Already – Not Yet

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

The longer you live the more you come face to face with the enormity of pain and tragedy in this world. There is suffering and heartbreak at every turn. As a follower of Jesus, the only way to navigate the brokenness of the world is to have both a theology of healing and a theology of suffering. One without the other will be insufficient and will lead to despair.

A theology of suffering without a theology of healing leads us to believe we can’t have victory over sin, disease, or spiritual darkness this side of heaven. It leaves us trudging through this world of pain in a perpetual state of gloom and doom. It neglects our calling to bring heaven to earth. It never fully embraces all that Jesus accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection. It will likely lead to cynicism and attempts to escape this world rather than transform it. In Ephesians 4:11 terms, it tries to be pastoral without being apostolic.

Likewise, a theology of healing without a theology of suffering has a difficult time facing tragedy and pain. It tends to avoid the reality of suffering. It doesn’t allow for people to be in process or in grief. It neglects the important disciplines of being joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in enduring prayer. It struggles to be down in the muck walking with people. In Ephesians 4:11 terms, it tries to be apostolic without being pastoral.

A healthy and robust Kingdom theology makes room for both healing and suffering. When Jesus arrived in the flesh, He inaugurated the Kingdom of God on the earth. “Inaugurated” is a term that speaks to the reality that the Kingdom is already here, breaking out among us, but not yet here in all of its fullness and glory. Scholars call this the “already/not yet” of the Kingdom.

We now live in the in-between. This means that our reality will bear witness to both the “already” of the Kingdom and the “not yet” of the Kingdom. Our theology of healing expresses the already of the Kingdom. Our theology of suffering expresses the not yet of the Kingdom.

We must hold the already and not yet in tension with each other. Leaning too far in one direction or the other causes problems. For instance, when it comes to physical healing, we must admit these two truths: 1) God wants to heal and 2) not everyone is healed this side of heaven. Likewise, we must admit these two truths about salvation: 1) God wants all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, and 2) not all will be saved.

There are a number of variables that prevent the Kingdom of God from expressing its fullness. Sin has caused a general brokenness in all of creation. It’s the background noise of brokenness that seems to infect every part of the world. Not only that, but sin has caused a break down in the way people treat each other. It has also caused a break in the way we relate to ourselves and to God. Add to all of this a real enemy, Satan, who is actively employing the kingdom of darkness to work against God’s purposes in the world, and you can begin to get a picture of the real mess we are in.

So while God’s Kingdom has come and is breaking out out among us–seeking to restore, redeem, and renew–there are many factors that are pressing against the advancement of God’s Kingdom in the world. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) gives us a picture of this reality. God’s Kingdom is growing in the world, but so is the kingdom of darkness.

A healthy theology of healing acknowledges things like our victory in Christ, that sin and death have been defeated, that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, and that all things have been placed under His feet. A healthy theology of healing declares that God wants to heal in the same way that God wants all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4), that healing is a mandate given to the Church by Christ, and that there is no sickness in heaven. This is why we pray expecting healing when we pray “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We have been given supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we are expected to use them to the glory of God. We aren’t waiting to get to heaven to experience the Kingdom of God. We are called to partner with God now in ushering in His Kingdom in increasing measure.

Likewise, a healthy theology of suffering acknowledges that, this side of heaven, not everyone will be miraculously healed, that God’s will is not always done on earth as it is in heaven, and that pain is a part of this broken world. A healthy theology of suffering acknowledges that in this world we will have trouble and that the enemy doesn’t play fair but is out to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). A healthy theology of suffering will not blame God as the author of suffering, but will acknowledge that sin has stained all aspects of life and that we wade through a sea of brokenness as we live in this world. We are called to come alongside people and walk with people through their suffering. We are called to love others in the same way that Jesus loves us.

In the end, God is with us through it all. Sometimes we’ll be healed. Sometimes we won’t. Some aspects of God’s Kingdom are already here, and some have not yet arrived. But what is always available to us is the peace of Christ that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). His comfort and Presence are always available to us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. His love for us is our unending source of strength even in the midst of brokenness. And we can take comfort in the fact that we serve a God of resurrection. He specializes in bringing new life out of death. We confess that whether in healing or in suffering, Christ is all in all. For we have died with Christ and our life is now hidden in Him.

Full of Joy

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go…

…The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

Luke 10:1, 17-21

Jesus sent out 72 disciples to go ahead of him, town to town, doing the same ministry He was doing. They were to proclaim that the Kingdom of God had arrived and was well within their reach. They were to heal the sick and cast out demons. Then they were to report their experiences back to Jesus.

Don’t forget who Jesus is sending to do this. These are fishermen not Pharisees. These are not experts in the Law. These are not theologians and Bible teachers. These are farmers and stay-at-home moms. These are tax-collectors and women with questionable backgrounds. These are blacksmiths and shepherd boys.

