Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Are You Listening?

A directly theological post is out of the ordinary for this blog, but surely many leukemia and cancer patients, whether they're Christian or just have Christian friends, have repeatedly run into the issue I'm going to address. I saw an article today from David Wilkerson, a great man of God and author of The Cross and the Switchblade, and it said something that made me think, "Okay, today is the day to write this post."

David Wilkerson is a great man of God who risked his life to bring the Gospel to inner city gangs in New York in the 1960's. He founded Teen Challenge, perhaps the most successful rehab ministry for drug addicts that there ever was. He started Times Square Church, which still attracts thousands of people each week.

But I think he got off track with his emphasis on prophecy and the judgment of the US over the last twenty to thirty years of his life. Even his book, The Prophecy, which was trumpeted by Christians as an amazing prediction of the US attack on Kuwait, wasn't really. I read the book. The places where it matched Kuwait were pretty general, and a lot of details didn't match at all.

Anyway, the article I saw today, which obviously wasn't written today since he went to be with the Lord last year, said ...

... the Bible clearly outlines what the church of Jesus
Christ will be like just prior to His coming. (World Challenge)

No, it doesn't. At least not clearly.

The first time Jesus came, no one—not one single person, righteous or unrighteous—was able to accurately predict what the coming of the Messiah would be like. End time prophecies are not meant to be figured out in advance. They are to give us hope and help us see what is happening as the events unfold.

That is why some Christians say the church will be in great apostasy when Jesus returns, and others, like David Wilkerson, say that the church will have more power than the apostolic churches of the first and second centuries. The Bible's not clear on that subject, and it won't be until the events actually transpire, just as was true during Jesus' first coming.

What does this have to do with leukemia and cancer patients?

A friend wrote on Facebook about "standing on the Word of God" concerning a prayer for healing for someone. What that meant, however, is that they were standing on one minority interpretation of the Bible, believing that God always wants to heal the sick or injured.

There's some biblical problems with that interpretation that at least make it doubtful. More importantly, though, it's obviously not true in real life. It doesn't work. No faith healers are going through hospitals healing everyone and reducing health care costs in the US by billions of dollars. They're not even healing many and reducing health care costs by millions of dollars.

God has not promised to heal everyone. Even the apostle Paul "left Trophimus in Miletus sick" (2 Tim. 4:20).

The Word of God I'd like to see my friend stand on is the one that comes daily to us who walk by the Spirit of God and by which we live (Matt. 4:4). Standing on that Word does produce miracles.

Many years ago my 2-year-old nephew got an eye infection that took all the sight from one of his eyes and was slowly taking sight from the other. I was in Germany at the time because I was in the Air Force, and I got a letter from my sister about the problem, which had been progressing for about a year and a half. The doctors didn't know what it was or what to do about it, and she was writing to ask us to pray.

I got together with two friends, and we prayed, and the presence of God fell on us. As we prayed, that burden I had for my nephew slowly lifted until I was filled with joy, and I knew that God had heard our prayer.

Despite that, I told my friends after praying that I just couldn't shake all the burden. It was like there was just a little bit left, and I couldn't get complete peace. It was sort of an odd feeling that I hadn't experienced before.

Two weeks later I got another letter from my sister. Mail to Germany took a week, so she had mailed it a week after we prayed. All my nephew's vision was restored. The infection had backed way off, and there was just a little bit left in one eye, but the doctors thought they could deal with that (and they did).

I've been told that God always answers prayer and that sometimes the answer is no. That's true, but we ought not to have to wait in order to know the answer is no. We ought to know that the burden didn't lift, or we ought to have been directed to pray something different. We should be aware that we have not successfully gotten God to change the situation we're praying about.

Sometimes that happens because of a lack of faith. Or it can happen because God wants more effort from us in prayer, and we need to continue praying. It is, after all, the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man that can accomplish much (Jam. 5:16). Maybe we need to fast. Or maybe we need to listen and hear God say, "I'm taking this saint home. Don't try to stop him. Pray for peace for his family."

