These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Why did God heal your cousin of cancer, but not your son? Why did God heal Sally and not Suzy? Why does God seem to answer some people’s prayers about healing, but not others? If God heals, then why did God not heal Bobby when He called for the Elders to pray over him in faith and asked others to pray, and started claiming God’s promises of healing over his life? Why does God heal some and not others?
We have been in James for about two years. We have come to the end of it and James is addressing healing in three areas. Emotional healing (we looked at that last week), physical healing (we will look at that today), and spiritual healing (we will look at that next week).
Today, I’m going to share some things that I have discovered about healing in my journey to understand this as Christian, a pastor, a counselor, and as a friend. I’ve been a part of many prayers for healing regarding all kinds of sicknesses. Some experienced healing and some did not. Today, I want us to take a look at physical healing in the Bible.
A Look at the Problem: Sickness (4 Types)
To get us started I think it will be helpful to do a little overview. I have provided in your bulletin some notes that will be a help to you as we walk though this information together.
To help us understand healing we have to look at the problem, which is sickness. God’s word identifies four types of sicknesses.
Sickness for death
The first one is a sickness for death. Outside of Jesus’ return to rapture us up to heaven, everyone here will experience this type of sickness. Everyone is going to die from something. It doesn’t matter if you love God or not, everyone is going to experience this one.
In John 11, we are told about Lazarus who was sick. Some friends of Lazarus told Jesus about Lazarus’ sickness, but Jesus replied to them by saying, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this” (v.4, NLT). The implication is that there are sicknesses that lead to death, but in Lazarus’s case this would not be.
This is important because there are some who believe that if you have enough faith you will never get sick. But that is not true, because there is a sickness that God is going to use to take you home someday.
Sickness for discipline
A second type of sickness is a sickness for discipline. This is where God chastises us, disciplines us. This discipline is really where God allows us to reap what we sow. God allows this in order to wake us up spiritually so we will evaluate our lives.
For example, in 1 Corinthians there were some believers who were out of God’s will and they were doing things they shouldn’t be doing. They were committing various sins. So, 1 Corinthians 11:30-32, “That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 31 But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. 32 Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world” (NLT). In other words, God will allow sickness into our lives in order for us to start examining ourselves. When you hear the word cancer, or you have a heart attack, or there is something wrong with your lungs or liver or arteries… those are the kind of things that cause people to pause in life and examine their lives and their relationship with God. Sometimes God will allow us to get sick and use that sickness to grab our attention in order to refresh our relationship with Him.
Sickness for God’s glory
The third reason for sickness is sickness for God’s glory. In John 9, Jesus and some of His disciples were walking along a road and came across a blind man. Because they had a cause and effect mentality asked Jesus about the blind man saying, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (v.2, NLT). Jesus says you’ve got it all wrong. He says all sickness is not a direct result of sin, it’s not all cause and effect. Jesus said, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins, this happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (v.3, NLT). Then Jesus healed him. Sometimes God will allow us to be sick so that He can heal us to reveal His power and glory and it has nothing to do with sin or demonic activity.
Sickness from the enemy
A fourth reason for sickness is sickness from the enemy. There are times where a sickness, illness, disease of some type is the result of demonic activity. An example of this is in Luke 13:11 where the Bible says, “He [Jesus] saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight” (NLT). Jesus called her over, healed her, and she instantly could stand up straight. Then it said she praised God for what had happened!
Not all sickness is the result of demonic activity. Not all sickness is the result of some specific sin. Some sickness is for the purpose of displaying God’s power and some sickness is for the purpose of taking you own home to heaven.
A Look at Solutions: Healing (5 views)
That was some background on the problem, but let’s take a look some solutions. I’m not saying these are all the solutions, but I see in our day at least five views on healing. These are what I think are the predominant views among Christians on the views of healing. These are different views of how Christians think healing should or shouldn’t happen.
The first group are the sensationalists. This group emphasizes healing services that become a production and show. Emotionally charged. Flamboyant. The emphasis ends up being on the healer and not the Lord. Sometimes they are a little gimmicky. They blow on people, mail you a prayer cloth or some other item that is supposed to help bring in your miracle.
When you compare that to Jesus’ healing ministry, you find something different. You would find Jesus often telling people not to tell anyone what He had done. You could find Jesus healing people as He went throughout the day. From time to time a crowd would develop.
I’m not saying God can’t heal someone in that context, but what I am saying is that many of the sensationalist healers violate scripture in how they approach this subject.
The confessionalists believe that if you simply have enough faith you will be healed, no matter what. You can claim your healing through faith, but if you are not healed it’s because of your lack of faith. If you will simply name it and claim it, healing can be yours. For confessionalists the question is not whether God will heal you or not, but whether or not you have enough faith to receive the healing.
