November 22, 2002
Healing: The Imitation of Christ
1. Building Faith
2. Faith and Money
3. Having Faith when all else has Failed
1. Healing and Medicine
2. Healing, Dying, and Redemptive Suffering
3. The Catholic Church and Clarity About Healing
Many of you reading this have a spiritual gift of healing (1 Cor 12:9). Few of you know it. This book is to equip you to build up the body of Christ by using your gift of healing (see Eph 4:11-12).
God, being our Father, wants to heal us much more than we want to be healed. Jesus wants to heal us so much He decided to be wounded, and by His wounds we are healed (1 Pt 2:24). The Holy Spirit wants to heal us much more than we can imagine, for our bodies are temples of the Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). If God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit want to heal us so much, then why are so many people not healed?
Many Christians have patterned their healing ministries after imperfect copies of imperfect copies of Jesus' healing ministry, and thus have deviated more and more from the original. Possibly because of these deviations, we do not get Jesus' results, that is, immediate physical healings of all those He tried to heal. We may need to un-learn much of what we have carelessly imitated, and then learn carefully what the Bible reveals about Jesus' healing ministry. All healing ministries must be based on God's word and not on spiritual experiences or psychological theories.
When we begin any ministry, we should first seek God's vision for the ministry because "without vision, the people perish" (Prv 29:18, KJV). We must see the big picture to know how we fit in. The following seven truths are part of the Father's plan for the healing ministry:
1. Healing is to accompany the proclamation of God's word and lead people to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior (Mk 16:17-18). What shall it profit a man to gain perfect physical health, but lose his soul? (see Lk 9:25) What good is it to be the healthiest person in hell? One of the Greek words for "healing" means "salvation." Jeremiah prays:
"Heal me, Lord, that I may be healed; save me, that I may be saved" (Jer 17:14).
2. Healing is a sign of God's kingdom (Matthew 10:7-8). It rallies, restores and empowers believers to build the kingdom.
3. Our heavenly Father loves His children and wants them healed. His principal motivation for healing is love.
4. Healers are to raise up and disciple other healers. The Lord wants hundreds of millions of people in this ministry.
5. Jesus heals the whole person. He wants us healed in every way — physically, mentally, psychologically, sexually and spiritually.
6. Jesus heals by families (see Ex 20:5-6). He not only sees us as individuals but as community. "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it" (1 Cor 12:26).
7. God the Father has authorized only one healing ministry, that of His Son. Jesus continues to heal today through us, His body. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb 13:8). We should not start our own healing ministry but join the healing ministry of Jesus.
Because Jesus has the only legitimate healing ministry, we equip Christians to heal by teaching them to imitate Christ. Jesus equipped the apostles to heal by taking them on tour with Him. They saw Him healing in many circumstances (see Mt, Chapters 8 and 9). Then Jesus sent them out with authority to heal as He healed (Mt 10:1). They simply imitated Jesus. For example, when Peter raised Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead (Acts 9:40), he made the mourners leave the room where the body was, just as Jesus had done when He raised the daughter of Jairus (Mk 5:40). Then Peter commanded Tabitha to get up; Jesus said "Talitha, get up." Peter only had to change the "l" to a "b." Healing is "the imitation of Christ."
An amazing thing about Jesus' healing ministry is that in the Gospels we never see Him praying for the sick. In James 5:14, we are called to pray for the sick, but we have no record of Jesus ever praying for the sick. He almost always healed by giving a command. The statement of the centurion is the essence of Jesus' healing ministry: I am not worthy to have You under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will get better (see Mt 8:8). Jesus heals by giving "doctor's orders" (see Mk 2:17). He heals by being Lord. Jesus is Lord first and foremost, and He is Healer, Teacher, Prophet, Pastor, etc. only insofar as it manifests His lordship. Jesus was unique "because He taught with authority, and not like the scribes" (Mk 1:22). Jesus usually commanded the sick person to do something. At other times He commanded the devil to leave. He even ordered a fever to leave Simon's mother-in-law (Lk 4:39).
