Wednesday, September 02, 2009

My Attempt at Q and A on Grace/Healing

I haven't forgotten the "Suicide" post - it's on it's way. Incredibly it seems jinxed though. Every time I type it, Blogger keeps crashing and losing my work! So I have taken it to Word and am typing it there. Until I get it done though - I received a fascinating email asking a key question. My first thought was to pass it onto someone else because I simply do not and am not qualified to answer this sort of stuff. But then I thought I would give it a go.

So here it is. If anyone has any improvements or further thoughts then please, please add comments and let me know!

The question the guy asked was this:

"Since God's grace has brought blessings and made us receive His healing, how come we believers who believe in pure Grace with no condemnation, still fall sick?".

My answer:

"Many thanks for your email - it's great to hear from you.

You ask an excellent question and it's one that I will try to the best of my ability to answer you. But you should know that I answer it from being in a position similar to yourself. I.e - I also believe in God's grace and believe we are not under law, but struggle to understand this. So please don't think I am writing as any expert - merely a fellow Christian seeking truth!

My understanding is this - sickness is and has never been God's will. It is not God's will that any should be sick. Sickness came in as a result of the Fall, and it will never be glorifying to God. I think Christians can glorify God THROUGH suffering but do not glorify God by passively ENDURING suffering.

Secondly I believe that one of the mission points of Jesus Christ was to banish suffering as an effect of the coming of His Kingdom. He said Himself; "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me to preach ... to HEAL .... to bind up" and so on. He did absolutely that during His earthly ministry and then He commissioned His church to "go" and do likewise. The church was equipped to do just that when the Holy Spirit was poured out thereby empowering and anointing the church.

So we have the commission from Jesus - and the empowerment and anointing to do so from the Holy Spirit in the understanding that sickness is not to be tolerated.

Back to your question -

Why then do people get sick? There may be a variety of reasons. Rob Rufus (one of my favourite grace teachers) says that the LESS law is in our lives the MORE glory (i.e healing) we will see in our lives. So like you - I don't believe I am under law. But I wouldn't say that the law has no influence on my life still. I can testify to it's effects - every now and then I feel condemnation creeping in. Once our beliefs starting changing us and soaking into our complete personality then that is when (I think) we will see healing begin to manifest in and through our lives.

That being said, I am NOT NOT NOT saying that people who are sick are guilty of not throwing off law off their lives. There may be a number of reasons - they may be in a church hearing preaching that mixes law and grace. They may be receiving teaching from a pastor/elders who mix law and grace. I think the very grace message means that it cannot be anyone's "fault" that they don't get healed - apart from those whom God has entrusted with responsibility to reveal His Word to them if they are teaching legalism in the gospel - i.e Ephesians 4 Ministries.

So I hope this shows how absolutely vital the gospel of grace is. We have absolutely categorically GOT to believe that God is passionately for us and it is His desire that while we may endure suffering, we should not endure sickness passively. We have GOT to see that it is God's will that we see healing and signs and wonders and miracles come into our lives! Otherwise if we do not believe God is 110% for us, then we will not completely believe that He wants to heal us and if we do not completely believe He WANTS to heal us, then we will question why He SHOULD heal us.

I've gone on long enough! But I hope some of those thoughts are of help. I am no expert in grace, but I'm thinking through these things and pray they will be of blessing to you.

Please don't hesitate to come back to me if you have any further comments/questions".

18 comments:

lydia said...

Good stuff Dan!! This reminds me of what Bill Johnson says, "I cannot afford to have a thought in my head that's not his." He was referring to how God views us. It's so true! We have got to believe God is good all the time, and He is for us, and wants to bless us!!!!! We simply have to trust and believe Him!!!

janelle said...

I also think that not only was sin conquered at the cross but also suffering and death. Yet an important distinction to make is that though sin is not binding us as Christians, we still suffer from it. In the same way, sickness does not bind us, but we still suffer from it. Our response to both of these, both sickness and sin, MUST glorify God, as you said Dan.

We now have the ability to say NO to sin because sin is a choice we can make. Sickness, on the other hand, we have less control of because sickness isn't a choice. It is something that is simply an effect of the fall (sin), which was a CHOICE we made. Therefore, our SIN is what condemns us if we are not saved, not our sickness.

As long as sin remains, so does sickness. Everything is effected by sin, even the created world, as Scripture says, it groans for the final redemption. I can't wait for the second coming of Christ. No more sin, no more sickness!

Dan Bowen said...

Interesting thoughts Janelle.

I'd agree with you as far as this point;

" ... sickness isn't a choice".