When they return, did you notice that they return with joy. Doing ministry in the power and authority of Jesus was not burdensome to them. Though they didn’t take a purse or bag, though they were like sheep among wolves (Luke 10:3-4), they still returned with joy! And they were completely shocked that demons submitted to them in Jesus’s name.

Demons didn’t submit to the religious leaders and teachers of the law. Demons didn’t even submit to the high priest. Demons didn’t submit to the magicians, mediums, or fortune-tellers. And yet, in the name of Jesus, demons submitted to these no-named, low-status disciples. It was astounding! And it wasn’t because of them, but because they were given the delegated authority of Jesus.

Jesus reminds them to keep their focus in the right place. He doesn’t want them to be enamored with the reality that they can cast out demons. Jesus knows that focusing on the enemy is just a waste of time. He’s not worth that kind of focus. Instead, Jesus wanted their focus to be on the Lord and that they walk in His authority because of their salvation.

And notice how excited Jesus is for the 72 disciples returning from ministry. Scripture says Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit.” Can’t you just see the huge smile on Jesus’s face as each of them tell their stories of healing people, delivering people from demons, and proclaiming the Kingdom of God. He would have been beaming like a proud papa.

Then Jesus turns toward heaven and thanks the Father that He made all of this possible. The Father had revealed the power and authority of His Kingdom to bankers and bakers, wine-makers and carpenters, and not to the religious elite. The Father was pleased to have the enormous power and authority of heaven flow through people of low status, people with little more social status than children, instead of those the world considered learned and wise. And this reality brought Jesus so much joy!

And it still brings Him so much joy today! He’s still doing this very thing today!

As a follower of Jesus, you were designed to carry the authority and power of Jesus. You were created to see the impossible become possible. God delights in answering the prayers of His children. Before Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and ascended, Jesus talked about how joy would come when their prayers were answered.

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16:23-24

That is how prayer was designed to work. We ask in the name of Jesus–the delegated authority of Jesus–and we receive what we asked. When that prayer gets answered right in front of us, we are filled with joy by the Holy Spirit just as Jesus was. We were meant to proclaim the Kingdom in the authority of Jesus. We were meant to see the sick healed and the oppressed set free from the demonic. We were designed to operate in the delegated authority of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.

And when we see people come to know Jesus, when we see people healed, when we see people set free, we get filled with joy! There is so much joy in seeing God’s Kingdom break through on earth as it is in heaven. Galatians 5:22 lists joy as a fruit of the Spirit. Yet, joy is also a fruit of supernatural ministry. It’s the fruit of seeing God move powerfully through our prayers.

Residential and Occasional Gifts

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

There is some confusion in the church about the gifts of the Spirit and how they operate. One point of misunderstanding revolves around gifts of the Spirit like healing and miracles. The comment usually goes like this, “If someone has the gift of healing, why don’t they just walk around and go into hospitals and just heal everyone.” The logic is that if they have the gift, they should be able to use it whenever and wherever they want. People often think of “gifts” as no more than supercharged abilities that we can control at will.

But this shows a lack of understanding of how many of the gifts of the Spirit work. All spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit are not always fully controlled by the will of the person who has them. It is true that some gifts are “residential” in nature in that they are always able to be accessed and used by the person who has that gift. Examples of a residential gift would be the gift of mercy, gift of hospitality, or gift of teaching. In nearly every setting, a person is able to access this gift and use it for the glory of God. The gift seems to “reside” in the person in a way that doesn’t depend on a special request of God. The person is a kind of reservoir for the gift.

Other gifts are “non-residential” and are sometimes called “occasional” gifts by theologians. By occasional they don’t mean temporary or rare. They mean that these gifts show up in particular occasions and can’t be fully controlled by the person who has this gift. Examples of “occasional” gifts are gifts of healing, gifts of miracles, gift of prophecy, etc. Those who have operated in these “occasional” gifts usually have to request that the Lord move through them in that way for that particular situation. The gift is there, but it is not released automatically. It must be released by God through the person. Rather than a reservoir, the person is simply a conduit of the gift.

We could say that a person with one of the non-residential gifts has to wait on the Lord and has to invite the Lord to use them as a conduit in that moment. When we say they “have” the gift of healing or miracles or prophecy we don’t mean they own the gift and control it at will. We mean that we have seen the Lord regularly use them as a conduit of that gift. And as a person grows in a non-residential gift, they are used more and more often to be a conduit. It happens more regularly.

With a residential gift, a person can use it all the time. Growing in that kind of gift doesn’t mean that it happens more regularly but that, when it is used, it is used more powerfully. Meaning, the effect of the gift when it is used grows in impact.

We could use modern technology as an analogy. Having a residential gift is like having the song on your hard drive. Having a non-residential gift is like having to pull it down from the cloud. Either way, you have access to it, but it’s a different kind of access.

Knowing this distinction about the different gifts is important so that we can learn to cooperate with the Spirit in the operation of the gifts given to us. Different gifts require a different kind of cooperation. When we know this, we can wield these gifts for the sake of the Kingdom of God and for the glory of the name Jesus.