Confessionalists will say things like, “If you have enough faith then your daughter will get healed.” Sometimes they may even say, “The reason your daughter was not healed is because you didn’t have enough faith.”
Are there times where faith and healing are connected, absolutely? It’s not your faith that determines the healing, it’s God who determines the healing. You need to place your faith in God for healing all the time, but let God decide whether or not He will heal.
The third group, we will call anti-supernaturalists. This group believes that God did miracles during Bible times, but doesn’t do them today. They believe the healing miracles in the Bible were simply to prove the deity of Jesus and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. They do not believe Jesus does miracles today.
The fourth group are called rationalists. This group believes there is no such thing as sin, death, or illnesses. If you can clear up your mind and think right then you will begin to see that the appearances of sin and sickness are not real and therefore will cease to exist. This is mind over matter. If you think healing, you will be healed.
The final group we call Biblical Realists. This group believes God heals and performs miracles today, but He doesn’t heal everyone all the time. They believe God can bring about healing through miracles, design of the human body, medical treatment, health management or a combination of the above. They also believe that healing does not have to be instantaneous and complete for it to be from God. I am a Biblical realists.
So, here is the question. If you were physically sick, if you were seriously ill, what would God say to you? What’s His will, what’s his prescription, what’s His plan for people who are physically ill? Part of his plan includes the church. This is what we see in James 5. God’s plan for healing, the most direct and clear teaching on what we are to do when we are seriously sick and our physical bodies are not doing what they are supposed to do is James 5:14-15. So, let’s look at God’s specific instructions for those who are physically ill.
Before we read James I want to make something very clear. James does not say only do this. He is not forbidding medical treatment, changing your diet, exercising, or taking medicine. He is saying, “When you are seriously sick, be sure to bring God into the equation.”
James 5:14-15, “Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven” (NLT). That seems pretty straight forward. Well, let’s ask some penetrating questions that will help us understand this even more.
Who are the sick?
The first question is, who are the sick? What kind of sick people are we talking about? Is this instruction for everyone and for any sickness? I have a headache, let me call the elders. I have a cold, let me call the elders. The doctor just told me I have cancer, let me call the elders. Who are the sick?
This word “sick” means to be without strength. In Scripture it refers to someone who is unable to work, physically disabled, or bed ridden. The word was used of Lazarus when he was sick and that sickness lead to death. It was used to describe Dorcas’ sickness and she died. It was used to describe the sick man lying beside the pool of Bethesda and he was so sick he couldn’t get up and get into the pool.
So this instruction is directly addressing people who are physically ill with life threatening illness.
What are the sick to do?
The second question, what are the sick to do? Pretty straight forward here. They “should call for the elders of the church.” Notice who is instructed to take the initiative. Is it the sick person or the elders of the church? When those who are sick it is their responsibility to take the initiative as an act of faith and call for the Elders of the church and say, “Hey, I need your prayers.”
I think this is a good example and one reason why you need to be a part of a local body of believers. What do you do when you or a loved one gets really sick? It’s during this time that you really need to be connected to a church where believers know you and love you and can support you this time.
What are the elders to do?
The third question, what are the elders to do? The elders are to do two things, they are to “pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.” This seems odd, so what does it mean?
In the Bible the word “anointing” has two meanings.
- One has a medical use. For example there is a story in the Bible where a Good Samaritan helps out a man who had been robbed and beat up. One of the things the Good Samaritan did was “soothed his wounds with olive oil” referring to this medical anointing. It means to rub for medical healing purposes.
- The other use for the word “anointing” has to do with ceremony and symbolism. In the Old Testament they would anoint priest.
Here in James, the word “anointing” is referring to the medical use of the term. One of the best and most common medical practices during Bible times was the anointing or rubbing of olive oil on wound. What this passage is telling us is for us to get the best medical help available which may include x-rays, MRIs, this test and that test, this medication or this surgery or that treatment. Whatever is the best medical treatment available for your sickness is, apply that to your sickness.
As Elders, one of the questions we need to ask is, “What is your medical condition? And have you been following the treatment the doctors have prescribed to you?” I think James makes it very clear that God and medicine work in complimentary fashion.
What about the physical act of anointing with oil? Where elders gather around a person and place some olive oil on the person’s forehead and pray for them? If you ask the elders of Genesis Church to come and pray over you and physically anoint you with oil, we will do that. We see this as act and demonstration of your faith in God’s healing power and your obedience to seek and apply the best medical practices available to you.
What does God promise to do?
