This last weekend I taught from Acts chapter three where we see Peter and John witness the healing of a man who was paralyzed. Whenever we encounter healing in the Bible, inevitably the question comes up as to whether or not God still heals. The answer is yes. As to whether He always heals or by which means He heals is a different matter.
How Does God Heal?
When we ask God for a physical healing, there is typically one of three ways He will answer that prayer.
God created our bodies and they are truly fascinating machines. When we get sick or injured, God may let the natural abilities of the body He made resolve the issue. If my white blood cells attack viruses, if my bones grow back together, if my muscles and tissues repair themselves, then God is using the natural processes He put in place to heal me. The involvement of medicine and medical professionals to aid in the natural healing process are also ways God helps healing along. All the ingredients and insights that are used to help the body gain or sustain health were given and allowed by God. We may not often think of the natural process as God healing, but we should because all the credit still ultimately goes to God.
This is healing through divine intervention. These are the supernatural incidents of healing that we see in the Bible and in life today where God chooses to color outside the lines of the natural process and heal people in the name of Jesus Christ. This is the boy that had kidney stones that the elders laid hands on and prayed over that was healed a couple days later when the doctor examined him and noticed the stones just dissolved and disappeared. This is the man in Panama that came to me and my group of students after a church service with a hernia that after we prayed for him was instantly healed and spent the rest of the day helping carry around a heavy box for our team. This is the type of healing that tends to polarize people between skepticism (God never heals) or extremism (God always heals).
For those who know and love Jesus, healing is guaranteed. Original creation had no sin, sickness or death. The fall of man flooded humanity with the ugliness of these experiences. Sickness is not a gift from God, it is a consequence of mankind’s original rebellion and we will live in the presence of disease, disability and death until Jesus Christ comes back and restores all things back to perfection (1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21). Those of us who know and love Jesus will at that time experience a complete and eternal healing. For those loved ones of ours that have received Christ, they are finally healed in the presence of God, for eternity. I remember years ago speaking with a man who had prayed for the healing of his sick mother. When she passed away, a friend said that he was sorry that God did not heal his mom to which he replied, “God did heal her. He gave her the ultimate healing!” Whether we as believers in Jesus graduate from this life to eternity or at the coming of Christ, healing happens in that moment.
Does God Always Heal?
No. There are those who operate from a theological position that anyone who asks for healing and doesn’t receive it is either living in sin or did not have enough faith when they asked. This is related to what is called the “Prosperity gospel,” that God promises health and wealth to all who ask in the right way. One problem, among many, with that view is that we have too many biblical examples of godly people full of faith asking for a healing that didn’t come.
The Apostle Paul (a pretty godly dude) had what he called “a thorn in the flesh.” Although we do not know specifically what this issue was, it was a physically vexing condition that he prayed for God to remove. God did not choose to heal him. Paul models for us spiritual maturity and trust in God when he proclaims that God’s grace was sufficient for him and that strength is found in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
• A godly young man and leader named Timothy was being mentored by Paul and had a frequent illness related to a stomach issue. We can be confident that this was an issue of prayer, but Paul also instructed Timothy to treat the issue will small amounts of wine in a medicinal manner. God did not choose to heal him. (1 Tim. 5:23)
• Another ministry companion of Paul’s named Trophemus was left in the city of Miletus because he was sick. We can be confident that they prayed for him. But God didn’t choose to heal him.
• A faithful servant of Christ named Epaphroditus was extremely sick for a season and almost died. Although he did eventually get better, God did not choose to immediately heal him on the spot (Phil. 2:26-30).
A modern example, one of the most frequently quoted people in the last 50 years on the issue of trusting God when healing doesn’t come, is Joni Eareckson Tada who suffered a diving accident in her teens years that resulted in her being a quadriplegic. She initially had a zealous belief that God would heal her of her paralysis. She prayed, confessed sin and expected God to raise her up out of her wheelchair. God has not chosen to heal Joni. Joni speaks about the realization of how God will choose to use the presence of physical sickness and limitations to do a greater and more internal healing work in our lives. She says,
“God may remove your suffering, and that will be great cause for praise. But if not, He will use it. He will use anything and everything that stands in the way of His fellowship with you. So let God mold you and make you, transform you from glory to glory. That’s the deeper healing” (quoted on A Deeper Healing, October 16, 2013).
One of the reasons that confusion exists on this topic of divine healing is that there are people who are spiritualizing their control issues by declaring that God will always heal. It’s we who want to be healed. And there are those who will use Scripture and spiritual formulas to impose upon humanity that it is always God’s will to physically heal us. It’s a pretty bold assumption for the creation to assume the Creator always wants to heal.
The question we should be asking ourselves in the area of healing is, “What does God want?” not, “What do I want?” The reality is that God will at times use divine healing to accomplish His purposes and there are times that God will use suffering to accomplish His purposes (Rom. 5:3-5; 1 Peter 5:10; James 1:2-4, 2 Cor. 4:8-10; 1 Peter 1:6-17). Let us not become confused about the Gospel. The Gospel is not about physical healing, although God may choose to include it at times. The cross and the resurrection are for the forgiveness of sin. The Gospel is about a spiritual healing. Restoration with God and a spiritual healing are by far our greatest needs.
So what do we do?
God tells us we have not because we ask not or because we ask with wrong motives (James 4:3). Jesus tells us to ask for anything in His name (John 14:14). We are told to come with confidence in Christ and that He hears anything that we ask for according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15). So we can confidently ask for healing in the name of Jesus!
We do so with complete faith and trust in God to heal if He so chooses, but position our hearts to praise God whether He chooses to glorify Himself through healing in our life or to glorify Himself through suffering in our life. We don’t want to make the mistake of never praying or believing God for healing. We don’t want to make the mistake of praying and believing that God always heals. God heals who He wills, when He wills, how He wills, if he will. God is “Jehovah Rapha” our God Who heals. So we look to Him as our healer, whether He chooses to heal us naturally, supernaturally, or eternally.