- Does God Heal People Today?
- Luke 5:12-16
- Lyndol Loyd June 2, 2019
What do you think of when you hear the word “healing”? If you are like me, maybe images of some guy on television come to mind where he pops some person on crutches on the forehead and all of the sudden that person throws down their crutches and begins to dance.
Maybe you think about someone who has been sick for years, battling a long term illness while praying to get better, but somehow it never seems to happen.
The issue of healing is a mysterious topic for many of us. While many of us would like to experience it, we also aren’t certain that there aren’t several shams connected to the word.
But as I continue to read scripture, I see that Jesus healed people all of the time. There are numerous stories and accounts for us to draw from. If this is something that Jesus spent His time doing and if it is something that many people have questions about, then we should spend our time talking about it as the church.
Let’s start with a story from the life of Jesus found in Luke 5:12-16, “In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.’
“Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be healed!’ And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, ‘Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.’
But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”
Here we find a man with the horrible disease of leprosy, a disease so grave that it was considered to be deadly. Leprosy is so aggressive and so devastating that it attacks the body of someone who has it. People with leprosy can end up losing their fingers, their arms, legs, or even worse.
People were so afraid that they might catch it that if someone walked anywhere near a leper, the one with leprosy was supposed to yell out, “Unclean, unclean, stay away from me.” Can you imagine what it would be like to have to constantly shout out that you were a leper?
It is in this kind of world that a leper has the nerve to run up to Jesus, fall down at his feet and say, “You’re the one. I’ve heard all about you and how you change lives. I know you can do it. If you are willing, would you please heal me?”
Jesus looks him straight in the eye, and then he does something that no one else is willing to do. He touches him. He didn’t have to do that. He could have simply told the man that he was healed and he would have been, but Jesus chooses to touch the man.
This story gives us a great deal of insight into Jesus. Clearly, from this and other biblical accounts, we see that healing is important to Jesus. He spent a substantial amount of his time doing it.
Jesus is compassionate. He encounters people who are suffering, and his hearts breaks over their pain. He approaches people in need of healing with love, concern, and compassion.
Notice Jesus never heals anyone to put on a show for the crowd so that they will look and say, “Wow, did you just see what Jesus did? He’s one powerful person.” No, instead Jesus healed for the sake of helping those who were afflicted with illness or disease. The last thing He was looking to do was to make a spectacle out of someone else’s pain.
Whenever Jesus healed someone He was very quick to give the glory for the healing to God the Father. Jesus often said things like, “Now go glorify My Father, who is in heaven. Go and tell other people how My Father has had mercy on you.” Yes, the miracles validated Jesus’ claims, but they weren’t meant to be a tool for making Him popular.
Now that we have a clear picture of what healing looked like when Jesus was involved, maybe it would serve us well to take a look at what healing ministries look like today. It seems to me that most of them fall into a few categories.
Let’s call the first category, the sensationalists. These healers have a style almost completely opposite to that of Jesus. He was compassionate, personal, and liked to do things in private. As we said earlier, He healed for the sake of the person who was afflicted and pointed credit for healing toward heaven.
In stark contrast, most sensationalist healers tend to be strangely impersonal. Often they don’t bother with names or backgrounds. In fact, many of these types work with what they call mail order healing. A person can send in for some trinket that has been touched by a healer, and this item is supposed to be a catalyst for the person’s healing.
They also seem to have a way to make it onto television wearing flashy suits and over the top personas. In many cases, all of the attention isn’t placed on what God has done, but on the healer himself or herself.
I’ll never forget when I was living in the dorm in seminary. One of the guys down the hall from me dropped by my room to show me something he had received in the mail by writing in to one of these slick television healer types.
It was a poster with a picture of the television preacher with what I would describe as a pained look on his face. Then there was a large outline of his hand on the poster. The instructions read that you were supposed to send in $50 to the “healing ministry,” put your hand over the spot where his handprint was on the poster and pray every day for twenty-one days and then you would receive your healing.
When I first looked at the poster, I thought it must have been some sort of a joke. It really looked that absurd to me, but the more I looked at it and the more I spoke with my friend, I began to understand that this wasn’t intended to be taken as a joke at all. I couldn’t believe it.
Not too long afterward, this guy’s healing operation was shut down after stacks of prayer request were found out in the back of his building in the dumpster. Envelopes had been opened, checks removed and prayer request for healing trashed. So I would say that we need to beware of sensationalists.
There is another type of healing ministry going on that I would call confessionalist. This approach to healing teaches that it is always God’s will that all people be healed, and that all God is waiting for is for the afflicted person to demonstrate enough faith.
Those who are in need of healing are encouraged to confess their faith verbally by saying something like, “I have been healed. I am in great health. I have a restored body because of the power of Jesus Christ.”
Leaders of this type of healing ministry feel that if people confess their faith in this way enough times, they will believe they are healed, and by believing, they will receive the healing.
My good friend Jeff Jones is a Methodist pastor back in Arkansas. We are part of a regular group that meets online each week to talk about our lives, our churches, our families, and to pray for each other.
