Last week in Evergreen Life we saw an encouraging picture of how Christ’s life becomes increasingly manifest through us as we encounter hardships and trials. God has planted a life in his people that’s unchanging regardless of exterior circumstances. We went on to talk about how the topic of suffering according to God’s will has so often been misunderstood. It’s a gloriously encouraging truth if we understand it, but some teachers have twisted it in order to imply that we should not resist the devil or should accept evil as “God’s will.”
We then promised to deal with the lie that healing ministry denies Biblical suffering. Those who teach divine healing are often accused of spreading a false, self-centered gospel which portrays God as our servant who is here to make our lives comfortable. They imagine that healing ministry is incompatible with the Biblical passages about suffering according to God’s will.
It’s true that the gospel isn’t about plucking us out of all our troubles. Rather, it leads us into trouble! But in all the trouble that the gospel leads us into, it leads us through it in victory after victory, in ever-increasing glory! Healing ministry leads us into suffering according to God’s will, not away from it.
1 Corinthians 15:57 (NIV) But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV) Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
Sharing In Christ’s Sufferings
Scripture says we share in Christ’s sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Suffering according to God’s will is sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
Romans 8:17 (NIV) Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
If the healing gospel is incompatible with suffering according to God’s will, as some suggest, that creates a big problem for Jesus! A large portion of the gospels is devoted to stories of Jesus’ compassion and healing miracles. Was Jesus preaching a false gospel? Did he send his disciples to preach a false gospel?
How did Jesus suffer? He was the only man ever to walk the earth who never sinned or did any wrong. But he was misunderstood, slandered, falsely accused, and mistreated by evil men. He continued to walk in love. He didn’t repay evil with evil, but with good.
1 Peter 3:9, 4:1 (NIV) Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing… Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.
Ministering Healing Leads Us Into The Sufferings Of Christ By Provoking Persecution
An examination of scripture shows that healing and miracles were some of the biggest provocateurs of persecution, for Jesus as well as the apostles.
Consider the book of Matthew for example. The first place in Mathew where we read about opposition from the Pharisees is in Matthew 9:11. They criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. The second time we read about the religious leaders opposing Jesus is soon after, in Matthew 9:32-34. What triggered the persecution? Jesus made a mute man speak.
Soon after that Jesus sent his disciples to heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach the gospel. It was in the context of doing these things that Jesus warned his disciples of the persecution they would face.
The third time in Matthew that we read of the Pharisee’s opposition to Jesus is in Matthew 12:9-14. They tried to use Jesus’ healing ministry as a trap to bring charges against him. Then, when Jesus restored the shriveled hand of a man on the Sabbath, they went out and plotted how they might kill him.
The fourth time we read of them opposing Jesus is in Matthew 12:22-24. The context is Jesus healing a blind and mute man.
Why did the people in Jesus’ hometown become offended at him? Because of his wisdom and deeds of power! Why did the Pharisees persecute Jesus in John 5? Another healing miracle on the Sabbath! What about their opposition in John 9? Jesus healed a man born blind.
The apostles experienced the same. Peter and John drew a crowd by healing a crippled begger, leading to an evangelistic gathering. The Pharisees arrested them and told them to stop speaking in Jesus’ name, but they couldn’t do anything more than that, because everybody knew the cripple who had been healed and saw that it was a notable sign. (Acts 3 and 4) Then in Acts 5:12-18 we read of the high priest and the Sadducees arresting the apostles and putting them into the public jail. Why was it this time? Crowds had gathered not only from Jerusalem but from the surrounding towns, bringing the sick into the streets and laying them on beds and mats, so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. All of them were healed, and this provoked the high priest and Sadducees to jealousy.
The Truth Of Divine Healing Leads Us To Confront Suffering Rather Than Hide Our Faces From It!
Suffering according to God’s will is going into dark and hard places because love compels us. It’s going right to where the pain and suffering is, instead of hiding our faces from it. That’s exactly what Jesus did when he came for us! Thank God that Jesus made himself nothing, coming as a man, and humbling himself even to the point of death on a cross!
If you believe that Jesus’ spirit which lives in you enables you to do what Jesus did, then you have a responsibility! When you hear that somebody has cancer, you can do something about it! When you encounter heartbreak, grief, and chronic pain, you have the answer!
