If we listen to the teaching of the popular ‘Word of Faith’ preachers, we would conclude that every person, if they have enough faith, will be healed. Of course these same teachers never give a thorough teaching on the subject, but only pick and choose verses which seem to prop up their faulty theology concerning Divine Healing. Also, they never pursue a reason why many whom they pray for do not get healed, or why they do not always get healing from their own afflictions. At best they are immature ministers who have never thoroughly studied the subject. At worse they are ‘snake oil’ salesmen pitching a get rich scheme which targets the biblical illiterate.
Let me say on the front end, the Lord still heals! Jesus is the same “yesterday, today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) I have seen many believers healed as a direct result of praying for healing. (Jas. 5:14) Likewise, I have seen some precious saints not get physical healing in this life and suffer unto death. Why? Whose fault is it? What was the difference between those physically healed and those not? Did one have faith and the other not? These questions are never addressed from a biblical stand point by the purveyors of false doctrine. They continue to lift the expectations of the gullible in order to milk them of their riches. It is a religious game with great spoils for these self appointed ‘healers.’
Without going on a tangent of unmasking the spiritual games played by these false teachers, I would like to lay out six simple biblical reasons believers suffer in this world. Much could be said about each one, and I will do that in the future. However, at this time I will only lay them out in succinct fashion.
1) Avoidable Chastening
Without a doubt, men bring physical suffering into their own lives by refusing to obey the truth of God’s Word. When one of God’s children refuses to respond in an area of known disobedience, the Lord can use physical suffering as one of the means to bring them to repentance. (Heb. 12:6-13) The teaching in this passage of Hebrews is simple: As our earthly fathers chasten us, our heavenly father does the same! James, while instructing the early believers about praying for the sick, mentions the need for them to confess their faults and sins for forgiveness and healing! (Jas. 5:15-16) Therefore, we see that known sin as one of the reasons men suffer affliction. In this case, the chastening is avoidable.
2) Unavoidable Chastening
Sometimes the suffering which enters a believer’s life has nothing to do with known disobedience. It can be a result of the Lord allowing it to bring the believer into a deeper intimacy of understanding the truth of God’s dealings with man. We see this in Job. The Lord announced to Satan that “Job was a perfect and an upright man.” (Job 1:8, 2:3) And when we read the accusations toward Job from his friends, we observe them falsely stating that Job’s suffering was because of hidden sin and disobedience. These accusations were a grave error and brought about great anger from the Lord toward them! (Job 42:7-8) Some preachers make the same accusations against Job by twisting a statement in 3:25 as the reason for his affliction. By doing this, these false teachers fall into the same condemnation as Job’s three miserable comforters. A dangerous position indeed.
It is undeniable that Job, after all the heartache, pain and suffering, received a deeper revelation about the sovereignty and goodness of God. (Job 42:5) Job’s affliction brought him into some deep revelations about his own heart, of which he repented. However, these things were hidden to him until the experience of suffering brought them to the surface. Therefore, because Job had never seen these deep complaints within himself, the chastening he experienced was unavoidable. A man cannot avoid a chastening or affliction if he is not aware of it. Job is an example of how the Lord will sometimes use affliction to bring His children into a deeper love relationship.
3) Prevention of Sin
Sometimes the Lord does not heal a believer and allows suffering in our life in order to prevent us from falling into sin. We see this with the Apostle Paul. He prayed three times for healing and yet the Lord refused. (II Cor. 12:8-9) The Lord revealed to Paul that He a higher purpose for his affliction. (II Cor. 12:7) The Lord allowed this suffering in Paul’s life in order to prevent him from being “exalted above measure through the abundance of revelations.” In this case, Paul’s affliction was used by the Lord to keep him humble and meek. It was, by God’s grace, a divine prevention!
Also, I know there is great debate between various camps concerning the nature of Paul’s thorn. However, regardless what this affliction was, be it physical or spiritual, the conclusion is the same; the Lord allowed it, and refused to remove it, in order to prevent Paul from falling into pride.
4) To Reveal the Works of God
This one really strikes at the heart of the modern health and wealth teachers. At times, physical affliction is neither avoidable chastening, unavoidable chastening or prevention of sin. Sometimes it sets the stage for a manifestation of the Works of God. (John 9:1-32) Jesus was asked directly about the source or reason this man was born blind. Jesus said this man’s blindness was not a result of sin, but for manifesting the “works of God.” (v.3) In many situations and in introducing the gospel to many cultures, the Lord has performed miraculous deeds in order to open the hearts of the hearers to see the truth of the Divine claims of Jesus Christ.
