteousness comes by faith. So when we live by faith, we advance the cause of righteousness (Isaiah 16:5) and bring the perfection of heaven to earth (Luke 11:2). Any time a representative of Jesus falls short in their expression of faith, thus failing to produce the same results Jesus would have, it is an injustice. And what we see throughout scripture is that God always overcompensates for injustice. (i.e. A thief repays seven times, Job received double what he had before, the innocent Son of God was raised to life and glorified to the highest place, etc.)

      Now, if God always overcompensates for injustice, then the longer a person goes seeking their healing without results, the more spectacular the response from heaven will be when it happens. God will receive more glory than previously — not because He was selfishly waiting until He could shine brightest, but because the dam the devil built to hold back the tiny miracle is building up pressure and will soon be a tidal wave. Every time the enemy tries to hinder the work of God, he shoots himself in the foot. The devil is utterly defeated and the more he struggles, the more dramatic his demise.

      So when a person isn’t healed, I encourage them that God always has the upper hand, and He will bring a greater solution simply because He loves to overcompensate for injustice. I also encourage people that the more often they seek healing without seeing results, the greater the injustice, and therefore the greater the response from Heaven will be.

      Sorry my response was so long. My desire is to take away all the non-biblical excuses we often use when healing doesn’t happen. You’re right that God will receive greater glory later, but it’s not because He’s dangling healing in front of people and yanking it away until He’s satisfied with the amount of glory He’s going to receive. Our God is a good Father, and Jesus proved that today is the day of salvation.

      Be blessed!
      –Art

  7. FrankFebruary 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Thanks, I am blessed & thankful for this good Word! My leg was shattered in a traffic accident & the ball at the top of my femur had to be replaced. Three emergency surgeries in three months! I was introduced, again to healing and have had several pray for me and will keep on believing for complete wholeness of my leg. I was using the excuse that I shouldn’t pray for others when I don’t have faith for myself. That’s not the Good News! Perhaps in my case, “As they went they were healed!” Is better to believe and Go into all the world sharing the gospel, praying for the sick leaving the rest up to Him! Every Blessing to you & yours!

    • ArtFebruary 3, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      I like your perspective, Frank. I was actively involved in healing ministry for a year and a half while I still had degenerative and bulging discs. Then God healed me in April of 2011. I can’t even count how many people would have missed out on receiving healing if I had waited until I was healed before stepping out. You’re on the right track!

  8. Timothy JorgensenFebruary 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Great article. Healing is not always pretty- in reality it is a violent attack on the kingdom of darkness and deception. If we truly believe sickness is a work of the devil, it will take some ‘resistance’ (James 4:7) before the devil flees with his ‘stuff’. Sometimes it takes a thick skin to keep standing in a battle, but the difference between maturity and baked-in discouragement is to never lose a tender compassion heart while ministering. Love never fails or quits, even when past failures seek to condemn and sabotage future victories.

    At the same time- meditate on the story of Eleazar -one of David’s mighty men- who kept fighting after everyone else retreated. (2 Samuel 23:9-10) In fact, he kept fighting until his hand stuck to the sword, (whether due to the muscle contraction fatigue, or dried blood) and no matter where he moved, the sword had become one with his body. And he won an unparalleled victory because of his ability to stand and fight- having become one with the Sword. Not every healing is pretty- but an ugly victory is still a victory.
    thanks for writing this!

  9. Ake LackgrenMarch 22, 2013 at 2:04 am #

    I have been a witnessing Christian most of my life, the principle is the same as with healing.
    Not everyone recievs Jesus, and its easy to get discouraged if you witness as its a law of God instead of letting God do it you are doing it not Him and you carry the burden instead of Him.
    Now getting older I learned its never wasted to witness and I don’t take it personal if people get resistant, I know Jesus is still with me and He have a plan.
    Many people go by the law, or come for the loaves and fishes, being in a movement the movement gives you a position, when that’s gone is still only you and Jesus, healing or no healing its still the same whats left is the same, we just keep letting us be available for Jesus and we stay happy and connected no matter what. I am happy just to be able to see God in almost everything around me, healing is fantastic but living in his love is whats its all about in the end.

