The Nature of Divine Trust in the Redemption of the Body
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God…. We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:18-21,23)
Now man was created a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:4-5; Hebrews 2:6-7), because he has a mortal body made of the dust of the earth. As long as he stayed in the Garden of Eden and was able to eat of the Tree of Life, this mortal body was sustained indefinitely. But as a result of the fall of mankind, death (both spiritual and physical) came, and man was sentenced to a life of toil, ending in physical death. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:19) Had man been allowed to stay in the Garden of Eden after he sinned, then he would have had access to the Tree of Life and been immortal (Genesis 3:22-24), so he was expelled and sentenced to toil, suffering, sickness, and death. God knew that man would fall, and He had already devised a way of redemption and restoration of both soul and body from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:20). He began to prepare man for the coming of the Redeemer, first giving him a promise (Genesis 3:15), then progressively educating and preparing mankind with a foundation for faith in Christ (Galatians 3:24-25). As the poet said,
“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”*
The record and depth of God’s dealings with man as portrayed in the scriptures is comprehensive and complete. As Brother Peter said by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:3) The crowning touch of what God has provided for us is in the gift of His Son, both in His life and in His death. Everything necessary for soul and body is included in our Lord’s atonement for us and His ongoing intercession for us. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” (Ps. 103:2-3) God’s healing plan for the soul is perfect and includes a Guide, even the Holy Ghost, to accompany us in the days of our flesh. God’s healing plan for the body is perfectly suited for our needs in the days of our flesh, too. The soul can be perfectly restored to the same purity that Adam and Eve from creation to the fall. The redemption of the body will be completely accomplished at the resurrection, when this corruptible will have put on incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:53-54).
This article is about the promise of bodily perfection in the resurrection and the present forerunner of that perfection in the healing provisions that God has made for the body in this current time. For He is “the Lord that healeth thee.” (Exodus 15:26) We want to discuss God’s healing plan for our bodies, Satan’s substitutions and deceptions for that plan, and the balance between human understanding and faith in God.
With respect to the immortality of our bodies, we are in a similar position to the saints of the Old Testament. They trusted God for the salvation of their souls, yet they were not privileged to experience the power and grace that were made available by the better Sacrifice. It was the best deliverance of the soul available then, but vastly inferior to the new heart possible in the New Testament. They longed for it and desired to look into it as well as experience it, but they could not (Luke 10:23-24; Hebrews 11:39-40). We of the New Testament spiritual deliverance are in the same position to those who will be resurrected unto the resurrection of life and of Jesus, who is the firstfruits of them that sleep. Just as a child of God of the Old Testament who found New Testament salvation was amazed at the difference, so we also will be amazed when our corruptible is made incorruptible. And just as the Old Testament brethren experienced tastes of that which was to come, even so we also experience tastes of what God can and will do with these imperfect bodies now. This is what we generally call divine healing, to distinguish it from other attempts to help the body when afflicted, but it would be more accurate to call it divine trust.
Now the Bible specifically tells us that “no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it.” (Ephesians 5:29) There are those who think that spirituality consists of abusing and hating their flesh, but they are deceived. Their very abuse is yet another function of that flesh, being a voluntary humility and neglecting of the body (Colossians 2:18,23). There are those who teach and hold that spirituality consists of a perfect indifference to the body and its needs, but that, too, contradicts the scripture quoted above.
We accept the truth of Ephesians 5:29, just as it is stated. Our flesh is dear to us. (The flesh of Jesus was dear to Him.) God made us that way. And this presents us with a spiritual problem, for being twofold beings, there is cross purpose between the earthly part of us (our bodies) and the spiritual part of us (our souls). This conflict is expressed in many scriptural texts.
