1 John 5:14-15 tells us that if we ask God anything according to His will, He hears us and that we will receive what we ask for. Yet many people pray for healing of their physical bodies without obtaining the healing they expect. Why is that? After all, when Jesus hung on the cross, God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21). And, as the oft repeated Isaiah 53: 5 prophesied, "He was wounded for our transgressions (sin, rebellion, iniquity), He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."
What are we doing or praying wrong? Why so many unanswered prayers for healing? The problem must be with us, because God isn't confused and He certainly doesn't lie. Knowing that the answer is somewhere in Scripture, let's search.
First, let's examine Isaiah 53:5 - "By His stripes we are healed." Healed of what? The new Christian quickly learns that the sacrifices ordained in the Mosaic Law are types and shadows of what was to come through the sacrifice of the promised Messiah. The "stripes" laid on Jesus' back as a result of the beating He endured certainly brought forth blood. It was the second time He shed blood for our healing. (The first time was when He sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane.) So what does the Mosaic Law tell us about blood sacrifices? The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul (Leviticus 17:11). Though the use of "soul" in scripture generally refers to a person, in technical terms it is a reference to the essence of a person - their mind, will and emotions. That which makes Jane, Jane, and not Sally, Betty or Jean. So, have we been applying the stripes of Jesus to our bodies instead of our soul?
If you are willing to lay down your past theology on this matter, ponder these questions and reach your own conclusion. If/when you reach a conclusion, please let me know why because I'm still pondering this question myself. In the meantime, let's look at reasons the Bible gives for why human beings become sick using the standards put forth by direct command, example and necessary inference.
In my opinion, after asking God why we have become sick or why we're dealing with any kind of infirmity, I believe that taking a good look at ourselves is the first step. Unfortunately, yet true to human nature, this is a reason for illness that we don't like to acknowledge in ourselves and we certainly don't want anyone else to tell us. But Jesus had a different opinion. Remember the story of the paralytic who was carried by his friends up to a roof top and let down through the ceiling to the feet of Jesus? Jesus seemed to equate his paralysis with sin and forgave him (Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:2-5, Luke 5:18-20). Similarly, Jesus told the infirm man who had laid before the Pool of Bethesda for38 years to, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you" (John 5:2-14). The sin that causes sickness could, therefore, be our own personal sin. We also need to realize that it could also be the sin that is a part of our fallen, sinful world.
A NATURAL LAW WAS BROKEN
When God made our world, He caused it to operate within a certain order by His own choice. That's why it rains on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). Unless specifically directed by God, we must live within the natural laws He set forth. What goes up, must come down. Play in the snow in swimwear for a couple hours and you're likely to become sick. It's a law of nature set by nature's God. This is why Paul told Timothy, "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities" (1 Timothy 5:23).
Matthew 4:23-24 gives a list of the types of diseases and sicknesses that includes demon possession. Matthew 9:32-33 tells about a mute man who was able to speak after a demon was cast out. Luke 4:40-41 differentiates between those who were sick with various diseases and those who were sick because of demons. The Gadarene demoniac was healed as a result of deliverance (Luke 8:36).
These three passages alone let us know that sometimes, a person doesn't need our standard prayers for healing or medicine prescribed by a doctor. They need an "Out in the Name of Jesus!" I can attest to this fact from many personal experience. We had a friend who was attacked by witchcraft. Almost immediately he was stricken by a life-threatening disease. After a long time of pain, suffering, horrible treatments and even disfiguring surgery, he was still not well. He had an untold number of hands laid on him and prayers prayed by a lot of well-meaning, sincere Christians. Even after some relief, his situation still looked grim. Then one day when he was bemoaning his situation, he mentioned that he could sense in the Spirit that a demon was wrapped around his neck. "Is it still there?" I asked in shock. "Yes," he replied. A few minutes later, during a church worship service, I simply reached over and took his hand and quietly, but firmly, told that demon to let go of him in the Name of Jesus and go wherever Jesus was telling it to go. No folderol. No screaming or yelling. Just spiritual authority. Though they like to put on a show, I don't believe we should allow demons to embarrass a child of the King. He later told me it was gone. Less than a week later, his doctor pronounced him healed.
Similarly, I've had people immediately delivered from respiratory ailments in my living room when they were willing to renounce their own or their ancestor's involvement with the Masonic. That's because beginning with the initial entrance into this cult, a person is made to place a curse upon their descendents if they don't also become a Mason.
Demonic activity doesn't always mean a sickness or disease. It could be a curse under the guise of a joke or self-demeaning talk. Years ago we had a dear friend who was continually making the confession, "I'm such a klutz." And she was. But then our church learned about the power of word curses. She renounced that curse she'd so often put upon herself and it wasn't long before she was one of the most graceful woman in the church. James had a few things to say about what our tongue can do, didn't he? Check out James 3:1-12.
FOR THE GLORY OF GOD
When Lazarus became sick and Jesus was first notified, He said that, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it" (John 11:4). One day, Jesus almost passed by "a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him’" (John 9: 1-3). These two examples show us that sometimes, God sets a person up for the sole purpose of displaying Himself, His grace, mercy and might, for the benefit of others. This is where sudden, miraculous healings come in. They happen as a sign and a wonder to bring others closer to Him. It is a "manifestation of the Spirit. . . for the profit of all" (1 Corinthians 12:7). That's why gifts of healing are given to some in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:9).