  10. Jacqui GrantApril 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Thank you so much for this article. It has helped me tremendously! God spoke directly to me through your words. Blessings.

  11. MattJuly 13, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Greetings, Art!

    I am a pentecostal minister (with the AG) and really enjoyed your article here. A friend posted it on his FB. It was refreshing to hear an evangelist address many of the issues instead of ignoring them. I appreciate your candor and I appreciate your willingness to address these questions. I feel safe asking you a couple of different questions and I hope you have the time to respond.

    1) 2 Peter 3:9, You stated: ” The fact that people perish does not contradict the biblical fact that “God wills that none should perish.” (2 Peter 3:9)

    This passage is seems to be clearly referring to the second death after the day of the Lord. It’s saying how God delays the 2nd Coming of Christ so that more people may have a chance for repentance. If it is referring to the Lake of Fire/Hell than it is not applicable to the argument about death/God’s will/why all people are not healed.

    2) Romans 12:6, it is true that Paul says to minister out of “the proportion of our faith” but he is (a) referring to prophecy (not healing) (b) the Greek μέτρον πίστεως says nothing about increasing levels of faith to get a better prophetic word but instead μέτρον means a measure or rule stick we should operate so that we can correctly discern what has already been given to us. This was to prevent people from being overzealous in their prophecies.

    3) “Nevertheless, His desire would be that this tragedy would stir you to discover His heart and motivate you to be strengthened in your faith so that the next person you encounter with this disease doesn’t have to die.”

    I understand your heart here but as a pastor your answer is so disheartening and I respectfully disagree. Philippians 2:17 links healing to God’s mercy, not solely faith. In Galatians 4:13-14, the people did not treat Paul with contempt for not being healed but rather took care of him, encouraged him and treated him back to health. Also, the lack of faith, in your answer anyway, did not start when the daughter was not healed BUT when the dad took her to a physician. With your answer, going to a physician for anything is an act of faithlessness. I understand you will deny this but when you have a view that makes faith a gradation you inevitably have this at the root of your belief.

    4) You position seems to be denying the “Already/Not Yet”— this mode of interpreting Scripture is so clear in Scripture it is nearly impossible to deny.

    Mark 1:14, Revelation 12:10, He is here but is still coming!

    1 Corinthians 15:24, Christ reigns now but opposing authorities are in play.

    1 Corinthians 15:52, death will be destroyed THEN.

    John 16:33, you will have trouble but take heart I have overcome the world.

    Finally, I believe healing is for everyone and by his stripes we are healed but I also believe the multiple times these phrases are used in Scripture they are not just solely referring to physical healing but spiritual rebirth/healing as well. I believe it is God’s will to heal but I don’t limit that solely to physical healing. I see again and again in Scripture that when God doesn’t heal someone he is still present with them, empowering them to persevere (Romans 8, Paul’s missionary voyages, etc). The fact is that He will heal all people but because death still happens healing sometimes takes place after death.

    Thanks for reading and look forward to hearing your thoughts!

    Matt

    • ArtJuly 13, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful response to the article. I especially like dialoguing about this stuff with my fellow AG ministers because our denomination was pretty intense about physical healing until a few public figures did some stupid things back in the 50s and 60s (plus the unfortunate habit of “blaming the victim” that has happened in many Word of Faith circles and crept into many AG churches). I’m passionate about reclaiming the ministry of healing in today’s church, and I especially like seeing a healthy, realistic, down-to-earth expression of it moving into the AG.

      You raised some great points, and I’m going to try to address all of them as effectively and completely as possible.

