Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Jeannette Haley

“Come, and let us return unto the LORD:
for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten,
and he will bind us up” Hosea 6:1.

      In Part One of this article, the occult origins of the “Name It and Claim It,” “Positive Confession/Word Faith” movement was briefly outlined, along with a comparison of these heretical teachings with God’s Word. Part 1 also revealed how popular verses are taken out of context, misquoted, and used as a mantra relating to physical healing by the “positive confession” camp. Keep in mind, shamans and witches have been familiar with this practice for centuries. Faith in the power of our words is witchcraft, and people who practice such can unwittingly open the door to demons, spirit guides, familiar spirits, and a religious spirit, which is common within the Church. As with any verse of the Bible, if read in context it becomes clear that such promises are often of a two-fold nature; that is, spiritual healing when a person receives Christ, and total physical healing promised at the resurrection. This does not mean to say that physical healings do not occur, for they do, and probably more often than most of us know, or think. The facts bear testimony that this is true, especially in countries where the Gospel is preached to those who have never heard it, as miracles confirm the message, and draw people to Jesus who is Lord of all.

      When Jesus read from the Book of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” Luke 4:18, 19, He was not talking about making the poor rich and wealthy, nor was He talking about causing every physically blind person to see. While our Lord did heal the blind, He did not heal everyone who was blind. This may seem “unfair” to our heightened religious sensitivities, but who can cast doubt and judgment upon the sovereign Creator and Lord who does all things for His glory, and who does “all things well?” We know that God is “no respecter of persons” so we must also believe that Jesus didn’t heal His “favorite” people while leaving others to suffer.

      It is encouraging to know that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present. Psalm 139 leads us to understand how intimate and personal our God is. “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my  lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” Psalm 139:1-10. Read the entire Psalm in your Bible, for there you will be reminded that God knew you before you were born. Therefore, does not the God of heaven and earth know where the afflicted are—where you are? He has His reasons why some are healed in this life while others are not, and those reasons vary depending on the situation, and what the Lord is working into His vessels in order to bring them deeper, and higher in Him, and to bring Him glory through these living witnesses.

          Consider the well-known Joni Eareckson Tada. A diving accident in 1967 when she was only seventeen left her a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. Today, she is an internationally known mouth artist, a talented vocalist, a radio host, an author of 17 books and an advocate for disabled persons worldwide. What many people may not realize is the incredible struggles Joni went through in order to accept God’s design in her paralysis. Today, her testimony, and ministry to others, has had a powerful impact on people the world over. Those who know her life story know that she did implore the Lord to heal her, as well as many praying Christians. But, God had other plans for her life in this world, and to that end she has been faithful. She knows that her healing is laid up for her in eternity, along with her rewards, and she surely relates to the Apostle Paul’s words, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” Romans 8:18. Concerning his infirmities, Paul declared, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he [Jesus] said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. In 2 Timothy 2:12 he wrote, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.”

      One of the verses that is usually quoted by Christians when praying for the sick is Isaiah 53:5b, “with his stripes we are healed.” This entire chapter in Isaiah is a complete description of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His suffering, and death for our transgressions, sins, and iniquities. When taken in context, this verse means that by His stripes we are healed of our broken hearts and lives that have occurred because of sin. When a person becomes a born again believer, he or she is not automatically exempt from any type of discomfort, distress, or disease. If Jesus had come healing all the people, feeding all the people, and raising all the dead, don’t you think that all the people would have been tempted to become “converted” simply for the benefits? As it was, they wanted to take Him, and make Him king. But, it was not the right time. Jesus did not come two-thousand years ago to be Israel’s king, but to die for the sins of the world. (“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” 1 Timothy 1:15a.) (Emphasis added.)

      God has His timing for everything, and God’s timing also reveals His intimate knowledge of us, and how He is working for our ultimate good, and His glory whether it involves healing, or any other challenge that we may face. Humanly speaking, we don’t want to face the fact that the suffering and martyrdom of His saints is a great witness to the ungodly, the scoffers, the atheists, the lukewarm, and the unbelieving of His reality, love, and greatness. Sometimes, whether we want to admit it or not, miracles of healing do not always result in souls saved, or lives changed, but instead more often result in people chasing after signs and wonders rather than seeking the face of the Lord for forgiveness and salvation.

      The “positive confessors” ignore Scriptures concerning affliction because, in their perverted belief system, any affliction, physical or otherwise, is “negative,” and therefore it doesn’t exist in God’s realm. However, Psalm 199:67 is a beautiful verse in its humility, truthfulness, wisdom, and victory: “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” Affliction caused the writer of this Psalm, who had gone astray, to be converted to the ways of righteousness through keeping God’s Word. Consider Jonah. God used affliction to get Jonah’s attention when he failed to keep his vow, and fled from the presence of the Lord. “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice” Jonah 2:2. Jonah admitted, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD” Jonah 2:8, 9.

