Sunday, March 26, 2017

Healing Prayers

I love this story.  Here we see Jesus healing not one person or two but four in three separate instances and if we had of kept reading we would have discovered that after leaving the blind men he healed a man who was mute.

And this wasn’t an isolated incident in the story.   Contained within the 4 Gospels are 16 specific instances of Christ healing people, He healed the lame, the blind, the lepers, the epileptic, he even healed one of the soldiers who came to arrest him.

And after Matthew had recorded these four specific healing incidents, he tells us Matthew 9:35-36  Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
As we read through the gospels one thing that we discover is that Jesus really didn’t seem to care who he healed, he wasn’t all that selective over the type of disease, the geographical area, the race of the healee or the technique that he used.

He healed blindness, epilepsy, leprosy, and paralysis.  He healed in Galilee, Nazareth and Jerusalem, and he healed Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles.  Some people he touched, some he spoke to, some he made mud packs for their eyes.  Some he didn’t even see but simply spoke the word from a distance and the healing took place.

And in all the charges that Jesus’ enemies brought against him they never doubted that he healed people, there was just too much evidence.  In some instances his critics  saw it with their own eyes.

The one common denominator that we see in all of these healings is the element of faith.  Time and time again we hear Jesus tell people “You are now well because of your faith.” and sometimes it didn’t even have to be the sick person who had the faith, in the book of Mark some guys brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus and when they couldn’t get him through the crowd they went up on the roof tore a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down listen to what it says in Mark 2:5  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

Notice it wasn’t how much faith the crippled man had but the amount of faith the crippled man’s friends had. 

Years ago, I met a man by the name of Rod Lewis.  He was a singer, and had been in a wheelchair since birth.  And he told me about how he’d been prayed for at different times through the years to be healed and when it hadn’t happened he had been rebuked for not having enough faith. But throughout the bible we see people being healed and a lot of times it wasn’t necessarily their faith that was commended. 

Sometimes they didn’t even know that a healing was in the cards.  One of my favourite stories in the bible is from the book of Acts when Peter and John were on their way to pray in the temple and saw the crippled man laying outside the gate begging. 

And Peter goes over and tells him Acts 3:6  But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”

The beggar didn’t have a clue who Peter was or what Peter had to offer, all he wanted was some change and he was healed, not because of his faith but because of Peter’s faith. 

The story is told that Thomas Aquinas, was being entertained by Pope Innocent IV.  One day the pope, looked around at the Papal palace and told Aquinas: "You see that the Church is no longer in an age in which she can say, Silver and gold have I none" "It is true, holy father," replied Aquinas, "nor can she now say to the lame man, Rise up and walk!"  That is what is known in preaching as “An aside”.

But what is faith?  The Bible defines faith in the book of Hebrews 11:1 when it says Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Often when we think of healing we think of a physical healing, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the mute speak the blind see.  But that isn’t the only type of healing we see in the bible.

There is a Healing for our Spirit.   Sometimes we view the people of the bible through rose coloured glasses, never believing that they might have problems or be in the least bit down or depressed. 

In the book of 1 Samuel we read the story of Hannah, maybe you know the story, maybe you don’t.  In the first chapter, we discover that she was married to Elkanah and they loved each other very much but they couldn’t have children.  And that was something she wanted desperately. 

It’s so hard for those of us who have children to understand sometime the heartbreak felt by those who are childless.  On the other hand, It’s so hard for those who are childless to understand sometime the heartbreak felt by those of us who have children.

And it’s not all that uncommon, just off the top of my head I can think of a number of couples within my circle of acquaintances who can’t have children for one reason or another and I’m sure that many of them share the feelings that Hannah expressed in 1 Samuel 1:10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.

But Hannah wasn’t the only person in the Bible that experienced the blues listen to what Moses had to say in Numbers 11:14-15 I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy!  If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”  Sounds like the life of the party doesn’t he?

And listen to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” 

And then there was King David, who wrote most of the Psalms, who penned these words:  Psalms 22:6-8 But I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all! Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, “Is this the one who relies on the Lord?” Each of these people needed to have their spirits healed because they had given up.  And each of them eventually received the emotional healing they needed.

I’m not saying that their problems weren't severe, but their problems certainly weren’t unique nor were they fatal.  In 2017 our country and our churches are full of people who have fallen and can’t get up.  And here is the good news for the morning, we will all fall.  You ever watch babies learning how to walk?  They don’t just get it.  They try and they wobble and they fall down, and they get back up again and they try again and they wobble again and they fall down again. 

It’s kind of a recurring theme until they finally get it right, because babies have discovered the truth of life and that is “If you walk you will fall.”  Sometimes we fall because of fear, or inexperience or lack of preparation or over confidence or sometimes we just fall.

And the more we attempt to do the more likely we are to fall.  Like it or not them are the facts.  Can anyone remember where they were on January 28, 1986?  No how about this can anyone remember where they were when Christa McAuliffe died?  She was the school teacher aboard the space shuttle Challenger when it exploded 73 seconds after take-off. I was driving on Pictou Road in Bible Hill when I heard the news on the radio.

There are those who would say that had Christa McAuliffe not gone into space that she would have survived, yes but the question is would she have lived?

Life is going to be full of falls, the farther you reach, the faster you run, the longer you go the percentages begin to pile up.  The privilege of success is tempered by the risk of a fall.

The difference between Success and failure is contained in our reaction to our falls.  Some people center their entire experiences around one fall, they look at it, replay it, over and over again but they never get on with life.  It doesn’t matter how successful they had been and can be all they see is the fall.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’re not a failure until you quit.  Never be down, either be up or getting up.