Jesus was able to heal by exercising His authority because He knew whom to command and what to command. He knew when the sick person needed a deeper faith in Him and how to help the sick person grow in faith. He knew whether unforgiveness or other sins were the causes of the sickness and whether the devil was involved in the sickness. Jesus rose early every morning to listen to His Father (Mk 1:35), and He prayed into the night on many occasions (Lk 22:39). Jesus did not pray for healing but before healing. He did nothing and said nothing except what the Father told Him (Jn 5:19; 8:28). Jesus gave us authority over all demons and every disease (Mt 10:1), but we can't be in authority unless we are under authority to our heavenly Father. This implies that we take time to hear Him and then obey Him and give commands for healing.
Even when we know how to heal as Jesus did, we must know if we are called to the healing ministry. All Christians can heal by their faith in Jesus Christ (see Mk 16:18), but not all are equally gifted healers (1 Cor 12:30). For example, almost all human beings can run, sing, or think, but some are especially gifted in these ways. In my experience, I find that about one-third of Christians are especially gifted healers, but very few know this. They rarely, if ever, use their healing gift while countless sick people go through these healers' lives without receiving healing. In a world of sickness and pain, this is a sad waste of supernatural resources.
How do we know if we have a special gift of healing? The Spirit reveals this to us through prayer, the Bible, our brothers and sisters in Christian community, and especially through the events of everyday life. It is easy to find out the extent of our gift of healing. For example, how can we tell whether we have the gift of running? If we just run for a while, it will become obvious. Likewise, if we minister healing to a couple hundred people over a few months, we will know by the fruits if we have a special gift of healing (see Mt 7:20).
Although God made it simple to see the extent of our healing gift, we complicate matters by pride, self-hatred, and confusion. In some groups, a healing ministry is well-respected, and some will wrongly seek it because of pride. Others have the mistaken idea that they need to be worthy and thereby automatically disqualify themselves from using any of God's gifts, including healing. Still others say the Lord chooses the healed to be the healers (2 Cor 1:4). There is some truth to this, but the main way to tell if we have a special gift of healing is simply to observe over a period of time if people are healed.
When we are under the lordship of Jesus and open to the Spirit, we can know who we are in Christ. If we think we may have the gift of healing in a special way, we should ask the Holy Spirit to confirm this (2 Cor 1:21ff). If we don't let the Spirit make us very aware of our healing ministry, we will miss over 90 percent of our opportunities to heal, probably become discouraged, and may even quit when the devil comes against our ministry.
After our identity as healers is confirmed by the Spirit, we have the basis for developing the Christian character of a healer. Often those in a healing ministry are immature in their relationship with the Lord (see Mt 7:22). They just ride the wave of healing's excitement for a while but disdain the discipline of the Lord (Heb 12:5). If our healing ministry is to last and bear abundant fruit, we must mature in Christian character and develop a life-style that will protect and nurture our healing ministry. We need a new wineskin for the new wine of healing (Lk 5:37). Otherwise, the new wine of healing will be wasted and our lives will be disrupted. We need to develop Christian character for the healing ministry in the following ways:
1. Those in a healing ministry need to spend at least an hour or more daily in prayer. Much of this prayer should be scheduled for a regular time each day. Remember Jesus prayed before healing rather than for healing.
2. Those in a healing ministry should go to Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) at least monthly. In God's service, we can expect persecution and spiritual warfare (2 Tm 3:12). It is disastrous to give the devil an opening by not repenting of sin and not being reconciled to the Church.
3. A healer's life should be in God's order. We should be in Christian community, under the authority of the Church, and accountable to a pastor. The marriages and families of those in healing ministry should be ordered according to Biblical principles (See Ephesians, Chapters 5 and 6).
4. A healer needs a simple life-style so that the cares of the world will not choke the movement of the Spirit (Mk 4:18-19). "My point is that you should live in accord with the Spirit and you will not yield to the cravings of the flesh. The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed" (Gal 5:16-17). A worldly life-style may ruin more healing ministries than any other cause.
5. The Lord will often bestow on members of a healing ministry a special love for the sick. We should pray often throughout the day for this love, because our healing ministry will not be beneficial without such a love (1 Cor 13:1-3).
