There is not a direct connection between faith and healing. There isn’t even a strong positive correlation. We like to believe that more faith correlates to more healing (either received or given through ministry) because it is simple and, for that reasonn, attractive. Faith is certainly one means by which healing happens, but it is a small tributary to the river of healing – compassion, power and, especially, authority are the primary driving forces of healing in the New Testament.
Examples of Healing and the Presence of Faith
The examples of healing coming through faith are some of the most well known in the Bible. The healing of the Centurion’s servant (Luke 7), the healing of the woman with the flow of blood and the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Luke 8). There is also the story of the paralyzed man whose friends dug through the roof to lower him on a mat to be before Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, that is, the faith of the friends, Jesus healed the man (Luke 5). It seems like everywhere you look in the Gospels, people are being healed through faith in Jesus. But what about people who are healed without faith being present?
Examples of Healing and the Absence of Faith
One of the most misquoted Scriptures I encounter when I talk with people about healing is Mark 6:4-6. Generally, people quote it like this, “Jesus said to [the people he grew up with in his home town], ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there… He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Seems pretty cut and dried, right? No miracles directly attributed to a lack of faith.
Bogus theology flourishes when people don’t reference check the Scriptures people use. What did I intentionally omit in the ellipses? Here is the full version of verse five, my emphasis added. “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” In Nazareth, a town absolutely devoid of faith, Jesus still healed people. As many as could have been healed if they had been prompted by faith to receive it? No. But this proves that healing can, and often does, happen in the absence of faith.
There is also the example of Jesus raising the widow’s son in Luke 7. Unlike when Jesus admonished Jairus to believe in him, there is no mention of faith in that passage. Jesus simply intervenes out of compassion for a woman who had lost everything and could only look forward to a desperate and impoverished future.
I’ve heard numerous stories of people being used by God to heal when they had absolutely no faith for it. My own experience also lines up with that. Sometimes rote, unemotional and faithless prayers produce astounding results. Sometimes they don’t.
While I think it is desirable to have faith in God for healing, it certainly isn’t required on anyone’s part. There are other means whereby God can and does work in a person’s life. I really want to hammer this point because there are a number of pastors and ministries out there who buy into the idea that if you have enough faith, if you believe hard enough and want it badly enough, then God will give you what you ask for. This is pastoral and spiritual abuse of the highest order and it needs to stop.
“Name It and Claim It Baby!”
I hear the origins of what we now call the “name it and claim it” camp are quite biblical and quite profound. What I am speaking against is its modern permutation we often see coupled with Prosperity Gospel preaching.
The idea of “name it and claim it” is that we can lay hold of the promises of God and, sheer through effort of belief, pull those promises into our lives in an immediate and tangible way. I love the heart behind this approach. I love people taking an aggressive stand on the word of God, trusting God to do what he says he will do and not giving up. But because of the heavy emphasis on faith, and the total disregard of the Scriptures that talk about healing in the absence of faith and spiritual warfare, I find this approach to be ultimately unhelpful. What happens when people aren’t healed?
A few minutes searching the internet will likely uncover hundreds of stories of people who “believed God for healing” and whose loved ones died anyway. What are these people to do? Inevitably, the pastor, congregation and even the people themselves blame the lack of healing on a lack of faith. What an impossible burden to bear and what an awful representation of God! It is pastorally inexcusable to blame a person for not having enough faith for their loved one to be healed. No one should suffer that kind of guilt, but what I really want to examine is how this view distorts the image of God.
Idol, Impersonal Force, or Something Else Entirely?
Baal worship is alive and well in West. Baal, if you remember, was one of the Canaanite gods the Israelites were drawn to and, in my usage, loosely represents the entirety of Middle Eastern pantheistic religion. One of the predominate features of Baal worship was the need for human sacrifice to appease the bloodthirsty demon so that life could continue normally. Baal was not favorably disposed to his followers, but supernatural help could be secured if enough of the right sacrifices were offered.
We often interact with God the way the Levantines interacted with their idols. We don’t believe God is favorably disposed towards us, we think we need to purchase his favor through prayer, fasting, giving money or making vows. How many people have prayed, “God, if you will only heal ______, I’ll… serve you forever, give up smoking, move to Africa, etc.” We think that God doesn’t like us, that he is uninterested in and unmoved by our pain. We think we need to bait him to action by offering him something we know he wants but we don’t really want to give. We think this has to be a zero sum transaction, his action for our suffering. This is not the God of the Bible.
