Is everything that happens, including sickness, part of the will of God? What does the Bible say about God’s will, especially with respect to health and healing?If you are facing serious health challenges, finding a cure, or at least the best way to ameliorate your condition becomes something for serious consideration. Christians today spend a lot of money of medical practitioners and drugs because they believe these things will help them to get better, or at least, to feel better. And this is often truly the case. God can and does work through these things. It is also true that some branches of natural medicine can bring dramatic health improvements to sufferers, by providing the body with certain naturally occurring chemical compounds which speed up the body’s process of self-healing. This is not to say that all branches of alternative medicine are OK – some are inextricably tied up with occultic spiritual practices such as yoga, crystal power, astrology, reiki and so on. Nevertheless there is value in some natural remedies, as well as in traditional western science, and we need not oppose these things. God works through them.
But are medical science and natural therapies the ONLY way that God works healing and health? Can God heal by the direct action of the Holy Spirit and His Word? And if He does do this at times, has He promised anywhere to do this? Or is it something that He does totally sovereignly, not because He has promised to, but simply because it pleases Him to do it in a particular case for reasons best known to Himself? These are important questions to consider. And in determining the answer to these questions, we will take as our guide the declarations of the Holy Bible itself. Christians generally acknowledge that the Bible is the authorative Word of God by which we are to judge a matter. For a Christian, the Bible should speak with greater authority on matters concerning the will of God than does human experience or human reasoning combined with the power of observation.
Did God Ever Heal Miraculously?
If you believe the Bible to be true, it is a simple matter to see that the Scriptures contain plenty of examples of miraculous healing by Almighty God. There are a number of examples in the Old Testament where God healed miraculously – for example the healings of Naaman the Syrian through Elisha, and the healing of the people of Israel from the plague in the wilderness. In the New Testament, the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are full of stories of healing. A lot of attention is given to divine healing in the accounts of the ministry of Jesus Christ. The Acts of the Apostles also documents a number of reports of miraculous healings done through the hands of the apostles, most notably Peter (Acts 3:1-10; Acts 9:42-43) and Paul (Acts 14:8-10; Acts 28:8,9). But it was not only apostles who did signs and wonders. Philip the evangelist was noted for the healing and deliverance ministry he did in Samaria (Acts 8:5-8) while it is noted that Stephen, also not an apostle, “full of faith and power, did great signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 6:8). So we can see that God did heal miraculously.
Does God Still Heal Miraculously Today?
The Bible makes it very clear that God does not change. “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). God identifies himself as the God of healing in Exodus 15:26 where He says, “I am the Lord who heals you (Yhwh Rapha)”. Healing is one of the redemptive names of God. It would therefore seem logical, if indeed God is NOT dead, that He has remained “the Lord who heals us”. He certainly showed Himself as the “Lord who heals” through the ministry of Jesus Christ and the apostles. If He is no longer today “The Lord who Heals You”, He has changed or He has lied. These alternatives are not acceptable to believers.
If anyone wants to say that God heals only through the best available medicine of the day, they are limiting God. Modern medical science is a relatively recent development and still faces plenty of cases where it cannot help. On the other hand, concerning God, the Scripture says in the writings of one of the prophets, “I am the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for me?” Some things are too difficult for medical science. If God is limiting Himself today to medical science, then His power in healing is only a matter of theological and academic speculation. It makes very little difference in the outcome of the application of modern medical science whether a person believes or acknowledges God’s role in the process or not. Antibiotics work for believers and non-believers alike. Skeptics would say we can drop the acknowledgement of God altogether, by an application of “Occam’s razor”. How this kind of thinking is considered to glorify God? Is it because we now worship a God who never shows His power in response to prayer for concrete manifestations? Does this God need an army of theologians and lawyers to represent His impotence or apparent lack of compassion for those in suffering? Or is it the theologians themselves who are guilty of destroying the very kind of faith that would bring God onto the scene in miraculous demonstration?
