God Can... But Will He?
Over the next two days, we will bring this particular series to a close. We have by no means exhausted all the issues concerning healing. My hope was only to begin a discussion about a subject that causes such dissent among believers. It is also not my intent to shut down further discussion. Our commitment as Christians should be to God's truth, even if that challenges our long-held ideas.
In these final two blogs, I want to address the issue of faith in what God can do versus what God will do.
Up to this point, we've discovered that there are no scriptures that outright guarantee physical healing as a part of the atonement. And even if healing was purchased in the atonement, no promise is given that such a blessing will come in this life. We've also maintained that prayer for the sick must continue, that those prayers must be offered in faith and that our faith offering is in God (Mark 11:22); not in faith, not in people, nor even in healing itself.
So back to the question of the hour, do we need faith that God can heal or faith that God will heal? Let me offer two stories for consideration and tomorrow we will look at the opposite side.
Our first example comes from 1 Kings 17:17-24. A story about Elijah the prophet and the widow of Zarephath. At this point in the story Elijah has already asked the widow, who didn't have but a handful of flower and a little oil, to make him some bread. The small amount she did have, she planned to prepare for her and her son so they could "eat and die" according to verse 12. Sounds positive! However, Elijah comforts her and tells her to go ahead and make the bread because the word of the Lord has declared that the flour and oil will not run out.
After eating for many days and marveling that God's word didn't return void the woman's son suddenly died. The now grieving widow immediately asks Elijah why he's come to "call her sin to remembrance and put her son to death." Elijah promptly asks for the son and carries him to the upper room of the house.
Now at this moment, with knowledge of the end of the story, one might conclude that Elijah's actions prove that he had faith not only in what God could do but in what God would do. But I believe the very next line negates this idea. Elijah is confused. He doesn't know what God is up to in all of this. He proceeds to do the oddest thing ever; he stretches himself out over the boy three times. As he is doing this, he says, "I pray You (God) LET this child's life return to him."
Let it? This prayer is the same as saying, allow my healing, Lord. This kind of prayer doesn't fit the modern interpretation of faith. Elijah should've said, "Lord I claim this boys life, rise!" Instead, what we see here is Elijah's faith in God. Not in faith, not in healing nor even himself. There is nothing wrong or unfaithful about Elijah's biblical prayer. It asserts God is in control.
When Elijah heard the clear and express word of the Lord concerning the flower and oil, he declared it without wavering. When it came to healing this boy, he petitions God. Both were acts of faith, the first in what God would do (because He said so) and the second in what God could do.
For our next example let's go to the New Testament. Luke 7:1-7. Here we have the report of a Roman Centurion and the healing of his servant.
Jesus had just finished a discourse among a group of people when He left to go to Capernaum. Upon His arrival, Jesus is confronted by a few Jewish elders who appeal to Jesus to heal the servant of a particular Centurion. In this appeal, the elder's tout the Centurions love for the Jewish nation, as if by this merit God's mercy should guarantee to heal. In Jesus' predictable compassion, He starts on His way with these men anyway. While in route the Centurion sent actual friends with a message for Jesus. It read, "Lord, do not trouble yourself further, for I am not worthy of you to come under my roof; for this reason, I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed."
This story is exactly like Elijah's. Hopefully you can see that although the Centurion says, "and my servant will be healed." it's contingent on Jesus to "just say the word." The Centurion believed that Jesus could heal and this led him to seek Jesus out. Whether or not Jesus would was up to Him.
Now we know the end of the story. Jesus commends this man's faith as being more significant than any He's ever seen. (A faith in Jesus by the way, not in faith, healing or another person.) On the surface each of these stories reveals great faith in what God can do but unless expressly stated we don't see a faith that God will do.