First of all, you can’t offer God anything he doesn’t already rightfully possess, so the whole idea of offering him a sacrifice is silly, especially if you are a Christian. You are not your own, you were bought with the blood of Jesus. God owns you – to protest to the contrary is to acknowledge that you weren’t really saved to begin with.
Secondly, God is not distant from, disgusted with, or uninterested in your problems. He likes you. God has called you his friend (John 15:15). He isn’t “up there” in heaven too busy to notice you until you make a ruckus, he is with you in the thick of your mess. He wants to comfort you, counsel you and be there for you. When you pray, you don’t have to try to get his attention, you already have it
You don’t have to bargain with God and there is no way to manipulate him into doing what you want. One way to think of Baalism is as witchcraft, finding the right sequence of words and sacrifices needed to produce a specific result, almost like a vending machine. Baalism, witchcraft, seeks to control God by putting his power under our control to serve our own ends. Good luck with that.
God works through mystery, not magic. God heals something one way, then another. We can’t formulate practices based on what Jesus or the Apostles did, because it was different every time. Spitting in the dirt and applying mud to someone’s eyes worked once, but there is no guarantee it will work again. You will just make them dirty if you think the mud was a magic recipe for success. God is the one in control and he does whatever he pleases. We don’t control him, but we are allowed to partner with him. Just like Jesus, we too can learn to hear his voice and be sensitive to his Spirit. Then we can do and say what we see him doing and saying.
A Note on the Complexities of Healing
You do not need to beg God for healing, or try to convince him to help you. It is already his will to work through you to bring healing. Not only that, but God wants to see that person healed far more than you do. Why, then, aren’t more people healed?
The answer to that question can be summed up in three words: I don’t know. If that is unsatisfying to you, here is the longer answer that says exactly the same thing.
The Now and the Not Yet of the Kingdom
John Wimber popularized what G.E. Ladd first articulated as the “now and not yet” of the Kingdom of God. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, I liken it to a seed being planted or the tide coming in. Both are growing, swelling, but they have not yet fully matured, it isn’t high tide yet. The “now and not yet” speaks to the idea that in many tangible ways, the Kingdom of Heaven is here right now, at hand, and that those are just foretastes of what is to come, for the Kingdom is not yet here in its fullness.
As it applies to healing, the “not and not yet” of the Kingdom means that sometimes we do see people healed. The powers of the Age to Come have broken into our present reality and we get a glimpse of what the New Heaven and New Earth will be like. It also means that there are times where people aren’t healed, and those are terrible and painful reminders that we live in a corrupted world still largely influenced by Satan, sin, demons and death. But the pain of those losses points us to the hope we have in Jesus. One day he will return and those enemies of human kind will once and forever be defeated, never to return – what a glorious day that will be.
A modern example of the now and not yet can be found in World War 2. When the Allies stormed the beach at Normandy it spelled the end of Nazi occupation and rule. It was the decisive turning point of the war, but there were still eleven months of ever increasing bloodshed before the Allied armies march into Berlin.
Jesus’s death and resurrection was the decisive victory over Satan that forever altered the course of history. Satan and his allies are now on the defensive, fighting a losing battle against the forcefully advancing Kingdom of God through the ministry of the Church. That doesn’t mean Satan and his demons aren’t still dangerous and don’t exert influence. Just as the Nazis killed more prisoners in concentration camps in those final months than in the previous years, Satan too knows his time is short and he is trying to do as much damage as he can before he meets his Maker. But I believe we, the Church, have a huge say in what he does or does not get away with. We have been given the keys of the Kingdom, power and authority to bind or loose spiritual realities – we just don’t know how to use them. I will offer you some tools in the last section of this series to help you get into the fight. As long as we stay ignorant and unequipped the enemy will cause untold destruction. But if we will learn how to properly cooperate with Holy Spirit to release his power and authority in the earth, then Satan’s pseudo-kingdom will fall faster than lightening from heaven.
We are in a war and while we know we will have the final victory, there are a number of skirmishes and battles that hang in the balance. Those battles and skirmishes are the healings we pray for. Any number of factors play into the final outcome. The strength of the enemy, the authority of the Believer and their ability to partner with Holy Spirit, their devotional life and many other things make a clear answer to the question “Why isn’t everyone healed all the time” nearly impossible to give. It is possible that a number of different answers could be correct. What I know for sure is that we will win more battles if we fight than if we don’t and that, one Day, this war will end with the Lamb of God victorious. Until then I cling to Jesus’s words, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Our enemy is hiding behind his gates, keeping captive family and friends and those we love. I think it is past time for us to smash those gates to bits and plunder his house