Nov 18, 2009

Healing - Our Responsiblity or God's?

In the short time I've been interested in the subject of healing, a thorny problem has repeatedly confronted me. I did some thinking on it. Here's what I found out: the Christian world is divided into two camps; or three, if you count those who take the middle ground. At issue is a centuries-old debate about man's responsibility and God's sovereignty; Calvinism and Arminianism. These mind-sets and arguments have infected the waters of healing.

I won't bore you with a long discussion on the theological points of this argument. If you're interested in learning more, you can google it. I had an old friend who insisted on arguing his Calvinistic world-view with me every time we met. He drove me crazy. God mercifully removed this 'thorn in the flesh' from my life. I've never had a desire to return to this debate.

I'll summarize for you the basic points of these two views; Calvinism was named after the reformer John Calvin. It's main emphasis is on the sovereignty of God. There are varying degrees to which adherents follow this teaching. Some are moderate, some are quite extreme; to the point of stating that man is without free will. Arminianism, takes it's name from Jacobus Arminius. Followers of Arminianism stress the reality of man's free will and tend to minimize the sovereignty of God. Both sides will cite piles of scripture verses to support their view.

If the bible gives support to both sides; perhaps both arguments are valid. In searching the bible, that's just what I found. In several passages, the bible reveals the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man in the same passage. I'll give an example.The first part of this verse (in teal) stresses man's responsiblity, the second (in red) discusses God's sovereignty. "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13)

Here's another verse, again I'll show man's responsibility in teal and God's sovereignty in red: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” ( Acts 2:36 )
I particularly like this verse because the free will of man is bracketed inside the sovereign will of God. There are other similar verses, but I think you get the point.

I'd like to offer my conclusion on the matter - both views are right in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny. Calvinists are right when they say that God is sovereign over all He does. They are mistaken if they believe man has nothing to do with making it come to pass. Likewise, an Arminian is right in saying we must apprehend for ourselves all that is available in God, but he is dead wrong if he teaches that God is not in charge of things. Much of this foolishness has found it's way into modern teaching about healing.

Calvinism in Healing
Over-emphasis on God's sovereignty is perhaps the biggest problem in healing today. Most people who dare to ask God for healing eventually utter the words,"thy will be done..." It's essentially equal to, "I don't know if I'm worthy of healing, or if God even hears my prayers." Particularly in more conservative streams of the church, there's a pervasive teaching that we can never really know if it's God's will to heal anyone. It stands as a kind of wall between us and God, preventing us from coming boldly before the throne of grace and asking for His healing grace to make us whole.

I'll suggest to you my personal feelings on the root cause of the problem and let you decide for yourself. For centuries the church has been led by 3 of the 5 types of leaders Jesus appointed to the church - the pastor, teacher and the occasional evangelist. (See Eph. 4:11) The apostle and prophet have been absent. I see the apostles as spiritual mothers and fathers who help the church grow into maturity. The prophet is essentially the 'eyes' of the church, taking revelatory information from God and passing it on to the body. The absence has created two problems; one is a perpetually immature body, the other is a body that is blind to the will of God.

In the last century the prophetic gift has slowly been restored to the body, though not yet to fullness. The last 30 years or so has brought a gradual restoration of the apostolic. As we see these gifts restored, there has also been an interesting change in healing. In a recent interview, Bill Johnson and Randy Clark both noted a dramatic upward shift almost every year in the number of people and the kinds of diseases they have seen healed. They both report sudden healing of diseases no one ever saw healed in modern times, and in great numbers.

One of the key tools to healing is prophetic revelation. Healers who are given detailed information from God about medical conditions, demonic oppression, childhood problems and such are in a much better position to see breakthrough than those who pray without them. There is much we can know about God's will in healing specific problems. It's our responsibility to ask and receive then act on it. In the words of Todd White, "God reveals it, to heal it."

We must stop thinking that God's will is a secret we can never know, or that God's plan is completely outside our understanding. Words of knowledge, dreams and other sources of revelation are at our disposal if we pursue them. Even more so, we must believe that God wants to heal a great many people, whether we know it or not.

Arminianism In Healing
My wife suffers from chronic neck pain. She's had more people pray for her in the last year than I can count. Like many people, she's grown weary of it for several reasons. One reason is the comments she receives from some of the people who've prayed for her:

"You need to learn how to receive your healing."
"Jesus paid the price already, you simply need to believe you're healed and you will be."
"The bible says by his stripes you were healed- that means in God's eyes it's already done."
"You have to take your healing by force and refuse to let the enemy steal it away from you".
"Maybe there's something blocking your healing like bitterness or unforgivenness that you need to repent of."

Need I say more?

These are some of the 'helpful' observations we tend give to our bewildered friends when they aren't healed. Like Job's uninformed friends hurling accusation at him, needing an explanation for failure, we blame our brother or sister. It's all on's responsibility. I've found that most people who operate in the gift of healing are extremely Arminian in their thinking, almost to the point of excluding God's sovereignty from the equation. This seems very destructive to me for a couple of reasons.