Maybe sickness isn't a choice as far as getting it. But how we behave after getting sick, I believe IS a choice. For some reason Christians are extremely good at being passive-agressive at "enduring" suffering. Yet is that biblical?

Take cancer as an example. Christians are perfectly happy to go and get the very best of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in an attempt (with no guarantees) to get rid of the malignancy from their body. Chemotherapy = essentially poisoning their body in a hope that it will kill the cancer.

So why are Christians so reluctant to accept prayer and ministry for healing? Why are they so afraid of "manifestations" ... rolling around, shaking etc if that is the only "cost" with the potential chance they may be healed!?

I read your post, Janelle about your caution with regards to the Lakeland Revival and of course you have every right to your opinions. But I think the one good thing that Lakeland did do, was that it reminded the church that miraculous healing WAS something that happened in the New Testament.

And unfortunately it doesn't happen as regularly as it should.

I echo your longing for the Second Coming of Christ. But let's not make the mistake of looking to the 2nd Coming as the answer to all our problems. We should be seeing the coming of the Kingdom NOW. In part yes. But still NOW! That includes signs and wonders and divine miraculous healing.

The counterfeit, the promises of healing shouldn't put us off. Only make us more hungry for the real.

Let me close this comment with a thought. WHERE does sickness come from? Where does that malignant cancer come from that starts as a small cell but lives but feeding off other cells and spreading rapidly through it's viral load? Where does sickness come from?

Can we HONESTLY say that evil, demonic, malignant tumour comes from God? God who said that His Creation is "good"?

If it does not come from God then where does it come from?

If it comes from demonic powers, then WHY OH WHY are Christians so passively accepting the presence of such evil and deceiving themselves that it is "to the glory of God"? What glory does God get by a Christian meekly sitting back and allowing that malignant cell to spread cell by cell causing death and destruction throughout the body? What glory does God get when the Christian finally breathes his last and dies prematurely because the cancer has destroyed his vital organs?

Don't tell me that brings glory to God.

Don't get me wrong. I DO believe God can get a measure of glory through a spirit of worship "in all things I will praise Him". But how much more glory will be attributed to God when the world looks and sees the cancer or the swine flu or whatever BURNED out of the body by the power of God and the Presence of His Spirit.

Just my thoughts.

Jamie said...

19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. Romans 8:19.

Just a thought: Creation may not be waiting for what people think. Maybe creation and the world are waiting for The Church to get a CLUE and to be the Kingdom of God NOW! Why else are the Leaves of the Trees in Revelation for the HEALING of the Nations???

We love to wait for God's BIG THING at the Second Coming. God's BIG THING was the cross. We are supposed to appropriate that LIFE and dispense it to the WORLD. WE CONTAIN THE SAME LIFE AS JESUS. It's time for a little maturity or Third Level as Chris says...if one Man walking by the Spirit rocked the world, what could the millions of Christians do once they quit worrying about things that have been DEALT WITH and started being who they are? Salt & Light.

Just my heretical thoughts.

janelle said...

Dan, you have such INTERESTING opinions. I LOVE it. It challenges me, and I'm grateful for it! YAY!

You asked, "Where does sickness come from" with the conclusion, "Can we HONESTLY say that evil, demonic, malignant tumour comes from God? God who said that His Creation is "good"?

I believe 1st Peter has the answer (and John Piper has influenced me as well regarding this.)

1st Peter 4: 12 says, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you." I believe that ANY trial we face, whether circumstances or sickness, are indeed the will of God. Further, verse 19 says, "Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. "

I think that is very plain. Those who suffer ACCORDING to the WILL of God. Even if cancer is demonic, God has sovereign control even over that. "Suffering is not outside his will" as John Piper said.

That, therefore, is my reason for saying that suffering is for the glory of God, because this passage clearly states that He wills it. Cancer glorifies God, somehow, some mysterious way.

I echo that we should live in the now. Surely, the Kingdom of God is here! That doesn't mean I'm not super excited about heaven though:-) Because NOT only will I see my glorious Savior face to face, but there will be NO MORE suffering, death or disease. I get really excited when I think about that.

You then ask, "What glory does God get when the Christian finally breathes his last and dies prematurely because the cancer has destroyed his vital organs?"

To that I would say LOTS of glory. The Christian is not only ushered instantly into the presence of God Himself and free from the effects of sin and death, but the Christian can say with his dying breath, as my grandmother did as cancer ate away at her, "God is in control, and everything He does is good."

lydia said...

Dan ~ Recently my mom's dear friend has been suffering the final stages of cancer, with everyone in her life accepting her fate - death!! I got mad when my mom told me about how bad off she is, and said 'well it simply is NOT acceptable!!'

