From time to time, people ask me if I believe in Divine Healing. What they aren’t asking me, is if I believe in random acts of miraculous healing. But, do I believe there is some provision in the death of Jesus Christ for the healing of the body, a provision for us as believers to claim.
I have known many who have experienced miraculous healing, including myself! But one healing stands out. A little over 25 years ago, Charlotte a wonderful saint of God, then in her mid-seventies, underwent a heart catheterization procedure that went bad. She required major surgical intervention which left her comatose and almost vegetative. After many days in the hospital, she was sent to a skilled nursing facility with a “vent” unit. In other words, she could not breathe and survive on her own. There was virtually no hope, humanly speaking for her recovery. We were prepared for her to die. This was in November of that year, just before Thanksgiving.
During a special prayer meeting that November many prayed for her “home-going,” and I sincerely was inclined to pray for that myself. But then God impressed on my heart a very different way to pray. I was to pray that she not only would be healed, but that she would sing at the Punta Gorda Alliance Church on Resurrection [Easter] Sunday morning. For reasons beyond me and defying every outward evidence to the contrary, I was suddenly absolutely certain that God would raise her up from near death. I stuck my proverbial neck out and publically prayed with the assurance that she would not only be healed but sing!
This is NOT the kind of thing that has often characterized my prayers for the sick. I do not claim any special spiritual gift of healing or extraordinary faith. Perhaps in this instance it might have been something on the order of “the prayer of faith” James speaks of, I do not know. It was special endowment of faith and very much out of the ordinary. For several days afterwards there was no change in Charlotte’s condition, and no change over the next few weeks that followed.
Our pastor visited Charlotte regularly and reported back on her condition. Then one day, he reported a change. She began to show signs of alertness. Her healing accelerated, she was taken off the ventilator, and then she was discharged home, but with barely an audible voice. Gradually, her voice began to return and yes, on Resurrection Sunday morning, for the first time since her surgical mishap, Charlotte sang as part of the “Mifflin Trio” with her sisters, Jessie and Dorothy, to the glory of God.
In the years that have followed, I have come to appreciate the provision of Christ our Healer for the body and the soul. Occasionally, I have witnessed God’s miraculous healing in answer to prayer, at times after praying for the sick and anointing them with oil. I have come to believe that such healing experienced today by God’s people is rooted in the atonement of Christ.
The prophet Isaiah anticipated the Messiah’s death not only as a substitutionary atonement for sin, but also as God’s provision for the healing of the physical body (Isaiah 53:4-5; cf. 1 Peter 2:24). If there was any doubt that this was the intent of the prophet, the apostle Matthew confirms that this was Isaiah’s meaning, and the very basis for the healing ministry of our Lord (Matthew 8:16-17). Efforts to deny the plain meaning of Isaiah’s words strike me as unconvincing and contrived. Sin came into the world and death by sin (Romans 5:12). That death includes the whole being, body and soul. The cross was God’s answer to sin, providing redemption from sin and its wages, which affects the whole man, soul and body. Complete healing like our sanctification will not be fully realized in the believer’s experience until the appearing of Christ (1 John 3:2). However, in the interim we may appropriate by faith the benefits, even if imperfectly.
God wants us to entrust our physical well-being to Him, and it is ordinarily His will for the church to pray for wellness (3 John 1:2) and healing (James 5:16). He has in point of fact endowed some in the church with gifts of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9, 28) for the common good and unity of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7, 18-19) and for the encouragement and strengthening of others in the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16). It is my understanding that the gifts of healing are likely special endowments of faith given to some in the Body of Christ for the effectual kind of prayer that trusts God to heal the sick (Romans 12:3ff correlating with 1 Corinthians 12:9, 28).
Even so, God is sovereign and He may choose to deny a request for immediate healing to allow for something better (John 11:4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10), and ultimately to call us home to Heaven (Psalm 90:10; 103:15-17a). But it is generally His will for us to seek His face for healing (Matthew 7:7-11; James 5:16). Therefore, it behooves the church to pray continually for healing (James 5:16) and to encourage those who are afflicted to seek God’s face for it.
Should the church then discourage the sick from seeking medical attention? We do well to remember that all true healing comes from God (James 1:17), that by Him we are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14), and that He is the creator of the immunological system in our bodies that fights disease. Medication for illness may clearly be in the will of God, as it was for Timothy, associate of the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 5:23). The apostle Paul himself, undoubtedly benefitted from the skills of Luke, God’s provision of a physician who travelled with him (Colossians 4:4; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). Indeed, we can also say that God is the true source of wisdom and skill, which He has given to modern physicians.
We also do well to remember that God is sovereign, and that He has the right to determine how He will heal. Often it seems God uses more than one means of healing, and believers should avail themselves of all that God has provided for it. But, as we learn from old King Asa, who neglected to consult with God, but only his physicians for the life threatening disease in his feet (2 Chronicles 16:12), God wants His people to go to Him first, and trust Him primarily and ultimately for our physical well-being.