How can the Lord possibly get any glory out of our sufferings? Let me briefly share a true story. While going through cancer treatment, the Lord let me cross paths with many others suffering through the same trials. One in particular, was a lady who had gone to church some, but was not a Christian. She had never repented of her sin and surrendered her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior. One day, as I was waiting for radiation treatment, she was walking through the lobby of the clinic in great sorrow and tears. I told Susanne that I had to get to her. We prayed with her, got her phone number and gave her ours and promised to be in touch. As she walked across the parking lot I just sat and, with tears in my eyes, watched her walk to her car with the weight of the world on her shoulders. The Lord quietly spoke to my heart, “I put you here for her.” This led to many conversation as Susanne and I developed a relationship with her. And this relationship resulted in her surrendering her life to Christ! The Lord allowed me to go through cancer in order to reach a precious lady who needed the gospel. She died a few months after becoming a Christian and is now enjoying things in heaven which I can only imagine. God’s ways are higher and more glorious than ours.
5) Results of the Fall
This one is rarely spoken of among those who claim that everyone will get healed if they have enough faith. At redemption, our spirits are regenerated and we are given new life in Christ Jesus. However, our physical bodies will not be redeemed until the resurrection and they still bear the effects of the fall. We are waiting for the redemption of our bodies, even though our hearts are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Healing is in the atonement, and at times, through varying means, the Lord’s healing breaks through and we taste physical healing. However, until the Lord returns, every one of us will die. Our bodies are under the process of death and are yet to be redeemed. To attempt to make ‘absolute or total healing’ the constant norm for believers is biblical ignorance at best and disingenuous at worst.
Regardless of the amount of faith we have, or think we have, our bodies are dying. We are subject to physical death in Adam. We are given the promise of physical resurrection in Christ. And though our spirits are already made alive, our bodies are waiting for their redemption. (Rom. 8:21-23) Thank the Lord that we do see Him reach across time and perform the miraculous for a testimony of His grace, power and truth.
An example of this one is easily seen when Paul instructed Timothy to “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (I Tim. 5:23) Obviously, if Paul would have thought Timothy’s affliction was from demonic activity, he would have directed him to pray. If it were for chastening, Paul would have instructed Timothy to repent. You get the picture. Instead, Paul instructed Timothy to take a natural medicinal path for his stomach problem. It was obviously a malady from the effects of the fall of man.
6) Demonic Oppression
Anyone familiar with the Life and ministry of Jesus knows that He had frequent battles with the powers of darkness. In the synagogues and in the marketplace, Jesus confronted demons and healed those whose affliction was a result of demonic activity. (Acts 10:38) However, while Jesus healed “all those oppressed of the devil,” we have seen from the previous five reasons/sources that all sickness or suffering is not a direct influence of demonic activity. Having said that, as believers, and especially Pastors, we should discern whether a person requesting prayer for healing or deliverance is under a demonic assault. If they are, we should address it in the name of our Lord Jesus and in power of the Holy Spirit.
We have briefly looked at six reasons Christians suffer in this life. One of them is the result of demonic activity and requires spiritual warfare. The others certainly require prayer, but also require other actions and choices as well, including repentance of sin, medicinal attention and/or surrender to a higher purpose from God. May we walk wisely and maturely as we reach out to help hurting and suffering humanity with the message of the Gospel. Let us be careful to not take every sick person and lump them together into a theological pigeon hole.
When a person holds to a ‘every one will be healed if they have enough faith’ doctrine, they fail to see the complete view of faith as taught in Scriptures. When we read through the 11th chapter of Hebrews we see great victories won and accomplished through the faith of God’s children. However, next time we read or preach from that chapter, let us not leave out the later verses. (Heb. 11:36-39) These verses tell us of faithful believers who endured great afflictions and did not receive deliverance or physical victory in this life. And yet, they did not lack faith. In fact, their faith was so great the Lord said the world was not worthy of these suffering saints! (Heb. 11:38)
So, faith is not the magical vehicle of escape from every type of suffering or affliction. Sometimes it is because of faith we are afflicted and suffer. And while we always thank the Lord for deliverance or healing from suffering, let us also thank Him for the sustaining power of faith. That is, a faith that empowers us to walk through the valley of suffering while we hold forth a testimony of His sufficient grace!
Because of His Love,