Does the spiritual gift of healing still exist today? Or is it, as some people claim, no longer available because “only the Apostles” had it? I remember once, after my mother had a stroke, praying that she would be healed and not die. She could not speak or walk. She had lost the complete use of anything on her left side. Things did not look good. So I put a call out for prayer that night and trusted God would do what was best. To my surprise He did more than that. The next morning when I went into the hospital, my mother was sitting up in bed reading the paper and talking normally. She had even regained movement on her left side and had been out of bed walking! You could have knocked me over with a feather. I was stunned. So were her doctors. That’s the power of prayer, but it is also the gift of healing in action.
So why do some Christians discount healings like that? Perhaps they have misjudged or misread what the spiritual gift of healing is all about. Or maybe they are basing their beliefs on the so-called "faith healers" that seem to be great at building themselves an empire off the backs of sick people, but do little in the way of healing. You know who I’m talking about. This is a reasonable assumption I suppose, because if there were people with the gift of healing still around today why are so many people still suffering? Why aren’t these healers going into hospitals every day and healing people?
Maybe that is not what the spiritual gift of healing is all about. Or maybe we search for healing and don’t find it, because our emphasis is on the end result, on what we can get, not on the process. Perhaps the gift of healing doesn’t produce divine “healers” at all, but rather divine healing from a Divine Healer.
What was one thing Jesus would often tell those he healed? He would tell them not to tell anyone he had healed them (Mark 1:40-44). The complete opposite of faith-healers who like to put on a grand show of how God is “using” them. But Jesus told some people to keep their healing a secret. He did this for a few reasons. First, he knew that any publicity over his healings would divert from his main message. In fact, that very thing happened with the leper in Mark 1:45. He told everyone he met that he was healed by Jesus which then made it impossible for Jesus to enter the city and instead he had to go out into isolated areas to preach.
Another reason Jesus asked the leper not to tell anyone was that he wanted them to still be obedient to the Law and go at once to a priest to confirm the healing. Why would he want them to be obedient to the Law? Because if a priest pronounced it as a genuine healing, then it was on record, and those who opposed Jesus could not deny it was a real miracle. Clever, don’t you think?
Finally, and most importantly, Jesus did not want people focusing only on his miracles, rather he wanted them to focus on His message – that God was with them and true healing, the only healing that mattered, came from believing in and trusting in God’s Son, for he alone provided complete healing of body, mind and spirit.
The same is true today. God would rather we be focused on the healing miracle of salvation through Jesus Christ instead of focusing on bodily healings and/or other miracles. Jesus is more concerned with our spiritual healing than our body anyway. That is not to say that he doesn't care when we suffer, because he does. But our body is temporary, and our spiritual life, our relationship with God, is eternal. This is why healing doesn’t always happen when we ask for it. Sometimes it is a slow and painful process to “being healed.” Because sometimes what we think we need for healing, is not what God has in mind at all. More often than not our suffering produces in us attributes that God is trying to build up.
In Revelation 3:18 Jesus says to the Laodiceans, "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich . . .” In my book He Who Has an Ear, Who the Seven Churches of Revelation are Today, I talk about a refiner’s fire and why some people seem to suffer more than others. I’d like to share an excerpt with you today because I think it helps put into perspective why some people are healed, while others seem to always be suffering.
To refine gold, it must be hot enough to burn away the dross or impurities. It is known as a “refiner’s fire” and this is what Jesus was saying the Laodiceans needed to go through. They needed to be refined or tested so all the dross in them could be cleaned out. Then they would be truly rich. If there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s this: When God wants to deal with something about me He knows I’m not seeing clearly or haven’t worked towards refining, I can be sure I’ll go through a trial. Of course, when those trials go on for months, one starts to wonder, “What am I not getting?” But it may simply be that the dross is gone but God knows He has to “test the gold,” as it were, to see if it endures.
James 5:13-15 seems to verify that individual “healers” are not the norm, but rather prayer (asking for healing) in a group setting is the more biblical approach to healing.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 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 sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (NKJV).
I did a word search on some of the words above and was stunned with what I found. The word “suffering” (which is translated as afflicted in the KJV) comes from the Greek kakopatheō and means “to suffer (endure) evils (hardships, troubles)” or “to be afflicted.” In the verse above, the word “sick” is used twice with two different meanings. The first “sick” in verse fourteen comes from the Greek astheneō which means “to be weak, feeble, to be without strength or powerless.” It also means “to be weak in means, needy, poor or sick”. In other words, it is used when describing someone who lacks strength in relation to their circumstances. The second “sick” is found in verse fifteen, and it comes from the Greek kamnō which means “to grow weary or be wearied.” When reading James 5:15 in this light, it would be more appropriate to say, “And the prayer of faith will save the weary, and the Lord will raise him up.”
Those who are seriously ill, often use this verse to go before their elders, be anointed with oil and prayed over for bodily healing. And yes, bodily healing has come to some after this has been done. It happened to my best friend. But there are two things to notice here – one, it is a group effort, no person is singled out as a “faith-healer” and two, it was in reference to those who are weary from troubles of any kind. In other words, you don't have to have a terminal illness to request this type of prayer from your elders. If you are finding that your faith in God is ebbing, if you are "soul-sick" or are too weary to carry on with life - go to your elders! Have them anoint you with oil and pray for you. For this is precisely what James is talking about in this verse.
In fact, James chapter five begins with James condemning those who have persecuted the just and reminds the church to be patient, encouraging them to endure. But he is cognizant of the fact that some do grow weary in their faith and so they need to be encouraged. And he tells them to go to the elders and be anointed with oil. It doesn’t matter if you are weary from illness or weary in your faith, this is the perfect example of what James was talking about in regards to healing. Because he then says, “the prayer of faith will save the sick [the weary], and the Lord will raise him up” (James 5:15). A group effort of prayer for healing and the Lord is glorified.
There is one other thing to consider in regards to individuals having the “gift of healing”. Have you ever noticed the phrasing in 1 Corinthians 12:30? It doesn’t say, “Do all have the gift of healing?” It says, “Do all have gifts of healings?” Suggesting again that the spiritual “gift of healing” is not something granted to certain individuals so they can then go out and heal people. That would place the focus on the healer and give them far too much control over the vulnerable. But rather the gift of healing is just that – a gift from God, something we must remember comes with a purpose. For the spiritual gifts are, as you will recall, to build up and edify the church. Not to place an importance on the miracle itself, nor to make someone the center of attention because they are “being used by God”, but to give glory to God alone.
Take for example the story of Lazarus (John 11). When he was dying of illness his sisters begged Jesus to come and heal him. But he did not, and Lazarus died. We know now that it was for the purpose of showing that Jesus had power over death, when he raised Lazarus from the dead. But this miracle did more than show Jesus’ power and authority over death. First, this miracle caused many more Jews to believe in him as their Messiah. And second, it became the catalyst for the Sanhedrin to seek His death. And without Jesus’ death on the cross there would be no salvation for us. The gift of His life gave us new life. By not healing Lazarus Jesus gave us a greater gift of healing. A restored, renewed relationship with God.
So the gift of healing, like other spiritual gifts, comes with a purpose - to build up and edify the church and to bring glory to God. It is not something for a select few to dole out, but it is available to all who ask and are willing that God be glorified, no matter the outcome.