So, what does God promise to do? You are getting the best medical care possible, you have called for the elders of the church to pray over you. Now what? What does God promise to do? He promises to do three things: James says that God will “heal the sick” and “the Lord will make the person well” and if there are sins involved he will “be forgiven.”
Is this some kind of magical treatment that happens 100% of the time? So if you are sick, just call for the Elders of the church and it will always happen this way? No. Because of the conditions with this. This takes us to the next question.
What conditions qualify God’s promise to heal?
What conditions qualify God’s promise to heal?
One condition is that it must be “in the name of the Lord” – This phrase has to do with two things, the Lord’s authority and the Lord’s will. The word “name” refers to the Lord’s character, nature, desire, and will. When you are praying “in the name of the Lord” you are praying in His authority according to His will. It may be your will and your desire to see this person healed, but it may not be God’s desire at this time because there is something else going on here. It could be a sickness for discipline, a sickness for God’s glory later on, or a sickness to take the person on. You cannot put God in a box and demand God do something simply because you say the phrase “in the name of the Lord.”
Its okay not to know God’s will and to pray “if it is your will” about something. To pray “if it’s your will” is not a lack of faith. Jesus prayed this way when He said, “Father, if it’s your will remove this cup from me,” when He was referring to the time He was about to face the crucifixion.
A second condition is the “prayer offered in faith” – This is referring to godly people praying in faith for God to heal the person. They believe with all their heart that God can heal and wants to heal. However, they do not know the purpose of the sickness nor do they know God’s will on the healing. They are simply convinced and have no doubt about God’s ability to heal. If those who are praying are not praying like this, the healing will not come.
A third condition is “if you have committed any sin, you will be forgiven” – In this case, James is saying, if this is a sickness related to a sin and you confess it, repent of it then you will experience forgiveness. When you are seeking God’s healing, evaluate your life about the sins in your life. Is there something going on in your life that would hinder God from answering this prayer for healing if it’s God’s desire to heal you.
The conditions for this prayer of healing to be answered are:
- The prayer must be “in the name of the Lord” in His power and according to His will.
- The prayer must be “offered in faith.” Those praying must believe that God can heal.
- The prayer must be accompanied by repentance, if needed.
Three Biblical Models of Healing
Before we wrap up our time together let me give you three Biblical models of healing. This is three ways God heals. They are all very different.
The intervention of God (Acts 3:1-9)
The first one is the intervention of God. This is usually what comes to our mind when we think of God’s healing power. The intervention of God is where God intervenes with an instant miracle of healing in the name of Jesus – the cripple walk, the blind see, and demons flee. If you are not careful, you can read the Bible and think that when God heals it only comes in the form of miracles. Can God still do that? Yes. Does God still do that? Yes. Is that the predominate way that God heals people? No. It is one way that God can choose to heal.
The interaction of God (1 Timothy 5:23)
The second model of healing is the interaction of God. Now, Paul, who God used to perform many miracles wrote to his friend Timothy who was a godly man and a leader in one of the churches and said, “Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often” (1 Tim. 5:23, NLT). Now wait a minute, this is the first century. God is doing lots of miracles and why didn’t Paul just say, “Timothy, in the name and authority of our Lord Jesus Christ be healed from this stomach illness”? Because it’s not always God’s will to perform a miracle.
Here Paul is really saying to Timothy, “Timothy, your healing will come from changing your diet.” Some healing is about changing what you eat, drink, and exercise and medical treatment. It comes from a healthy lifestyle, not a miracle. God designed your body that way.
What you have is an interaction of God, diet, exercise, and medicine. Again, God designed your body to respond and heal itself when it’s properly taken care of. Sometimes our healing comes not from a miracle, but from the proper management of the body God has given to us. I don’t think God gets enough credit from that kind of healing.
The enabling of God (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
The third type of healing is the enabling of God. This is seen in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul had what he called a “thorn in the flesh” which in his own words was “a messenger from Satan.” Paul says he begged the Lord three times to remove this thorn in the flesh. Three times Paul pleaded with God to deliver him and heal him of this “thorn in the flesh.” God told him no and instead God said to Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” In other words, “I’m not going to heal you of this, but I will enable you to live through it in such a way as to bring Me glory and I’m going to use it to keep you humble.”
Sometimes it’s not God’s will to intervene, sometimes it’s not God’s will to interact, but sometimes it’s His will to enable.
- The Elders want to pray for you. If you are facing something that you consider is a serious illness we are making ourselves available to apply James 5 to your situation. Just ask us.
- The Believers want to pray for you. We have a prayer list that we publish in the newsletter and people pray over that list regularly each week. Use that opportunity. Let others pray for you.
If you are needing someone to talk to about becoming a follower of Jesus, about what you have heard, or something else we have people who are available for you today.