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Does faith play a role in healing? 

Before I attempt to answer that question, let me start by being completely transparent. I was brought up in a faith tradition that neither values nor teaches divine healing. What was hammered into my head and heart was that the miraculous healings that Jesus performed, as well as those recorded in the book of Acts and in Paul’s writings, were only temporary manifestations of God’s authority and power. 

I was taught that divine healing was only for the purpose of validating the truth of the message of salvation in the first century church. My teachers said for Christians living today, miraculous healings are rare, if they occur at all. Furthermore, they are absolutely certain that it is not God’s will to heal everyone in this day and age. They do not believe that personal faith in God’s ability to heal is a factor in healing outcomes. 

I even recall a specific time where one of my former pastors invited our church to pray for the healing of a young teenager through faith in the “miracle of modern medicine”…not through faith in the healing power of our Almighty God.

This is what I have been taught and believed most of my life. 

But, is it true? 

Is it scriptural?

A few months ago, I started praying that God would show me the truth of his Word.

And then I started searching for understanding.

 

What is Faith?

Let’s start out by defining faith. According to the Oxford English dictionary, faith is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” The Greek word for faith used in the New Testament writings is “pistis”. Strong’s Bible dictionary defines this word as “persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher”.

Pistis, used 244 times in 228 verses, is used throughout the gospels, Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation to mean the “conviction of the truth of anything, belief” or “belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ”.

In other words, faith is the unshakeable certainty about, the absolute confidence in, the fully persuaded belief that God is who he claims to be, and that he has the power and authority to do whatever he claims he can do. 

 

How God Views our Faith

The author of Hebrews defined faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” in chapter 11, verse 1. He then goes on to write in verse 6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”.

Faith is so important to God that scripture says we cannot please him without it! To be clear, it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God without faith.

Why? 

Because a lack of faith in God communicates that we do not find him trustworthy, nor do we believe he is capable of fulfilling his Word. Unbelief is a personal assault against his nature and character. It is akin to calling God a liar.

Jesus’s brother James wrote in the book named after him, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8)

So, I pose the question, does divine healing occur less frequently in this age because the Lord is unwilling, or because His children make a habit of doubting that he is willing (or able)?

 

God’s First Promise of Healing in the Old Testament

The very first promise of healing in the Old Testament is found in Exodus 15:26-27:

There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

God made a conditional promise to the nation of Israel that if they would be obedient to his Word, he would keep them from the plagues of Egypt. And then he introduced himself to them as the Lord, your healer – Jehovah-Rapha. By sharing this name God was not referring to what he does or is willing to do. He was referring to who he is!

Whether or not the people of Israel experienced healing would be a function of their own choices. Their faith would be reflected in their obedience of God’s commands. And if they obeyed, they would be healed. Healing was not a reflection of God’s willingness.

Jesus’ Healing Ministry

Jesus’s time on earth was punctuated with one miraculous healing after another. Of his own ministry he said this in John 5:17-20: 

But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.  And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.

Jesus healed because that’s what God, the Father did. God’s will is for healing. There is no sickness in the Kingdom of Heaven. When Jesus taught about and demonstrated the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, healing followed.

“Thy kingdome come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. (Matthew 6:10)

Let’s take a closer look at a few examples of Jesus healing people, and what role their faith played.

The Two Blind Men (Matthew 9:27-30)

And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”  When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened.

Jesus asked the two blind men if they believed that he could heal them. He said nothing of his willingness to heal them. He only asked if THEY BELIEVED he could do it. Then he told them they would be healed based on their faith – and they were healed. The burden of belief was on them!

The Woman with an Issue of Blood (Luke 8:43-48)

And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!”  But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.”  And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

In this example, Jesus wasn’t consulted or even asked about healing this woman’s long standing health problem. Matthew tells us in 9:21, “for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”

This woman BELIEVED that if she could just touch the bottom of Jesus’s clothing that she would be healed. In response, Jesus told her that her faith was what made her well. He said nothing of his willingness to heal her. He didn’t even get the chance to discuss that, because the woman touched him and received healing without his explicit permission.

The Boy With an Unclean Spirit (Mark 9:20-23)

And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 

The NLT translation puts it this way…“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. Then he said ALL things (not some things), but ALL things are possible for some people sometimes.

No!! That’s NOT what he said. Look again. Who are ALL things possible for? The one who believes!

