The Rev. John Blacker is the Director of Australian Renewal Ministries.
Spiritual healing is complex and mysterious.
There are no simplistic answers.
Jesus healed the sick and commissioned his church to heal the sick. That ministry is still a vital part of the church's mission.
These past twenty years have been the most rewarding of my forty years of public ministry, and the most controversial. It thrust me into a healing ministry. God's calling in my life, along with a changed theological perspective, opened the way for my involvement in this ministry which was so much a part of Jesus' life and work.
Each year, as an itinerant preacher and teacher in healing and wholeness ministry, I visit numerous groups and serve in many churches, mostly mainline ones. The healing ministry is growing everywhere as the church is renewed in faith and obedience.
Faith accepts the evidence
I am often asked, 'How did you get started in the healing ministry?'
My answer usually contains the three elements of conviction, desire and practice.
The conviction of Jesus Christ's immutability, the one who is the same forever, came as I discarded certain dispensational teachings. That false emphasis claims that the healing ministry instituted by Christ was not meant to continue in our time; that it lasted only till the end of the apostolic age. I came to understand that if the command of Jesus to go and heal the sick was valid two thousand years ago, it must be equally valid today. If he retained the power to save souls it is hardly likely that he would have lost the lesser power to heal.
When I became fully convinced that Christ's power to heal was unchanged and that he really does heal now, I wanted to help people this way. The desire to be able to touch people with peace and a sense of wellness, which had been in me since I was a very small child, began to stir deeply and insatiably within me.
In practice, I saw God's power being released through the 'laying on of hands' causing visible physical change in people. My mind and spirit took a gigantic leap of faith which accepted the evidence before my eyes. The process can only be described as traumatic and revolutionary. I went through a theological and philosophical change. This all issued in a reawakening of what I now believe was a God inspired childhood desire to touch and heal.
I did not have long to wait to begin the practice of expectantly praying for the sick. A group of Full Gospel Businessmen visited the church where I was the pastor. They came, at my request, to conduct a healing seminar. As they ministered God's grace in power I watched with tremendous excitement and anticipation. These lay people placed their hands on those who were seeking release from pain. They were convinced that it was all occurring through faith in Jesus Christ who is the same, yesterday, today and forever. They believed in a God who really does make it happen.
Then, full of anticipation and brimming with hope, I asked if I could 'have a turn'. I recall with thankfulness that my friend Doug McFadgen readily agreed that I should pray. Not having had any previous experience or model to follow I began to put into practice what I now believe, and others who know me concur, is an authentic healing ministry. Some more recent examples of this style of ministry have confirmed it also.
As I reflect on those early renewal beginnings with a sense of wonder, love and praise, I do not have words to adequately express my thanks to God who gently and generously educated me in the presence and power of his Spirit. He showed his predestined calling to heal by releasing the gift of faith in me so that I might practice his healing ministry among hurting, bruised and broken lives.
Health is natural
Extraordinary scientific advances in many areas of medical research and health care have been accompanied and balanced by an increase in holistic health practitioners. Spiritual healing, as illustrated in Scripture and other historical literature, comes into this arena of a holistic approach to healing.
Most spiritual healers and practitioners of holistic medicine take the view that the causative factor present in many forms of human disease and dysfunction is found in systems imbalance. Holistic practitioners aim to restore such imbalances through natural or supernatural powers.
My own point of view is that health is natural but disease and dysfunction are unnatural. My aim, therefore, is to release by faith into suffering lives the appropriate supernatural power so that whatever has caused imbalances in physical, mental and spiritual ways will be overcome and corrected.
Today's rediscovery of the Christian healing ministry marks a return to a fundamental part of our Lord's teaching. The number of individuals and church groups practising spiritual healing through sacramental rites, laying on of hands, anointing with oil, and the prayer of faith is increasing every day. Praise God, miraculous healings reminiscent of biblical examples occur with greater frequency. Through the revival of the Christian healing ministry we have been immeasurably blessed.
Today, more clearly than ever before, I see the healing ministry of the church as an authentic answer to the agnostic belief that Christianity is mere legend, or only a philosophy, or solely an historical event finished two thousand years ago. To know the healing Christ is to see Christianity as what it is meant to be; a dynamic, living reality.
The whole person
Spiritual healing as demonstrated by Jesus deals with the care of the whole person, body, mind and spirit. It calls people to salvation and to closer relationship with God. However, not all who are healed seek salvation, and not all who are healed in spirit are also healed physically.
Some claim that when healing through prayer does not occur there will be psychological damage. Also it is suggested that those who are not healed will tend to blame themselves or doubt the reality of their faith. We have found this to be a false understanding. Those healed in spirit know that an unhealed body is no more the will of God than a sinful world is his will. Both result from universal human failure, corporate faithlessness and mass disobedience. Centuries of unbelief and sin cannot be instantly dispelled. The thunder of human doubt and misunderstanding cannot be immediately silenced.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that total health is the primary will of God, and I will not cease to proclaim that Jesus is the Saviour of our bodies and minds as well as our spirits. Therefore, while total healing may not immediately occur, or not ever during some people's earthly life because of unknown or alien factors, nothing can impede God's healing of the spirit. This is the basis of true wholeness. None who turn to God remain totally unhealed.
