Burdens to Blessings

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability.Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”

Matthew 25:14-18

The other day I was reflecting on the fact that so few people in our circle have had to do what my wife and I have had to do in the last year. She and I work full-time and have had three kids in school (two in elementary school and one in middle school). Our kids have, until recently, been 100% virtual for their schooling. So that means, on top of both of us working full-time, we’ve had to juggle being each of their at-home teacher/tutor for a year.

Add to this the fact that I am a pastor and have had to help lead my church through a pandemic while we’re in the middle of buying a church building and changing our leadership structure. Oh, and we bought a new house and moved last May, right in the middle of the pandemic. Not to mention that in the midst of all of that my brother died suddenly and tragically in a car accident.

Needless to say, it has been a lot. And as I scan my community for people who can relate, there aren’t many. Most families in my church have one parent not working or put their kids in private school. Most haven’t had three in virtual school all year. Most haven’t had to juggle grief and moving and two full-time jobs and leading an organization through the pandemic.

I was lamenting this reality. So I sent a text to a friend about it, one of the few friends who has a life that comes close to resembling mine. I texted him that so few can understand all that we have on our plates. So few have had to manage what we’ve had to manage in this last year. His response was perfect.

He texted back, “How did we get to be so fortunate?”

He didn’t mean this sarcastically. He really meant it. How did we get so fortunate to have so many kids? How did we get so fortunate to have two jobs? How did we get so fortunate to be entrusted to lead organizations? How did we get so fortunate to be able to afford a new house? How did we get so fortunate to be responsible for so much?

His response immediately shifted my perspective. What I was viewing as “a lot of weight to carry” his comment shifted to “a lot of responsibility that we are blessed with.”

My response to him was, “I guess God thought we could steward it.” And I really believe that to be true. In the Parable of the Talents, the man with 5 bags of gold didn’t complain that it was too much to handle. He went at once to be a good steward of what he was given. And this is what we must do.

Self-pity is from the enemy. Self-pity is a person swimming next to a drowning victim who is thrashing around and then complaining to the lifeguards that they are getting water in their eyes. Self-pity is one of the most disempowering lies that one can believe about themselves. Self-pity is the lie that you are a helpless victim of your circumstances and are powerless to do anything about it. Self-pity turns “blessings to steward” into “burdens to carry.”

What blessings are you viewing as a burden? Where has self-pity seeped into the cracks of your heart and mind? Be sure to pull that weed before it pulls you under.

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?