God’s Comfort When You Are Discouraged, Depressed and Fear the Future/Program 5
|By: Joni Eareckson Tada, Dr. Michael Easley; ©2012|
|Does God always promise to heal those who come to him with enough faith and have confessed their sins? In this session, we will look at some of the basic beliefs in the Bible on this issue of healing from the perspective of both Joni Eareckson Tada and Michael Easley.|
Today on the John Ankerberg Show, God’s comfort when you are discouraged, depressed and fear the future. Does the Bible teach that is God’s will to heal everyone who truly comes to Him in faith? Is it a given that God will always say yes to all of our requests for healing?
- Tada: God heals all the time in all kinds of ways. But He reserves the right to heal in miraculous ways whomever and however He chooses.
- Easley: So if my faith is contingent on God healing, or unconfessed sin being confessed, we’ve got a number of passages that are going to cause us great trouble especially with the apostle Paul being just one.
My guests are: Joni Eareckson Tada, the founder of Joni & Friends, an international ministry for people with disabilities; and Dr. Michael Easley, President Emeritus of Moody Bible Institute and lead pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, Tennessee. We invite you to join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.
- Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. I’m here with Dr. Michael Easley and Joni Eareckson Tada. And we’re having a great series of programs in terms of suffering, and talking about how God comforts those who are sick and those who are disabled. And we’re now to a question that many of you have, and it’s this way. Let me just give you the question. Does the Bible teach that it is God’s will to heal everyone who truly comes to Him in faith? Is it a given that God will always say yes to all of our requests for healing? And now I’m going to come to Joni, okay. As a Christian, you’ve been confined to that wheelchair for 45 years. You have a broken neck. Two years ago or so, you were diagnosed with breast cancer. And on top of all of that, you’ve got screaming chronic pain because of a splintering in your bone that you’re sitting on. Was there ever a time that you prayed and asked God to heal you?
- Tada: Oh, yes! And I never refuse a prayer for healing. If someone wants to pray for my healing, I’m very happy for them to do that. The Bible tells us in James 5, “If any of you are sick, go before the elders.” Follow all the scriptural injunctions, be anointed with oil, confess sin.
- But there comes a point when, after you’ve done all that, you’ve got to live. You’ve got to get up in the morning and keep living. Psalm 103 assures us, if any of us experiences healing, whether it be from the flu, whether it be a healing from a broken leg, a hip surgery, whatever, God has done it. It is God who has worked through the doctors. It is God who has worked through the surgeries, the medication. God heals all the time in all kinds of ways. But He reserves the right to heal in miraculous ways whomever and however He chooses.
- I don’t think that we as Christians should automatically expect God to fill in the blank check when we request physical healing. I mean, we need to remember, as Michael said in the very first program, that all disease and sickness is a result of living in a fallen world. And when Jesus came, He began to reverse the effects of sin, but He didn’t complete it. Yes, He calmed the storm, but we still have hurricanes. Yes, He raised the dead, but even Lazarus, whom He raised, only died later on. And yes, He removed from us the power of sin in our lives if we would but believe, but not the presence of sin. We still struggle with sin. So why should we as Christians arbitrarily pick out disease or illness or injury as something that we Christians should not have to put up with? Well, my goodness, we put up with everything else, hurricanes, the flu, catastrophes of nature, death, disease.
- Ankerberg: You have a great way of saying this in your book. You say the central question is not “Can God heal?” Why?
- Tada: Of course God can heal. God heals every day. We hear reports of miraculous healings around the world where the gospel is just being pushed against the edges of darkness and witchcraft and sorcery and voodoo, and God is doing miraculous things. His arm is not too short. His ears are not deaf. He hears the cry of the afflicted. And He’s constantly healing. But He reserves the right to choose whom He will heal and how and to what extent He will. We don’t always understand His purposes and plans this side of eternity, but we have to accept that His reasons are invariably wise, good, specific, but are often hidden on this side of the tombstone. We won’t really understand why He doesn’t heal until the other side.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. So then we get to the question, is it God’s will that He will heal all those who truly come to Him in faith and ask to be healed?