      In response to #1:

      You’re right about this one…I see how I worded that wrongly, and I’m going to make an edit to the article that says they “will” perish (rather than “do”). The context is indeed about God not wanting anyone to perish in the second death.

      But the point I made still stands. Unless you’re a universalist (which we AG guys aren’t), you believe that people will indeed perish at the final judgment. But the fact that people will perish does not change the fact that God doesn’t want any of them to perish.

      I wasn’t making a point about God not wanting people to die. I was making a point about God’s will not always being done. And so the fact that some people remain sick after we pray for them does not prove that it is God’s will for them to remain sick. The epileptic boy remained sick after the disciples attempted ministering, but Jesus proved God’s will when His faith accomplished what theirs could not.

      In response to #2:

      You’re right about the context being prophecy. The statement I made was simply pointing to a spiritual gift (the specific gift not being important in my mind) functioning in proportion to our faith. Based on experience, I’m still leaning this direction on this one.

      I’m a little confused about the Greek word you used. According to Strong’s, the Greek word used here for “proportion” is ἀναλογία (not μέτρον πίστεως). It isn’t used anywhere else in the New Testament, so we don’t have much to compare it to; but the only translation offered by Strong’s or Thayer’s is “proportion.”

      It’s not a stretch to consider that faith needs to be nurtured and grown. The New Testament is full of phrases supporting this concept of faith being small, large, grown, nurtured, strengthened, weakened, and so forth:

      • Again, note how Jesus told His disciples that they couldn’t cast out the demon from the epileptic boy because they had “so little faith.” (See Matthew 17:20.)
      • Jesus elsewhere pointed out “great faith” (Luke 7:9) and again “little faith” (Luke 12:28).
      • The book of Acts tells us how Stephen was “full of faith” (Acts 6:5…same with Barnabas in 11:24) and how the churches were “strengthened in the faith” (Acts 16:5).
      • In Romans 1:8, Paul commended the church for having faith that was somehow notable enough that it was being “reported all over the world.”
      • And in Romans 4:19, Paul pointed out that Abraham obeyed God “without weakening in his faith,” but rather, as verse 20 says, was “strengthened in his faith.”
      • In Romans 14:1, Paul encourages us to “accept the one whose faith is weak.”
      • In 1 Corinthians 13:2, he mentions “a” faith “that can move mountains,” which could imply that there is “a” faith that doesn’t (I have yet to actually see someone move a mountain, by the way).
      • In 2 Corinthians 8:7, Paul pointed out that they were “excelling in faith.”
      • In 2 Corinthians 10:15, Paul said, “…as your faith continues to grow…”
      • He also praised the Colossian church, saying, “…[I] delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is” (2:5), adding a couple verses later that they should continue to be “strengthened in the faith.”
      • To the Thessalonian church, Paul sent Timothy “to strengthen and encourage you in your faith” (1 Thess. 3:2).
      • In his second letter to that church, he pointed out that their “faith is growing more and more” (1:3).
      • Paul noted Timothy’s “sincere faith” (2 Tim. 1:5) and yet also encouraged him to “pursue” faith (2 Tim 2:22).
      • In Titus 1:1, Paul opened his letter saying, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness…”
      • Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus is the “perfecter of faith” (implying that we need Him to make our faith perfect, which means it isn’t perfect until He does it).
      • And to the Hebrew church, who obviously had a measure of faith or else they couldn’t be saved, was written, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Why imitate their leaders’ faith unless it was somehow better or stronger than their own faith?

      One of my favorite passages on this topic is 1 Thessalonians 3:10, which says, “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.”

      So the idea that our faith isn’t perfect or that it might need to grow or be strengthened is entirely biblical. When it comes to salvation, either you have faith or you don’t. But when it comes to living out that salvation, the question becomes how big or strong our faith is. This applies to everything from matters of conscience, to living sin-free, to prophecy, and — yes — even to healing.