And if you are down, and you don’t think you can get up by yourself maybe you’re right.  But then again if you are a child of God then you don’t need to get up by yourself cause he’s there to help you up.  When Christ started his earthly ministry, he began by making an appearance in the synagogue he read a passage of scripture that would shape his ministry listen. 

The scripture that Jesus read that day were the words of Isaiah 61:1  The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

If you’ve fallen then God is there.  If you can’t get up, if you’re too tired and you’ve called it quits, don’t despair listen again to the words of Jesus He has sent Me to comfort the brokenhearted.  Do you fit in that category?  Has your heart been broken, has your spirit been crushed?  But you have to be willing to be picked up.
Are you crying out to God today for an emotional healing?  If so he’s there.  David must have discovered that as well because he wrote in Psalm 34:18  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
And so Jesus is there to heal your broken spirit, but more then that we read in Jeremiah 3:22 “My wayward children,” says the Lord, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.”
There is a Healing for Our Souls 

Sometimes we pray for a physical healing and neglect a spiritual healing.  As a matter of fact, I marvel when I hear Christians ask for prayer for the physical healing of an unbelieving loved one and yet they’ve never asked for prayer for their salvation.  

If we go back to the scripture we started with we read in Matthew 9: 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Why did Jesus have compassion on the crowds?  Not because they were sick but because they were lost.

As much as we place a high premium on physical health, think of weight loss centers, gyms, fitness clubs etc. we need to put an even higher premium on spiritual health.  Psalm 41:4 “O Lord,” I prayed, “have mercy on me. Heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

Let me paraphrase the words of Jesus from Matthew 10:28 Jesus said “Do not be afraid of those diseases which can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of those diseases which can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  That disease is sin. And it is a terminal disease.  Listen to what the Bible says in Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death.

That’s not physical death, because if you haven’t heard yet we are all going to die.  Instead it’s a spiritual death.

Sin is what separates you from God, it creates a chasm that you cannot cross, and the only part that you have in your spiritual healing is repentance.  Repentance is simply telling God that you’re sorry for what you’ve done, not just a little sorry but so sorry you’re not going to do it again.  That's the message that Peter was teaching in Acts 3:19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.

Did you catch what happens there, your sins will be wiped away, that’s called forgiveness and that’s God’s part.  Are you crying out to God today for a spiritual healing? If so he’s there. 

But the healing that Jesus offers is not just for our spirits and our souls.

James 5:14-15 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well. And anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

There is a Healing for Our Bodies  This is the one you were waiting for isn’t it?  You are wondering “Where’s he going with this, does he believe in divine physical healing?”  I not only believe that Jesus Christ healed people when he walked through the Holy Land 2000 years ago, I also believe that he heals people today.  You with me?

But in saying that here a couple of things to think about:  

1) Let’s keep God’s will in mind.  Probably praying for your 96 year old granny to be healed physically may not be what God has in mind.  We need to admit that some people are ready to be with God, and when we pray for their healing we are praying out of selfishness, cause we don’t want to lose them. 

We say that heaven is a wonderful place, but we don’t always act like we believe it.  Sometimes we need to use common sense when we pray for physical healing. 

Adam Clarke, a preacher from the late 1700’s wrote that when we pray for healing it ought to be like this:  “If it be most for thy glory, and the eternal good of this man's soul, let him be restored; if otherwise, Lord, pardon, purify him, and take him to thy glory.”

2) Healing isn’t absolute  We don’t know why but God doesn’t always heal.  Paul spoke about his thorn in the flesh, we don’t know what it was but most scholars feel that it was some type of physical ailment that Paul wanted removed, listen to what he said in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

If God healed every physical problem then people would never die and people do die.

When you say “Faith Healing” a whole generation of people think of Kathryn Kuhlman who traveled the world doing Healing Crusades from the late 40s to the mid 70s and she died of heart problems on February 20th 1976.

John Wimber one of the founders of the Signs and Wonders movement in the seventies wrote “Power Healing” and yet he died of a brain hemorrhage on November 17, 1997. 

I saw a sign in a doctor’s office once that said, “Don’t take life too serious you’ll never get out of it alive.” Ain’t that the truth. 

When I was in High School in English we had to take poetry, remember?  And as a 17 year old one of John Donne’s Holy Sonnets struck a chord with me, perhaps you remember it as well.

Holy Sonnet # 10 or Death Be Not Proud

Death be not proud,
though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful,
for thou art not so,
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure: then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

The ultimate healing for the Christian has to be death, and that’s not a cop out, death may be the enemy but it’s a defeated enemy, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15: 54-55 “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

3) Let’s recognize that we don’t pray enough for divine healing.  People have died because they had not been prayed over, do you believe that?  God does heal and he expects us to pray for healing.  Does that mean we should neglect proper medical care?  No, being a believer doesn’t mean that you are stupid, or at least it shouldn’t.  God can and does heal though doctors and hospitals.  

4) It is an act of faith.  The term faith healer is redundant, it’s like a Born Again Christian, you can’t be a Christian unless you’re born again, and you can’t heal without faith.  But the onus appears to be on the healer not on the healee.  How much is enough faith?  I don’t know, obviously enough to heal.  And faith will never ask less than that you believe.

5) The Bible gives us clear direction for healing and that’s laid down in the scripture in James 5:14-15  Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

1) They should call the elders of the church.  Who does the calling? The person who is sick. You can’t force a person to be prayed over, and we can’t force our desire for someone to be healed on them.
2) The leaders should pray over the person who needs to be healed for healing.  Specifically for healing, let’s not beat around the bush on that one.
3) There is an anointing with oil.  And I’ve read that because oil was considered. . .
4) It should be done in the name of the Lord
5) It must be a prayer of faith.

So, where you at? 

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