There is plenty of Scriptural evidence that God has promised to heal in response to faith. If the book of James, for example, is any indication, God has commanded sick believers to call the elders of the church to anoint them with oil. The Word promises that the prayer of faith will save, or heal, the sick. Actually, in the Greek the word for salvation ‘soteria’ is used for and certainly encompasses the idea of healing. In many places in the New Testament, when people were healed the word used in Greek was ‘sozo’, which is also translated ‘saved’ and derived from the same word. In any case, why would God command the elders to pray for something that He God, is often not willing to actually do?
Do Christians who doubt every report of modern day divine healing believe in the same God who did these things recorded in the Bible? Some Christians claim that miraculous divine healing stopped with the death of the apostles. It is claimed by some that we are now living in a different dispensation, where the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit have been withdrawn, where God never speaks directly to His people except as they read the pages of the Bible or hear a sound Bible teacher expound the pages of the Holy Writ.
Such Christians have been trained by their leaders to view with skepticism each and every report of the wonders of God as they occur in our day. But even if it is acknowledged that God in His sovereignty may have been pleased in such and such a case to bring healing to a sufferer in ways medical science cannot adequately account for, it is always with the caveat that these are isolated cases and we must not make theology out of such examples. Such Christians solemnly point out that many sick people have been sincerely prayed for and yet have not been healed. The conclusion is then reached that it could not have been God’s will for such and such a one to be healed. For in the minds of such Christians, to say that God willed a thing, and yet it did not happen would be a terrible affront to the glory of God. Such a thought is not seriously entertained for a moment. Every theologian knows that God is Almighty, Omnipotent and Sovereign. Therefore if God wills something, it must happen. But if some are not healed after prayer, so the thinking goes, God could not have willed their healing. Therefore it is not God’s will to heal all today. And especially since the apostles who first did miracles in the name of the Lord have long since passed away.
This latter view, known as Cessationism, is based on what I believe I can show is an incorrect interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 which makes the claim that we know longer need any kind of miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit since the Bible is perfect and it is all we need now. This issue is important, and will be addressed in another place. What I want to focus on is the idea that everything God wills happens.
The Sovereignty of God
“God is in heaven, He does whatever he pleases”.
“having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).
God has created a Universe in which sin and disobedience is happening all the time. Human beings are not created as robots. God is working in faithfulness to the spiritual laws He himself has established. How God is working even through the rebellious acts of men and angels is something that only He understands. Yet it is happening. God has foreknowledge of all things, that is certain. Yet, it is not necessary to suppose that God is the one who is the author of the moral chaos that exists in the Universe. What God does though, is see to it that there are consequences for the choices made.
This means, if I jump off a cliff, I was free to choose to do it, but God is working through certain natural laws for want of a better term to cause my body to break when I hit the ground at high speed. Was it God’s will or my will if I commit suicide in this way? Did God cause me to jump off the cliff? Is God pushing every button to make sure that everything that happens is just what He planned? This kind of doctrine would be in line with the Islamic view of God, but it is not consistent with a God who delights in justice, something which the Bible declares of our God.
By what authority do certain preachers and teachers define the meaning of the “Sovereignty of God” in such a way as to imply that “whatever happens was predestined by God to be so”. Is it right to talk as if “everything that happens is the will of God”? Is it really an affront to God’s eternal majesty to suggest that God may have given a certain limited but nonetheless real free choice to some of His creatures? According to some preachers this is so, but I cannot see on what biblical basis this must be believed.
This idea, that whatever happens is the will of God, is a core assumption which I believe leads to much of the faith-destroying teaching which discourages people from hoping, much less believing, that God wants to make them well. But if we hold this view, we must also hold to the following:
1. Since sin happens, sin is the will of God. God planned, initiated and effected through people every single act and attitude of sin according to His Sovereign choosing. The murderous crimes of the Nazis, every kind of disgusting sexual perversion or act of callous stupidity was not merely permitted but also actively planned and effected by God. God is behind everything which He declares that He himself hates. And what does God do with the people he chose and planned to sin for His soevereign glory? Why, he sends them into everlasting burnings in hell! This conclusion is basically inescapable if you contend that everything that happens is God’s will.