Pauline

I went in to pray for Katie as I do most Fridays. Nevin, her husband, told me that there was a new aid there today. The plan was to warn her that I was there to pray and that she could join if she wanted. God had different plans for us that day.

Katie is a young wife and mother of two young kids. In 2016 she experienced a traumatic brain injury because of mistakes made by doctors in the ER. They told us she’d never come out of the coma and that she’d be a vegetable the rest of her life. So we prayed. She eventually came out of the coma. She eventually became responsive. They told us she’d never get off of the trach. So we prayed. She now breathes on her own. They told us she’d always need to be in a care facility. So we prayed. She returned to her home in September 2020. She still doesn’t have control over most of her body or her speech. She still can’t eat food. She still needs a lot of care. So we keep praying that God would continue to heal her. (I invite you to pray with us for her complete healing.)

I visit Katie on Fridays to pray with her and for her. Robin, her mom, is usually there with me along with Katie’s 6-year-old daughter. But this time it was just me and Katie’s aid. So far, all of Katie’s aids have been French-speaking west African women who speak with a thick accent. They have all been Christians and all have joined in quietly in the background as we pray for Katie. This day was Pauline’s first time being Katie’s aid.

I introduced myself and asked if she wanted to pray with me. She said that she did and she was emphatic about it. I figured she would pray in the background as the other aids did. I was wrong. As I began praying for Katie, Pauline stood to her feet and raised up her arms. At first she mostly just agreed with what I was praying but I could sense that something was different. Pauline prayed with tremendous faith. The power of God filled the room as she and I prayed together.

Then, as I got toward the end of my prayers, Pauline began to get louder. She stepped over to Katie’s bed, kneeled down, placed her hands on the bed and began to intercede. And I mean REALLY intercede. She wasn’t launching “wishful thinking” kinda prayers. She was dropping bombs in the Spirit. She was praying for Katie, who she had never met before and doesn’t know, with a fervor that was palpable. She was on her knees crying out to the Lord for Katie’s healing. She was praying with power, with boldness, and with faith and trust. It was clear she has spent a LOT of time on her knees. The only thing I could do was kneel down with her.

As she and I prayed back and forth for the next few minutes, it was incredible. She was a true prayer warrior and she was going to battle for Katie–a stranger but a sister in Christ. When we finished and got up off the ground, I gave her a hug. She started the morning an unknown African woman from Cameroon and I an unknown white man from America. But by the end, we experienced the “unity of the Spirit”(Ephesians 4:3). She was family. I was her brother and she was my sister. There is nothing more unifying than the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that bonds people together who are so very different than the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the beauty of the Church!

I asked her about herself and she mentioned that her ministry was intercession. She was a member of a global prayer chain connecting French-speaking Christians from America, Canada, Europe, and west Africa. She also said that, originally, she wasn’t going to accept the job of being Katie’s aid because she lives an hour away. But now she understood why she was there. She was there to pray for Katie. Before I left she promised to put Katie on the international prayer chain. So, now people from all the world are praying for a miracle for Katie. God is good!

During our prayer time together, the Lord showed me something about myself and Pauline. In the world’s system of privilege, I–a white American man–am at the top, and she–an French-speaking African women–is near the bottom. Even in the religious system of the Church, I am a pastor who ministers publicly and she is a medical aid worker who works behind-the-scenes. But God’s Kingdom is an upside-down Kingdom.

It was clear from our prayer time, and from the years she has spent on her knees, that she was the one with special access to the throne room of God. She, not I, had the VIP All-Access pass into the Presence of God that morning. Her faith was so much more powerful than mine, her “privilege” in the Kingdom so much greater than mine. It was an honor for me to pray with her. I was in school and she was the instructor. It’s yet another reminder that “favor” in the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with one’s race, sex, or socio-economic status. It has nothing to do with whether you are a pastor on staff at a church or a medical aid worker. It has everything to do with surrender. It has everything to do with faith.

I hope to pray with Pauline again.

Your Faith Has Healed You

There is so much misunderstanding around the connection between faith and healing. What really confuses people is when Jesus tells the person who got healed that their faith has healed them. There are three main incidents of this in the Gospel accounts.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Mark 5:34

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Mark 10:52

Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:19

The first one is with the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. She touches the edge of Jesus’s robe and is healed. Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” The second one is blind Bartimaeus. After calling out to Jesus, Bartimaeus is invited over to Him. Jesus heals him and says, “your faith has healed you.”

The third incident is with 10 lepers that approach Jesus for healing. They travel together as a leper colony and together ask Jesus to heal them. He sends them away to show themselves to the priests, and “as they went” they were completely healed from leprosy. Even though all of them were physically healed, only one returns to give thanks. He is a Samaritan. Jesus tells this one that his faith has made him well. The word used here in the Greek is sozo meaning saved, healed, and delivered. More than just physically healed, this man who returned is healed at a deeper level, at the level of his soul, because of his faith.