Repentance opens the door
Faith unlocks the door to God's power but repentance opens it. This dimension of remission from sin presents a great obstacle for some people who find it difficult to believe that what Jesus said must simply be done.
The testimony of those who have seen and felt the incredible effect of his words concerning repentance cannot be ignored. If we emasculate his teaching, selecting only what we want to believe and rejecting what we would prefer to discard, we find ourselves left with a powerless ideology instead of a dynamic religion.
Our own sin is one of those aspects of Christianity which most of us would probably like to forget, or even deny. But the destructiveness of sin in our lives, and the full salvation of God's forgiveness are central to Christ's teaching. This lies at the heart of the church and is an essential part of the healing ministry. To deny our sin is to deny our salvation, for we cannot be saved from what we do not have.
The list of our sins is long. We cannot describe it all here. The more obvious sins of the flesh are pretty well known. They should not be minimised. However, the sins most frequently overlooked are the sins of the spirit: hostility, resentment, anger, fear, jealousy. These most flagrantly violate the law of love issued by our Lord. To break this law is to commit an offence against God. We then suffer the consequences of physical and mental disease as well as spiritual sickness. The best health insurance cover I know starts with the declaration, 'O God, I repent and am heartily sorry for this .... , my sin.'
The force of humility
Having noted that unrepentance can mitigate against spiritual healing, and having pointed to some common sins of the spirit, I want to single out pride as the greatest culprit.
The saints of history all put their finger on pride as the most common of sins which beset us. It is also the most dangerous because it is insidious and far reaching in its effects. It may not be inaccurate to claim that pride is actually behind and responsible for all other sin.
Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel when he was approached one day by an admiring inquirer who asked the famous painter, 'What is the first article of the Christian religion?'
The answer came quickly, 'Humility.'
'And what is the second article?' asked the eager questioner.
'Humility,' Michelangelo replied.
Desiring to press the point further, the inquirer asked, 'Sir, what is the third article?'
'Humility,' came the unhesitating reply from the great man of God.
Pride leads to the exaltation of our own egos to the point where we worship ourselves and our achievements instead of the creator of both. This tendency leads us into the greatest sin of all, a wilful separation from God.
Pride has nothing to do with self respect which our Lord surely meant us to have and to maintain or he would never have issued his second commandment. Pride means the sort of self aggrandisement which precludes humility. Humility is the basis of our relationship with God.
Without humility we cannot have true faith for faith involves complete confidence in someone other than ourselves. Whatever other virtues we may possess, if we do not have humility we are lost. However grave our faults, if we are humble enough to confess them we can be saved and healed.
Willingness releases spiritual energy
God has made us volitional beings. We choose. Because of this volition the psalmist suggests that we need to be willing in the day of God's power (Psalm 110:3).
As I have ministered through twenty years to thousands of people with laying on of hands I have concluded that little happens in the way of transformation in the lives of those prayed for until there is an act of will which enables the release of God's healing power. When we surrender ourselves in obedience and submit willingly to God's mercy and grace, then healing power can flow.
This is especially so for those who pray for others. God uses willing humans as means of his mercy and grace. There is that fine moment, I believe, when by faith we consciously let go and let God make it happen.
It seems logical, and is supported from my own experience, that when those praying are willing to be a channel of God's grace and those being prayed for have a wholehearted readiness and willingness to receive, then healing is most likely to happen, provided the willingness is accompanied by humility and repentance.
Not everyone prayed for is totally healed. However, significant numbers testify that something good has taken place. There are often visible signs of God's power on them or feelings present which signify changes for the good. There may be a sense of heat or warmth, tingling, some euphoria, or physical adjustments felt. These are often indications of divine healing being manifested through the Holy Spirit.
Also, different people exercise different gifts of healing (1 Corinthians 12:28). In my own ministry there is most evidence of healing where structural problems exist, where there is pain because of injury and where there is stress. Other kinds of healings occur but these areas respond most in my ministry. It appears that different ministries of healing flow through different people with particular healing gifts or powers.
Spiritual healing is complex and mysterious. There are no simplistic answers. We need to maintain a proper and balanced biblical approach and not treat it lightly or tritely. To draw back from a ministry of healing is to quench a major dimension of God's kingdom among us.
I am convinced that God does want all people to enjoy health in every area of life (John 10:10; 3 John 2). So we should use every good means at our disposal to receive and impart this wholeness.
(c) Renewal Journal #4 (94:2), Brisbane, Australia, pp. 1721.
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