I went through this last year confident that I wasn't going to die, but it wasn't because I interpreted the Bible to mean that anyone with faith can be healed because "by his stripes we are healed" (Is. 53:5). It was because I believed God had told me and others that I wasn't going to die from this leukemia.

I will die someday. Perhaps it will be in my sleep from old age, and perhaps it will be from some disease or accident. Either way, I don't expect to be pleading and begging God for healing. I expect to know, and that my friends will know, that it is time for me to move on to a life that is immortal and painless, assuming I keep the faith to the end.

I believe in miracles. I also believe that in most cases, we should know whether a miracle is coming.

We should labor in prayer. While there's no time in a day to labor in prayer over everything that we might want to pray about, there are issues we should labor in prayer about until we receive the Word of God. From the Word of God we can gain comfort in advance of the healing, knowing it will come—because we have the real Word of God, not just a Bible interpretation based on our own opinion—or we can gain comfort knowing that God has a different plan, painful as that plan might be.

I don't know why things are the way they are. I simply pay attention to what works. Like most other theological issues, nothing I said in this post is without exception. Sometimes a quick, perfunctory prayer produces amazing results.

What I want to deliver us from is "standing on the Word of God" only to have nothing supernatural happen 19 times out of 20 (and I'm being generous here). What most people mean when they say that is that they are "standing on a Bible interpretation I was taught." God is not interested in backing up that kind of faith when he has called us to live by every word that is currently proceeding from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

Jesus' most strenuous opponents were the Pharisees. To them he said ...

You search the Scriptures because you think you have life in them, but they testify of me. Yet you refuse to come to me so that you might have life. (Jn. 5:39-40)

Christians have to be those who live in the New Covenant, the basis of which is a real and spiritual relationship with God ...

Now we are delivered from the Law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of spirit and not in the oldness of letter. (Rom. 7:6)

... for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:6)


  1. This was another wonderful post. "Faith healing" was always something that confused me when I was younger (and even when I was older), bc I'd been taught that narrow interpretation you mentioned - that God wants to heal everyone. Furthermore, it seems(ed) to imply that if God doesn't heal you, you must not have enough faith or you must not be righteous enough or something, or else He would have healed you. Such a freeing thing to find that that is not necessarily the case. Thanks for this.

  2. Great Post; and hank you again for decidedly ending yet another Christian myth. Perhaps you could have a television show called
    "Spiritual Myth Buster". There are still plenty left to bust. I know I would watch it every week. It is also a great exhortation to believe that we should pray until some sense of our Father's will comes. Again ... great post.

  3. I'm day 5 into my start of a Bone Marrow Transplant & you inspire me to fight hard..<3 take a look at my blog.

  4. Thanks to all of you. Melissa, I added your blog to my blog list. In fact, I left four comments on your blog! (Sorry for so many, but after I read that initial post of yours, I had to leave you an encouraging comment, and I had to answer that Gerson therapy suggestion.)

    1. Paul,
      When I post an article about mortality I receive more hits than on any other subject. It is obvious that dying and death are mysterious and there is a curiosity.

      In my most recent post, "How should a Christian die . . .?", I have had quite a response.

      This topic will be in a sense a series of thoughts on the subject.

      I read the above post and sense your thoughts on this very subject. Would you be willing to write your personal experience on healing ? How did you approach your cancer diagnose? Did you pray the prayer of faith "claiming" complete healing or pray "as the Lord wills"? This could be a paragraph or more, it's up to you.

      I know by your title, "Thrilled to Death" that your perspective was an "opportunity". I view my cancer and cancer free state in the same way - an opportunity in either life or death.

      Thank you and blessings,
      Cyndi Heath
      Lakeside, MT
      The Voice: a Christian cancer blog

  5. I'll write you something as soon as I can. It may take up to a week. Thanks, Cyndi, your blogs are very encouraging, as are your comments.