- Tada: Well, I think of Mark 9. The same Jesus who healed withered hands says if your hand causes you to sin, lop it off. This same Jesus who opened up the eyes of the blind said, if your eye lusts, pluck it out. Better you to go into life maimed than to enter hell fire. Now, what Jesus is basically saying there is that He’s got priorities, and He wants us to buy into His priorities; and that is, it may be better that some of us go through life maimed because our hands don’t reach for things or our feet don’t run off into places where they shouldn’t go. And I think that portion of Scripture just serves to underscore that Jesus thinks that spiritual healing, righteousness, joy and peace is a lot more important. That’s a lot better than having hands that work and feet that walk. There are more important things in life than walking and using your hands, and that is a home for eternity, a purpose for living, and the experience of joy and peace and contentment in your life right now. That is the spiritual healing that is far more profound, far deeper. Oh, my goodness, it’s a far greater miracle that I can sit in this wheelchair and smile, not in spite of the problems, but because of them. That’s the miracle!
- Ankerberg: Some people say, you know, the reason you haven’t experienced healing is because you either lack the necessary faith, or there’s some secret sin in your life. If you just got rid of those, the fact is, and you had true faith, God would heal you, because He wants everybody to be healed. What would you say?
- Tada: Well, I would point them to the gospel of Mark, chapter 1. Everybody’s coming to Jesus in the town of Capernaum, getting healed left and right. He’s been doing it all day long. The sun sets. He retires; the people go away. The next morning Jesus gets up early. He goes up to pray on the side of the hill. The sun rises, people begin coming back; more healings, more expectations. And the disciples are frantic. Where is Jesus? Where is He? And so they went up on the side of the hill to find Him, and He’s there praying. Master, they say, all these people are looking for You. And Jesus says to them the most odd thing. He says, “Let’s go somewhere else. Let’s go to the nearby villages so I can preach there, for,” now get this, “this is why I have come.”
- Now, it wasn’t as though Jesus didn’t care about all the cancer-ridden and the paralyzed and the blind and the lame down there at the bottom of the hill. It’s just that their maladies weren’t His priority. The priority was to preach the good news of the kingdom, to rescue souls out of the clutches of Satan, to expand the kingdom of the Father, to plant the family banner on territory that the devil thinks is his. That’s the core of Christ’s plan. It’s to rescue us from sin and to get us to hate our transgressions as much as He does. And when I say that, I mean transgressions of fear, anxiety, doubt, worry, mistrust, stubbornness, selfishness, pride; all these things we need desperate healing of, so much more than fingers that need to work or feet that need to walk.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, people say, Joni, I’m not sure you understand; because, you know, if you’d just to a faith healing meeting and you’d really believe, stuff would happen. And you did. You went to a great faith healer by the name of Kathryn Kuhlman way back when. Some people might not know her, but I remember her. And the fact is, you went; and what happened?
- Tada: Absolutely. My sister took me there, and it was back in the late 70’s. And there comes Kathryn Kuhlman in the Hilton Ballroom Hotel, in her sweeping white gown with the spotlights and the organ crescendos and Scriptures read and testimonies are given. And all of us in the wheelchair section are looking at the spotlight over there on the crowd, and everybody seems to being healed over there. Come over here where all the hard cases are. You know, not a one of us in that wheelchair section got healed. And they ushered us out early so as to not create a traffic jam at the elevator, I suppose. And there I am sitting, number 15 in a line of 35 people at the elevator, and I look up and down this line. I’m thinking, something’s wrong with this picture. I’m not reading the Scripture right if I’m thinking that I was supposed to have been healed back in that ballroom. And it was that experience that catapulted me deeper into God’s word, to understand His priority and what real healing actually is.