Because the Lord loves us so much, He usually doesn't want only to heal us, but also to do several other things for us. Therefore, healing is usually part of a "package" including such other things as conversion, forgiveness, repentance, evangelization, vocation, ministry, or more. The Lord may give us a whole series of commands that touch many areas of our lives. All of these areas are intertwined with our healing. Consequently, to accept healing, there are usually several areas in which we must obey the Lord. If we have persisted in rebellion and sin in these areas of our lives — even to the point of blinding ourselves to God's will, then obedience becomes difficult. For this reason we may wish that the Lord hadn't mixed healing in with so many other things. We find the Lord "too much for us" (see Mk 6:3), but we can accept God's grace to be healed of spiritual blindness. Then we will repent, obey the Lord's commands, be healed, and give healing by giving the Lord's commands. The following are some common "doctor's orders" from Dr. Jesus:
- simplify your life by giving clothes, food, and money to the poor
- keep holy the Lord's Day
- severely curtail shopping
- stop watching TV (especially soap operas)
- stop reading secular magazines
- stop smoking
- stop drinking alcoholic beverages
- stop gambling, especially by buying lottery tickets
- stop consuming caffeine (pop, coffee, tea, and chocolate)
- fast weekly
- fast for an extended time
- cut down on sugar and salt
- stop compulsive eating
- cut up your credit cards
- pay off loans and get out of debt
- receive no interest on your money
- stop using artificial birth control
- ask Jesus to break the bonds from sexual relations outside of marriage (see 1 Cor 6:16)
- name your child who died before birth and put him/her in the Lord's hands
- admit any unwillingness to overcome the sin of masturbation and then pray to want God's victory over this sin
- stop watching TV programs which cause sexual temptations
- forgive everyone completely
- make contact with a family member whom you don't see often
- pray with your spouse daily
- pray with your children daily
- go to Mass daily or as often as possible
- make visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament
- go to Confession, at least monthly
- if seriously ill, ask your pastor to give you the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
Life in the Spirit
- evangelize; share your faith in Jesus with at least one person daily
- reach out to others and form Christian community
- pray at a set time each day
- read the Bible daily, especially the eucharistic readings
These commands are merely those that the Lord frequently gives in healing ministry. There are many other commands which result in healing, when by faith we obey the Lord as He gives us more than we can ever ask for or imagine (Eph 3:20).
Our heavenly Father does not want His children to be sick. When He created the world, there was no sickness. We became sick by disobeying His commands; we are healed by repentance and obedience. Sickness is the result of sin (Dt 28:15ff), but not necessarily the sin of the sick person (see Jn 9:3). However, many times our sickness is at least partially caused by our own sins. We should obey the "doctor's orders" of Dr. Jesus and go to Confession before going to any other doctor (see Sir 38:4-12). If we do not repent, there can be no cure for us (Ps 32:3-5; Sir 3:27). A supposed cure will only be temporary, and something worse may happen to us later (see Jn 5:14).
Because of this relationship between being forgiven and being healed, it is absolutely necessary to obey Jesus' command to forgive others if we are to receive healing. If we do not forgive, we are not forgiven, and if we are not forgiven, we are not healed (Mt 6:12, 15). We pray for this when we pray the "Lord's Prayer." To forgive seems to be the most common and the most healing of all Dr. Jesus' orders. "Should a man nourish anger against his fellows and expect healing from the Lord?" (Sir 28:3) Unforgiveness ruins our communication with God. This destroys faith (see Rm 10:17) and prevents our being healed and giving healing (see Mk 11:24-25). If we have not forgiven, we must leave our healing at the altar and go be reconciled (see Mt 5:24). Unforgiveness not only prevents us from being healed, but even worse, we are handed over to such torturers as depression, anxiety, self-hatred, fear, or compulsive behavior (Mt 18:34). We cannot forgive by our own power. "To err is human, to forgive divine." However, the heavenly Father will give us the grace to pray: "Father, forgive them" (Lk 23:34). (See our pamphlet, Unforgiveness is the Cause and booklet, The Book on Forgiveness.)
To obey Dr. Jesus' orders, we must not only obey the Lord's command to forgive and repent but also to believe (see Mk 1:15). When we obey His command to believe in Him, we will then obey His other orders. We obey the orders of Dr. Jesus because we have faith in our Doctor.
