GIFTS OF HEALINGS – 5

Bible Reading: Matthew 20:29-34

The Holy Spirit supernaturally and sovereignly gives the gifts of healings as the need arises. In the original Greek both the words gifts and healings are plural.

Different people have different gifts of healing at different times and in different circumstances. It may well be that an individual is effective in this gift for certain ailments.

My wife and I have experienced gifts of healings in two specific areas, seeing God give barren couples children and I have often seen neck and shoulder pains healed. When praying for people with shoulder and neck pains I have often heard God speak the words, “In that day the Lord will end the bondage of his people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shouldersa” [Isaiah 10:27 NLT]. In each case, after being asked to pray with people with neck and shoulder pains, I have commanded the yoke of bondage to be broken off people and seen them healed.

Isn’t it strange that we have seen most success in these two areas and not so much in other areas? Perhaps this is because the Holy Spirit has given these specific gifts for certain ailments. This does not, however, mean that we should not be open to the Holy Spirit to give us other gifts of healings.

Gifts of healings could also relate to the way in which God releases healing. He may heal en masse through prayer without the laying on of hands, or He may heal each person one at a time through the laying on of hands.

When we are faced with a sick person we can try to avoid this vital ministry of healing the sick, or we can be open to the Holy Spirit to pray for the sick. As I look at the ministry of Jesus it seems that there are three vital keys. Firstly, the word compassion – Jesus saw sick people and had compassion on them and healed them [see Mark 1:40-45; Matthew 14:13-14; 20:29-34]. Don’t you feel compassion when you see sick people? If God wants you to heal the sick surely you will feel an increasing compassion for them. Secondly, listen to the Holy Spirit – what is He saying that you should do. Remember that Jesus always worked out of a relationship with His Father [Matthew 5:19,30]. Thirdly, we must act in faith. It takes faith to reach out and minister healing to people.

How do you know that God has given you a gift to heal the sick? You will see them healed! It may take time, but don’t give up. John Wimber prayed for healing for many people before seeing a breakthrough. In the years that followed hundreds of people were healed!

Questions

It is obvious that God wants His children to pray for the sick and see them healed. Are you open to the Holy Spirit? Are you prepared to take a step of faith and pray for the sick, believing that God wants to use you in this way?

In our Bible reading today the multitude warned the two blind men to be quiet. How did Jesus react? What would you have done in that situation?

GIFTS OF HEALINGS – 4

Bible Reading: Mark 5:25-34

We have seen that it is God’s character to heal people who are sick. We have also seen that sickness and sin are closely related although not all sickness is as a result of sin. It may be something inherited through the family, a wrong lifestyle, harbouring bitterness, unforgiveness, and so on.

Tomorrow we will actually look at the gifts of healings but there are still some issues that we need to consider that relate to healing.

Firstly, the great disservice done to the ministry of healing by people who have been insensitive to the Holy Spirit and proclaimed that people are healed when they are not healed. This has offended many people and caused them to distrust the truth of healing. We must not condone wrong practices in the name of the healing ministry.

Secondly, Healing often follows when people deal with the root causes of sickness, such as sin, unforgiveness, or a wrong lifestyle. It seems foolish to pray for healing if someone is not prepared to deal with the root causes of his or her sickness. Often the word of knowledge will accompany

Thirdly, our attitude to the medical profession must be right. Remember that Luke was a doctor and worked closely with Paul. Doctors are helpful and can assist us, but ultimately we are responsible before God for our own bodies. The danger is that we are quick to seek medical help but slow to seek God. This was King Asa’s problem. The Bible says that, “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the Lord’s help but turned only to his physicians” [2 Chronicles 16:12].

Fourthly, it is very important that we avoid the temptation of telling people to stop taking medication as an “act of faith.” If a person chooses to do that then it must be their choice and theirs alone.

Fifthly, the thorny question of why people are not healed. There are no easy answers. Paul had bad eyesight. Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake and his frequent infirmities [1 Timothy 5:23]. Paul left one of his team, Trophimus, sick in Miletus [2 Timothy 4:20]. There were times when Jesus healed all who were present [Matthew 8:16; 12:15]. At another time he only healed a few people because of their unbelief [Mark 6:5]. On another occasion where there were many sick people He healed just one person [John 5:1-9]. I think that the key lies in Jesus listening to His Father and doing what the Father told Him to do. Being in touch with God and hearing from Him is a vital part of successfully praying for the sick.