What our western mindsets do with these accounts is to reverse the logic. We wrongly assume that if their faith healed them, then if someone isn’t healed it is because of a lack of faith on the part of the person seeking healing. This misunderstanding has been perpetuated in some corners of the charismatic tradition and has led to some really toxic practices in the church. But we must take these incidents together with other healings we see Jesus perform.

In the Gospel of Mark we see Jesus heal a man with leprosy who isn’t sure Jesus is willing to heal him. The man prefaced his request for healing with, “If you are willing…” (Mark 1:40-41). In the same Gospel we see a father bring his son to Jesus asking for healing and deliverance. This father prefaced his request with “…if you can do anything…” (Mark 9:22-24). This dad isn’t even sure Jesus is able to do anything. Neither one of these guys show tremendous faith, and yet Jesus still heals.

We also see a couple times where Jesus heals someone not because of the faith of the person needing healing but because of the faith of a friend or family member. When Jesus heals the paralyzed man on the mat who is lowered through the roof, it is because Jesus sees “their faith,” meaning the faith of the friends lowering their friend through the roof (Luke 5:20). When Jesus heals and delivers the daughter of the Canaanite woman, he acknowledges the mother’s faith, not the daughter’s (Matthew 15:28). When the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant who is paralyzed and suffering, Jesus did so based on the centurion’s faith, not the servant’s (Matthew 8:10).

What we learn from these accounts is that faith, among other things, is a conduit of healing power. Yet, while it seems that faith has to be somewhere in the equation, it doesn’t have to be found in the person asking for healing. In cases where people have little or no faith, Jesus himself has plenty of faith to act as the conduit of healing. In other cases, the friend or family member provide more than enough faith to be a conduit for healing.

So, let’s return to the times Jesus said, “your faith has healed you.” What is Jesus really saying? I believe Jesus is giving a word of encouragement to the person who is seeking the healing. I believe Jesus is saying something like this, “When you came to ask for healing, I didn’t have to use any of my own faith as a conduit for healing. And it didn’t require any faith from your friends or family. When you came, you came with so much faith that your own faith was enough to be a conduit of your own healing!” Taken this way, we can see that Jesus’s words are mean to empower. (Imagine how empowering those words would be to a person who lived in a religious culture that assumed their physical ailment was a result of a lack of faithfulness on their part–see Luke 13:1-5.)

Let me conclude by stating clearly that faith is not the only variable impacting whether someone experiences healing. There are lots of variables, some of them mysterious and others unknowable. But what we learn from scripture is that of all the variables that are involved in healing, faith is one of them. Not the only one, but one nonetheless. And while it needs to be present, it doesn’t have to be present in the person needing healing. It can be present in the person praying. It can be present in a family member or friend. It just needs to be in the room somewhere and that’s all God needs to use it as a conduit for healing.

The Laws of the Kingdom

…through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2

All throughout the created world we see laws at work that counteract each other. One law of nature seems to be greater than other laws. For instance, the law of centrifugal force should mean that the rotation of the earth flings us all out into space. Centrifugal force is that feeling of being pushed to the outside anytime you spin around something. It’s that feeling of sliding to the far side of the car when it’s going around a turn.

But the reason we don’t fly out into space is because of the law of gravity. The force of gravity is stronger than the centrifugal force. Another way of saying this is that the law of gravity is above or greater than the law of centrifugal force. It doesn’t make the lesser law less true. It just means the greater law takes precedence. Both laws are true but the greater law wins out.

(Fun fact: the centrifugal force is greatest on the earth at the equator. So gravity is counteracted the most at the equator. Meaning, you are a little lighter at the equator–by about 10 oz or so–than you are at the poles of the earth.)

We see this same principle at work in the judicial system. There are many laws on the books. But in the courtroom the judge often has to decide between two competing laws. This is especially true with the Supreme Court. Both laws are true. Both laws are there for a reason. But often one law takes precedence over another law in a particular case. For instance, a federal law will take precedence over a state law if they are in conflict with each other.

These examples are simply reflections of what is true in God’s Kingdom. In the spirit realm, there are laws at work. And some laws supersede other laws. Romans 8 tells us that the law of the Spirit of life is greater than the law of sin and death. Both laws are true, but one is greater than the other. It is true that sin leads to death. It is true that because of our sin we deserve spiritual death. But a new law was introduced in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are now saved by grace through faith in Jesus. And having been given the Spirit, we are now set free from the law of sin and death. There is a greater law at work.

Paul describes a hierarchy of Kingdom laws in Galatians 5. The law of freedom stands over the law of the Spirit of life. Yet, the law of the Spirit of life stands over law of sin and death. Paul warns the Galatians to use their freedom to submit to the Spirit rather than to sin. And if we use our freedom to submit to the Spirit, we will walk in the Spirit and the will keep us from sin.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 

Galatians 5:1, 13, 16

The reason I am pointing out that some laws in God’s Kingdom supersede and take precedent over other laws is to highlight an important truth about healing. This is something the Lord has shown me over the last few weeks. If we want to operate in healing gifts and if we want to pray and see people healed, we need to remember this truth.