Jesus repeatedly says, "It is your faith that has healed you" (see Mt 8:10, 13; 9:2; 9:29; Mk 5:34, 36; 6:6; Acts 3:16). Our healing has been wrought by Jesus on Calvary (1 Pt 2:24), but He does not force healing on us. We must accept it by faith. The healer usually has to recognize whether the sick person has faith in Jesus (see Acts 14:9), needs a deeper faith, or is not expected to have faith at this time. Occasionally, a sick person, especially an unbeliever, is not expected to have faith. Then the healing all depends on the healer believing and obeying the Lord (see Lk 5:17). Sometimes the sick person already has sufficient faith, and all the healer has to do is call for the sick person to express his faith (see Acts 14:9). However, the great majority of the time the sick person doesn't have the faith to receive healing from the Lord. For example, the possessed boy's father exclaimed: "I do believe! Help my lack of faith!" (Mk 9:24, our transl.) The Spirit may reveal to us the faith-condition of the sick person. Sometimes, we are called simply to ask the sick person about their faith (see Mt 9:28). At other times, we receive knowledge in prayer, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, or teaching.
Churchgoing people are the most difficult to heal. Because churchgoers have usually been baptized and given the Holy Spirit, the Lord expects them to have faith. "When much has been given a man, much will be required of him. More will be asked of a man to whom more has been entrusted" (Lk 12:48). However, the churchgoer usually looks to the healer to be the main person exercising faith. The healer must then throw the responsibility back on the person requesting healing. For example, the father of a possessed boy asked Jesus to heal his son. Jesus put the responsibility for the healing back on the father, saying it was up to the father to exercise faith. The father understood and cried out, "I do believe. Help my lack of faith!" (Mk 9:24, our transl.)
1. Building Faith
Often sick people don't have faith enough to believe the Lord will heal them. Therefore, the major work of a healer of Christian people is to help the sick person obey Jesus' command to have faith. The principal way to do this is by preaching and teaching God's word. "Faith, then, comes through hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rm 10:17, our transl). The word heals (Ps 107:20); in fact, the word is "all-healing" (Wis 16:12) because it constantly calls us to obey the Lord's commands.
We can also build faith by witnessing to the healings the risen Christ has recently done in our midst. When the sick realize that Jesus is healing people today the same as yesterday (see Heb 13:8), they usually believe more deeply in Jesus.
A third way of building faith is by using the gifts of the Spirit. For example, when the Lord gives us a prophecy or a supernatural gift of knowledge, people are amazed, dry bones begin to rattle and come to life (see Ez 37:5-7), and the sick realize that the Lord is present (see 1 Cor 14:25).
2. Faith and Money
The Lord builds our faith, but the devil tries to lessen it. For example, he seduces us to depend not on our Abba for our daily bread but to hold on to the crutch of money. In the world, it usually takes a great amount of money to be healed. In God's healing, money also plays an important part. Though we don't need money to be healed by God, we must be freed from the love of money, which is the root of all evil (1 Tm 6:10), including the evil of sickness.
If we don't use money as a crutch that prevents us from trusting God for our basic needs, we can grow in faith and receive God's healing. God said that He chose "those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom He promised to those who love Him" (Jas 2:5).
If we have faith enough to be good stewards of God's money and use it to provide for the poor, our faith will be built up and we will inherit God's promise: "Happy is he who has regard for the lowly and the poor...The Lord will help him on his sickbed. He will take away all his ailment when he is ill" (Ps 41:2, 4).
3. Having Faith when all else has Failed
When people have been sick for a long time and have prayed and been prayed over repeatedly, they tend to stop believing they will be healed. Therefore, just more of the same — more healing services and prayers — is not the answer. Something may be blocking the healing. Maybe the sick person is not receiving healing because he is not obeying Dr. Jesus' orders. Possibly he needs a deeper faith to obey Jesus in a difficult matter. When there's a blockage, we can't dislodge it by ignoring it. What is needed is "tough love." We should love people enough to confront them, ask difficult questions, call them to repentance, or challenge their life-style. For example, Jesus confronted the man who had been sick for thirty-eight years by questioning whether he truly wanted to be healed (Jn 5:6). Nice guys don't heal the longtime sick. Only tough guys with tough love will call the longtime sick to obedient faith and break the pattern of sickness.