2. As a minor collorary, every kind of sickness and disease is also the will of God. If it goes away for any reason, it was the will of God, but if it stays and kills, that was the will of God. This means the preachers are off the hook every time.
3. You can only know the will of God for sure after the event. You may pray for God to heal your father or wife, but only after you wait and see will you know what God planned for the situation. You can never pray with absolutely confidence for anything, unless you know that you have a supernatural revelation by the Spirit to show you that this was indeed God’s will. But if you don’t believe God speaks like that anymore, all you can do is trust that God will somehow work it out for the best, though multitudes get sick, suffer, perish and in the majority of cases are eternally lost. We are being asked to believe that all that was and is the will of God.
Many theologians teach that though these things be the case, and people have no say in their own destiny, humankind is still somehow responsible for their choices. No matter how skillfully and courageously such views are preached and put into print, they still lead to questions about the justice of God which do not go away. It seems to me to be ridiculous to claim that God finds it just to condemn people for things He himself made them do.
To find Scriptural proof that the will of God is not done in all cases, one only has to look at a passage which has become a favorite of the very preachers who delight in finding fault with those who practice and teach the ministry of divine healing. It is Matthew 7:21-23. According to this passage, only those who do the will of God the Father will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who do not, even though they work miracles in the name of Jesus, will not enter heaven. The reason for this is that they are workers of iniquity. It is not the healing of the sick or the prophesying in Jesus’ name that is considered by the Lord to be a work of iniquity. Otherwise Jesus Himself and the apostles would be guilty of such iniquity. No, there are plenty of scandals which prove that though a man may do many things in the name of Jesus, and results come, it does not mean that man or woman is living a holy life before the Lord.
The point I am getting at here though, is that these people who are condemned did not do the will of God. But if they did not do it, then the will of God did not happen in their case. And if that is so, the idea that everything that happens is the will of God, must fall over and be rejected.
Another verse of interest which shows how people can effectively resist the plan of God for themselves is found in Luke 7:30. “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him [John]”.
What does this mean?
If it is true then, that the will of God is not always done, we can dismiss the argument that the failure of people to receive divine healing proves something about the will of God. It proves absolutely nothing about God’s plans and intentions. The option is therefore open to us to find out more about what God declares that His true purpose is, so that we can intelligently co-operate with the Lord for the divine healing of as many people as possible. If we find out, after a study of the Scripture, that God’s will is healing and health, we can then embark upon a quest to find out the ways of God in the matter – in other words, how does God want to do it. What part do we have to play in the fulfillment of God’s plan? These are important questions to consider, once the faith-destroying notions of God’s sovereign will are taken out of the way.
The Case of the Leper
In Matthew 8:1-5 we read the story of a leper who came to Jesus, worshipped at his feet, and begged for healing. He said to the Lord, “If you are willing, you can make me whole”. Many today share the theology of this leper. They pray, “Lord heal this one, if it be thy will.” Like the leper, they are not sure if it is God’s will for them to be healed, so they put that last phrase in, just in case nothing happens and God looks bad as a result. Or perhaps they feel that God sees their sins and may not be favorable towards them to bestow the blessing of divine healing. They may feel that they may have a “thorn” like Paul, not realizing that nowhere does the Bible say this was a sickness. They may compare themselves to Job, who suffered greatly, and whose suffering turned out for the glory of God. They ignore the fact that Job did not live at a time when God had made clear revelations and promises concerning his desire to heal. Nor do they consider the fact that the Lord DID heal Job, after a protracted period of suffering. No, many Christians today, unlike Job, never receive their healing. They think this is because of the will of God. This is a convenient theology for the spiritually lazy, for those who will not fight the good fight of faith in the matter. But it is a false theology.