I am sorry you feel the cancer glorifies God Janelle, because it simply does not!! God is NOT the author of sickness! Why on earth would a good God get glory out of suffering! Especially if the sufferer is dying not knowing him, how does he get glory then!! Would you give your child a terminal illness just to get glory? Seriously! Sorry I am not trying to pick a fight with you as it seems I have butted heads with you at times, but this struck a cord with me as I am struggling to accept that we should accept sickness as a way to glorify God. It just sounds like another ploy of the enemy to me, to be frank!
Jesus when he lived and walked this earth, healed everyone who came to him. The bible tells us, that we are to do the works of Jesus and even greater works. When we decide that cancer is gloryfying to God, we are being passive, we are accepting the unacceptable. Jesus didn't say "oh you have cancer, I won't heal you so you can glorify God' NO!! He looked at people with compassion and healed them!! We as the body are to desire to see the world turned upside down by the Christ in us coming out for all the world to see!!! What good is a dead christian of cancer - how can he/she impact bringing the kingdom to earth when they are dead.
I think there is way more to God than his sovereignty, I think Christians point to sovereignty alot when they can't explain things such as this! He is sovereign but he is GOOD and he has desired to have a whole host of SONS that would go out into all the earth, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, and setting the captives free!!!!!

Dan Bowen said...

I think it's quite a simple one to sort out actually.

After all, are we or are we not "Word" people? Do we, or do we not believe that the Word of God is absolutely sufficient and profitable for doctrine, teaching etc for every word is inspired by God?

If that is the case then surely we must look for an occasion in the Bible where we see someone with a life-threating, or shortening illness who does not actively seek healing from God but passively endures it to their quickened death, and that person is held up as an example to glorify God.

Here's a few examples just off the top of my head that occur to me.

The widow's son - premature death - response: Elijah cried out to God that the boy had died. And raised him from the dead. Result: glory to God!

Lazarus - ?premature death - response: Jesus deliberately WAITED UNTIL he had died and THEN came so that He could utter those words; "Come forth" and raise Lazarus from the dead. Result: glory to God! NB; Jesus WEPT at Lazarus's death suggesting death is not something positive.

Eutychus (no, not the occasional rather cynical commentator on this blog) - premature death through falling asleep during a sermon. Response: Paul did not chastise his parents for not teaching him to pay attention better but ran down and raised the boy from the dead. Result: glory to God and people added to the church.

Woman crippled for 18 years - didn't die but had a crippling, disabling disease. Response: Jesus REBUKED the teachers of the law for their lack of faith and healed her INSTANTLY. Result: glory to God, woman's worship and praise.

And I am sure we could all contribute more from both Old and New Testament.

Let me re-state - I believe you CAN glorify God DURING having cancer. "In everything give thanks" etc - but I dont believe that verse is a command to sit back and ACCEPT something that came in as a result of the Fall and sin.

I know John Piper wrote "Cancer and the Sovereignity of God" etc and I don't know his exact feelings on divine healing, but I just don't see it.

How can something that came in as a result of sin, something that causes the horror, pain, grief, torment that I have seen and experienced with my own eyes during my almost 10 years of nursing be glorifying to God?

Even more so when I have worked on the Bone Marrow Transplant units and see CHILDREN losing their lives because this malignancy is eating them from the inside?

Like Lydia, I particularly hate cancer because it robbed me of my grandfather, my second mother and friends as well as watching children I've nursed die of it - one in my arms.

In short - I think the Church has adapted it's theology of sickness and begun suggesting that it should be used to the glory of God because we've so utterly failed to work out the Great Commission and go and see healing, signs and wonders following us.

Nothing to be condemned about because God has forgiven our lack of faith at the Cross. It's just a fact. The church today - whatever stream, denomination, movement, family of churches - doesn't look anything like the New Testament church.

We're getting there in some cases. But there's a way to go and I think a major step is a refusal to sit back and accept sickness as something acceptable.

janelle said...

Lydia,

I don't mind you disagreeing with me. And I certainly echo both yours and Dan's hatred of cancer. My grandmother died because of it.

I also believe that God is not the author of sickness. And you asked how a good God could get glory out of suffering. I think the statement stems from a struggle with suffering in general. Why do Christians suffer? Why do children suffer? Why did Jesus heal people if suffering brought glory to God?

I struggle with this too. I hate sickness and suffering, and I often ask God what its purpose is. So don't think I think I have all the answers, because I KNOW that I don't. I struggle with this a LOT. I have several people close to me bearing enormous struggles with illness and cancer, and I ask God, "Why?" often.

