While waiting for a stoplight on his way to the hospital to pray for a sick member of his church, Pastor Mark noticed a van in front of him with a faded bumper sticker. The words were barely readable, but as he squinted, the words came into focus: trust in jesus. The fact that the words were faded struck Mark as ironic, as he often wondered why prayers for healing often seem unanswered. Indeed, when it comes to many of our prayers for healing, our level of trust is about as apparent as that faded bumper sticker Pastor Mark encountered on the way to the hospital.
How do you react when you hear about people who claim to have “healing” ministries? Over the years there have been numerous journalistic exposés of so- called “faith healers” who turned out to be nothing but frauds. There are also plenty of people who mean well but who do damage by saying that if only you have enough faith, healing will come. This sets up the family dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or end-stage cancer or even diabetes for a possible faith crisis.
In the opening verses of Luke 10, Jesus sends 72 of his followers ahead of him. They were to go in pairs (vs. 1), knowing it would be dangerous (vs. 3); travel light (vs. 4); maintain a dependent and vulnerable posture (vs. 7); speak peace to those offering hospitality (vv. 5-6); and then serve, heal, and speak in the power of Jesus’ name (vs. 9).
Since the days of the early church, followers of Christ have been marked by a ministry of healing and proclaiming. One writer summarizes this work as a simple lifestyle of trusting God, traveling light, and healing the sick—which brings us back to the faded bumper sticker: Trust in Jesus. Why doesn’t God heal when thousands pray for healing in Jesus’ name? Are miraculous signs and miracles always associated with the manifestation of the kingdom? Trust in Jesus. These difficult questions deserve more than simplistic answers. Yet centuries of Christian witness demonstrate that Jesus’ followers are to be agents of healing in the power of God—even if our trust in Jesus at times feels faded, like the bumper sticker.
PONDER: How can God use you—whether through your prayers, words, or actions, to be an agent of his healing power?
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• RUTH’S STORY •
On October 14, 2013, I went to the emergency room after having belly pain for a few days. Within days we discovered that I had Stage IV cancer. After numerous biopsies, scans, and tests, my doctors could not determine what type of cancer I had. The cells were dividing so rapidly and looked so bizarre that they defied classification. I will never forget the anguish I felt as I heard my oncologist say the words, “We don’t know if we can cure this.” As physicians ourselves, my husband Doug and I knew that if she could have offered
us more hopeful words, she would have gladly given them; but she could not. We moved forward with chemotherapy not knowing what tomorrow would bring.
There was so much that was unknown, and we were scared. But we held on to what we knew. We knew that God loves us and that he is good. He loves our two children more than we do. He could heal me with a word—the God who, in the beginning, made the heavens and the earth, who knit me together in my mother’s womb. So we prayed that God would heal me of this cancer. We asked friends, family, and supporters from our time in Nepal as Elmbrook missionaries to pray. Thousands of people, day and night, all over the globe were crying out to God on our behalf.
In early December, after two rounds of chemo, I had a CT scan. Every trace of cancer on my scan was gone. The masses in my abdomen and the enlarged lymph nodes scattered throughout my body had completely disappeared.
I cannot explain why God heals in some cases and not others. But I do know this, he is able. He is a God who heals.
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At the end of time there will be no more sickness or pain (Rev. 21:4). Unfortunately, that is not our current reality. For now, we catch glimpses of the fullness of the kingdom when God provides healing.
Read Luke 10:3a, 9. Who was Jesus telling to go? How was the kingdom of God coming near the people? Who do you know who is sick? Take time to pray for these people. We can reveal the kingdom of God through our love for those who are sick and hurting. Find time this week to call or visit someone you know who is sick.