Questions:

Why is it that we are so slow to take up this ministry of healing the sick when Jesus has commanded us to do so? What are the fears and reasons that hold people back from praying for the sick?

Why is it important to listen to the Holy Spirit when we pray for the sick?

GIFTS OF HEALINGS – 3

Bible Reading: Psalm 139:1-24

Yesterday we recognised that there is a clear link between sickness and sin.

Today I would like to share other reasons why people get sick, but before doing so I would like to share a personal testimony.

Two years ago it was discovered that my PSA cancer marker had risen above the normal level. This drove me to prayer. Every day for several weeks I just waited together with my wife, in the presence of God. I asked him to show me if there were any areas in my life that were not pleasing to Him. I did not go looking or digging for things, but just waited in His presence, and as I did so He revealed certain things to me. He reminded me of things in the past that seemed almost insignificant and yet needed to be confessed and dealt with. There were things that I had said and attitudes that I had held that were wrong in God’s sight and for which I needed to repent. A prayer of David, Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” [Psalm 139:23-24 NLT] became a daily prayer, and the cleansing that God promises, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [John 1:9], became very precious.

After some weeks of allowing God to deal with me, my wife and I went to a place in Wales where God was moving in a powerful way. Whatever you do, make room for the presence of God! In a meeting in Wales God spoke so clearly and deeply to me and said three times, “This is not the end. It is just the beginning.” The next time I saw the oncologist my PSA cancer marker was down to a healthy 0.8. God had met with me, dealt with me and healed me!

Personal sin may be the cause of sickness, but sickness can also be the result of inheriting the consequences of the sins of our parents and forbears. Exodus 20:5-6 is very real, and too often I have seen the terrible results of people dabbling in spiritism, causing spiritual, emotional and physical problems for their children and their grandchildren. The same can happen in the area of moral and sexual sin, but in Christ we can renounce those sins and live in freedom.

An obvious cause of sickness is living an unhealthy lifestyle. What we eat is important, although what eats us is equally important.

My friend Rev. Derek Hong, has written, “Study and research have shown that 87 per cent of all sicknesses are psychosomatic in origin. This means that a lot of illness begins with our thoughts and beliefs. Similarly, we know that repentance and forgiving others are vital to health and healing. Harbouring anxiety, stress, fear, resentment, bitterness and hatred can cause or contribute to diseases that affect the blood, skin, gastro-intestinal region and joints of the body. Diseases such as arthritis, stomach ulcers and cancers have spiritual roots, or are at least aggravated by negative emotions and beliefs.” [“God Wants to Heal,” Armour Press, page 79]

GIFTS OF HEALINGS – 2

Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 28:1-64

Yesterday we saw that God’s character is to heal the sick, and Jesus’ ministry is definitely evidence of that, but the question might be raised as to why we are sick in the first place.

There is obviously a clear link between sin and sickness. Certainly before Adam and Eve fell into sin there was no sickness, and after that event there was! The verses that we looked at yesterday would indicate a relationship between sin and sickness. Consider Exodus 15:26. What happens if we don’t listen to God and don’t do what is right in His sight? One of the consequences might well be sickness.

Deuteronomy chapter 28 is a chapter of God’s promised blessings when we obey Him but also the curses that come through disobedience. Among the curses mentioned are various forms of sickness [verse 21-22, 27, 35, 59-61]. If God’s character were to heal, then why would He put these diseases upon people? The answer is that they bring them upon themselves by disobeying God’s laws.

In the New Testament we see a connection between sickness and sin. Referring to the paralytic who was brought to Him, Jesus said, “Son, your sins are forgiven you,” and later answered when questioned, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?” [Mark 2:1-12]. On another occasion Jesus healed a man who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years. Meeting later in the temple Jesus said to the man, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you” [John 5:1-14]. The implication is that sin had opened the door to infirmity. James clearly links sickness and sin [James 4:13-16].

We must be careful not to always assume that sickness is a direct result of someone having committed sin. Jesus’ disciples must have been asking the same question that you might be asking today. They came to Jesus and asked about a blind man, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” [John 9:2]. Jesus’ answer makes it clear that this man’s physical disability was neither the result of his own sin nor the sin of his parents. There are other reasons why people are sick, as we will find out tomorrow.

Questions:

Why do you think it is important to understand that sickness may be the result of sin in a person’s life? Why is this an important factor when we pray for people who are sick?

Why might the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and the discerning of spirits be vital gifts in a ministry of praying for the sick?