      In my experience, to prophesy according to the “proportion” of one’s faith doesn’t have to do with receiving a bigger or better prophetic word. “Faith,” in my book, refers to one’s relationship with God and how much we trust Him. As Christians, we all trust Him, but some of us trust Him more than others.

      So if I only trust God a little bit, and He says, “I want you to tell that person that I love him,” it’s a very low-risk message, and I’ll probably do it. But if I only trust Him a little bit, and He says, “That person over there is thinking about divorcing his wife; and I want you to tell him that I know about it, but I have better plans for his marriage if He’ll trust me and leave the other woman he’s seeing,” then I’m probably not going to take the risk of possibly being wrong. I need more faith (specifically, trust) for that big of a leap, and God won’t fault me for it because He wants me to speak in proportion to my faith. If, through experience, I’ve learned to trust God’s voice more, though, then I probably will say such a thing. Thus I’m prophesying based on how much I trust God and not speaking things that are beyond the measure of trust that I currently have.

      I’ve found this to be true of healing ministry as well. Some people have all the faith in the world when it comes to God healing headaches; but if someone comes up to them with a tumor, then they inwardly cower (although they’ll probably still pray anyway). As James said, those who ask must not doubt in their hearts or else they shouldn’t expect to receive anything from God. (See James 1:6-7.)

      I was once one of those people. I prayed for many tumors and never expected or saw immediate results. But then I was at a meeting where scores of people were being healed (MS, deaf ears, irregular heartbeats, bulging discs, and more), and in that place of being convinced that God can do anything, a woman came to me with a golf-ball-sized tumor on her wrist. Right before our eyes, it shrunk down to nothing at the name of Jesus. While I don’t take credit for that at all, I can still recognize that the first several times I prayed for tumors, I didn’t actually think God would do it, while this time I was sure of what He wanted based on the things I had been witnessing God doing all that night (sort of like David remembering the lion and the bear before facing Goliath).

      In response to #3:

      I realize that this statement can seem disheartening, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I know of a minister in Texas whose daughter died, and he prayed fervently for her to be raised from the dead without results. It crushed him to burry his daughter. But He determined in his heart that he wanted to grow in his faith so that if anything like that happened again, he would be better equipped to represent Jesus in that way. Some time later, his second daughter died. And when he prayed for her, God raised her from the dead. It was a tragedy that the first daughter died, but rather than wallowing in the tragedy, this man realized that the best thing he could do is grow and keep moving forward.

      While it is true that only God has the power to raise the dead or heal the sick, it is also true that He places the ministry of such things in our hands. Jesus didn’t command His disciples, “As you go, ask My Father to heal the sick.” Instead, He said, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (See Matthew 10:8.) It would be God’s power doing these things, but it was the disciples’ responsibility to carry out the commission.

      You said that Philippians 2:17 links healing to God’s mercy. I’m guessing you used the wrong reference since this verse has nothing to do with healing or mercy.

      Nevertheless, you’re right that healing has to do with God’s mercy. But that doesn’t mean faith is irrelevant. We are saved by grace, but it is “by grace through faith.” (See Ephesians 2:8.) If we were saved by grace apart from faith, then everyone would be saved rather than only those who call on the name of the Lord. And if God’s mercy is all that is necessary for healing, then it means that either everyone should be healed by now or else He’s not being merciful to all those who aren’t healed.

      When Peter and John healed the man at the temple gate (saying, “…what I have, I give you”), they clarified to the crowd how the man was healed: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?…By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” (See Acts 3:12 and 16.)

      Many times, when people were healed, Jesus said it was because of their faith. And again, when the disciples couldn’t cast the demon out of the epileptic boy, He said it was their lack of faith. That doesn’t mean God’s mercy wasn’t involved in these healings; it simply means that faith is the way we come in contact with our merciful God. Sometimes it’s the sick person’s faith, sometimes it’s a friend or family member’s faith (like the Syrophoenician woman, the Centurion, or the four friends who lowered the paralytic through the roof), and sometimes it’s the faith of the healing minister (like when Jesus healed the epileptic boy and every time He raised someone from the dead).