“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
This scripture was penned by divine inspiration by a man who was wholly sanctified. As with all of us (except for Jesus), he was born with a corrupted nature, that predisposes the soul to the appetites of the body, the natural flesh. Man was created without that fleshly corruption in his spirit, but he became tainted and his offspring were under sentence of defilement as a result of his sin (Romans 5:14; Genesis 1:26-27; 5:3). In the New Testament, a way was made so that this defilement could be purged away, and Brother Paul had experienced the sanctifying power of God, the purging that he might bring forth more fruit; and yet he still had a body, a natural flesh, possessing appetites and desires that could bring him to sin again. But he testified that he kept victory over the body, lest he should be a castaway.
“I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Please note that the spiritual life, a life of victory, is now, in the flesh. Salvation gives us power over our own bodies by faith in the Son of God.
Not only does salvation gives us power over our own bodies to say “No!” and “Thou shalt not!” but God takes the subjection of our flesh to our spirit and uses the conflict to refine the soul and draw us closer to Him. We are appointed to have bodies while in this world, and “all things [including this] work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Brother David tells us, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” (Psalm 119:67) And he adds in the next verse, “Thou art good, and doest good.” (Psalm 119:68) We might say that God is too good not to afflict us. He knows the importance of it. We won’t make heaven without it, dear saints. All that are over there have come through great tribulation (Revelation 7:14), and that tribulation involved their flesh, whether in sickness or persecution or death. Again, Brother Paul says, “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” (1 Thessalonians 3:3)
Many a person has gotten saved because God reached him in his afflictions, and many a person has stayed saved because of his afflictions. Eliphaz observed that, “man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7) He was right about that; God has ordained that we are born unto trouble. We are in a place of trouble, in a body of trouble, but that trouble is appointed to us for our good, if we will take it right. For God has appointed us mercy and healing in our trouble. He is “the Lord that healeth thee.” (Exodus 15:26)
It is the normal nature of mankind to evade the true meaning of life, to attempt to have nothing (or as little as possible) to do with their Creator as they can. They are like Jonah, fleeing from the presence of God, booking passage on whatever ship they can find. “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” (Jonah 1:3) He just wanted to get away from the presence of the Lord. He paid the fare (a high one, no doubt) to try to escape the presence of the Lord. To put it in today’s words, he said to God, “Why don’t you just leave me alone?” And most men are just like this. They don’t want God intimately involved with them. They resent what they view as His intrustions. They just want to do what they want to do. If it was up to them, they would never be sick a day in their life, nor would they ever have any trouble in the flesh.
I am sorry to say that a lot of professing Christians are like this, too. Sister Hannah Smith tells us about two of them in The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life:
A Christian who was in a great deal of trouble was recounting to another Christian the various efforts he had made to find deliverance, and concluded by saying, “But it has all been in vain, and there is literally nothing left for me to do now but to trust the Lord.”
“Alas!” exclaimed his friend in a tone of the deepest commiseration, as though no greater risk were possible—“Alas! has it come to that?”
[Hannah W. Smith; The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life]
The attitude of those who “trust the Lord” (?) like this, could be summed up as having as little to do with God as possible. He is the last resort. He will not abide by human desires, so to speak. They really don’t wish to have anything more to do with Him than is unavoidable, but when they are in serious trouble, then they want Him to do as they wish. If He doesn’t answer prayer then, bitterness and unthankfulness are manifested.
How different this all is from really trusting God! From leaning on His breast. From trusting His wisdom as well as His power. His love as well as His unerring accuracy in weighing out what we need, regardless of the inconvenience, pain, or sorrow that it brings.