I've noticed how my wife tends to avoid certain people when they come around. They'll always ask about her neck pain, always offer to pray for her and always offer some observation about a lack of faith or some other problem what's preventing her from being healed. It doesn't take much of this to completely discourage people from seeking prayer. The afflicted person feels condemned and worthless, feeling that the pain of their affliction is better than the disappointment and hurtful, accusing explanations they always hear after they aren't healed.

A man suffers paralysis from a stroke. Over the years he frequently receives prayer for healing, to no avail. One day he's approached by a well-meaning would-be-healer.

Healer: Mind if I pray for you to be healed?
Paralytic: I've had a lot of people pray for me in the past, but nothing ever happened.
Healer: Well, I believe God wants you healed. The bible says, "By his stripes you were healed, that's past tense, it already happened so we need to bring that reality into your body today.
Paralytic: I think God has a purpose for me to be like this. I think he's trying to build character into my life through trial and difficulty.
Healer: Sickness and suffering are of the devil! God wants all his children to be healthy, and the enemy wants to keep you in bondage, we can set you free today.
Paralytic: If God wanted me healed, why didn't he heal me already?
Healer: Healing takes faith. Jesus said if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can say to the mountain move, and it will be done. Maybe there wasn't enough faith to heal you before.
Paralytic: Maybe God doesn't want everyone healed all the time. Don't you think there might be reasons for some people not being healed?
Healer: Jesus is my model - he healed everyone who came to him. I believe it's possible for us to do the same.
Paralytic: OK, you can pray for me.
(a moment of silence for prayer)
Nothing happens
(More prayer)
Nothing happens
Paralytic: Thanks for trying, God bless you.

Which of these men did you feel was more correct in his thinking, or which did you identify more strongly with? Both men have a biblical basis for their beliefs, but each saw the problem from a different perspective. The healer was convinced he could do something to make the paralysis leave. The paralyzed man felt God was in control and had a divine purpose for his condition. Both were right in their thinking. But each of them could only see one side of the coin.

Healers can be blind to the idea that there may be a divine purpose for pain, sickness and suffering. But the the bible teaches that pain, suffering and affliction can be redemptive. The story of Job is a good example. He was a righteous man who loved God. Satan accused Job of serving God out of selfish motives. The only way that God could prove that Job's heart was in the right place was by allowing him to go through a season of loss and sickness. God permitted Job's sickness for a defined period of time and for a specific end.

We often tell people after they're healed, they have a responsibility to keep their healing. I'm not saying there isn't some truth to this idea, but the person is right to ask - if God is powerful enough to heal me, why isn't he powerful enough to keep me healed? Once again, it reveals a theology that leans too much in the direction of man's responsibility, and ignores God's part.

Another danger exists in putting too much emphasis on our part of the healing process....pride. I won't go into great detail, but I'll simply say that when we place an emphasis on man, we take the emphasis (and the glory) away from God. That's a danger we must continually be mindful of.

My wife and I have been discussing her chronic pain. She came to a sober realization about it. Prior to suffering from her condition, she had no way of identifying with others who suffer long-term painful conditions. She confesses that its given her a deep empathy for people who suffer like this. She also knows there's no way she would have been able to enthusiastically support my calling to minister to the sick, had she not been through this ordeal. Most of the motivation I have to see people healed comes from seeing my family suffer from various diseases. John G. Lake had a similar motivation; many of his family members died at a young age, including his wife. I'll go as far as to say that many people who work in healing would never have thought about it, until suffering and sickness became a familiar part of their life. God is able to work His redemptive purposes through sickness, suffering and affliction, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory". 2 Cor. 4:17 (See also Philippians 3:10, James 5:9-11, 1 Peter 1:5-7 )

I love the way Todd White ministers healing to people. He's my personal role model here on earth, Jesus is my heavenly one. But Todd (in my opinion) is extremely Arminian in his approach to healing. When an amputee wasn't healed after Todd prayed for him, Todd blamed himself. I guess it's better than blaming God or the amputee. But I see a problem, either way. Todd was taught that it's God's will that everyone can and should be healed - always. Jesus is our example and Jesus never failed to heal anyone. This belief naturally means that if we pray and the person isn't healed, it's either a problem with us, or the person we prayed for. We already discussed blame directed at the sick person. I think it's equally wrong to blame ourselves. Todd feels that the failure lies with his thinking and belief system. He says that when he gets his heart and mind perfectly aligned with God's will, everyone he prays for will be healed. I hope he's right. But, I'm not betting on it. I have to give my man a lot of grace, he's a fairly new believer and this issue may never have crossed his mind.