      We can’t Biblically take faith out of the equation for healing. And we can’t attribute healing only to God’s mercy because that implies that He turns off His mercy from time to time, even for His own children. On the contrary, He is “full of compassion and mercy,” as evidenced through the life of Jesus, who healed all.

      As for Galatians 4:13-14, I dealt with this extensively in my latest book (and if you e-mail me your mailing address at Art@SupernaturalTruth.com, I’d love to send you a copy for free). I’m going to quote myself here:

      Paul makes it clear that it was because of “physical infirmity” that he preached the Gospel “at first” to the Galatians. So if we want to see what physical infirmity Paul is referring to, we should turn to the book of Acts and examine Paul’s first missionary journey throughout the region of Galatia.

      It is important to note that Galatia was not a city but rather a large region that contained several cities, including Lystra, Iconium, and Derbe. The first time we see Paul reaching this region is with Barnabas in Pisidian Antioch; but at this time, they were ministering to the Jews. That, however, didn’t turn out so well:

      Acts 13:50-51 – But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. (NIV)

      After being rejected by the Jews of Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas turned their sights to the Gentiles. (See Acts 13:46-48.) And these “uncircumcised” Gentiles were the ones to whom Paul wrote his letter. (See Galatians 6:12.) These are the ones to whom he wrote when he said, “You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.” (See Galatians 4:13.)

      What physical infirmity did Paul have when he visited the Gentiles of Galatia? First, let’s look at the Greek. The word for “physical” here is “sarx,” which is the same word translated elsewhere as “flesh.” And the word for “infirmity” used here is “astheneia” — the same word translated as “weakness” in 2 Corinthians 11 to refer to persecution. (See 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, and specifically verse 30.)

      So the term “physical infirmity” could just as validly be translated “weakness of the flesh.” And given the way Paul is known to have used the word “astheneia” (weakness or infirmity) in reference to persecution, it is sensible to consider that Paul was likely referring to (1) the persecution he endured from the Jews before coming to the Gentiles of Galatia, or (2) possibly his resulting physical condition after having endured that persecution. (See Acts 13:50-51.)

      Paul didn’t only use the term “weakness of the flesh” but also “trial.”

      Galatians 4:14 – And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. (NKJV)

      It would have been easy for the Galatian Christians to “despise or reject” the trial of persecution Paul was physically enduring. Consider what took place as he ministered in Iconium:

      Acts 14:4-7 – The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the gospel. (NIV)

      Anyone wanting to simply avoid conflict could have rejected Paul rather than receiving him and his divisive message.

      In fact, there is some disagreement among translators as to whether the word “trial” was pointed at Paul or the Galatians. For example, while the New King James Version reads “trial which was in my flesh,” the New American Standard Bible renders as follows:

      Galatians 4:14 – and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. (NASB)

      In this case, Paul’s bodily condition (likely due to the persecution suffered in Pisidian Antioch) was said to be a trial to the Galatians (not simply a trial to himself).

      Whether it was Paul’s trial or the Galatians’ trial isn’t actually important. The point is that either way, the book of Acts offers us the context of persecution, which is consistent with Paul’s use of the Greek word “astheneia” (translated “infirmity” or “weakness”).

      It’s important to note that while Jesus promised healing, He also promised persecution. So when people suffer physical problems from persecution, I’m not as bothered as when they suffer for other reasons.