What the Lord showed me was that, because the law of the Spirit of life is greater than the law of sin and death, people can be healed of disease. We might call this the law of healing. But He also showed me that the law of freedom (or what we would call free will) is greater than the law of healing in God’s Kingdom.

Let’s break this down.

First, the law of healing is the general principle that God wants people to be healed in their bodies. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the will of God on earth. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. He was God in the flesh. Every single person who came to Jesus and asked for healing got healed. Jesus never turned someone away in the Gospels and said, “You need to be sick so the Father can teach you a lesson.” No. Scripture says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35).

The life of the Spirit in Jesus was transmitted to those who had illness. Disease is a product of sin and death in the world. The law of the Spirit of life overcame the law of sin and death. It is clear from the life of Jesus that God’s will is to heal disease and sickness.

The obvious question becomes, “Why then isn’t everyone healed?” The same kind of question could be asked about why then isn’t everyone saved. 1 Timothy 2:4 states very plainly that God our Savior, “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God wants everyone saved. But not all are saved. Why? Free will. The law of freedom gives people a choice to trust in Jesus or not.

So how does the law of freedom sometimes supersede or have precedence over the law of healing?

One example is a testimony from a woman named Joanne Moody. She wanted to be healed and believed in healing and got lots of prayer for healing but for years was not healed of her chronic pain. It wasn’t until a man spiritually discerned that she had made agreements with certain demonic spirits (spirits of death, spirits of suicide, etc) that anything changed. When the man discerned the truth and led Joanne to break those agreements (with her own free will) only then did prayer for healing actually heal her body. She was completely and totally healed. [See her testimony here.]

She had made agreements with the enemy that were blocking her healing. She was free to make those agreements because of the law of freedom (free will). Only when she renounced those agreements and had those demonic spirits cast out of her did her healing come. In other words, her free will had to cooperate with what God was doing in order for the law of healing to take center stage.

Another part of Joanne Moody’s testimony is that she almost died on an operating table. When this happened, her spirit floated above her body and the Lord came into the room. He gave her a choice to go home and be with the Lord or to go back into her body. She admits that she wanted to go be with the Lord, but she choose, for her son’s sake, to go back into her body riddled with pain.

Think about that scenario for a second. All these people were praying for her not to die. All these people were praying for her to come back and be healed. God wanted her to be healed. Yet, ultimately, God gave her a choice. The law of freedom took precedence over the law of healing. Had she freely chosen to go home to be with the Lord, she would not have been healed. She would have died right there on the operating table.

We see this with Jesus and the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). They cried out for physical healing. Jesus then gave them a command to go show themselves to the priests. They had the freedom as to whether they were going to obey. If they didn’t go, they wouldn’t be healed. If they did go, they would be healed. The law of freedom takes precedence over the law of healing.

They all decided to go, and “as they went” they were all healed. Before they even got to the priests, Jesus healed them. So now all of them were physically healed from leprosy but only one came back to thank Jesus, and he was apparently a “Samaritan.”

Jesus responded to the gratitude in the man’s heart (his free will choice to return and give thanks) by granting the man even more healing. Jesus said, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” That word in the Greek translated as “made you well” is the word for saved (sozo). The man was already physically healed; Jesus then healed him at a much deeper level. The other nine men who were also physically healed made their own free will choice not to return and give thanks, and they did not receive the deeper healing.

What’s the point?

The point is that the law of freedom sometimes takes precedence over the law of healing in God’s Kingdom. Does God want to heal? Yes! Emphatically, yes! This is what we see over and over again in the life of Jesus. Yet, it seems, there is a greater law that is often at work. God does want to heal but more than that He wants us to have our God given freedom of will. Without freedom there is no love. In order for love to be real it must be free. The law of love is dependent on the law of freedom. And so often, in order to see healing, we must freely cooperate with what God is doing and saying.

This is not to say that this is the only reason people are not healed. Don’t hear me say that. There are lots of variables involved with someone getting healed and many of those variables are a mystery. What I am saying is that one of the variables is the reality that the law of freedom supersedes the law of healing in God’s Kingdom. Our freedom is one of God’s top priorities and we must use that freedom to cooperate with Him. Learning to cooperate with God in healing is part of the journey of the Christian life.

We must explore this truth more. I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg. How does our freedom and our free choices interact with healing? How can we engage the law of freedom in such a way that it enacts the law of healing? There is much more that we have to learn about this truth.

Understanding Physical Healing

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. 

2 Kings 20:1-6

We can learn so many things from this dramatic healing of King Hezekiah. First, prayer changes things. I don’t like it when people say, “Prayer doesn’t change things; it changes us.” Nope. Prayer does both.