- Ankerberg: We’re going to take a break. And when we come back, I want to ask you the question, after 45 years sitting in that wheelchair with quadriplegia, and with cancer, and with the screaming pain that you’re experiencing even now, what’s your conclusion about this thing of why doesn’t God heal everybody? Why didn’t God heal you? And what did God tell you? Stick with us folks. We’ll be right back.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking to Joni Eareckson Tada. We’re talking with Dr. Michael Easley. And we’re talking about the important question: if you’re sick, if you’ve got cancer, if you’ve got Alzheimer’s, if you’ve got a brain tumor, if you’ve got whatever it is, arthritis, and you come to God and you say, “God, I’ve got this problem. I believe You can heal, and I’m asking You to do it now.” And He doesn’t do it. Is it because you didn’t have enough faith? Is it because you have some secret sin? Or is there something else going on? And I think that biblically we have to,… Michael, I going to come to Joni’s conclusion here, after 45 years of sitting in this wheelchair, what she would say to that question; but biblically, for a moment, let’s talk about some of the guys that did have faith and did have a problem and they asked and it was not taken away. Let’s go through the list.
- Easley: Well, first of all, we have the high level of Christ doesn’t heal everyone, as Joni mentioned. And I think you have to look at sin and the sin condition and what Christ’s miracles were about. So, at a very high plateau, we’re all sinful, we’re all decaying, we’re all dying. And each of these miracles, whether it’s a manifestation of curing someone or a sign and wonder, is to show His power over nature, supra natural, over nature. And so Christ comes not just to heal; He could just open up hospitals where people could just come and He would touch them, but that wasn’t the objective. The issue is the sin condition. Paul, of course, is an easy one to go to. He’s got some malady that, we don’t know for sure what it is, that God has not relieved him from. He says “My grace is sufficient for you, for in your weakness my strength is made perfect.” And what I love about the way Paul approaches the whole issue is that, he says, the outer man is decaying, but the inner man is being renewed day by day. So, if my faith is contingent upon God healing, or unconfessed sin being confessed, we’ve got a number of passages that are going to cause us great trouble, especially with the apostle Paul being just one. Stephen, of course, is brutally stoned and killed. We could go through a number of the saints who suffered.
- Ankerberg: Yes, take Timothy. He had a problem with his stomach.
- Easley: His stomach. And so there are ailments that are uncured. So….
- Ankerberg: Paul’s companion, Trophimus, was sick. He needed him at the meeting. Paul, with all his healing power that God had given to him, couldn’t do anything for him.
- Easley: Couldn’t help him. I love the story in John 9, because you have a congenitally blind man who is strictly an object lesson. He doesn’t ask for healing. He doesn’t exhibit any faith. And the question the disciples say, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?”, because the rabbi’s thought you could sin in utero. And so, Jesus says, “Neither, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” So he marches on down. Jesus spits, makes mud, puts it on his eyes, sends him to the pool of Siloam. Great story about how that occurs. But later, when Christ encounters him, He says, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” And he says, “Who is he, sir, that I might believe in him?” So this is a case where the man doesn’t know who the Christ is. There’s no actionable faith there. All he does is wash his eyes. Is that an action of faith? He just washed the mud off his face. And there’s a creative miracle that has occurred: congenital blindness, new eyes.
- So Christ certainly has power to create and to heal, but is that reason He came? Now, I think it’s one of the illustrations that the Christ coming to solve the overarching sin problem, the overarching disease problem, that the outer man is decaying, but we’re being renewed day by day. So, I know godly people disagree on this, but I don’t think it’s contingent on faith, nor is it contingent on unconfessed sin, because we have a man here who knows nothing about either one of these, and Christ healed him.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, take the apostle Paul sitting in jail. Okay, one time the Lord Himself showed up in the jail and encouraged Paul and said, “Take courage. You’re going to testify about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” Okay, the Lord encouraged him. He leaves the prison. He’s in the prison.
- Easley: Stays in prison.
- Ankerberg: He sits there for 24 more months, okay, before he’s out. Did God forget him during those 24 months? No, He just didn’t answer it the way that we would think He would. There’s got to be more that’s going on here.
- Easley: Right, right. I love Christ’s admonition, and really an upbraiding to the crowds, and Joni mentioned this earlier, about Capernaum. But the Scribes and Pharisees want Him to perform miracles to prove He’s Messiah. And He says, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign, yet no sign will be given but the sign of Jonah, the prophet.” And then He refers obviously to His resurrection: death, burial and resurrection. But when we come after Him seeking a sign and a wonder, “If You perform for me then maybe I’ll believe in You,” now, this is a puppeteering of God. This is, you know, if You do this, then…. And God doesn’t work that way as the sovereign. So, I think we have to acknowledge, godly people disagree on this, but as I understand the Scripture, He can heal. There were people with a gift of healing that, in my opinion, seem to have fallen off the time scale. He does heal. When my surgeries occurred, when your bypass occurred, your body healed. The doctors didn’t do the healing. The doctors did the injury to your body. So there is an intrinsic, the way we’re designed in His image, that we do heal. But I think it’s pushing it far too far to say that He will always heal based on the amount of faith or based on if we deal with all of our unconfessed sin.