I would also ask, if suffering does not glorify God, why is it here? Same thing about anything bad...like sin or hell. Do those things glorify God? Though its hard to wrap my mind around, I would have to say that yes, all these things do. Not in the sense that when I get angry at someone I am glorifying God...that would be heresy. But is God able to use that to bring about ultimate good? Yes indeed, because my anger highlights His grace. In stark contrast to God's mercy, and his just anger, mine pales in comparison and is an affront to Him.

Just like hell, which is again a very hard topic to think about. How in the world could HELL glorify God? Well, we all deserve it and all aren't going there, so it highlights HEAVEN and God's saving grace yet again. I'm a sinner deserving wrath; I am now a sinner covered and transformed by Christ's righteousness. If hell wasn't so bad, heaven wouldn't be so wonderful. I don't think I could truly appreciate the sacrifice to keep me from God's wrath if I didn't truly understand what His wrath was. This brings glory to God.

So now, sickness and suffering can do the same thing. Cancer sucks. It's a result of sin being a part of our lives. But it can glorify God because it highlights God's mercy and grace. Christ's suffering glorified God; mine can too. Christ didn't want to suffer at the hands of sinners; I don't want to suffer cancer. But simply because its painful doesn't mean that God is not receiving glory from it.

"Accepting" sickness in of itself, as "from" God doesn't mean we don't pray to be healed from it, because it HURTS. But if I can glorify God in the midst of it, and be a testimony to others, than please, God, use that!

janelle said...

Dan, you said:

"In short - I think the Church has adapted it's theology of sickness and begun suggesting that it should be used to the glory of God because we've so utterly failed to work out the Great Commission and go and see healing, signs and wonders following us."

I partially agree with this:-) Why don't we see signs and wonders and healing like we used to? The church today is WAY to apathetic when it comes to this, and I seek God scratching my head sometimes. Is my faith lacking? I've SEEN miracles happen, the sick healed, before. So I KNOW he can do it. It seems that I have the faith to see it happen! So why doesn't it? I simply don't know! Somehow, someway, the season that the church is in right now is either God-ordained or brought about because of our unbelief (and I tend to think its the latter.)

On the other hand, I don't think the theology of sickness is flawed BECAUSE of our unbelief. I think the theology stems from an understanding of the greatness of God, and his ability to use ANYTHING for good. But in our sinful state, we STILL lack faith to see it happen. There is the shortcoming, not our theology but our lack of faith. Simply put, that is ultimately what it comes down to. How many times did Jesus say to his disciples "Do you still have no faith?" And they walked and talked with Jesus! They were eyewitnesses to his power! And even they couldn't even cast out demons, or heal the sick, without the power of the holy Spirit, not because they lacked proper thinking, but because they lacked proper faith. Thoughts on that?

The Lewis Family said...

My, my, my. . . What a doozy. So interesting! I have lacked pure clarity on this subject for much time now. My husband (another fellow named Dan) came down with cancer 8 years ago. Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was pregnant with our first child at the time, but our reaction to the news was mixed: a bit freaked out and quite excited. Yes, we are not your average citizen :) Why we were excited? It was something so out of our control. . . Anyway, we didn't think twice about Dan going through chemo and radiation for that. There was no question in out minds at that time to pursue an alternative course of action. So, off he went to receive chemo - the most cheerful chemo recipient the other patients had ever seen.

Just before he went for his first dose, I had such a strong sensation that Dan was going to be fine. I just 'knew' he wasn't going to die. I cannot take credit for such faith, for it was something I experienced, not something I was trying to believe. And lo and behold, after 4 grueling rounds of chemo and a month of radiation and kidney stones, the cancer was gone.

In the midst of the suffering there was such desure to go get prayed for for healing. But other than all the friends and family praying for Dan. . . he never ended up having hands laid on him etc. In fact, we found letters of consolation and pity to be quite irritating. We couldn't understand why people would be sending us notes like that. There was one note we received that basically said,'He has you, He's got you, He will lead you through.' and the card that was enclosed was one of a shepherd carrying a lamb. That was all we knew and that was all than encouraged us. Having a fellow come out place to tell us to fight Satan etc, was not encouraging. It again put the emphasis on us and our striving.

And I have to tell you that God did some serious heart stuff in Dan in the process of this suffering. There truly was purpose in the midst of it. There was truly love in the midst of it. There was truly glory in the midst of it. Our Father is an awesome healer. And even though I can't tell you how He works and why I knew that Dan was going to be alright. I know that there isn't a whole lot we can take credit for. I didn't try to have faith. I just knew. Just as Dan knew that a new friend who had been going through cancer at the same time was going to die. And she did. Jesus is our refuge. He is also the author and finisher of our faith. It is good to look to Him for all things.

lydia said...