Jeff comes from a great family. I know some of his extended family, and they are a great group of people. The kind of folks you might refer to as “Salt of the Earth” type folks.
Jeff has four brothers, and when he was young, one of his brothers faced a situation where the doctors told his family that they might have to amputate his brother’s leg. You can only imagine how difficult this kind of news would be to receive. Of course all of the Jones family and their friends were praying that this wouldn’t have to happen.
In the course of this experience there was a pastor who looked at them and told them that if they prayed hard enough and if their faith was great enough Jeff’s brother’s leg would be healed, and it wouldn’t have to be amputated.
Rather than getting better, Jeff’s brother did have to have his leg amputated at the knee. Jeff said the words of this pastor ended up being incredibly hurtful to his entire family when the amputation had to take place.
Thoughts like, “Why wasn’t my faith great enough? Why didn’t God choose to heal him? We prayed. What was wrong with our prayers?” went through their minds.
I would tell you that we should all beware of the confessionalist view of healing.
There is another viewpoint on healing that I would call the cessationalists, meaning that they believe God healed people during biblical times, but it isn’t something that He does today.
They admit that Jesus healed people when He walked on this earth. They even acknowledge that the first-century disciples and other leaders did miraculous healings. But they insist that there are no more healings or miracles today.
It is very much a fatalistic sort of view on life and faith. It is the thinking that while God may love us, healing isn’t something that happens in this generation.
I’ve told you before about my good friend Bill Rough. He would dispute the cessationalists’ claim. Bill was diagnosed with colon cancer back when he was living in Keller, Texas. Just hearing the “C” word was enough to send chills down his spine.
Bill and his wife Trish were part of a small group that met regularly for fellowship, bible study, and prayer. When they found out about Bill’s diagnosis, they told their group, and they asked for their group, along with their pastor, to pray for Bill.
They did what it says in James 5:13-16 when it says, “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 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.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
Afterward, Bill went back in to see his doctor for some pre-surgical preparation. When the doctor checked Bill out he couldn’t believe it. The signs of cancer that were in his body could no longer be found. They did further testing, and there wasn’t any more cancer.
The doctor looked at Bill and told him, “I can’t offer you any sort of explanation as to why the cancer was there one day and gone the next.” He did tell him that he was certain Bill had cancer when he had seen him originally and that he was now certain it was gone.
Bill looked at his doctor and told him, “You might not be able to explain this medically, but I can tell you what happened, my friends prayed for me and God has healed me.”
Others of you could tell similar types of stories of how God performed a miraculous healing in your life or in the life of a family or friend. I would say to you that while they are on the opposite extreme of confessionalists, we should beware of cessationalists as well.
The truth is that God continues to heal people today and that God heals in a variety of ways. So let’s talk about what a more balanced view of healing looks like.
Sometimes God heals through natural healing. Think about it. If I fall down and skin my knee, God has created my body in such a way so that eventually my skinned up knee will scab over and eventually heal itself to the point that there is no more scab, at worst case scenario there is a slight scar.
One of the miracles of how God created us is that He made our bodies in such a way that, often times, our bodies are able to heal themselves on their very own. There have been many amazing inventions throughout the course of time, but nothing has ever been invented or created that is more amazing than the human body.
Sometimes God works through medical healing practices. Isn’t it equally remarkable that God has given doctors, nurses, and medical professionals the ability, education, and intellect to know how to treat us when we are afflicted with illness, disease, or pain? Isn’t it amazing that God has allowed researchers and scientist to develop drugs that can fight off infection and assist our bodies in recovering health?
Just like I believe God wants to use me as a pastor to help people spiritually, I believe that God’s desire is to use medical professionals to help bring about healing and wholeness for people in their physical bodies.
Sometimes God chooses to work through the miraculous. Just like I shared my friend Bill Rough’s story with you earlier, there are times when, for whatever reason, God chooses to step in with divine intervention and heal someone’s body in ways that cannot be explained any other way.
Often times we pray for this sort of healing. We ask for God to move in this sort of manner. I wish that I could explain why God moves in this way sometimes and other times He does not. I would suggest to you that there are some matters that we will never fully understand until we make it to heaven.
On a certain level, we have to come to the place where we accept the words from the Old Testament book of Isaiah 55:8 which says, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.'”
I also want to suggest to you that there is one more form of healing for those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. Death is healing. When you are a Christian death is not the worst thing that can happen to you. For when we die, we have the promise of heaven.
A few years ago I had the privilege of doing a funeral for Beverly Echols. Bev was a 38-year-old woman with Downe Syndrome. If you know anything about Downe Syndrome you know that it is highly unusual for someone afflicted with the disease to live so long.
When I was praying about what I should say at the funeral I felt like God told me to look at the family and say, “While you never knew Bev without Downe Syndrome the good news is that the veil has been lifted and that Bev is now whole and healed. She no longer has Downe Syndrome.”
Our eternity in heaven is one in which we have been made new. We are healed. We are whole. There is no more suffering, no more pain, no more tears.
In a room this size with this many people here, there is a good chance that not only are there people wondering if God heals people still today, but that there are people who need God’s healing power. I want to close things out today by praying for you.