God’s Willingness to Heal the Sick

Title: Continuing in the Book of Matthew – God’s Willingness to Heal

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pBJ1OsfJ48gsYCfKbeWLlh3bWJ-k-P_lUfIiNEikD99p9uX8g1Zgiy4hSWup62zT6M6kh_BJjbMJN9WWlRD2VDA/9-28-08godswillingnesstohealthesick.mp3%5D

Text: Matthew 8:1-17

Time: September 28, 2008

It’s been about 2 years since I last taught from the Book of Matthew verse-by-verse. If you remember I taught through the entire Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, from Matthew 5-7. Some of you remember when I started that sermon series we were still in the old church building on Foote and 2nd Streets and when we finished that series we were in the present location. After that series I taught through most of the Book of Romans, and then after that I taught through the beginning of the Book of Acts. Now, I’d like to go back into the Book of Matthew and pick up where I left off a couple of years ago, just after the ending of the Sermon on the Mount. So, we’ll begin at Matthew 8:1-17 (read). The topic is faith and healing, or healing and faith — whichever comes first. One of the strange facts of the Bible is that it describes people being healed by God who apparently have no faith at all, and then it describes people being healed by God who it says are healed because of their faith. Which is it? Are people healed because of their faith or are they healed simply because God wills it to happen? The Bible seems to teach that sometimes it’s one and sometimes it’s the other. Of course, all healing described in the Bible is because of the will of God, but the question is whether some healings are conditioned on one’s faith or not? It seems to be the case that some healing is conditioned upon one’s faith. On the other hand, it seems to be the case that others are healed solely through the will and power of God, not by the individual’s faith. In this section of Matthew 8, we see a good example of both truths displayed. The first section, 1-4, emphasizes God’s will in the healing process. The second section, 5-13, emphasizes man’s faith in the healing process. The third section, 14-17, shows both God’s will and man’s faith in the healing process. This section of the New Testament forces us to focus on a relevant question for us all today: what do we think about divine healing? I’m sure you are all aware there are certain television preachers and radio ministries that promote faith healing. What do you think about that? Is it real? Is it a fake? Is it a mix of the two? What do you think? Maybe some of you don’t give it much attention. Maybe many of you think very little about healing because when you are sick you either take some medicine or go to the doctor or hospital. But do you ever pray to get better? If so, you are praying for healing, you are asking God to heal you. I’m sure most of us have prayed for someone to be healed, or at least have prayed to God to heal us of something, whether as simple as a stomach ache to as complicated as cancer. What has been your experience with healing from God? Some claim to have prayed and received a healing, while others can’t say they’ve ever been healed of anything by God. What is the truth about healing? What should we think? Let’s turn to the Book of Matthew to find out more.

First, it is generally God’s will to heal and healing comes from God’s will. Matthew 8:1-4, “When he came down from the mountain-side, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and asked, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said, ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’” The first thing we see from this account is that God is willing to heal; God wills to heal the sick. The man says, “Lord, if you are willing you can heal me.” Jesus says, “I am willing, be healed.” So we see that God is willing to heal the sick. Jesus was God-in-human-flesh. Jesus on earth was the exact representation of God the Father in heaven, as Philippians 2:6-7 says, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” And in Colossians 1:15, “he is the image of the invisible God. . . .” So when Jesus shows a willingness to heal the sick, this is showing a willing of God the Father to heal the sick; because after all, it was Jesus who said, “I only do what I see the Father doing.” But God’s willingness to heal the sick raises the question that we’ve all probably asked at one point in our life, “Is it always God’s will to heal the sick?” If it’s always God’s will to heal the sick, then why is there death and dying? If it’s always God’s will to heal the sick, then death can’t be explained because after all when a person dies, they die of something. And that something – whatever is the medical explanation of why a person dies – could have always been healed by God if he willed it. But it’s obvious that because people die and are not healed, it’s not always God’s will to heal everyone who is sick. What we have to conclude is that it’s sometimes God’s will to heal the sick and we should pray for people who are sick for healing, and leave it up to God to answer the prayer anyway he wants. So in answering the question, “Is it God will to heal the sick?” the answer must be, “Yes, generally speaking, Yes – according to the biblical descriptions – but everything is done according to God’s overall will, so not every specific person is healed of every specific sickness every time.” Sometimes God heals out of his sovereign will and the person who is sick has nothing to do with it. For example, in the case of Lazarus who had died, Jesus raised him from the dead – the greatest physical healing of all – without any faith on the part of Lazarus. How could a dead man exercise faith? It was all God. But other times, it seems that man’s faith plays a big part in the healing.