The issue is never with God’s willingness to heal. And it certainly isn’t with his ability to heal. It lies with OUR capacity for believing that he is willing and able to heal.

Afterwards, the disciples, who had not been able to heal the boy on their own, asked why they had been unsuccessful (Matthew 17:20). “He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.””

Jesus was clear. The disciples had been unable to effect healing on this occasion because of their “little faith”. In the King James Version, it says “unbelief”.

Scripture also records that in Jesus’s hometown of Nazareth he did not perform many miracles there because of the people’s unbelief (Matthew 13:57-58).

 

The Same God

Jesus said “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). 

Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” 

James wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”. (James 1:17)

  • Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?
  • Do you believe that he and the Father are one?
  • Do you believe that God does not change?

Then, why would we believe divine healing, which was so prominent in God’s revelation of himself throughout the biblical record, would be withheld from those who believe in him now?

God has not changed. We have. (Or, at least those of us who’ve stopped believing that what God says is true in all cases for all time have).

 

Circular Logic

When it comes to salvation, I don’t know a single Christian who reads Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” and then says, well, that doesn’t mean EXACTLY what it says. 

I’ve never met anyone who read 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”, and then say that doesn’t apply to today.

The Bible clearly says that it is God’s WILL that all men (whoever asks to) be saved. He has made salvation through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross available to anyone who is willing to believe and receive it. 

We cannot point to the fact that not all men get saved as evidence that it is not God’s will for them to be saved! God has made salvation available to anyone and everyone. It is up to each person to place their faith in Christ, and the salvation that he offers.

But, when it comes to healing, suddenly there are caveats about what these words mean. The same word used for “saved” in verses related to spiritual salvation (in Greek ‘sozo’) is the exact same word used for “healed” in verses related to physical healing. 

But we argue, it is not God’s will that everyone be healed. If it were, then everyone would be healed! The evidence, we claim, that it is not God’s will to heal is not everyone gets healed!

If God’s will can be that everyone gets saved (sozo), but not everyone does, then God’s will must be that everyone gets healed (sozo), but not everyone does.

We neglect to add OUR faith (obedience is a derivative of faith) into the formula. 

In the same way that God has made salvation available to anyone who would believe and receive it, God has made healing available to anyone who would believe and receive it.

God is the constant in this formula. The variables are our faith and willingness to believe. Substitute one person’s great faith into the formula and you’ll get a completely different outcome then if you substitute in another’s lack of faith.

Does Whosoever (Whoever, All, Any) Mean Whosoever (Whoever, All, Any) or Not?

How is it that Christians who read James 5:14-16, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” become convinced that this verse doesn’t mean what it says…or doesn’t apply to everyone?

It says that the prayer of faith will save the sick. The clear implication is that it means anyone who is sick.

Was James mistaken?

Jesus said in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.’

What WORKS was Jesus doing? Healing the bodies, souls, and spirits of the oppressed namely. 

And who did Jesus say would be able to do these works? Whoever believes in him.

Oh, but the next verse says this only applies for a short time during the first century church, right? Nope! 

Again Jesus said in Mark 11:22-24, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

If there is a time limit on the “whosoever” verses dealing with healing and miracles, we’d have to conclude there is a time limit on the “whosoever” verses dealing with salvation, too. And that’s simply not the case. 

 

Conclusion

Does faith play a role in healing? According to scriptural evidence, yes!

Even modern medicine, which many of us have no problem in putting our full confidence and trust in, understands the roles that faith and unbelief play in healing. They just don’t call them faith or unbelief, they call them the placebo and nocebo effects.

Why would an almighty God, the God who heals all diseases, the God for whom nothing is impossible, the God who healed those who put their full faith and trust in Him throughout the Biblical record, decide NOT to heal in this day and age?  

Why would he want his children to have to rely ONLY on something outside of himself when seeking healing today?

That makes no sense. 

Healing has never been about what God is able or even willing to do. (2 Corinthians 1:20 “For as many as the promises of God are, in Him they are yes; therefore through Him also is our Amen to the glory of God through us”.) 

It’s about you! 

  • What can you believe? 
  • Are you walking in obedience according to your beliefs? (Faith without works is dead! James 2:26)
  • In whom (or what) do you place your faith for healing?

As Jesus said, “According to YOUR faith, be it unto YOU.”

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