“It is blessed to serve Him and do His good will,
For so precious to me is His love;
Let my talents and time all be given to Him,
Till He calls me to meet Him above.”*
Truly, “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself.” (Hosea 10:1) As long as we attempt to serve God out of self-advantage, instead of real love for Him, then we are but an empty vine. We get nothing out of our afflictions and trials. They work us, instead of us (with God) working them. In that sad, empty state of heart, Satan’s lie about Job is only too true of the empty vines of Israel. “Doth Job fear God for nought?” (Job 1:9) Job was not an empty vine, for he truly loved God. When God permitted him to be afflicted within God-defined limits with all that the wrath of hell could devise, he said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) His wife (an empty vine) did not take the trial so well. Bitterness and despair were her lot. She was not able to worship in her affliction, as her husband was. But the man of God said, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)
Here then is the foundation of trust in God: a perfect resignation to the will of God, a complete resting in the hand of God. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15) It is to say, “God knows what He is doing. I know He loves me. No matter how bad it gets; no matter how much my flesh cries for relief, I will trust and not be afraid. ‘He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.’ (Job 23:10)” God does not look at suffering as we do, but it is our privilege to have our outlook changed, until we see as He sees in our trials. Then, with the apostle, we can say, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
This understanding that God knows best flies in the face of all fleshly wisdom. Our natural understanding would have us believe that we would be better off to never be sick a day in our life, that it would be better if we would always have enough money, and really, it would be just fine if things would always go well with us. The poet confessed:
“Had I the choosing of my pathway,
In blindness I should go astray,
And wander far away in darkness,
Nor reach that land of endless day.”*
And with this, the Word of God tells us, “For now we see through a glass, darkly.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly.” (Romans 8:20) God has not promised us that we will not have trouble (John 16:33), but He has a way through our troubles that will accomplish things in our lives. It means a great deal to take God’s way through our afflictions and problems. It means a great deal to embrace our trials as from the Lord and let the Holy Ghost teach us how to get the good from the battle—how to work the trial (for the good), rather than the trial working us.
It is fleshly human nature to avoid problems, especially by exercising good sense and discipline. (And just how much good would we get out of not exercising good sense and discipline—being buffeted for our faults, as it were? [1 Peter 2:20]) It is a natural trait of mankind to esteem those who so manage their health, their income and expenses, and their relationships with others so as to avoid trouble. But God is wiser than man and knows when we need to be afflicted. He knows how to get our attention and get it fast, too. He knows how long we should pray in our afflictions without apparent result—how long we should be tried. God knows what we should learn in each trial, and He knows what will happen to us if we are not tried, and what will happen if we are tried and do not get the good out of the trial.
“When I thought I needed sunshine,
The Lord sent a rain;
When I thought I needed healing,
I had my share of pain.
I’ve been looking for a mountaintop,
But a valley’s all I see—
Jesus always seems to know
Exactly what I need.”
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
When we began to lose the attitude of trust in God—divine trust—we are inclined to take things into our own hands and feel that God should listen to us and do as we see best about our afflictions. We began to feel entitled to answers to our prayers, and self-pity begans to creep into our attitude when God doesn’t answer as much or in the way that God has appointed. Like the man seeking healing from leprosy (2 Kings 5:11-12), our minds and prayers fill up with fleshly-originated expectations, rather than Holy Ghost inspired faith. With respect to the healing of our bodies, we slip from divine trust into an attitude of divine healing, and, unless we get help, the result is that this turns into less trust toward God and more trust in some of the various ways of men. This is what happens to people who attempt to trust God all the way with their bodies, their finances, and their relationships with others, unless they are blessed by the Spirit of God to get the good out of their afflictions. The divine trust turns into a code; such as, “trusting God for our bodies means staying away from the medical profession”; or, “if you are college-educated and qualified for a career in business, you will not be able to trust the Lord for your means as you should.” People who have strong faith do not divide it between the hands of men and God, and people who live completely consecrated, dedicated lives are distinguished by their simplicity and lack of entanglement in the affairs of this life, but there is far more to it than just these things.
Every trial is designed by God to draw us closer to Him. If you are not drawn closer to God and enabled to worship Him in your trial, you are not getting all out of the trial that God has appointed for you.
The Outward Form of Trusting
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:5)
This form of godliness involves much more than trusting God for our afflictions. It is comprehensive in every direction, but it can easily be seen that any attempt to serve God without a complete consecration to do His will and let Him have His way with us will result in “denying the power thereof.”