Jesus often healed the sick by touching them (Mk 1:41). But more often Jesus healed the sick by being touched by them. The song "He Touched Me" could be switched to "I Touched Him." Often the sick person has to fight through a crowd to touch Jesus (Mk 3:10; 5:30-31; 6:55-56) — the crowd of skepticism, fear, secularism, unforgiveness, and pride. As to be expected, there is much spiritual warfare surrounding the healing ministry. The evil one attempts to rob us of healing through various forms of confusion, for in confusion we find it difficult to give and obey commands.
In our secularized culture, the evil one tempts us to "make a pretense of religion but negate its power" (2 Tm 3:5). Our "doubting Thomas" world denies most things which are beyond its limited horizons, including healing.
On the other hand, in a world starved of spiritual experience, there are some who seek signs and wonders as an end in themselves. Signs and wonders are to accompany the proclamation of the word (Mk 16:17-18), and Jesus the Healer, rather than His healings, should be our focus. Manifestations of the Spirit which are Biblical (i.e. tongues, prophecy, and the gift of knowledge) should be accepted as long as the focus is on Jesus. Other manifestations (such as shaking, screaming, or extreme laughter) should be avoided because there is no definite Biblical basis for them. Healing is not principally a force but the result of a personal relationship with the Lord.
Another confusion and deviation from Jesus' norm in healing is a de-emphasis on physical healings. Today many promote inner healing, the healing of memories, and psychological theories of healing. There is Biblical basis for some of this, but the overwhelming evidence is that in Jesus' ministry, healing is manifested physically. We see Jesus giving sight to the blind, opening the ears of the deaf, releasing the tongues of the dumb, and giving cripples the power to walk. Jesus' healings are almost exclusively recounted in physical terms. A de-emphasis on physical healing is not Biblical.
Also, with our overemphasis on inner healing, we have confused ourselves about the timing of healing. Jesus almost always healed immediately. (The two exceptions are found in Mk 8:25 and Lk 17:14.) Our heavenly Father not only wants to heal His children but He wants to heal them fast. "God's time" is not later but immediately.
Finally, we're healed by faith, not by our works. We don't have to be medical students to be healed. Our Father has made healing as simple as a mother kissing the cut or bruise of her child. Drawn-out healings are counterproductive for God's kingdom.
1. Healing and Medicine
If healing should be simple and not complicated, then are we to make use of doctors, medicine, and modern medical technologies? The Bible teaches both the sinful foolishness of relying on doctors (2 Chr 16:12; Tb 2:10; Mk 5:26) and the respect we should have for them. Doctors and medicine have their place in healing (Sir 38:1, 12; Wis 1:14; 1 Tm 5:23; Is 38:21) but not the first place. First, we must turn to God (1) in prayer, (2) repentance, and (3) worship. Then and only then, as the Spirit leads, we (4) turn to the doctor (Sir 38:9-12). The doctor is in fourth place, not first. In our contemporary culture, the doctor's role is extremely exaggerated. We should go to doctors if the Spirit leads us to do so, but usually we should not take long-term, expensive treatment.
2. Healing, Dying, and Redemptive Suffering
People are often confused about the relationship of dying or suffering to healing. Two significant facts about Jesus' healing ministry are:
- We don't know if Jesus ever refused to heal anyone.
- All those healed by Jesus suffered and died.
These two facts indicate that Jesus usually does not want us to be sick, but He does want us to suffer and die.
Jesus saved the world not by healing but by suffering and dying on the cross. The Lord in the Bible speaks of redemptive suffering many times (Phil 3:10; Col 1:24; Phil 1:29; 1 Pt 4:13; 2 Thes 1:5). Redemptive suffering is persecution, rejection, self-sacrifice, or possibly sickness not due to our sins (see Jn 9:2-3). Healing is not an escape from suffering. It is a release from useless suffering to prepare us to enter into redemptive suffering.