A CROSS TO BEAR
Both Lazarus and the man born blind carried a cross of infirmity until such time as God lifted it from them. The Apostle Paul talked about how he had appeared to the Corinthians "in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling" because he did not want his speech and preaching to demonstrate human wisdom, "but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Corinthians 2:3-4). In fact, he said, "If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity" (2 Corinthians 11:30). He was able to say this for four reasons:
- He knew that his on-going "infirmity" came from Satan but that God allowed it to keep him from exalting himself (2 Corinthians 12:7).
- He'd prayed about it until God gave him an answer which settled his why? "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- He knew he'd been called as an apostle so he was thrilled that the signs of a true apostle are perseverance, signs, wonders and mighty deeds (2 Corinthians 12:12). Not a perfect, healthy body.
- His heart's desire was to be a willing vessel in the Hands of God for the benefit of others. He LOVED to see God show up and show out.
Did you pay attention to that last point? He didn't glue Velcro onto the back of his hand and on his forehead to make it easier for him to keep the "poor me" pose as many do when they claim that their less-than-perfect condition is their cross to bear. Instead, he was content in whatever state he was in whether that was to be abased by others or to be praised, to be hungry or full (Philippians 4:11-12). It didn't matter to him; he just took life as it came because his only focus was the Kingdom of God.
For the experienced intercessor, physical things can happen to them that, if they ask, can be a manifestation or result of what they are interceding about. One year, Daniel had a dream and visions while he was resting. He wrote it down but it troubled him greatly and his countenance changed. Nevertheless, he didn't tell anyone (Daniel 7). Two years later, he had another vision more troubling than the previous one (Daniel 8). When the vision concluded, he fainted and was sick as he tried to deal with what he'd seen. It was days before he could go back to work. The rest of the book of Daniel shows us that he was able to hold down his job, yet maintain a life of intercession. It was a life of mourning, prayer, fasting and prophetic intercession for his boss, the King over the Chaldeans.
I don't expect that I'll ever come to the spiritual stature of Daniel, but his example has guided me many times when I've dealt with various sicknesses and surgeries. First, I ask God why I'm sick, keeping in mind all the reasons listed in this lesson. From that I'll get direction as to what to do about it and take the appropriate steps. I make sure I'm right with Him and then set myself to persevere and rest in all the 53 scriptures that say, "Pass through." To help me do that, I've gotten to where I ask the Lord to use my illness for His kingdom purposes. For example, when I had knee replacement surgery the recovery was quite difficult because of an adverse reaction to the anesthetic. This was highly unusual for me because I have a high tolerance for pain and this was my 19th surgery. When I asked, God told me it was about the church in America. From that point on, whenever I had an especially difficult time, I prayed for the church. God gave me things to pray that I never would have thought of in a million years. In fact, it made the whole recovery period almost fun. Well, not quite, but it made it more than bearable.
A MEANS TO ENTER HEAVEN
This reason for illness is one that people don't want to hear because it messes with their theology and their belief system that we should all enter heaven blowin' and goin' in health and strength. In fact, when I've taught this lesson before, people usually shut me down because they don't want to hear it. (That's why, in this printed version, I've put this reason last.) So what's the proof-text?
Elisha was unarguably a true man of God. He had double the Spirit of Elijah, performing more miracles, giving more prophecies and fighting hand-to-hand in spiritual warfare in spite of the fact that he lived during a very wicked time without a lot of physical support. He had his highs and his lows. Toward the end of his life, God's people were, once again, at a low point. From a physical point of view, so was Elisha. In fact, he was physically sick. The scripture very clearly says, "Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die" (2 Kings 13:14).
But, his eyes were on the Lord and his concern was for his people. So when Joash, the King of Israel was in distress, he went to the sick, old prophet. And Elisha received him! He didn't complain or yell, "Leave me alone! Can't you see that I'm dying?!" No, in spite of his sickness, he still had the fire of God and was open to hear the Lord give him a two-part prophetic act for Joash to do as an encouraging sign of victory against the Syrians. When the King did as Elisha directed, his heart was revealed which made Elisha angry. Here Elisha was, lying on his sick bed in pain, using what little strength he had to encourage Joash and the King showed that he didn't even have enough fire in his belly to totally defeat the Syrians. What a bummer for this dear prophet who had travailed so long and so hard for his people. It killed him. The next verse says he died and was buried. The funny thing is that the fire was still in Elisha's bones. Shortly thereafter, when the burial party were dealing with the aftermath of a battle, they put one of the dead men into Elisha's tomb. And when the dead man's body touched the bones of Elisha, the guy came alive again! Now, that's the power of the fire of God in a man who had died sick.
For those who follow God and have the fire of God inside them, a sickness unto death is a win-win situation.
So there it is. Next time you're sick or praying for someone who is, ask God what is going on. See what He tells you so you can pray accordingly. Remember. . .
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him,
that if we ask anything according to the His will,
He hears us. And if we know that He hears us,
whatever we ask, we know that we have the
petitions that we have asked of Him.
1 John 5:14-15