      Affliction is not always administered to those who have gone astray, but is sometimes a point of testing to the righteous, which also serves as a testimony to men and angels. Consider Job, who was afflicted, not for faithlessness, idolatry, transgression, sin or iniquity, but because of righteousness! “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” Job 1:8? Job was tested with great loss, and indescribable grief, accompanied by extreme physical suffering, and agony. But, he passed the test of his faith, and declared, “As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment: and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul; All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit…till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach [me] so long as I live” Job 27:2-6. Concerning affliction, Job said in Job 5:17, “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty.” Job expressed great faith when he declared, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” Job 23:10, which reminds us of the words of the Apostle Peter, writing to Christians, in 1 Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

      The truth is, there are times when God’s saints are plunged into extreme trials, tribulations, and testing. Remember Daniel in the lion’s den, and the three Hebrew children in the fiery, burning furnace, and the suffering and martyrdom of tens of thousands of God’s prophets and faithful saints through the ages, including the disciples of our Lord (except for John the Beloved.) Again, to quote from the lips of Job who uttered this priceless, golden nugget of unfeigned faith, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” Job 13:15a. This is the bottom line of the matter—do you and I trust Him regardless of the process He allows us to go through? Do we trust Him even unto death, and beyond?

      King David in Psalm 66 exhorts us to praise God, even though we experience the Refiner’s fire, “O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard: Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved. For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” vs. 8-12. David is imploring the people to praise God, for He is the Almighty God. He alone holds our soul in life—he alone is the Giver of life, and He alone can keep us established that our feet (faith) will not be moved. We cannot save our own souls, we cannot establish ourselves. It is all the work of the Lord. He alone is worthy to be praised. David goes on to say that God proves (tests) us (our faith, dependence, reliance on Him) with fiery testing (as silver is purified.) God even brings us into places where we cannot save ourselves no matter our much we struggle, or how clever we think we are. We suffer affliction, and that at the hands of other people who know not God, and couldn’t care less about us. God takes us through trials of fire and floods of despair, all to bring us to a place of purification and total consecration to Him, to build character in us as we make the right decisions, and choices, and to ultimately make us into the image of Christ.

      Bob Sorge wrote “God’s first priority in our lives is to make us fruitful—it is not first and foremost to make us comfortable.” This statement turns the Americanized version of Christianity on its head. We have become so coddled, pampered, protected, and indoctrinated by religious “westernized” propaganda that negates most of what the Scriptures tell us about God that the modern church would be all but unrecognizable to the Apostle Paul or the other disciples. Who trembles at His Word in our time? Concerning the fire, Sorge wrote: “God is a holy fire, and He burns away impurities from our lives so that we might stand completely purified in His presence. Several scriptural passages describe God as a refiner in His presence. Several scriptural passages describe God as a refiner of our hearts, much like a blacksmith refines gold or silver in a furnace.” (The Fire of Delayed Answers” by Bob Sorge, pg.13.) (For further study see, Psalm 66:10; Isaiah 48:10; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3.

      Ephesians 6:11-18 describes the Christian’s armor that enables us to stand, and we read in 2 Timothy 2:3, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The hardness, and suffering we may experience in God’s “boot camp” is merely preparation for the afflictions, tribulations, trials, and testing of the spiritual war God’s soldiers face, including the laying down of our lives if need be. Jesus said, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” Matthew 24:13. We read in Hebrews 10:33, “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions, and in verse 35, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.” According to Strong’s Concordance, “endure” means remain, undergo, bear trials, have fortitude, persevere, abide, take patiently, suffer.

      Satan’s aim is to destroy our faith, and he will use any means he can to do just that. Keep in mind, Satan means “slanderer.” His aim is to destroy our faith (for “the just shall live by faith”) by slandering, blaming, and accusing God for the calamities, and misery Satan himself causes. Sometimes sickness is an outright frontal attack of the enemy, such as was the case with the woman Jesus healed who had a “spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself,” Luke 13:11. Jesus declared that this woman was a “daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound” (verse 16) meaning she was a woman of faith. This infirmity was a direct assault from Satan, and not the result of any sin which she had committed.

      Indirectly sin is the cause of all suffering in this world, for both man and beast; however, we cannot assume to know the direct cause of sickness, disease, and suffering in others unless the Lord shows us, and if He shows us, it is not for the purpose of misdirected judgment but of strong prayer, and intercession, and sometimes deliverance. In the case of the man born blind whom Jesus healed, Jesus told His disciples, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” John 9:3. After Jesus healed the impotent man, He found him in the temple, and said to him, “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” John 5:14. This sobering statement reveals that there are indeed times when a person can bring physical suffering upon him or herself through sin. Such is the plight of those with AIDS who practice the iniquity of homosexuality. People who neglect their bodies through poor eating habits, and lifestyles eventually suffer the consequences; and, we all suffer to some extent from the chemical toxins in our air, water, and food that we have no control over. Remember Paul’s “beloved brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier” who was “sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him.” “Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death not regarding his life…” ((See Phillipians 2:25-30.)

          God has a plan for you and me, and this means that He must first prepare us in order for this plan to be worked out in our lives. He knows just how much heat we can endure so that we will come forth as worthy vessels for His glory. The vessel who has experienced the Refiner’s fire, and who has been humbled, and purified in the ovens of affliction is ably equipped to compassionately enter in with others in their sufferings. The Apostle Paul, who himself suffered from a “thorn in the flesh” which the Lord gave him, wrote, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort: Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” 2 Corinthians 1:3,4.

          Finally, take heart in these eternal words from 1 Peter 5:10-11, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”