Second, many times it’s God’s will to heal through someone’s faith. Matthew 8:5-13, “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, centurion came to him, asking for help, ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I will go and heal him.’ The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one go and he goes; and that one come and he comes. I say to my servant, do this and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feat with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subject of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go, it will be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour.” The key phrase in this section is: “Go, it will be done just as you believed it would.” In other words, the healing happened because the man believed. It was his faith that brought about the healing. Of course, as I said before, you can’t get around God’s sovereign will in healing – just as in everything. If God hadn’t wanted the healing to take place, it wouldn’t have, no matter how much faith is applied to the situation. But there does seem to be an emphasis on the place of faith in healing in this section. What are we to think? Is it always the case that if we just have enough faith we can see healing? If we don’t see a healing, can we always say that it was because a lack of faith? There are some people, some healing evangelists and television preachers, even some pastors and Bible teachers who teach just that – any lack of healing is because a lack of faith. They get that from places like this verse that seem to show that faith can bring about healing. But the verse doesn’t say that faith can guarantee healing in every instance. It says in this instance that the man’s faith brought about a healing, but it doesn’t say that faith can always bring about a healing. We’ve got to be careful we don’t teach what the Bible doesn’t teach. There is no question that sometimes God conditions healing upon faith, but at other times God heals without the condition of faith. And at other times God doesn’t heal even though there is faith present. So we can’t make any absolute, guaranteed rules about healing. As the Bible says elsewhere, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” God invites us to pray for healing and believe that healing is possible from God, but after that, we must leave the results to God. After all, he’s in charge, not us.

Third, usually healing comes about through a combination of our faith and God’s will. Matthew 8:14-17, “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law laying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’” In this section of the passage we see a combination of some of the people being healed by God through no effort of their own – Peter’s mother seems to have been healed this way – and also through faith – the many people coming to Jesus to be healed. Now what’s really interesting is the little phrase, “and he healed all the sick.” That day, evidently, everyone who was sick got healed. That day, God was healing everyone. Is that typical? No. But that day, at that time, it was God’s will to heal everyone of their sickness, whether through God approaching the person directly to heal, or through the person approaching God by faith for healing. It’s easy to see why some people might think that healing is guaranteed if one has enough faith, because this passage seems to imply that it is God’s absolute will to heal everyone – everyone was healed that day. So we might conclude from the passage that not only does God want to heal the sick, but also that God will heal the sick, if we only have enough faith. This is what most healing evangelists teach, and it’s a popular belief among many Christians around the world. But if we think about it for a while, we’ll begin to realize that guaranteed healing can’t possibly be true, and that the verse here doesn’t necessarily teach it. For example, Paul’s friend Epaphroditus needed healing, but wasn’t healed instantly, and his recovery wasn’t guaranteed. Paul writes, “. . . You had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, but not only him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow,” Philippians 2:26-27. If healing were guaranteed by faith, why didn’t Paul just pray for Epaphroditus’ healing and be done with it? Also, there is 2 Timothy 4:20, were Paul says, “I left Trophimus sick in Miletos.” If healing were guaranteed through faith, why would the great man of faith Paul leave his friends sick? No. We don’t have the right to expect guaranteed healing through faith. It’s more complicated than that. It’s over-simplistic to say that the only thing one needs is faith to be healed. There are lots of people with lots of faith who pray for healing and aren’t healed. It’s cruel and foolish to say to them in their suffering, “You just don’t have enough faith to be healed, but if you did, you’d be healed.” No. Faith isn’t the only factor in healing; God’s will ultimately determines who is and who isn’t healed.

I know that God heals today; I’ve seen it. About 25 years ago I was a part of a Bible study and prayer meeting at the church my mom and dad and me and my sister attended. One night the pastor poked his head into the door of the meeting room and requested that we pray for a woman of the church who was in the hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the area. She had cancer and wasn’t expected by doctors to live. So our group began to pray, and pray we did, for a little while, until someone from the group suddenly stopped praying and suggested that instead of praying at the church we should go to the hospital and pray for her in her room for her healing. That idea seemed good to all of us, so the whole prayer meeting disbanded and everyone headed for their cars. We all drove over to the hospital 10 minutes away and gathered in the parking lot. Suddenly, a shuttle bus just happened to pull up and so we loaded in and it took us right up to the front entrance of the hospital. We went in. Then without warning, the man who suggested we come to the hospital and pray, Don Wheatley was his name, marched up to the front desk and said to the person there: “We’re from Dixboro Church and we’re here to pray for Eileen Rohroff, she’s getting healed by God tonight. That surprised the person, as it did all the rest of us, but we were given the room number, so we went up to the floor where her room was located. We get out of the elevator, and Don repeated the same thing to the nurse at the desk of that floor. She said that we all couldn’t go in, but three of us could go in and pray. So Don, the guy whose idea it was, Edith, a senior saint in the church, and my mom, they all went in, while the rest of us prayed in a circle in the hallway outside the room. After about 15 minutes the three came out and we gathered in the hall for a final prayer. On the way out Don again informed the nurse that Eileen, the patient, would be healed. After that we all came back to the church and after a little while all went to our homes for the night. Next week at the same prayer meeting we were informed that Eileen’s cancer had gone into what the doctor called “remission” and she was released from the hospital. She returned home to her husband and children. Well, last time I checked she’s still alive and her kids have all grown up and are out on their own. Do I believe in miracles, do I believe in healing in answer to prayer? You betcha, I’ve seen it. I know God heals because I’ve witnessed it. We should always pray for healing and never neglect to pray for healing. But we should also permit God to be God and heal in his way, in his time in his will. We should never think that God must heal, or that if we have faith healing is guaranteed. We must pray and ask and wait – and trust God will bring about his will, his own way. Amen.


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