Sometimes even though death is better than being healed (Phil 1:23), occasionally a person's death is not according to God's will. In this case, we are called to have "funeral-home faith" and raise the dead, as Jesus did. If we believe in Jesus, we can do greater than He did (Jn 14:12). Peter raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36ff), and Paul may have been raised by his disciples (Acts 14:19-20). In the Old Testament, men and women of faith "received back their dead through resurrection" (Heb 11:35). When Jesus commanded us to cure the sick, in the same sentence He commanded us to raise the dead (Mt 10:8).
We should understand the "full gospel" of healing. Jesus wants to heal us, but also wants us to suffer in carrying the daily cross, raise the dead, and die a happy death (Lk 9:23).
3. The Catholic Church and Clarity About Healing
To help us deal with all these confusions, the Lord has given us the Church, "the pillar and bulwark of truth" (1 Tm 3:15). The Catholic Church has always clearly and unequivocally recognized healing as part of God's plan of salvation. The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick testifies to this. Lourdes, France is the greatest healing center in the world. For a saint to be canonized, exceptional physical healings must be medically documented. The Catholic custom of venerating relics remind us of Paul's dramatic healing ministry at Ephesus. "When handkerchiefs or cloths which had touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases were cured and evil spirits departed from them" (Acts 19:12).
In addition to the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the other sacraments bring the Lord's healing. St. Thomas Aquinas attests to the healing power of the Eucharist in which we receive not just medicine or healing, but the Healer Himself, Jesus Christ.
The original purpose of having a tabernacle to keep Holy Communion was to have Communion available for the sick or dying. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also often an occasion for healing. When we feel sick, we may be called to go to Dr. Jesus in Confession (Mk 2:5, 10) before we go to any other doctor (Sir 38:9-12). Also, the Sacrament of Matrimony brings healing. Husbands and wives have an exceptional power to heal each other by praying as a couple. Likewise, parents have a special anointing to heal their children and vice versa. We Catholics repeatedly proclaim that the Lord will heal us. Every time we receive Communion we profess: "Only say the word and I shall be healed" (Mt 8:8, our transl).
If we understand Jesus' healing ministry enough to imitate Him, we are ready to join Jesus' healing ministry.
1. We should witness for Jesus (Acts 1:8) and proclaim His word, for healing accompanies the proclamation of God's word (Mk 16:16ff).
2. We should "heal where we're planted," that is, minister healing right where we are — at home, at work, in our neighborhood, in simple and informal ways. If we are faithful in small matters, the Lord will entrust us with greater things (Lk 16:10-11).
3. We should expect to make mistakes, look bad, and be persecuted (2 Tm 3:12). We should simply do our best (see Mk 14:8).
4. We should form a healing team by asking the Lord to raise up and point out the people He is calling. Each of us is only one part of Christ's body. We need each other (1 Cor 12:21). A healing ministry is not composed of all healers, as a body is not composed of all feet. We need people with different gifts that will complement one another. We need prophets, teachers, evangelists, intercessors, and those with gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, administration, discernment of spirits, and deliverance. Our healing team will not be perfectly complete, but we need as many parts as possible. In fact, we need to develop more than a team, a Christian community.
5. So it will be united, it is important for the healing team to pray together frequently, go to Confession at least monthly, and especially receive Communion together (Mt 18:19; Acts 2:42).
6. We should take time for listening prayer, doing only what the Father shows us (Jn 5:19-20). We should be careful to imitate only Jesus and not to copy other healing ministries.
7. We should realize that, although the Lord has revealed much to us about healing, healing is still a mystery. We don't fully understand why a person is healed or not healed. However, we know we can trust Jesus, our Healer, our Lord, and our God.
Heavenly Father, deliver me from the evil one (Mt 6:13), guard me from pride, doubt, and confusion. Be glorified by all I say and do.
Jesus, I repent of my sins and ask You to take over my life. May healing come to me and through me to others. I commit myself to change my life-style so as to protect and foster the healing ministry.
Holy Spirit, give me the faith to accept the authority Jesus has given me over demons and diseases (Mt 10:1). Fill me with Your love; empower me to evangelize. Amen.