      Lastly on point 3, you claimed that in my perspective, “going to a physician for anything is an act of faithlessness.” Actually, the opposite is true. If I believe that God’s will is for me to be in pain, then it is sinful for me to take pain medicine. But if I believe that God’s will is for me to be healed, then I know — in His mercy — He’s okay with me taking medicine that will alleviate certain symptoms while I persevere in seeking healing. The belief that sickness is God’s will is actually the one that is at odds with doctors and medicine. If God wants you to have cancer, then you shouldn’t get chemo. If God wants you to have diabetes, then you shouldn’t take insulin to stay alive. But if God doesn’t want these things, then we should enjoy the relief of medicine while we seek the healing Jesus purchased. (For more clarity on this perspective, please check out the article I wrote at http://www.supernaturaltruth.com/are-doctors-evil-pharmakeia-and-medicine/.)

      In my hypothetical scenario, the dad’s lack of faith had nothing to do with going to the doctor. I take my family to the doctor all the time. I took my infant son to the cardiologist both before and after God miraculously healed the hole in his heart. I’m actually pro-doctor because I recognize that my faith isn’t perfect but that God wants my family well anyway. Our first action is always to pray, and if that doesn’t work, we go to the doctor. Most of the time, it works, though.

      Again, check out the article I cited, and I think this perspective will make a lot more sense.

      In response to #4:

      I don’t deny the “already but not yet” perspective at all. I’m with you 100% on that. The problem is that we must interpret this according to the life of Jesus.

      Never once do we read about someone coming to Jesus for healing only to hear Him say, “Sorry. My Kingdom isn’t actually here yet, so you’re going to have to die in order to be healed.”

      I’ve heard this called “the ultimate healing” — that when we die, Jesus receives what He paid for because we are no longer sick and the devil can’t do anything to change that. I like to say that Jesus believed in the “ultimate healing” too; but thankfully for all the people who came to Him, He never settled for it!

      I recognize that if I don’t succeed at ministering healing to someone while they’re still alive, Jesus will still receive the victory in the end. But since Jesus never had that problem, and since He expects me to do “greater works” than He did, I can’t settle for that. I have to contend for 100% results even if I never see it.

      Jesus paid the price for 100% of mankind to be saved spiritually. We never give up on trying to minister reconciliation between God and man. And if a person we’ve been trying to reach dies without receiving Him, we step up our game the next time because we know how important it is that we communicate the Gospel effectively. According to Scripture (and our AG position paper, I might add), healing is in the atonement. That means that the same price Jesus paid for spiritual salvation, He also paid for healing. The same way we contend for 100% salvation of the human race, we should contend for 100% healing. Jesus deserves to receive everything He paid for.

      Your final point is that healing is for everyone and that “by his stripes we are healed;” and yet sometimes verses like this refer to spiritual healing rather than physical. You said that it’s God’s will to heal, but that you don’t limit that to physical healing.

      I have to admit that your last paragraph seems to be saying two different things, as though God does want to heal everyone physically (since He does it after death anyway) and yet He technically doesn’t. This doesn’t make sense to me when you really think it through.

      Check out what Matthew wrote in chapter 8, verses 16 and 17: “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.'”

      I don’t see how Isaiah’s prophecy could be taken any other way if this is how Matthew, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, framed his words. In this passage, Jesus healed “all” the sick…not some, but all. (And that doesn’t mean He killed some of them so that they could be healed the “ultimate” way.)

      I hope i answered your questions adequately. I appreciate this conversation because I’m passionate about being faithful to Scripture and I always want to be corrected if I’m off-base. I should also say that while I’m passionate about faithfulness to Scripture, I’m also a bit of a pragmatist: If it doesn’t work in practice, then Scripture must mean something different than I think it does. I don’t exalt experience above Scripture, but if my understanding of Scripture doesn’t produce real results, then I know I need to revisit what I believe.

      The fact is, I lived the first 25 years of my life as a good Assemblies of God boy. I loved Jesus and believed the “16 Fundamental Truths” and “4 cardinal doctrines” (of which divine healing is #3). But I prayed for hundreds of people to be healed without seeing any results.