- Ankerberg: Alright, Joni, let me come back to you now, okay. The question is this: after 45 years of being in that wheelchair and all this pain and all of this suffering, okay, and you have prayed, and you have gone to the healing meetings and all of this, what’s your conclusion about, will God heal everybody who asks in faith?
- Tada: When I was in the hospital and people asked me, “Well, what can I read to you out of Scripture? I would always ask to be read to from John 5. “Now there was near the sheep gate a pool which is called Bethesda where many disabled, blind and lame used to come.” And the story goes on to describe how Jesus walked among the paralyzed and found some guy who had been lying there for 38 years, disabled. And it says when Jesus learned he had been in this condition, “for a long time”—Jesus thinks 38 years in a wheelchair is a long time! Oh, my goodness, that helps right there. But then I ask, “But, Jesus, You healed this guy paralyzed on his straw mat. Please heal me. Have the same pity on me that You had on him. Oh, God, heal me!”
- And you’re right, John. I went to so many healing services after I got out of the hospital, not just Kathryn Kuhlman, but little Episcopal churches that would have Tuesday night healing services. I’d be there. I’d get anointed with oil. I’d confess sin. I’d be wheeled up front. Everything, every scriptural injunction, but God never healed.
- A few years ago my husband took me to Israel. And, in my wheelchair, we’d bumpity bump through the streets and the bazaar of the Old City, arrived at the Sheep Gate, made a left-hand turn, wheeled past St. Anne’s Church. And then, all of a sudden, oh, my goodness, Ken, look at this. It’s the pool of Bethesda. Oh, Ken, I used to come here. I used to come here in my mind’s imagination. I’d picture myself at this place so many times when I was hospitalized, begging God to heal me.
- Nobody was around. We had the place to ourselves. All the tour buses were gone, and it was a dry dusty day and the wind was blowing. And I leaned my elbow on the guardrail to that ruin of those pools, and I cried, “Oh, Jesus, You were so wise in not giving me an answer to that request for a physical healing; because what You have done is so much greater. You’ve given me a love of prayer. You’ve given me a buoyant happy hope of heaven. You’ve given me such a deep relationship with my husband. You’ve fostered sensitivity toward other people who hurt. You’ve caused me to hate sin in my life. You’ve gotten me deep into Your word. You’ve just done so much more than I ever dreamed possible. There really is more to life than just walking and being pain free or cancer free or having use of your hands. And You have shown me, Lord God, what the real healing is all about.
- Took me all the way to the pool of Bethesda in Israel, but I could tell Him that; that I could say to Jesus, thank You, because a no to a request for physical healing meant yes to so many, so many far greater things.
- Ankerberg: I can’t believe all this stuff that you’ve done: from the President’s committees in the United States here, to establishing 12 different ministries that you’re operating. I’m saying, I can’t do one out of this chair and she’s in a wheelchair and you got all these ministries. You’ve traveled to 48 countries.
- Tada: I was so grateful I was on the President’s committee that drafted the first Americans with Disabilities Act. So many things I could point to. But none is more precious than being wheeled up to that bedside of some quadriplegic who’s despairing of life and telling them, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. So you either get busy living or you get busy dying. Join me, join me, would you? Let’s get busy living today. And let’s do it for the sake of Christ and for the benefit of those around us.” I can’t think of a better reason for living.
- Ankerberg: Alright, folks, next week we’re going to ask these two, how do you keep from going back into depression; from getting discouraged when the pain keeps at you, when it never stops, when it never lets up, when your body is deteriorating? What does God do for you? How do you get along day by day? I know a lot of you that are listening, you want the answer to that question. I hope that you’ll join us next week.