I sat once in an auditorium at a private church school, where a teacher was having the children act out a story from the Bible. When the story narrative came to where Jesus healed the sufferer, the teacher hesitated. She knew that the church there had no standard of trusting God exclusively for their bodies, yet she also knew that the Bible informs us that He healed. Finally she said, “Then Jesus said, ‘Take him to the doctor!’ ” I was very grieved. I told the Lord I was sorry to have to witness that. This was not even the form of trusting God.
I sat in campmeeting after campmeeting in a certain place where one day of the meeting was put aside for special fasting and prayer for the sick. At a certain time, in a “healing service,” people would come up to be anointed according to James 5:14-15. This was the tradition. (Back in the distant past, God had blessed the people greatly and healed many. I have heard reports of abandoned crutches, wheelchairs, etc., that were left at different meetings. Those who brought those things abandoned them because they did not need them any more.) This tradition of a healing service was fervently defended by the pastor, but it was extremely rare for anyone to testify to being healed. They would not drop the custom and go farther down the road of no blessing, but they did not get much from God, either. I lived in that place for a while, and it was a fact that most of the people in that congregation did not trust God exclusively. There was a stigma on going to the doctor, so they didn’t say much about it. If they were in a serious predicament, then they typically went, with some exceptions. Most of the rest doctored themselves. Scarcely anyone was getting any blessing out of their afflictions. They had long ago lost divine trust, and they were in the process of losing divine healing, too. They had lost divine trust in other areas of their lives, too, and pretty much were led by human wisdom, tradition, and conditioning.
Anything less than perfect trust in God is a denial of Him. We see that an attempt to turn the promises and ability of God to our own ends is simply regarding God as a vending machine. It is to say that He is there for our convenience and need, while we largely carry on as fleshly wisdom doth suggest. This doesn’t work. God won’t honor it. It leads to skepticism and unbelief. It leads to fear and anxiety, instead of confidence and expectation. It leads to a form of godliness, lip service to trust, but destroys the humility and consecration to let God lead and plan and guide as He sees fit. This, in turn, denies the mighty power of God. He would like to heal; He would like to work miracles, but we do not trust Him in a way that lets Him work as He wants to work.
In the Old Testament, God worked with the people of Israel in their physical protection from other nations. He promised them, “The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face.” (Deuteronomy 28:7) “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Joshua 1:5) They were surrounded by enemies to their national security, but they were promised protection and help, if they would serve God with all their heart. “But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.” (Deuteronomy 4:29-31) As long as they kept His covenant with them, He did just what He had promised, and they were blessed.
The sad record is that Israel did not keep the covenant with God, so He allowed them to be taken over by their enemies. When they humbled themselves and returned to Him, then He would deliver them again. After a time had passed of this backsliding and returning cycle, they began to get more sophisticated about things. They began to seek other nations around them to help them. Naturally, they put their trust in that; otherwise they wouldn’t have made an affinity with them in the first place. Their trust in other things was a denial of God, His promises, and His ability to help them on His terms.
We have a scriptural record of one of the kings who sought out the help of man. “And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians.” (2 Chronicles 16:12) Here is another case of either/or. It was a matter of trusting God or the physicians. Why did Asa not seek the Lord? He had in the past. Well, he backslid from the standard of trusting God that he had once had. He didn’t backslide over the afflictions with his feet. He stopped trusting God in another matter before that. “And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the Lord, he delivered them into thine hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars. Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time.” (2 Chronicles 16:7-10)
At one time, Asa had trusted God completely, when the Ethiopians and the Lubims came against him with very many chariots and horsemen. He relied on the Lord, and God delivered him. But then, Asa failed to trust God completely. “Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God.” No doubt, Asa would have said that he was trusting God, too. He certainly didn’t see it as either the king of Syria or God. But that is how the Lord saw it. God wants all our trust. This is plain. When Asa trusted God completely, God helped him. When Asa didn’t trust God completely, then God regarded anything less than perfect trust as a denial of Him. This is borne out by what happened in Asa’s soul. When the seer told him the truth, Asa got mad and put the man of God in prison. He also oppressed some of the people at the same time. We see that something happens inside people when they do not totally trust God, and that something is not good. After Asa didn’t trust the Lord with the matter of the king of Syria, he just went on with a life of less-than-trust in God, and in the end, he died that way, trusting the physicians (in vain) and not relying on God. Surely, we cannot serve two masters. They are different. To serve one is not to serve the other. We cannot trust God and the physicians. They are not workers together with God.