The leper did not know the will of God, whether God wanted him well or not. But at least he believed Jesus when Jesus said to him, full of compassion, “I am willing, be cleansed”. If Christians would have the faith of the leper, and come humbly before the Lord Jesus in an attitude of worship, accepted the word of God as applying to them, they could receive healing too, even though their case be as severe as leprosy. But such faith is often low in our day, either because we fail to cultivate the presence of the Holy Spirit as we ought, or because a general attitude of unbelief on the issue of divine healing prevails in many places. This has got to change.
In declaring His willingness to heal, Jesus was only confirming the consistent declarations of the Word of God on the subject. There are many Scriptural reasons to believe it is always God’s will to heal. It is also always God’s will to sanctify, and deliver us from all the power of sin. The fact is, we have to fight a fight of faith to get close to the revealed will of God for our lives. If we fall short, it has nothing to do with the will of God. It has a lot to do with either our lack of willingness, or our lack of dependence on God to work in us what He desires.
Scriptural proof concerning the will of God to heal
The Word of God declares the will of God. It shows us what God wants. God does not want people to perish. (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:5). It is a sad fact though that far too many people are perishing. This grieves the compassionate heart of God.
As an evangelist I have seen something of the potential of divine healing to awaken people to the reality of God. It is the love and compassion of God demonstrated in divine healing that softens the hearts of people and gives the proof of the gospel to many who would be unwilling or perhaps unable to truly believe. I have witnessed miracles such as the healing of deaf mutes and paralyzed people, I am convinced that the church as a whole should get involved in doing the works of Jesus. God wants our faith to grow. But it cannot grow if we cannot see that it is the will of God for things to be different to the way they are now.
Even the Lord’s Prayer given in Matthew 6 in Jesus’ sermon on the mount teaches us divine healing. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. He did not teach us to pray with a spirit of resignation, “Ah Lord, thy will be done.” No, we must first consider how the will of God is done in heaven! Is there sickness in heaven? Is there sin? If there was, we might have some justification in thinking that the Lord’s prayer could apply to the kind of praying which appends “if it be thy will” to each request for healing. No, the Lord’s prayer indicates that we should pray for the conditions of heaven to prevail on the earth. This will come about as a result of effective spiritual warfare. We can invite the Holy Spirit to come and bring the peace, the healing, the love and the joy which is manifested in the Kingdom of heaven to earth. The Lord’s prayer only confirms that divine healing is the perfect will of God. Let us intercede for a heavenly state of divine health to prevail upon the earth wherever the gospel (good news) advances. This will come in many forms, not least of which is the form mentioned in Mark 16:15-20, where “the Lord worked with them and confirmed the Word with signs following”. This is the biblical apostolic method of evangelism and no better method has yet been found in the entire record of church history. We must prove that Jesus Christ is with us and that He is superior to any kind of cursed thing the devil can afflict the sons of men with.
Is Healing for All?
There are several biblical reasons for believing that healing is for all, and not just the “lucky few” that are currently experiencing divine healing. Here are some of them:
God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). Though this doctrine contradicts the idea that God is partial to some for no reason except his own sovereign pleasure, it is nevertheless here in the Scripture that God shows no partiality, or as the King James version puts it – God is no respecter of persons. If God planned healing for some but slow painful death by chronic sickness for others, He would be a respecter of persons – he would be showing partiality. But this was not his plan for anybody. If it happens, it is not God’s fault. God has made promises to heal. Let us get hold of them and help others to do so.
The Scripture indicates that Jesus did the will of God. He healed all manner of diseases amongst all the people. Many times it is recorded in Scripture that Jesus healed them all. So when we believe like Jesus did, we will not consider that Jesus only heals relatively minor conditions, and that in just a few people. No, it believing like this, we fall short of the true understanding of God’s graciousness and greatness.