Hezekiah got a direct word from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah that he was going to die from the illness he had. Then, Hezekiah cried out to the Lord and the Lord healed him. Prayer matters. Prayer for physical healing matters. The fatalistic idea that “God’s going to do what God’s going to do” is a poor understanding of God’s sovereignty. God has chosen to be in covenant relationship with His people, which means that what we pray and what we ask for in prayer has an effect on things.

Secondly, most people don’t understand the connection between “small” healings and “big” healings. All miraculous healings are “big” in the sense that God chooses to divinely heal. But what I mean is that people don’t seem to care much about physical healing until they or someone they love is in Hezekiah’s position with an illness that is heading toward death.

I’ve encountered this attitude with people in my own church and people I’ve talked to about physical healing. They ask me why I think praying for physical healing is so important. They always use the argument that it is more important that people get saved and experience the loving community of the church than it is that they get physically healed. But this argument borders on gnosticism (an early heresy that thinks “spiritual” things are of ultimate importance while “physical” things don’t matter).

When a person doesn’t understand why I get so excited about “small” healings like a injured knee getting healed or a migraine problem going away, I start asking them about whether they would have that same cavalier attitude about stage 4 cancer getting healed or someone with traumatic brain injury getting healed. In every case, the person who was relatively indifferent about physical healing two seconds ago suddenly agrees that physical healing in those situations is supremely important. And what becomes clear is that they don’t understand the connection between the knee getting healed and the cancer getting healed. Most people don’t.

First of all, Jesus did not make this distinction between small and big healings. He healed blindness and He healed fevers. He raised the dead and He healed crippled hands. Jesus treated sickness as an attack on the body that God created. Whether it was a fever or blindness, Jesus wanted it gone.

Secondly, any spiritual gift must be used faithfully in order for it to grow. We accept this as a truth of the Kingdom when it comes to gifts like teaching or hospitality. We intuitively understand the parable of the talents applies not just to our financial resources but also to how we steward our spiritual gifts. This line of the parable should be ringing in our ears, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things“(Matthew 25:23).

The gift of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9) is no different. As we are faithful to pray for smaller physical needs and see God heal those, our faith grows. As we are faithful with “smaller” miracles, God can begin to trust us with “bigger” ones. When the apostle Paul talks about spiritual gifts in Romans 12, he teaches that we operate in our gifts in accordance with our faith (Romans 12:6). So while different gifts are given simply by God’s grace, we grow in these gifts by faith. We must exercise our faith as we use our gifts in order to mature in them.

So, when it comes to gifts of healing, praying for the “smaller” healings is what prepares you and your faith for the day you pray for life-threatening illnesses. Indifference toward small healing is a recipe for powerlessness and doubt when you need a big miracle. This is how all spiritual gifts work. If you’ve never preached to a group of 200 people, you wouldn’t assume you could step into a stadium full of people and preach an amazing sermon to thousands. Yet, this is exactly how we treat healing prayer.

Someone might say, “But couldn’t God move powerfully anyway?” Yes! Of course He could. He could also help that person who’s never preached to preach an incredibly powerful and moving sermon to a stadium full of people. God loves to do that! But on our end, we are being irresponsible and arrogant if we are relying on God’s sovereignty to bail us out of our indifference.

Paul’s advice to his protege Timothy was, “…be prepared in season and out of season…”(2 Timothy 4:2). This advice applies to all the spiritual gifts. And when it comes to healing, being prepared means we are praying for small and big miracles alike. It means we grow in our ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s guidance in healing prayer. It means we are seeing “small” healings happen and allowing those to build our faith.

So we celebrate every healing, big or small, because it is a tangible expression of God’s grace. We pursue and celebrate the healing of every disease, big or small, because healing is a sign of God’s Kingdom breaking into this world. We pray for healing because it is an act of love and compassion that was modeled for us by Jesus. Cavalier indifference toward physical healing is an unbiblical and irresponsible reaction that dishonors Jesus’s activity in the world.

What was important to Jesus should be important to us as His followers. And clearly, from reading the Gospels, physical healing was extremely important to Jesus.

Is it important to you? Who have you prayed for recently?

Elisha & Jesus

Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’ [Malachi 3:1]

Luke 7:24-27

The Old Testament prophets prophesied that an Elijah-figure would precede the Messiah in order to prepare the way. Jesus identifies John the Baptist as this Elijah-figure and identifies Himself as the long awaited Messiah.

This can help us make sense of so many of the signs, wonders and miracles of Jesus. In the Old Testament, Elijah’s protege was Elisha. When Elijah was taken up to heaven, he left a his prophetic mantle to Elisha as well as a double portion of his anointing from the Spirit. So we can understand that if John the Baptist is the Elijah-figure, Jesus then becomes the Elisha-figure. Only when we compare and contrast the signs, wonders and miracles of Elisha with those of Jesus, we see that Jesus was not-so-subtly declaring that He was even greater than Elisha in word and deed.