Were you asking the same kind of question that the disciples of Jesus were asking in John 9:2? Are you satisfied with the answer?

GIFTS OF HEALINGS – 1

Bible Reading: Matthew 8:1-17

Before we look at the gifts of healings we should categorically state that it is in God’s nature to heal those who are sick. One of God’s covenant names is Jehovah rophe’ekā, which translated into English means, “I am the Lord who heals you” [Exodus 15:26]. This verse makes clear the conditions God gives the Israelites in order that they might be free from disease – hear His voice, do what is right in His sight, and listen to His commandments and statutes. A similar statement about healing is found in Proverbs 4:20-22 – “My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body [New Living Translation].

Among other verses about healing in the Old Testament is the story of the re-institution of the Passover under King Hezekiah – “And the Lord listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people” [2 Chronicles 30:20]. David reveals God’s desire to heal in one of his psalms, Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
 Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s” [Psalm 103:1-5 NLT]. Along with forgiveness, redemption and all the other good things that God does for us is healing!

In one of His Messianic prophesies, fulfilled in Jesus, Isaiah specifically mentions healing – “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]; The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him, And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed” [Isaiah 53:5 Amplified Bible]. This same verse is quoted in the New Testament following Jesus’ healing of many people who were demonised and who were sick [Matthew 8:16-17]. Peter also comments on this verse, “ [1 Peter 2:24]. We might draw two thoughts from these verses:

Firstly, Jesus bore our sicknesses as well as our sins upon the cross. It is more than God simply showing mercy to some people – sickness was bought, [paid for] on the cross and is available to all people in the same way that forgiveness from sin is available. There is no other way to interpret Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 8:16-17, and 1 Peter 2:24.

Secondly, the healings in Matthew 8:17 were physical, but may have been caused by the presence of evil spirits that had been given a place to operate in a person’s life. The healing would then be both physical and emotional.

Questions:

Why do you think that healing does not seem to have such a clear emphasis in many local churches as salvation from sin?

Faith comes by the hearing of God’s Word. If you have been suffering from physical illness would you meditate on today’s Bible verses and allow faith for healing to grow in your spirit?

THE GIFT OF FAITH – 6

Bible Reading: John 11:1-44

It is interesting, as we noted a few days ago, that a more correct translation of Mark 11:22 is “Have the faith of God.” This raises a serious question: Does the phrase “faith of God” mean that God has faith? I suspect that the answer to that question is “No,” because God knows everything. He knows the end from the beginning. It is probably more correct to understand this as “the faith that God gives” What does become more relevant however, is the question, “Does Jesus have faith?” and I am convinced that the answer to that question is “Yes!”

We must never detract from the fact that Jesus was both perfectly God and perfectly man and that being God in human form He was totally without sin. Yet Jesus grew in wisdom and learned obedience [Luke 2:52 & Hebrews 5:8] and that would require faith. He ministered out of His relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Two remarkable verses make this clear. “Jesus explained, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does’” [John 5:19 NLT], and “I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will” [John 5:30 NLT]. Undoubtedly Jesus, as a man, listened to, had faith in, and trusted His Father!

I would suggest that all the miracles that Jesus performed, as a man full of the Holy Spirit, were acts of faith. For example, after He prayed to His Father, Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth” [John 11:38-44]. Lazarus didn’t have faith – he was dead! Here is Jesus depending on His relationship with His Father and exercising faith. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father” [John 14:12]. Just as Jesus exercised faith, so we too can exercise faith and do the things that Jesus did! Jesus promised that certain signs would follow those who believe, including laying hands on the sick and that the sick would recover. Let’s not find excuses, or allow merely intellectual assent to stop us doing what Jesus promised that we would do by faith! As we move on to look at miracles, gifts of healings, and even prophecy, we will discover that a key element in exercising these gifts is also faith.

Questions:

Why do you think it is, that having been given such clear directions by Jesus to do the things that He did, that we rarely see the same signs and wonders? Why do these signs and wonders seem to be more evident among the often less educated and simple peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America?

Read John 5:19 & 30. What was the basis of faith in the ministry of Jesus?

Why is hearing God’s voice and knowing His will such an important key to faith as we pray for those who are sick?

Are you prepared to launch out in faith in obedience to God’s Word?