I remember reading about international rescue workers trying to save lives after heavy flooding in Mozambique. People were starving. The need was so tremendous that the rescue workers felt like all the work they did could barely begin to make a difference. There were still so many more villages with hungry people! The workers were only allowed to stay for a limited time in order to prevent them from developing PTSD.
It’s much easier to say “God is in control of everything” and so assume that we are helpless to change anything than it is to believe that God has put his Spirit in us and purposes to accomplish his will through us. Belief in God’s will to heal through Christ’s body, the church, challenges us to do something. It challenges us to open our hearts and to go where there are pain and suffering. It means we have a lot of work to do. That’s why John G. Lake called it a “strong man’s gospel.” It takes tremendous courage to believe “God wants me to do something about this situation through the empowerment of His Spirit working in me,” and then to act on that belief. It means we have a lot of hard work to do.
This “strong man’s gospel” led John G. Lake to South Africa, where he faced great difficulties. It led Heidi and Rolland Baker to risk their lives and persevere through great hardship in order to save other people’s lives in Mozambique. It has led them and many others down a path of suffering and difficulties all around, but also great victory and great glory. The deaf hear, the blind see, food is multiplied, and the poor have good news brought to them.
It has taught me to participate in God’s heart of love and to bless my enemies, more than anything else has. Some people I’ve ministered to had no faith. Some initially thought I was trying to take advantage of them. It’s funny how many people think that you are an immature and overly-zealous Christian once you start believing God for something!
One lady had cancer with excruciating pain. The first time I ministered to her she felt fire through her whole body and all the pain left. A few month later she relapsed. I went for about an hour a day to minister to her for three months. She died. Her daughter is still bitter against me, as if her death was my fault. All I did was love! I didn’t blame anybody for what happened or put a burden on anyone’s back. I spent time with the lady and blessed her every day!
Another had recently seen her sister healed. I’d never met her sister but I saw her on the street, approached her, and told her by word of knowledge what physical issues she was having. It was right on, and she and a few others around her were healed! A few weeks that this lady asked me to minister to her husband, who was in pain. I only had a few minutes between English classes, but I laid hands on him and ministered to him. He didn’t feel much improvement. Later the lady said “Jonathan prayed such a weak prayer…” What about her sister who was healed not long before that?
I could tell so many stories like these. Some people have reacted with anger, like wounded dogs biting the hand trying to help them. Some who initially mocked are later healed. If you embrace the “strong man’s gospel” you will open your heart, love, invest a lot of time in people, and in return you’ll get a lot more opposition and criticism than if you had done nothing. But it’s worth it!
It would be easier to close my heart and stop loving. But I don’t. I’ve had plenty of people misunderstand and mistreat me, and I love them. They just don’t understand. Participating in God’s love is worth everything. It takes courage to say “I know that if Jesus touched her, she would have lived, so I’m going to keep going and keep growing in Christ.” But it’s worth it for the many people who have been healed and who will continue to be. There’s only one way to go, and it’s towards Jesus, growing up in all things into Christ, manifesting His glory to a continually greater degree. How can I stop now? So many more miracles have happened because I haven’t stopped. We lost that lady to cancer, but now a child who had Leukemia is alive and cancer-free!
You have to care far more about seeing God touch people than you do about their opinions of you if you want to continue in healing ministry. You have to be willing to open your heart and care for people. You must choose to love people more than you care about your own comfort, dignity, reputation, or even how those people you love treat you. Jesus cared more about healing people than he did about the social constructs of what’s considered appropriate or not. That got him into trouble when he healed on the Sabbath. In some circles, any expression of belief in the miraculous will elicit mockery and ridicule. It can get you into trouble too. But is it worth it to see God’s glory manifest as he supernaturally touches people in those situations?
Do you want to see God’s glory manifest? Find a place with pain and suffering. Find a dark place, and begin to act. Learn to receive God’s grace for naturally impossible situations and hurting people. Persevere and never give up. Determine to keep growing in faith, in love, in power, and in every aspect of Christ’s nature. Keep your heart open, keep loving, and keep acting. Embrace the “strong man’s gospel”—“Jesus lives in me, so I have what these people need.”