Continuing to Believe Even When We're Not Healed
Vineyard Columbus recently hosted a conference titled “Light the Fire” with Jordan Seng, a pastor from Hawaii. Many, many people were encouraged by the conference to believe God for more of his presence and power. Many, many people experienced God’s Spirit in a powerful way. And we have received testimonies of several remarkable healings that spontaneously occurred during the conference sessions.
Nevertheless, there is one stubborn fact that we cannot gloss over or just sweep under the rug. That stubborn fact is that the vast majority of people we pray for don’t get healed by prayer alone. And it is not just because we don’t know how to pray, or because we lack faith or spiritual gifting. The majority of people that anyone prays for – whether prayed for by John Wimber, who was the founder of the Vineyard movement, and who had an unusually strong healing gift, or any other healer, such as Katherine Kuhlman or Oral Roberts – most people and most illnesses do not get healed through prayer alone. That is the stubborn truth.
This has been true throughout the history of the Christian church. The great St. Augustine, who saw many miracles and spontaneous healings in his church in the 5th century, died of a wasting disease while his city was under siege by barbarian attack. Teresa of Avila, who was a Christian mystic and writer in the 1500’s, and who had many incredible experiences of God, suffered for years with intense migraines. Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer and who personally healed the sick, died a difficult death following a long string of debilitating illnesses. St. Francis of Assisi loved to look at nature as a way to adore God but was almost completely blind when he wrote his famous “Canticle of the Creatures” whose famous lines ask Brother Sun and Sister Moon to praise God with him. All of these people were certainly loved by God. They believed God for healing. And yet the Lord did not heal them.
We read of many people in the Bible who were not healed. The great prophet Elisha – a miracle-worker who raised the dead – died of a protracted illness. And this doesn’t even begin to cover all of the disappointments and hurts that people in the Bible experienced in their lives. Hosea, the prophet, married an adulterous woman. Job lost everything in his life. The godly woman, Hannah, suffered through years of infertility.
Billy Graham has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for years even though thousands of people have prayed for him to be healed. Pope John Paul II likewise suffered for over a decade with Parkinson’s while millions prayed for his healing.
The author of Hebrews helps us to understand why it is that we often don’t experience healing. The author tells us that God created human beings to experience his favor and care:
But there is a place where someone has testified: “What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
Human beings were given incredible dignity. We read:
You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor
We were made just a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor. And we read that all of nature was designed to be in subjection to us.
You crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.
Yet, as we look at the world, it is not as God designed it to be, is it? We’ve despised God’s favor and abused the gift of freedom that God gave us. We’ve lost the dignity of being made just a little lower than the angels. Our dominion and authority over this creation has become limited by our sins.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us about the current state of our existence in this present world.
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.
We were given rule over nature, but because of our rejection of God during this present fallen age we have become severely limited in our rulership. At present (in this age), nature doesn’t usually obey us. Our bodies don’t usually obey us. Cancer goes unchecked and diabetes ravages our bodies. Even our own psyches don’t obey us. What we wish for and hope for in our marriages often doesn’t happen. We are subject to addictions. In this present fallen age, we live in a world outside of our control.
Why don’t we always see healing when we pray? Because this present age is not the age to come – the age of the kingdom – when every disease will be healed, when nature will obey us and when no one will ever again be addicted. One day, when Christ returns, “the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) But that day is not yet here!
How do we maintain Christian faith and hope while we wait for Christ’s return? The author of Hebrews says just don’t look at the world; you won’t see God’s intention fulfilled there right now. If you want to see God’s intention, then look at Jesus.
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Keep your eyes on Jesus! There is the purpose of God. There is the evidence of God’s activity – in Jesus.
How should we look at Jesus right now? Not only as healer and miracle-worker. We also ought to look at Jesus the way a cancer-survivor looks at other cancer-survivors or the way a parent in a grief support group who lost a child looks at other parents in the group who have also lost children. We ought to say to ourselves, “When I look at Jesus I am looking at someone who gets my life. I don’t have to explain myself to him.” We can say to Jesus, “You get it. You’ve been there. You don’t give me superficial glib simplistic answers for my problems. I don’t have to explain my confusion or my doubts to you. You get it. You are a friend who really understands.”
If you are sick and your prayers are not answered, if your loved one is sick and your prayers for them have not been answered, if your marriage still isn’t healed, if the deepest desire of your heart still remains unfulfilled, is that it? Absolutely not! We are going to spend eternity with a healed body and restored hearts! And in the meantime – while we wait – we see Jesus! He is the understanding, compassionate One we cling to when our prayers for healing are not yet answered.