“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5) “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” (Jeremiah 17:7) Notice again the contrast. Trusting in man and trusting in God are two different things. One brings a curse from God; the other brings a blessing. You may say, “Well, this only applies to trusting the Lord with respect to military alliances, etc.” It certainly includes that. It also is a general principle that applies to all trusting in the Lord.
Eventually, Israel got so far away from God that they were just like the nations around them that knew not God. This is what happens when people start dividing their trust between God and man. Their allegiances shift, and eventually the predominant inclination in them comes out on top. Christians that attempt to trust God and man will end up trusting man, unless they get help.
We are surrounded with germs and other enemies to our bodily health and well-being. We are outnumbered and outmatched. We can and do get into considerable trouble. A lot of things can and do go wrong. It is really something to trust God fully, to serve Him with all the heart, not to lean to our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-8).
The Medical Profession
Many people acknowledge that there is something fundamentally wrong with the medical profession. Even professionals in that system are afraid of it in its excesses. I read of a doctor who observed the attempts of the doctors to keep people alive when they were practically living vegetables, and he tried his best to arrange things so that he wouldn’t end up like that. When he came to that, they got him, too, in spite of all his attempts. The right-to-die movement is a backlash against these things.
It would be incorrect to say that the medical profession doesn’t do any good. There was a time when it could be truthfully observed, “If all the medicine in the world was thrown into the ocean, it would be better for mankind, but worse for the fishes.” That is no longer so. We live in a time when knowledge has been increased, and this knowledge makes a great difference in the treatment of disease and affliction of the body. The medical profession is pretty good, on the whole, at patching up the body, but they totally ignore the soul. It is completely lopsided. It completely ignores God’s healing plan, which is comprehensive, and yields spiritual benefits, social benefits, and physical benefits.
Suppose an afflicted man went to the doctor, and the doctor said, “I know what’s wrong with you in your body. You are suffering from _____. But I’ve been praying about your case, and I’m not certain it is time to treat you yet. You need to forgive another man who has done you wrong, and you need to soften and humble, so you can be a better husband to your wife.” We all know that it doesn’t work that way, nor would the patients stand for it. The medical profession is man’s answer to the the creature (us) being made subject to vanity, not willingly. And it is an answer that ignores God’s purposes and dealings with us. I am sure there are some God-fearing doctors and nurses, but I am equally sure that the God-fearing attitude is completely at cross-purposes with the general spirit and attitude of the medical profession and most of its patients.
“Well,” you might say, “perhaps it is better than you think.” No, it is worse than you think. Whether you attempt to be your own medical profession and doctor yourself, or you trust the trained man or woman in the medical profession, you run squarely into this truth: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Elijah ran headlong into this truth when he gave way to despair when threatened by Jezebel. He told God, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life,” (1 Kings 19:4) but he was wrong. His thoughts were not God’s thoughts. It wasn’t time for him to leave here in God’s scheme of things, but he thought it was. You see, we just don’t know what we are doing. We don’t know how to interpret what is happening to us, much less how to treat it or end it. We don’t understand the eternal significance of things very easily, if at all, until God helps us out.
If the medical profession was allowed to figure out a way to make people live for another hundred years, would they not try it? But what would the spiritual ramifications be? Please read Genesis 6:3 and Psalm 90:10. If God twice changed the average duration of man’s existence in the flesh for his spiritual welfare, then what do you think would have happened if God had left this up to us? Beyond any doubt, there is an ambition in man to live forever, and profound indeed is the effect of physical death upon mankind. Do you see the awful arrogance of human wisdom, the fierce independence and rebellion, the willfulness? “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:3) Yet, you, professing Christian, are willing to say, “I think I can trust the accumulation of knowledge and skill (the medical profession) with my bodily needs. I know how to direct my steps.”