      Then, when I was about 25, I went through a journey of discovering that Jesus proved the will of the Father through his ministry and especially through the sacrifice He paid; and He always ministered healing to everyone who came to Him or called out to Him. It’s like someone flipped a switch for me. And since that time — in the last four years — I’ve seen well over 1,000 people miraculously healed. I’ve watched as 300 Kenyan school kids all received salvation and then ministered healing in Jesus’ name to each other only 5 minutes later, and every single one was healed. I’ve been in 8 meetings now (three in the USA) where 100% of the people present were healed when the Body of Christ ministered to each other; and I’ve been in countless more where the vast majority were healed.

      I don’t tell you these stories to impress you with me. I tell them to lend credence to what I’m saying here. This interpretation of Scripture (taking what it says at face value) actually works in practice. I would much rather adjust my faith to conform to Scripture than adjust scripture to conform to my level of faith. That’s why I’m so adamant.

      It’s true that people die, and it’s true that people often die at a God-appointed time. But if people always died in God’s timing, then Jesus would have been contradicting the Father’s will every time He raised the dead. Sometimes people die because it’s the devil’s will (John 10:10), and 1 John 3:8 tells me that the reason Jesus came into the world was “to destroy the devil’s work.” Jesus said in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” So now it’s my job to destroy the devil’s work — and that includes everything from sin to sickness and disease.

      Like I said in the article, it’s not at all emotionally “easy” to hold this perspective. But it’s also not emotionally easy to hold the perspective that I’m responsible for sharing the Gospel, lest people go to hell. Christianity isn’t about holding emotionally easy beliefs. Christianity is about obeying Jesus, living like Him, and doing what He did (and greater) so that the world can encounter Him and come to Him for salvation.

      If you find the time (after reading this extensively LONG reply to your comment), you can gain a little better picture of why I’m convinced as I am by watching the sermon I posted at http://youtu.be/potfpJ6pPpI.

      Be blessed!
      –Art

  12. CarmenAugust 13, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Hi Art. I recently finished reading a book called “The Last Lecture,” where a beloved professor came to terms with his death and how he got his house in order and “died with dignity.” I don’t know if the man was a Christian, but I told a friend that I would’ve hated to give the man and his family hope about healing only to have him die. It’s hard to be bold sometimes unless one has a rhema from God. And we’ve seen and heard of people who’ve “stood on the Word,” and still died. Maybe they even died “in faith” (a notion that kinda bugs me … sorry), but they still died. So, I was lamenting to my prayer partner about these issues regarding healing, faith, etc. just yesterrday. We acknowledged that I am on a journey. Tonight, I googled, “amputee testimonies,” because I wanted to know if there were any testimonies out there of people whose legs and arms have grown out. Then, I ran across your website. How provident!! I don’t know you from Adam but I can tell you’re a blessing. I’ll be sending my prayer partner your article in a second, but I wanted to email you first. You are so honest and real about the struggle, and I greatly appreciate it. I don’t even necessarily believe that by us humbly taking the blame for the lack of healing results is always the accurate response, either, altho, I think it is the humble response and maybe even the disarming response. My mentor, JP Jackson, has a very helpful teaching on faith and healing, but again–I wanted to tell you how I appreciate your integrity in this article. I will be rereading it and sending it to my friend. Hope to correspond with you one day soon. God bless you. Minister Isaac

  13. CarmenAugust 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    Oh, and real quickly–Heidi Baker seems to have amazing results in the area of healing and miracles. There’s something to that ….

  14. JesudamilareMarch 27, 2014 at 2:53 am #

    Dear bro Art, I rejoice at this article for in recent times I have been getting to meditate seriously on the immutability of Father’s character. He was revealed consummately in our Lord Jesus and we see how Christ brought healing to ALL those who either came across Him or who He came across. My heart has been experiencing an enlargement as regarding the fact that Father desires to touch lives through me, He wants to bring holistic healing and particularly in the bodies of men and women who are going through the pains of childlessness. Could you pray with me? Could you also help with resources that establish me in the faith OF God?
    Much blessings!

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