Elisha healed the water in a well that had been contaminated (2 Kings 2:19-22). Jesus calmed an entire sea and declared that those who trusted in Him would have a well of living water springing up from within them.

Elisha caused jars to be miraculously filled with olive oil (2 Kings 4:1-7). Jesus caused the water in huge water jugs to be miraculously turned into wine.

Elisha miraculously fed 100 men with 20 loaves of bread and even had some left over (2 Kings 4:42-44). Jesus fed the 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish and had 12 baskets of leftovers. He also fed the 4000 with seven loaves and some fish and had seven baskets of leftovers.

Elisha helped out one of his prophet buddies when an axhead flew into the Jordan River and sank. Elisha cut a stick and threw it on the water where the axhead sunk, and the axhead miraculously floated up to the surface. The prophetic friend reached his hand in the water and retrieved it. Jesus, however, walked on the Sea of Galilee. Then He invited one of His own buddies to come out on the water with Him. He enabled Peter to walk on water for a short time.

Elisha healed Naaman, who had leprosy, by telling him to wash in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:10-14). Jesus healed leprous people everywhere he went with just a touch.

Elisha raised the Shunammites’s son back to life (2 Kings 4:32-37). After his death, his bones cause another man to come back to life (2 Kings 13:20-21). Jesus raised a young boy, a young girl, and Lazarus back to life. Then He Himself was raised back to life and the sheer power of His resurrection caused many in Jerusalem to be raised out of their own tombs (Matthew 27:52-53).

The point of all of this is that Jesus wasn’t random in His signs, wonders and miracles. Besides being moved with compassion for the person in front of Him, Jesus did many things that showed that He was, indeed, the Messiah. He was the one preceded by the Elijah-figure only He was much more powerful and more amazing than even Elisha was. Many of his signs, wonders and miracles fulfilled and completed all the miraculous events of the Old Testament and pointed forward to a day when the Kingdom of God would be in all its fullness on the earth.

The Humanity of Jesus

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

Matthew 26:53-54

Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane when guards came to arrest him. One of His disciples thought about putting up a fight against this wrongful arrest, but Jesus stopped him. And then Jesus said the comment above about angels. This comment is peculiar on so many levels.

Some people believe the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are no longer in operation today. They say these gifts were only for the early church and are no longer happening. One of their arguments is that the reason Jesus was able to do all of His miracles was because He was God in the flesh. Even though we are commanded to imitate His life, they say, we can’t expect to imitate this part of this life. He was operating as God, revealing His divinity with each miracle.

If that is true, then so many passages of scripture make no sense whatsoever. For instance, why would Jesus need to call on His Father to send Him twelve legions of angels? If He was operating out of His divinity, Jesus could just call on the angels Himself and they’d have to come. And why would He even need to call on angels at all if He was operating out of His divinity? He is infinitely more powerful than they are. But Jesus suggests here that not only is He not requesting angels to come to His rescue, but that even if He did request them, He’d have to make that request through the Father.

This is just one of the many instances where we see evidence that Jesus was not, in fact, operating out of His divinity while He walked the earth. Yes, He was God in the flesh, but He set aside His divinity in order to operate only out of His humanity while on the earth. [Also note that on two different occasions Jesus needed angels to attend to Him (Matthew 4:11 & Luke 22:43). If He was operating out of His divinity, would this have been necessary? It only makes sense if Jesus is operating only out of His humanity.]

Jesus Himself confirms this reality when speaking to His own disciples:

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 

John 5:19

If Jesus was operating out of His divinity, He could do whatever He wanted by Himself. Instead, by operating only out of His humanity, Jesus stays completely dependent on the Father. He can do nothing by Himself. Nothing.

Jesus operated only out of His humanity throughout His formative years. Jesus submitted to the human reality of the need to grow. Luke confirmed this:

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Luke 2:52

Make no mistake, God does not need to grow in wisdom or in stature or in favor with God. If Jesus was operating out of His divinity, He wouldn’t either. But He chose to humble Himself fully and live a completely human life. This included the need to grow in various aspects of His life.

The apostle Paul tried to articulate this truth to the church in Philippi:

…Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

Philippians 2:5-7

Jesus was God, but He never used His divinity to His own advantage. Instead, He operated only out of His humanity. He could have used His divinity to do all those healings, deliverances, and miracles, but He decided not to. Instead, He did all of those healings, deliverances, and miracles while operating out of His humanity. But how?

Luke gives us a couple clues.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 

Luke 4:1, 14

If Jesus was operating out of His divinity, why would He need to be full of the Spirit and then to be “in the power of the Spirit?” He would already be both. Instead, we see Luke make a point to record that Jesus shifted into a fullness of the Spirit that led to Him operating in the power of the Spirit. Because Jesus was operating only out of His humanity, in order to do any miracles, He had to stay surrendered to the Father and allow the power of the Spirit to flow through Him.

In the very next chapter, Luke again reveals this truth about Jesus.

One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.