THE GIFT OF FAITH – 5

Bible Reading: Hebrews 11:7-40

Faith is always active and never passive. It always requires action. Moses had to stretch out his hand over the waters of the Red Sea before they parted [Exodus 14:21]. The priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant had to step into the water before Israel could cross the River Jordan [Joshua 3:8]. Elisha told the woman with the oil what to do, but she still had to do it [2 Kings 4:1-7]. Jesus told a woman that her faith had made her whole after she had reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment [Mark 5:25-34]. Noah’s act of faith was to build an ark [Hebrews 11:7]. By faith Abraham left Ur, not knowing where he was going [Hebrews 11:8]. Peter accepted the challenge to walk to Jesus on the water – what Peter did was a manifestation of the gift of faith.

Jesus spoke healing to a man at the Pool of Bethesda, but the evidence of faith was that he took up his bed and walked [John 5:1-15].

One morning in Singapore I heard the Holy Spirit saying to me, “Go to the Church, find a woman called Lisa, and tell her that her Heavenly Father loves her.” I could have brushed that aside and considered it nonsense, or acted upon what I believed the Holy Spirit was saying to me. I went to the School of Supernatural Ministry in the church and asked the leader if there was anyone in the school named Lisa. She pointed to a Chinese lady in her early forties. I sat next to Lisa and she asked why I wanted to sit next to her. I told her what the Holy Spirit had said to me and that her Heavenly Father loves her. She began to cry and told me that at that moment she had been asking God to show her if He really loved her. It was a divine appointment and at that moment Lisa’s life and relationship with God dramatically changed.

Someone has said that the way you spell faith is R-I-S-K. The people we have just looked at all took a risk! Faith always moves out of its comfort zone.

I have been concerned that as I get older I must not lose the excitement of taking steps of faith! This was confirmed to me as I read something that was written by Dr. Bernard Vittone. He writes, “As we age we lose the ability to distinguish between the negative anxiety associated with work, stress and tension, and the positive type that’s a natural and exciting part of trying something new. As a result we become more fearful and avoid anxiety-producing situations. When that happens, the desire for safety keeps us stuck in neutral. Trying to avoid risk is like trying to avoid living; without a goal to strive for you stop growing altogether.”

Questions:

Why do you think it is impossible for true faith to be passive?

Obedience and faith are twins. They always work together. Is there a time in your life when God spoke to you and you acted in faith and obeyed Him? What was the result?

Read again the quote from Dr. Bernard Vittone. Why do you think it is that as we get older we become keener to avoid taking the risks that faith involves? If you have become stuck in neutral what can you do to get back on track?

THE GIFT OF FAITH – 4

Bible Reading: Hebrews 11:1-7

Yesterday I wrote about getting the necessary permission to adopt our Indonesian daughter. Today I would like to draw some of the principles of faith from that story.

Firstly, if it is possible and we have the ability to do it, then it does not require faith. If it is impossible and you know it is God’s will then faith is necessary. There was nothing honourable or right that I could do to make the official give me the documents that I needed. It required faith that God would intervene.

Secondly, faith comes by the hearing of God’s Word. On that Sunday afternoon, as we read from God’s Word, “I will bring your children from the East and gather them in the West,” I knew that somehow God would do it! Faith is given by an act of the Holy Spirit. It is not a formula, or a struggle and effort, but resting in God in what God has spoken into our spirit.

Thirdly, faith is knowledge, but knowledge is not necessarily faith. John Wesley called it “the witness of the Spirit.” I don’t know how I know, but I know that I know that I know! Faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:3]. It is substance and evidence in our spirit before we actually have it in our hands! In the story of the adoption of our Indonesian daughter nothing had actually physically changed but there was a change in the spirit realm!

Fourthly, faith is seeing things from God’s perspective. When God spoke to Joshua at Jericho He said, “See! I have given Jericho into your hands” [Joshua 6:2]. Outwardly Joshua could see the massive walls of Jericho and the gates of the city securely shut, but he chose rather to see what God had showed him.

Fifthly, faith requires tenacity. Elijah’s servant had to go and look to see if rain was coming seven times. Only on the seventh time did he come back to Elijah and say, “There is a cloud small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!”

[1 Kings 18:41-46]. Naaman, the leper, had to dip seven times in the river before he was healed [2 Kings 5:1-14]. God spoke to John Wimber and told him to heal the sick. It was eighteen months before they saw the first person healed, and after that it became a regular occurrence. The reason why some people do not get what they believe God for is that they give up too quickly.

Questions:

Why is it important that we clearly hear from God and know His will as the basis of faith?