The heart of the matter is a shallow understanding of God's purpose in allowing sickness to exist at all. We, as healers must wake up and accept the fact that not everyone will always be healed and there may be a divine plan unfolding that we are ignorant of. I'm not suggesting that God is some perverted deity who enjoys watching us suffer. He isn't. But we can't ignore the fact that God has a time, a season and a reason for all that he does. I think the best approach is to acknowledge both God's sovereign plan and our responsibility in bringing it to pass. We need not blame ourselves, the sick person or God when healing doesn't happen. Recognizing both God's sovereignty and man's responsibility provides a safe and healthy theology for those who endeavor to heal the sick.


  1. Thanks for writing on this subject that is so important in our household right now and our ministry to others. I see that you understand the things with which I struggle in my own healing journey. Thanks for looking at both sides and for hearing me. I'm blessed to be able to learn and grow with you. I love your heart.

    Your wife,

  2. I must be a Calminian since I don't fit your types. After 38 yrs. in healing ministry, I approach every need believing God's will is to heal. I believe for an instantaneous miracle. If nothing apparently happens, I wait on God for more information. There may be a hindrance of some kind. If nothing comes, I do not go by my physical eye because often healing happens slowly or progressively. I do not blame God, myself, and least of all the sick person.
    God is Sovereign. My responsibility is to obey His Word to heal, walk in His calling to heal, and listen to His Spirit guide me in the way to express it. I am still learning and wanting to do a better job on my part.

  3. Great job, but still a little lacking... keep seeking. Prov 25:2.
    This debate has raged for 400 years with good "men of God" and biblical support on both sides. So, where's the truth and where's the error? I like your take on the "both views are right in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny." Good one!
    Consider this: both are true, but each in it's own realm. Calvinism/Sovereignty is true and absolute in the spirit. Arminianism/Free-Will is true in the earth/physical world. These are two sets of laws for two realms, like the law of gravity and the law of lift. They complement each other, not contradict. We have been deceived too long. Examine the scripture used in each argument and you will find they align with either the eternal or the temporal.
    It's our job to understand and be fully alive in both and be the ambassador/priest contending for both on behalf of the other. Jesus passed the baton to us just after the resurrection. Until the resurrection all that Jesus did, he did as a man – a man in right relationship with God. But, He did none of the same miracles (that He modeled for us during His ministry) after the resurrection because He no longer had authority to do so. He was no longer flesh and blood. We are. And when we are dead to ourselves and alive in Him (Gal 2:20) He walks in us and we are His body. When we co-operate He gets to do what He wants to do… manifest His love and compassion through our hands.
    I consider Todd a friend, and I love that he sees every encounter with people as a divine appointment - because the divine one dwells in Him, and he in Him. Our example is not Peter, Barnabas, Timothy or even Paul. It’s Jesus.
    Do not let your unhealed circumstance overrule God's character - as revealed by Jesus - AND ONLY Jesus. He is Love. Let’s understand love as a child would. There's no hidden scheme or purpose in agape. Love is a verb. So is God.
    God doesn't so much have a "redemptive purpose" as much as a 'redemptive process'. We’re sick; He’s not. The infection is a thing we call a lie, a thought that has resulted in a belief contrary to truth. We know His Purpose - to form Christ in us. We ARE redeemed – in the spirit, but we are still “working out” that redemption in our soul (mind). What keeps that from happening is the 'veil' of lies that we still believe as truth. It is what hinders us from seeing clearly. With each belief examined in light of the living and active word and the contrary beliefs removed by grace, another thread is removed from the veil and we see a little clearer. Unbelief wanes and faith grows.
    We should not try to provide reasons for what we do not yet understand. We only show ourselves fools. Why is it so hard to say, “I don’t know?” Whenever we talk about what God does or does not "allow" we also reveal our ignorance, the simple solution for which is more 'closet time.'
    One final comment, I doubt that God ever had to "prove" anything. The book of Job is greatly misunderstood. It's really a great lesson in "Living in the World for Dummies." God reveals great principles there for life in the realm of sowing and reaping. Even the Deceiver was unaware that Job was already in his hand - due to Job’s fear of what might happen.
    And it’s late…

  4. What we may mistake for a 'no' from God may simply be a doubt blocking healing, or simply a power flow issue - more prayer required. The big danger with Calvanism is that if the person isn't healed in 3.5 seconds they conclude that God doesn't want to heal them. Many, many healings are not instant. How do you know when its 'no' or simply keep going ? I'd rather regard laying on of hands as like going to the doctor, doctor Jesus in this case. We don't have a problem if our earthly doctors take months or years to get us healed, why give up if it takes some time with God.
    Calvanism was responsible for me being ill for 27 years, when I believed in 'by his stripes' it only took 3 and a half weeks of believing commanding prayer to be completely healed.
    We may not get everyone healed, but Calvanism has been so poor at getting anyone healed, it should be regarded as flawed. Calvin was also someone who thought drowning a woman in the river for adultery was a good thing. He didn't exactly understand much about the Bible...