Larry and Alice Parker desired God’s best for their family of six. Wesley, their oldest son, suffered from diabetes and regularly received insulin injections.
When a faith healer held special services in their Barstow, California, church, the Parkers “walked the aisles” with 11-year Wesley. They were sincerely seeking a miracle of healing.
The preacher pronounced Wesley healed. Larry joyfully entered, “Praise God! Our son is healed,” into Wesley’s insulin log. But Wesley’s ensuing insulin test indicated something different. By faith, the Parkers claimed the healing and blamed the unexpected insulin results on Satan.
Shortly afterward, Wesley began to suffer the nausea and severe stomach cramps that are predictable indicators of low insulin. They decided to postpone medical attention in favor of seeking God’s continued healing power through prayer. Wesley fell into a coma and died three days later.
This tragic story illustrates the church’s state of confusion over divine healing. Situations like these perplex many. Does healing really occur? If not, how can we explain some apparent healing? If it works, why should we ignore or deny a good thing? Why are people sick anyway? No doubt many similar inquiries agonized the hearts of the Parkers. Even though they had placed their full faith in God. Wesley died.
Is it God’s will to always heal? Philip Yancey’s best-seller, Where Is God When It Hurts? narrates the dilemma of John and Claudia Claxton. Claudia contracted Hodgkin’s disease soon after her marriage and had been given only a 50 percent chance to live. Many of Claudia’s friends stopped by the hospital to encourage her. Here is an account of one such visit: “Another lady had dropped by who… told Claudia that healing was the only escape. “Sickness is never God’s will,” she insisted. “The Bible says as much. The Devil is at work, and God will wait until you can muster up enough faith to believe that you’ll be healed. Remember, Claudia, faith can move mountains, and that includes Hodgkin’s disease. Truly believe that you’ll be healed and God will answer your prayers.”
Yancey records that Claudia tried to build her courage and muster up her faith. but she grew weary in the process and concluded that she could never have enough faith. Claudia struggled with the question, Does God still heal today?
Is there anything that God cannot do? Jeremiah asserts of God, “There is nothing too hard for Thee” (Jer. 32:17). If the answer is no, how do we answer the following verses? Titus 1:2: “God, that cannot lie,” or 2 Timothy 2:13: “He (God) cannot deny Himself.” What about Genesis 9:11? God cannot flood the earth again. And James 1:13: “God cannot be tempted.” How can those apparent contradictions be resolved? The issue actually involves God’s nature and will, not His infinite power. God cannot lie or be tempted because such would contradict His character. Likewise, He cannot deny Himself or flood the world because that would contradict His revealed Word. God cannot and will not act contrarily to His divine nature or revealed will. In those areas He is self-limited.
Can God heal? Can God heal miraculously? Can God heal miraculously through men? The answer to all three questions is overwhelmingly yes, as easily seen in a survey of the Scriptures. Will God heal? Will God heal miraculously? Will God heal miraculously through men? These questions are not so easily answered because they do not involve God’s potential but rather His revealed practice. Our answers will not be found in God’s unlimited capacity to work but in His conformity to His own will. When we see God’s view of the physical, the moral, and the earthly, we will begin to understand why God has acted the way He has in history.
First note the supernatural dimension of God’s sovereign involvement in our physical being. “And the Lord said unto him, who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the Lord?” (Ex. 4:11). “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand (Deut. 32:39). These Scriptures teach that God ultimately controls life, death, sickness, and health.
In difficult medical cases doctors frequently say, “I have done my best; now it is in God’s hands.” In the moral dimension, sin resulted from the Fall of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1-19). It will continue until the curse is removed (Rev. 22:3). “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12).
After the Fall, God expressed His love toward believers in Christ. By God’s mercy we sinners did not receive the death we deserve. To satisfy God’s justice, Christ took upon Himself the penalty for the world’s sins. Through God’s grace we received what we do not deserve – eternal life in Jesus Christ.
In the earthly dimension we see maladies common to both believers and unbelievers – baldness, dandruff, nearsightedness, sagging muscles, wrinkles, false teeth, fatigue, gray hair, accidents, colds, and genetic defects. These are all evidence that sin has affected everyone. It is simply not true that God’s will is for every Christian to be perfectly healthy. Many saints in the Scriptures have been ill – Isaac (Gen. 27:1), Jacob (Gen. 32:25), Elisha (2 Kings 13:14), Daniel (Dan. 8:27), Paul (Gal. 4:13), and Timothy (1 Tim. 5:23).
Unless we see God as sovereign and sin as the cause of sickness, we will not fully understand the decaying world around us. When God does heal, it is because of His grace, not because of our goodness. That is the true perspective on healing.
God promises in James 5:15 that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” Will God miraculously heal today? Yes, for that does not violate His nature or His will. Will God miraculously heal today through men? That is another matter.
There is no biblical basis for a ministry of miraculous healing directly through a human healer today. That ceased with the apostolic age. Alleged contemporary faith-healing ministries fall embarrassingly short of the biblical pattern in time, scope, and intensity. Acts 2:22, 2 Cor. 12:12 and Heb. 2:1-4 all teach that signs, wonders, and miracles were used by God to authenticate the message of Christ and the apostles. Since their message has been given in Scripture, there is no longer a need in God’s economy to do miracles through men. They have ceased by God’s design.
On the other hand, God does at times act in such a way that only His direct intervention is an adequate explanation for physical healing. Healing by God’s direct intervention is not always instantaneous or always complete. Our Lord’s unmistakable touch is not brought about by any demand, gimmick, method, or plea from a would-be healer. It is God’s response to the earnest prayer of the believer.
Did God allow Claudia Claxton to die in the midst of her misery? He could have; but He did not. Instead, He chose to make her the object of divine healing. After receiving a series of cobalt treatments, her cancer was in remission. God healed providentially through medical technology, and in that He was glorified.
Larry Parker learned from his experience and shared this testimony after Wesley’s death. “The trouble lies with the fact that we tie healing to some ability on our part to believe enough, i.e., to have enough faith. To withhold medicine, especially life-giving medicine, is a very presumptuous act on our part that actually hinders the Spirit of God from His work. My prayer is that you will consider these thoughts at length, for they have come at an incomprehensible price that no one except Christ would voluntarily pay.”
The issue is real. The lives of loved ones are involved. God can, has, and does heal; but always for His own purposes, in His own way, and at His appointed time.
The next time you pray for yourself or a loved one, pray as did Norwegian theologian Ole Hallesby. “Lord, if it will be Your glory, heal suddenly. If it will glorify You more, heal gradually; if it will glorify You even more, may Your servant remain sick awhile; and if it will glorify your name still more, take him to Yourself in heaven.”
If you have ever been sick and recovered, in a very real sense you have been divinely healed. Do not let anyone rob you of your joy of knowing that God was involved in your physical being.