God's Promises

So here’s the issue: we, as christians, accept the Bible as God’s absolute word. If it’s in there, it’s true, and that’s that. Contained within the Bible are any number of “promises” - protection, provision, healing, comforting, etc. Some of these we see- for example, I have never been unable to pay a bill, although I am often left wondering how we managed to spend an extra $800 in a given month and still break even. There’s God’s provision for you. However, other promises aren’t so clearly visible. For a prime example (which my wife and I have been discussing at some length due to recent events), healing.

Now the Bible seems fairly clear on this. James 5:14 & 15:

Is anyone among you sick ? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord ; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.”

A quick history here, just for reminders- my wife, Rebecca, has been suffering from seizures since she was seven. She has been prayed over and anointed with oil by the church elders several times, and has had countless prayers offered in faith for her healing. And yet, she continues to have seizures. Sure, she has had periods of better health- for the last couple of years, she has only been having one night of seizures every two or three months, a vast improvement over when she was having them every couple of weeks. But always, to date, she has had them again.

Now I don’t know about you, but that sure doesn’t look like healing to me. And yet, the Bible says “the prayer offered in faith WILL restore the one who is sick”, and “By his scourging we ARE healed” (isa 53:5). So where does that leave us? I think the knee jerk reaction of many would be to say something along the lines of “well, God’s healing will come in God’s time, you just have to be patient and wait on the Lord”.

While this sounds Biblical (there are, in fact, any number of verses about waiting on the Lord), I have two problems with this response: First, nowhere in the verses about healing do I see anything about waiting. In fact, the Isaiah verse is worded to imply that the healing is already accomplished: you ARE healed, not you WILL BE healed or you CAN be healed. Secondly, there have been too many examples of healing not coming at all, even unto death. So, as I said, where does that leave us? In thinking over the topic and discussing it with my wife, I came up with three possibilities:

  1. God (or more precisely, God’s word in the form of the Bible) is a liar.
  2. God keeps his word, but we, in spite of our best efforts, have simply failed to live up to our end of the bargain.
  3. We are doing something “wrong”

Actually, there is sort of a fourth possibility- “No, it’s not that we are doing anything wrong, God is simply, for reasons unknown to us, choosing not to heal”. The problem with that? It falls squarely under category 1- God’s word is lying. In the Bible that I read, it says unequivocally , that the faith-filled prayer WILL bring healing - no ifs, ands, or buts about it. So if God choses to ignore the faith filled prayer, and not bring healing (for whatever reasons), then he is putting the lie to his word.

Given then that we can all accept that God’s word is truth, I think it’s safe to dismiss option one (and, by extension, “option” four) as ridiculous. If nothing else, not dismissing option one makes our entire faith baseless, which doesn’t work for me.

Option two bears a little more consideration, however it also falls short for me. The difficulty with option two is that it says our best simply isn’t good enough for God. If that’s the case, then we might as well all simply give up and go home, because if after twenty years of faith filled prayer everyone who has ever prayed for my wife has failed to live up to God’s standards, then the sad truth is that we never will. I don’t buy that. Jesus died on the cross explicitly because we could not live up to God’s standards- and by his death, brought us redemption. If our best STILL isn’t good enough for God, then we are saying that Jesus’s death isn’t good enough-and that is a statement as patently absurd as claiming that God’s word is lying.

Which leaves us with option three- we are doing something “wrong”, or, to put it another way, we could be doing something better. So what, then, is it that we are doing wrong? Well, in the case of healing, it is fairly simple- call the elders of the church, pray, anoint with oil, and the faith filled prayer will bring healing. The first three parts are easy, and definitively accomplished. Which leaves the last part - ”the prayer offered in faith”

Now of course, many faith filled people have prayed over my wife, and she is a faith filled person herself. So how, you ask, could this be the problem? As I was thinking over the situation, I was struck by the fact that even while praying for healing, we continue to take medications and the like- in fact, we cling to them. No, I’m not about to say that we should avoid doctors and medications because they show a lack of faith. Far from it- I see doctors and medications as being God’s answer to our prayers for healing more often than not. After all, he gave the doctors their talents, and desire to help, and so it follows that healing obtained through doctors is a gift of God just as much as a miraculous healing would be.

This situation, however is a little different- the doctors aren’t offering healing. Neither is the medication - even if the meds succeeded in controlling the seizures 100% (which they don’t even come close to doing), they don’t cure- that is, they suppress the symptoms, but they don’t remove the disease. I’m reminded of the passage in Matthew 14, where Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water. this is, I would say, one of the clearest examples of faith in the Bible. You all know the story- Peter says “lord if it is really you, call me to come to you on the water” Jesus says “come”, and Peter steps out of the boat and walks on water. That is faith. But what would it have been if Peter had stopped to put on a life jacket? Would that have shown faith? Of course not- quite the opposite. Isn’t that, though, exactly what we do when we say “Lord, I trust you to heal me, but I’m going to keep taking this medication anyway, just in case?”

One other quick point I would like to make before closing. In my church we have had a discussion about the danger of treating the word like a series of “formulas” for how to accomplish stuff- oh, you want a new car? lets see what the prayer for that is. The theory being that the Bible does not provide a formula, but rather just general guidance. In many things, this would make sense. But when I read James 5, I DO see a formula- the bible says very clearly and plainly- “do this, and you will have this outcome”. Try as I might, I simply can’t interpret it any other way. In fact, this has been proven out in the life of a close relative. He was fighting with an illness for years, until he called the elders and had them anoint him and pray over him. In fact, he had to change churches to make this happen. But it wasn’t until he followed the formula clearly laid out in God’s word that he found his healing.

Jesus has said that if we take that leap of faith, and step out of the boat, we will be healed (the faith-filled prayer). But can we truly call it a step of faith if we insist on wearing a life jacket?

Israel Brewster 2011-2016