False Faith—A Show of Wisdom
Then there is the other side of this. People who would believe that we have no part to play. These folks would have it that if the blood is pumping from a wound, it would be less than faith in God to even apply a bandage. They would tell me that if I have sugar diabetes, to modify my diet is to have less than faith in God. And one should not take vitamins, etc. These folks would eliminate all nursing care, thinking that God would be glorified thereby. Such scriptures as Matthew 6:31 are wrested to contend that we should not use a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7) or follow the admonition of Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23). These excesses, too, do not bring about the blessing that God has for His trusting children.
People under the influence of extreme zeal do things and advocate things that not only don’t bring about a healing from the Lord; they bring a reproach. In truth, their extreme zeal actually hinders God from doing what He would like to do for them. If He touches them in what they are “trusting” Him to do, it would actually be harmful and hurtful to them. There are people obstinately going through the outward steps of trusting God who are not going to get answers to their prayers from Him, for He loves them too much. We knew of one sister who became fixated on the idea that God would only be pleased if she fed her baby with breast milk, and she begged God to help her, for her body would not produce enough of the needed nourishment, and her baby was suffering. God did not answer her prayers, and finally she humbled down and submitted to God. Another sister was determined not to take vitamins or any kind of concentrated food that she would not normally eat, although she was so afflicted that she could not eat normally or get the nourishment that she needed through the usual way. She was actually adding starvation to her affliction and getting weaker all the time. The devil had the advantage of her and had gotten her in a no-win situation. God was withholding answers to her fervent prayers. She thought the determination of her will was faith, but it wasn’t divinely-inspired faith. It took considerable humility for her to back down from her own ideas to where God would bless her and inspire faith. When she did so, God helped her.
There is a balance in using this world, without abusing it (1 Corinthians 7:31), in this matter of bodily healing, as well as in other matters. (One brother got it in his mind that God meant for him to be supported by offerings without working for a living. He was a young minister with a family, and God didn’t do as the young brother expected. He thought he would stay un-entangled [2 Timothy 2:4] by living in this way, but he learned that God has appointed toil. What if God had supported him with offerings? What message would have come out of his life to other young men?) And I can easily lean to excess, or go too far the other way, without divine guidance. That is why divine trust cannot be reduced to a formula, but we must “trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) We need the Spirit of God to teach us how to live. We need what we read of in Isaiah 30:21.
There is something in fleshly human nature that is greatly impressed by the sensational. The dramatic healing. The miraculous change for the better. Resurrections. Miracles. “If I could just see someone definitely, unmistakably healed, then I could have faith,” I have heard different ones say. This is not so. They think it is so. It seems to them that a miracle would have that effect. I am thinking about a dear man who said that every now and then. Eventually, I learned that he had witnessed a miraculous healing! It was unmistakable. It was definite. And it did not make a bit of difference! He kept right on saying that afterwards. If you pinned him down and asked him about that miracle, he still couldn’t have faith. He couldn’t have faith, because he was attempting to bring forth fruit for himself. That living to himself brought forth an empty vine.
The Word of God puts this thought before us: “Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” (John 4:48) I know one person who will not live for God because he does not see signs and wonders. He says that he can’t find anyone who regularly experiences the signs and wonders that he reasons should be normal for those professing the truth. “I don’t want to live saved all by myself,” he states. Why not? Do you not feel your need of being reconciled to God more than that? There is more that hinders him than just that, but it is just as Jesus said. This man has a fixation on signs and wonders (Matthew 16:4).
I am satisfied that God knows when I need a dramatic miracle and when I don’t. I do not experience a dramatic miracle in all my afflictions, but I do get a blessing—I do get the benefits of God’s healing plan. I trust Him to do what should be done. I trust Him for grace to bear whatever He sees fit to allow me to bear.