What is the relationship between reading God’s Word and faith?

Why do you think that sometimes God makes us wait for the thing that we believe Him for?

THE GIFT OF FAITH – 3

Bible Reading: Mark 11:20-26

There are few tougher situations for a Christian than having to get permission from a strong Muslim official to adopt an Indonesian baby.

God had clearly showed us that we should adopt Angela and we already had the necessary permission from sixteen government offices, but still needed permission from the Muslim head of the Religious Office in Jakarta.

I went to that office every day from Monday to Friday, but each day the official’s response was, “Come back tomorrow.” I knew that he was asking for money and that if I gave him what he wanted he would have given me his signature immediately, but bribery was not an option for me.

Following a week of discouraging refusals I flew home to East Java for the weekend. In our Sunday morning Bible reading Esther and I read from Isaiah chapter forty-three. Verse five reads, “I will bring your children from the East and gather you in the West.” As soon as I read that verse I knew that God would make a way. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word and faith is knowing and seeing the invisible.

With great confidence I returned to Jakarta on the following day and went to the office of religious affairs, but again my request was rejected. The same thing happened on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning I again turned up at the office and asked to speak to the official, only to be told that he had been moved to another department and a new man had been installed in his place. The new man seemed flustered by my request. “I am new here,” he said, “and this is my first day in this job. I am not sure if I can give you what you want.” At that moment a distinguished looking gentleman, wearing a dark suit, entered the office. Taking one look at me, he spoke sharply to the new man, “What is a foreigner doing in this office?” The new official replied, “He is asking me to sign a document so that he can adopt an Indonesian child,” The distinguished gentleman ordered him, “Foreigners are not allowed in this office. Give him what he wants and tell him to go!” The cabinet minister in charge of religious affairs in Indonesia had come to visit his new head of department. The letter was signed immediately and I left hurriedly. God had moved a mountain!

I know that God moved that difficult government official out of his department so that I would get the permission I needed! When the way seems impossible keep pressing on knowing that God is working on your behalf, and when you put your trust in Him you will not be disappointed!

Questions:

What are some of the principles of mountain moving faith that you can learn from this story?

Obviously we have to pray and believe, but according to our Bible reading today there is something else that we have to do to make the mountain move. What is it?

THE GIFT OF FAITH – 2

Bible Reading: Matthew 17:14-21

I want to set the scene today by quoting from two well-known Christian leaders about the gift of faith:

“This gift is a supernatural surge of confidence from the Spirit of God which arises within a person faced with a specific situation or need whereby that person receives a trans-rational certainty that God is about to act through a word of action” [Bishop David Pytches].

“The gift of faith is the manifestation of the Spirit imparting a special faith needed for a special work which God puts before us. The work may be large or small, but faith is a gift to everyone who needs it in order to do whatever they should do” [Reinhard Bonnke].

Note the key words of these two definitions: supernatural, confidence, specific situation or need, trans-rational certainty, special faith for a special work. These words help us to sum up what the faith as a gift of the Holy Spirit is like.

This gift of faith is supernatural. Jack Hayford writes, “The gift of faith is a unique form of faith that goes beyond natural faith and saving faith. It supernaturally trusts and does not doubt with reference to the specific matters involved.” This is a mountain-moving surge of faith that both the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul spoke about.

When Jesus’ disciples had failed to cure an epileptic boy they asked Jesus, “Why could we not cast the demon out?” Jesus’ responded, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” [Matthew 17:20]. Jesus spoke similar words on a different occasion, following the curse that caused a fig tree to whither away [Matthew 20:18-22; Mark 11:20-26]. Paul also referred to the gift of faith that can move mountains, when he wrote, “and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains…” [1 Corinthians 13:2].

The mountain that Jesus speaks of is not a physical mountain but figurative of an impossible situation. It might be a situation like Moses facing the Red Sea or Elijah in spiritual warfare against the prophets of Baal. The faith required is supernatural. Earlier versions of the Bible translated Mark 11:23 as “Have faith in God,” but later versions more correctly translate it as “Have the faith of God.” Literally, God gives us faith as we face impossible situations. It is not the product of striving, straining or concentrating. It is rest not labour!

Questions:

What do you think about the statement, “God will always give faith if we are doing what He wills us to do”? Have you personally experienced this?

Can you think of Bible characters other than Moses and Elijah who saw God work in an impossible situation as they exercised faith?

Why is the gift of faith a matter of rest and not of hard work or labour?