The biblical concept of healing means far more than relief from a set of physical symptoms. It means wholeness of body and spirit. The words healthy, whole, and holy all derive from the same Old English root word.
Jesus asked the man in John 5:6, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (KJV). Many sicknesses are the result of the individual’s attitude or lifestyle:
• Medical scientists maintain that much of our sickness has emotional causes: tensions, fear, sorrow, envy, resentment, hatred, and the like. Physical pains and problems may be real enough, but their causes are rooted in the emotions.
• Lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking, and overeating cause much illness. The lifelong smoker may develop problems such as emphysema, cancer, or high blood pressure.
Alcohol consumption can have devastating consequences, both emotional and physical. Many of these are irreversible because of an ulcerated digestive tract, a destroyed liver, or a damaged brain.
Overeating or chronic nutritional deficiency will also cause bad health.
However, many illnesses are not the result of abuses, dissipation, or emotional problems. Many people are just ill! Jesus, referring to the man born blind, said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3). Among these purely organic diseases are such things as birth defects or genetic illnesses, injuries, and viral or bacterial infections.
Sadly, many people suffer physically from the bad choices of others, such as the victims of violence or of environmental hazards such as chemical waste or second-hand smoke. God offers healing in at least three ways:
God Heals Through the New Birth
When a person becomes a “new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), he or she finds that Jesus can meet every need. Many testify that when they made things right spiritually, and began to live in proper perspective and relationship with God, their illnesses were taken away. The hymn writer William B. Bradbury refers to this new perspective:
“Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee I find. . . . “
Illnesses that result from the anxiety or depression caused by true guilt can be alleviated when true repentance and forgiveness occurs.
God Heals Through the Confession of Sin
Many Christians live miserable, weakened, and often sickly lives because of disobedience and unconfessed sin. Such people can become completely well if they will deal with the sin. The psalmist spoke of God as the one “who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:3–4). As with the healing that can follow initial conversion to Christ, this healing relates to illnesses caused by mental or emotional dysfunction.
God Heals Miraculously, in Keeping with His
The Bible contains many examples of God actually healing people of organic diseases—those with no psychosomatic cause. There is present-day evidence of this as well. However, God does not heal all who call on Him or who are prayed for by others. “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34), but He heals some and not others with a divine selectivity which reflects His own eternal wisdom and will. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8).
This divine selectivity may be seen in the example of Paul, who prayed long for the removal of an affliction (2 Corinthians 12:8–10). God didn’t heal Paul. He did, however, provide grace and strength in the situation. God is trying to teach us that “the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). The glorious will and ways of God came into focus in Paul’s life when he learned that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
None of this, however, should discourage or hinder us from praying in faith for the sick. God may answer our prayer of faith in ways that will amaze us. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is His command. You should be cautious, however, not to promise physical healing as a result of your prayer or the inquirer’s prayer.
1. Reassure the inquirer of God’s love and of His ability to meet all our needs, and that you are happy to share and pray with him or her.
NOTE: Some people tend to describe their ailments at great length. You should be sympathetic and caring, but at an appropriate opportunity take command of the conversation.
2. After the inquirer has explained the problem, say that you would be glad to speak about the matter but you would first like to ask a very important question directly related to the issue: Has he or she ever received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? If not, explain the gospel – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD, followed by Assurance of Salvation – Christian Biblical Counsel: ASSURANCE OF SALVATION – Christian Biblical Counsel: FINDING ASSURANCE OF SALVATION.
3. Now, redirect the conversation to the emotional or physical problem. Is it due, possibly, to habits or excesses such as those mentioned in the “Background”? Some discussion may follow at this point. Help the person to realize that these habits, if involved, might be directly related to the problems. Encourage asking God for help in getting his or her lifestyle under control.
4. Pray with the inquirer for victory over the contributing excesses, if any, as well as for complete restoration to health.
5. If the caller is a Christian, try to determine if the illness is in any way related to a lack of harmony with God’s will and plan for his or her life. Gently ask if there is any anger, bitterness, resentment, or some other unconfessed sin. If so, share “Restoration,” Christian Biblical Counsel: SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION. Emphasize 1 John 1:9 and 2:1. Encourage the inquirer to live in fellowship with Christ, seeking always to glorify Him (1 Corinthians 10:31). Following this, pray earnestly and in faith for healing, according to Matthew 18:19.
6. If the inquirer is a Christian who feels that he or she has been walking in God’s will, go immediately to prayer, claiming God’s promise according to the prayer of faith.
7. Following your handling of any of the above cases, always speak of the peace and completeness which can be experienced as we learn to depend on God’s Word and prayer. These will provide the greatest encouragement in the face of illness or adversity. Offer to help get him or her started in Bible reading and study – Your New Life In Christ Bible Study.
8. Recommend that he or she get involved with a Bible-teaching church. The fellowship, care, and prayers of God’s people are a great strength. And counsel and encouragement from the pastor may be a definite asset.
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18).
“And lest I [Paul] should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9).
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).
“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. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:13–16).
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996