I'm gonna turn the tables here for a minute and ask, "How do we glorify God?" By our actions, by our suffering 'well' or by believing in Jesus and God's truly good goodness??

janelle said...

Lydia,

It doesn't have to be either/or. We glorify God in ALL we do. Our actions, suffering, and trust in Christ ALL can glorify God. We aren't MORE glorifying to God in any of these situations...they all can glorify God equally.

The Lewis Family said...

I think that one can only suffer well if they believe in Jesus and God's truly good goodness. I would not suffer well unless I believed that very thing. . .:)

lydia said...

Here's the deal - I think God is glorified in the person of His Son - Jesus!! Apart from Jesus we cannot glorify God! After all it is CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY!!! So when I hear us saying we need to 'suffer well' so we can glorify God, I feel like I am hearing 'performance' and if we don't suffer well, somehow we will not glorify God or somehow we are a bad witness or whatever. Posh! God gets glory through all that Christ accomplished once and for all at the Cross! And when we believe in Him and the truth of who we are now because of what happened at the cross, well that pleases God! It's never our actions first and/or foremost, cause our works are rubbish! It's Jesus working in and through us that counts for anything!!! Because we are the hope of glory for the whole world since Christ is in us!!!
Anyway, that's just my two cents............

The Lewis Family said...

yep!! I think it might be more than 2 cents. . . there is quite a lot of value in what you say there - in fact priceless really. I don't remember the last time I attempted the futility of trying to glorify God. In fact, what on earth does that really mean? Give God credit? Hmm.

Lori said...

I know this is a little bit of an older post and somehow I missed it...Man, can I speak to this because I have lived it. Meaning I have lived both sides of it. I developed sudden and severe rheumatoid arthritis AS A CHRISTIAN, but I developed it as a Christian under the law...I just heard Joseph Prince say recently people don't get sick (Christians) unless they have been unhappy for awhile...As a nurse I can tell you I have seen thousands sick and I can tell you I believe that to be true, it certainly was of me...we need not talk about non-Christians here...I mean the world is not under the redemption of Christ crucifed...so why do Christians get sick? First of all we are a target...there is a lot of fallable teaching out there that we buy, and until we really learn what it means to live Christ crucified we are open to the deceits of Satan...look at Thessalonians here...

2 Thessalonians 2:10 He will use everything that God disapproves of to deceive those who are dying, those who refused to love the truth that would save them. (2Th 2:10 GWN)

The facts are according to the Word, truth saves us...even if we are dying. Christ crucified is a concept missing from many American churches, well probably many period. There are a handful of "Grace and Love" teachers out there now but once I feel under that teaching I found myself healed walking away from chemo and a total of 13 daily meds. I HAD to accept Christs love for me, I had to accept the truth of his Word, and I had to learn to speak to my mountain of sickness and confess Gods Word over my life. You may wonder arn't those "works"...and my answer is no, they are all Bible based methods to get to the point you can recieve the healing he provided for each one of us, as His children, over 2,000 years ago...

So basically I can tell you, I got sick because I was deceived, I got healed because I accepted His love for me...

janelle said...

Lydia, AMEN to Christ glorifying God. Thanks be to Christ, I can glorify God, too, in sickness and in health.

Christ glorified God, how? By WHO He was only? Or could it possibly be that His actions glorified God as well? Certainly His sinless life glorified God. His teaching must have too. The fact that He willingly submitted to unjust men and was killed must have glorified God, because He suffered well and didn't seek His own glory, instead submitting to God's plan and not His own.

So Christ's own actions, what He DID, was an effort to glorify God. The difference is that He succeeded perfectly whereas we NEVER could. So if Christ's aim even in suffering was to do God's will, so must ours.

He was, after all, a MAN and suffered from the consequences of sin without EVER sinning. I'd imagine that means He got sick just like everyone else, coughed liked everyone else, sneezed like everyone else...

Belief isn't true belief unless we live what we profess.

lydia said...

Ummm, no sorry Jesus was never sick. The only time he chose sickness was when He bore our sickness and carried our infirmities (on the cross right along with all our sin) - and by His stripes we are healed!!! Jesus was never sick, just like he never sinned. Because our salvation is not only freedom from sin and the power of it, but our salvation impacts the whole man, body soul and spirit, and Jesus took sickness upon himself as well so we can live in wholeness!!!