I love reading about the ministry of Jesus. Particularly I am drawn to his healing ministry recorded all through the Gospels. In Luke 5:17 it says “the power of the Spirit was with Jesus to heal”. A quick example would be in Luke 5 where a man covered in leprosy begs Jesus to make him clean. It says Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately, we are told, the leprosy left him. What must it have been like to have been there to see that. More importantly what would it have felt like to have been this man? Amazing! His longings to be healed met with God’s power and love! New life…
For, Jesus, Paul, and the rest of the early church lived in regular expectation that God would heal people’s physical bodies. This relates in part to the OT prophecies that in the messianic age God would heal people (Is 53:5 – the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed). Jesus says the Kingdom of God is here… no wonder we then read about so much healing in the New Testament.
Is this for today though?
I was watching an interview with John Wimber last week. John was the leader of the Vineyard church and he was describing his conversion. The basic gist is that he gave up drugs to follow Christ only to find all of the churches he went to telling him that God doesn’t heal like that any more today. Needless to say, he wasn’t impressed and pursued the promise of healing in the church. What ensued was a remarkable move of God across the world where thousands of churches woke up to the power of the ministry of the Holy Spirit today.
I pray that Manly Life will do the Jesus stuff. Both in our meetings and out on the streets… Is that realistic? Sometimes modern faith or modern churches seem to have very little to do with what Jesus did. You can spend your time talking about the music, or the building, or the ministers annoying habits… but how often do we talk about the stuff Jesus did happening amongst us?
When I lived in Kenya I would often preach at open air meetings. Some of the guys I ministered with suggested that at the end of preaching the Gospel there should also be made an opportunity for people to come forward to be prayed for healing. That had never occurred to me… I had never thought of doing that after all I thought our job as Christians was just to tell people about Jesus. But 2 things happened… firstly I read the scriptures and realised this was what Jesus would do… preach and heal… secondly I began to saw God do these things in and around the ministry I was involved in. These were supernatural things I couldn’t deny like evil spirits coming out of people and healings.
In Luke 4 Jesus sets outs his mission and a part of it was recovery of sight for the blind… But is this just a spiritual blindness? John Baptist disciples ask in Luke 7 – are you the one? Jesus answers… “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor.” Clearly Jesus came to bring holistic healing and refreshing. This is not just a kingdom of talk but of power.
It seems to me there are two types of faith, safe faith and Jesus faith. In safe faith you don’t expect much, and you don’t get much. It mainly ends up about ideas and reasoning. I would suggest that it often reflects the experience of the person… and we all have a way of theologizing our experiences rather than believing and pursuing the promises of the scripture. Jack Deere who wrote the excellent book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit was one such safe faith Christian. He didn’t believe in the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church to heal people… until he experienced the power of the Holy Spirit himself. If you are on a similar journey I recommend his book!
All of this stands in contrast to the Jesus Faith… Jesus announced the kingdom of God is here… then he demonstrated it. In other words God begun a new work of restoring things! That is what Jesus did. That is what the early church did. And history tells us that often when revival breaks out it is accompanied by a move of the Spirit…That is why we often hear stories from overseas, where Christianity is fastest growing of signs and wonders accompanying the preaching Jesus as Lord. Check out Iris Ministries for some amazing stories.
So Jesus faith is closer to what he did, what the early church did and what the NT writers encouraged us to do… But it can also involve disappointment. In the time between Jesus ministry and his return we do not fully experience the total renewal of the Kingdom of God. But Jesus taught us to pray to long for the kingdom and to ask for his Holy Spirit. It is always hard when for every story of healing we know of people who have prayed and haven’t got well… Clearly just as the kingdom involves healing and restoration it still involves patience and endurance in suffering! Paul who ministered powerfully in the Spirit would still talk about his thorn in the flesh.
But what should we do – stay safe or seek the kingdom of Jesus? I know what I would prefer…
Finally to get practical how do we see the power of God released amongst us today? In the NT healing is called a Spiritual Gift – with things like prophecy, miracles, wisdom… Spiritual gifts are concrete expressions of God’s grace given for the building up of the church… In Ephesians 2:22 we are told the Spirit dwells in the church. This is the same Spirit that was at work in Jesus ministry and is then poured out on the church (you can read about it Acts and the early church Fathers…) and this is the same God at work in his people today!
Healing is a part of being a church body… 1 Corinthians 12:7 says the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 1 Co 12:9 talking about how these gifts are given… “to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit”. So this is to be understood as gracious gifts of the Spirit in the gathered community for the sake of building up the people of God. This is about the church being built up just as much as for your own individual blessing… how encouraging is it when we see God move in our own churches? Everyone grows in faith as a result.
So why is healing given to us? How does it build the church up? Well it is a sign of the new creation; the kingdom of God breaking in. Indeed it is the same as in Jesus ministry – people are being made new! It also grows faith in us which is a blessing because there is enough out there these days to beat faith out of us… Gordon Fee calls gifts like healing truth verified by power… It is a gift… simply it is God being compassionate to us. This is one concrete way that we can know – from time to time – that God loves us! The ultimate expression of course is always the cross of Christ, but gifts of the Spirit are to be understood as a concrete expression of grace for the church – that God gives from time to time out of love!
Final, final thing… is to talk a bit about ministry times. At Manly Life we make sure there is time in our gathered meetings to create space to let God move. It is easy to do all the talking at church but God is present by his Spirit – in the preaching, the prayers, the worship, the fellowship… and present to heal and move amongst us. Sometimes you have to let God speak. In John 10 Jesus says my sheep know my voice… So we ask him to come by his Spirit and minister to us, to speak to us, to heal us. We may get a word of knowledge about a specific healing God wants to do, or we may simply pray for those with need. God is good, and in my experience even if we are not immediately healed, receiving prayer is always a blessing. Of course there is much more to say but I will stop there. Thoughts? Please leave a reply…