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching … and preaching the Gospel … and healing all manner of sicknesses, and all manner of disease among the people, And His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those who were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them all – (Moffat’s translation) … And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.” (Matthew 4:23-25).
“But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew Himself from thence, and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” (Matthew 12:15).
When the conditions were right, and people were coming in expectation and believing, Jesus was able to heal all the people who needed it. In his own home town of Nazareth, however, Jesus was unable to do any great miracles, except that he laid hands on a few and healed them, because of their unbelief.
It is the unbelief of Christians and others which may limit the move of God in divine healing. Even Jesus was unable to do mighty miracles in the presence of unbelief. When Christian teachers teach people to expect no special responses in response to prayer for divine healing, and oppose those ministers who do expect it, we have a great recipe for community unbelief. Some ask , “Why did not heal this one or that one?” And the answer is very often: It is these very doubters and their followers that are using their influence to destroy the seeds of faith in a community that are the main reason more are not being healed. Actually, in view of the doubt some ministers create, it is remarkable that anyone gets healed. It is remarkable if anyone gets a major victory over the devil at all anymore with some of the unbelieving theology that is out there.
How Can we Get More Healed?
As the church, we should consider this carefully. We are the body of Christ, God wants to use us now that Jesus has ascended to heaven. He has put the Holy Spirit in us to lead us, to empower us and to reproduce the ministry of Jesus on the earth. How seriously do we take that?
Based on my experience, but also on the principles and declarations of the Word of God, I see a number of things we could all do to see more healing and a mightier testimony for the glory of God in our communities.
1. Teach more on the subject. A lot of Jesus’ ministry was preceded by teaching. The teaching of Jesus inspired faith. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the message of Christ (or by the Word of God) (Romans 10:17). People need to keep listening to the promises of the Word of God. They will listen if we will preach it.
2. Learn to follow the Holy Spirit. Since it is by the Holy Spirit that the evil spirits behind disease are driven out, and since it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that divine healing is administered to the bodies of men, we need to give more place to the Holy Spirit. We need to pray more, intercede more, and let the Lord give us a focus for the interests of the Kingdom of God. We need to quit doing thing and entertaining imaginations that grieve the Holy Spirit and limit his working. We need to learn to see what the Holy Spirit is doing in each and every situation in which we minister, and act accordingly – WITH HIM, and not just FOR HIM.
3. Individual and United fasting and prayer. Jesus never did any miracles until he completed his 40 day fast in the wilderness. We may not be prepared to take on the powers of darkness to the same extent as Jesus was led to, but we should not neglect fasting and prayer and a means of preparing ourselves to be used in the power of the Holy Spirit. All the major healing evangelists in the last 100 years to my knowledge were men of fasting and prayer, at least in the beginning. That is the proven way to unlock the impossible, and to bring in an effective operation of the power of the Holy Spirit, without which “we can do nothing”.
4. Personal meditation on the promises. If we, and the people we teach learn to repeat the promises of God concerning divine healing to ourselves on a regular basis and for extended periods of time, we can drive out lingering doubt and unbelief on the subject. For example, at one time, I would often repeat out loud to myself, “These signs follow me. I lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18). Now it happens for me. It was necessary for doubt to be driven out of my own heart.
5. Mentoring others in the ministry of divine healing. These things are caught more than taught. While the passing on of information is important, it is usually not enough. Jesus did not simply give his disciples a textbook to read. He gave them on-the-job training, which included the ministry of preaching, healing and casting out of demons. We should do the same, one person at a time, until everyone in the body of Christ is equipped to play a role in the Lord’s army in this way. So often evangelists who are being used in this area do not give a priority to the practical mentoring of others. This has helped contribute to an unhealthy elite superstar minister mentality which has often ended in disaster both for the minister and many of his or her followers. We want to make the ministry of Jesus global and commonplace. It should be the normal of expression of Christians who are in touch with the Holy Spirit.