Luke 5:17

Why would Luke need to mention that the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick if Jesus was operating out of His own divinity. It’s a silly thing to say. But it makes complete sense if we understand that Jesus was operating only out of His humanity. He was completely dependent on following the direction of the Father and being empowered by the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus chose to operate only out of His humanity, if He wanted to heal someone, He had to be dependent on the power of Spirit to be present.

The implications of this truth about Jesus are profound. It means that we no longer get to sit back and marvel at Jesus’s healings and miracles as spectators. We no longer get to excuse ourselves from the life of the miraculous with, “…yeah, but Jesus was God.” Yes, He is God. But Jesus was modeling for us what the fullness of humanity looks like. Jesus was showing us what is possible when a human is fully surrendered to the Father, fully empowered by the Spirit, and sin-free. He set the bar that we now pursue with our own lives.

The apostle Paul even makes the claim that the power that raised Jesus out of the grave is now inside of us as believers!

…and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms..

Ephesians 1:19-20

And Jesus Himself expected that we would use the power of the Spirit in us for the sake of the Kingdom. Jesus expected that we would be surrendered to the Father, empowered by the Spirit, and freed from sin (because of His own atoning work on the cross). He layed out these expectations to His own disciples.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 

John 14:12

If Jesus was doing His miracles by operating out of His divinity then this claim is ridiculous. We could never do what Jesus did because we are not God. But Jesus expects that not only will we do the miracles He did, but that we would do even greater things. This statement only makes sense if Jesus did all that He did by operating out of His humanity. It also means we now have the reward and responsibility of pursuing the same kind of life Jesus lived, miracles and all.

Uninformed

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

1 Corinthians 12:1

Paul’s great desire for the churches that he started was that they not be uninformed about the gifts of the Spirit. And yet in so many churches today, most of the members are uninformed about these gifts.

I’ve had so many conversations in the last month where people asked me about the gifts of the Spirit. One girl came to me asking about tongues and whether she should even desire that gift. She also wondered that, because she doesn’t pray in tongues, whether she is baptized in the Spirit.

In another conversation, a pastor of another church came to me asking about the gifts. When he prays for people in the morning, he feels like the Lord gives him the ability to see them the way God sees them. He never had a label or a name for it. It was just something he noticed God enabled him to do. So we talked through the difference between a “word of knowledge,” a “prophetic word” and “discerning the spirits.” All three of these gifts of the Spirit are revelatory in nature but have slightly different functions.

In a different conversation, a woman in my church asked about impartation and its value. Impartation is when a person lays hands on another person and asks God to release a transference of anointing or gifting in the Holy Spirit. We see this sort of thing talked about in Deuteronomy 34:9, 1 Timothy 4:14, and 2 Timothy 1:6. Her question was, “Does baptism in the Spirit or new gifts of the Spirit come only through impartation?” She wondered if one could just receive more from God while praying one-on-one with Him. My answer was that those are the two main ways people receive new things from the Holy Spirit–waiting in prayer and impartation.

In another interaction, a couple in my church had some struggles with healing prayer and wanted to learn more. We dialogued back and forth about certain elements of praying for physical healing which led to them wanting to read about it on their own. So I suggested a few books for them.

In yet another conversation, a pastor of another church had a detailed dream that he felt was significant, but he couldn’t discern its meaning and wasn’t sure if it was from the Lord. So he asked for my help. As he and I discussed the dream, the meaning began to emerge. The Holy Spirit began to lay out the interpretation. When I shared the interpretation that I felt I was hearing from the Lord, he was deeply touched. The Lord had spoken to him so directly and so specifically, addressing a family situation that he had been concerned about.

The point is that many in the church are uninformed about the gifts of the Spirit but are hungry to learn more. People don’t want to stay uninformed, but many pastors are fine with them staying that way. Many pastors are themselves uninformed about the gifts of the Spirit so they can’t begin to teach on it. Or, if they do know about them, they only know enough about them to view them skeptically and suspiciously. They don’t want anyone operating in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in their church because it might mean a loss of control for them. Or maybe they’ve never seen these gifts used with maturity or within healthy boundaries, so they don’t believe healthy use of the gifts is possible. Whatever their reason, it ends up muting the Holy Spirit’s expression in the local church.

The apostle Paul had a different approach. Here’s one of the places he talks about the gifts:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healings by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishings of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NASB

If you are a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit dwells in you and these gifts are available to you. But like most other things in the Kingdom of God, you’ll need to pursue them. And part of pursuing them is becoming informed about them, even the gifts you don’t yet have.

If you want to become more informed about these gifts, how they work, what they’re for, and how to express them in a healthy way in the church, I have an entire teaching series for you. I called it the Supernatural Christian Life. Each week has an audio teaching, slides, links to videos, and book recommendations. It’s a 7 week series where I cover every gift listed in 1 Corinthians 12 in detail. I offer it to you freely at the link below. My only request is that you hunger for more. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

https://horizontowson.com/supernatural-christian-life-study