God’s Healing Plan
There is a certain frame of mind and of heart that must come about before the purposes of God will be satisfied, and those purposes are so crucial to our spiritual welfare and the welfare of others, that God knows that the gain is worth the pain. There is a maturity of both fervency and faith, compassion for others, and a sense of the great love and wisdom of God as we catch the vision of what God is after, and this enables us to pray effectively. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.” (James 5:13) You can see that this praying while afflicted is not just to be healed, but it is fervent, effectual praying that the will of the Lord be accomplished in the affliction. This purpose of the Lord may be simple, or it may be quite involved and take a good bit of time. “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:36) Many, especially those who hold divine healing just as a dry doctrine, think that the following scripture is just matter-of-fact, “Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:14-15) It is not just matter-of-fact; there are profound depths in the words, “the prayer of faith.” The prayer of faith is not a prayer of man’s devising; it is a dictated prayer. Men cannot pray it of their own accord; it must be inspired of the Holy Ghost. He will not inspire it until the purposes of God are realized. When the Holy Spirit inspires the prayer of faith, then the following scripture is fulfilled: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) “According to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Ephesians 1:11) A careful reading of the scriptures in James that follow the fourteenth and fifteenth verses will instruct us in the alignment that God wants us to make with His will and purposes. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) Also read verses 17-18.
It is glorious, indeed, to experience that marvelous welling-up of faith that comes when we are right in sync with the will and purpose of God about a specific petition. We can say from experience that is impossible to keep asking after that inspiration of faith comes. Petitioning is turned to praise. My wife and I, a minister, and another brother watched in awe as our little girl, who had been almost in a coma for quite a while, with her little chest heaving and struggling for breath, was touched instantly by the power of God and slid off of her mother’s lap and began to play. She was just as well as she could ever be, although a moment before, she was in a deadly fight with affliction. Both my wife and myself were anointed to pray the prayer of faith, and suddenly it all came together, and we could no longer ask—it was turned to praise. Well do I remember the irresistible surge of pure confidence that God heard and was going to heal her! It was impossible to keep on asking for healing. One knew it was done, and in a twinkling, it was done. All the benefits of God’s healing plan, I say, all, were ours at that moment and afterwards.
Now, we do not know how to pray as we ought (Romans 8:26), and God deals and works with us as He sees best in His mercy and love, so many receive the benefits of God’s healing plan without understanding just what is going on. I am persuaded that He wants us to understand more than we do, and to whole-heartedly cooperate, too.
If God meant for us to all be healthy and unafflicted all the time, He could certainly accomplish it, but that is not His plan. The glory that fills the soul and the incredible healing power of God produce an awe in all who are privileged to experience it, and as our reaction is as is recorded in Mark 7:37, “and were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well.” We read of seasons of faith and healing, such as is written in Acts 5:15-16, where they brought all the vexed and sick out for healing, and how they were all healed, every one, and we get the impression that the gospel can bring about the abolition of all human suffering. Like the people who tried to make Jesus king so that He could miraculously feed them and solve all their problems (John 6:14-15), we become elated and get things out of perspective. It takes a lot of grace to handle much in the way of miracles. There is more to it than the miracles. We might say that it takes an even greater miracle to handle the divine touch. To see how it fits in the overall scheme of things that God is doing. To not get carried away with a zeal that is not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2). It may seem strange to speak of this when the abiding problem of our time is unbelief and hindered faith with little or no results, but it is so. Many prayers to God for healing are hindered because the desires of the heart prompt an asking that is amiss. The petition just doesn’t fit with the over-all purpose of the Almighty (James 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15). And so we come to realize that, in the mind of God, all His divine healing of the body, in its very nature, is temporary. It is temporary, even if the affliction never comes back on us, for the body itself is temporary in its corruptible state.
“Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.” (Luke 7:12-15) This was a marvelous miracle, was it not? But is was temporary. Eventually, according to the appointment of God for him (Hebrews 9:27), the man died again, and he is awaiting the general resurrection right now, along with all the rest of the departed, including his mother and everyone else present at his first physical resurrection. We readily see that the marvelous touch of God, with all the benefits that accrued to his mother and others, was simply a foretaste of immortality, a temporary overriding of the subjection of the creature to vanity. Its main value is not the value to the physical body, but to the eternal nature of man, both individually and collectively.
(In this sense, it is like the forgiveness that God gave men for their sins in the Old Testament. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity.” (Psalm 32:1-2) That blessing was just as real to the Old Testament saint as is the blessing of our healing to our body now. And just as the sin principle was not removed in the Old Testament, for the blood of bulls and goats could not purge away sin [Hebrews 10:4], so the decree of the vanity of our flesh is not removed in the New Testament when we are healed in the body.)
With this thought of the transient nature of God’s blessings to the body, we come face to face with one of life’s great lessons from the hand of God. It is not what happens to us in life that matters so much; it is how we take it. Even miracles and healings from the hand of God can be taken wrongly and actually do us damage. We read of the leper’s healing in Mark 1:40-45. He came very humbly to Jesus and was inspired with faith in God and was healed. But Jesus added some commandments to his healing. “And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” (Mark 1:43-44) We are sorry to read that he did not keep this charge from the Lord, but went out “and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter.” (Mark 1:45) This had several consequences, none good. We cannot disobey Jesus without great damage to our soul. We do not read that his leprosy came back on him, but we are quite confident that his disobedience was not good for him. Mark relates another example of this (Mark 7:32-37). God is not only hindered from blessing as He would like to bless by a lack of faith (Matthew 13:58), but by this aftereffect. If God tells you not to tell what He does for you, you had better not tell. If God tells you to tell, you had better tell. There is more to it than just the healing. A great number would value their healing more than they would value their Healer, so they are not healed. They ask amiss.
When God didn’t heal Brother Paul of an affliction (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), he humbled himself and continued to seek until he got an answer. (It is our privilege to always get an answer [Matthew 7:8].) That answer was that God meant for him to bear that affliction. At that point, Brother Paul humbled his heart, and brought his will (by grace) into submission to God’s will and purpose. Then he testified, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) His blessing in submission was so great that he “took pleasure” in the unpleasant. It took just as much all-sufficient grace for Paul to take pleasure in his infirmities as it took for him to trust God to heal him. How pliable was the brother in God’s hands! How easily shaped and molded to the purposes of God! The brother readily saw and testified that the purposes of God in the afflictions were the same methodology that God used in his reproaches, necessities, and persecutions. He said earlier in the same letter, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us afar more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) As the poet said,
But Thou art making me, I thank Thee, Sire.
What Thou hast done and doest, Thou knowest well,
And I will help Thee: gently in Thy fire
I will lie burning; on Thy potter’s wheel
I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel;
Thy grace shall be enough to quell,
And growing strength perfect, through weakness dire.
I have not knowledge, wisdom, insight, thought,
Nor understanding, fit to justify
Thee in Thy work, O Perfect! Thou hast brought
Me up to this; and lo! what Thou hast wrought,
I cannot comprehend. But I can cry,
“O enemy, the Maker hath not done;
One day thou shalt behold, and from the sight shalt run!”
Thou workest perfectly. And if it seem
Some things are not so well, ’tis but because
They are too loving deep, too lofty wise,
For me, poor child, to understand their laws.
My highest wisdom, half is but a dream;
My love runs helpless like a falling stream;
Thy good embraces ill, and lo! its illness dies.
[George MacDonald; The Diary of an Old Soul, “October”]
The Bible gives us a wonderful and exhaustive record of healings from God of all kinds. There is a rich source of understanding available to be interpreted to us by the Holy Ghost. Verily, it contains everything we need to get to the place that God has for us so that we might obtain all that we need. There are (1) dramatic miracles in the records, and there are (2) gradual changes, and there are (3) records of sufficient grace to bear things.
Not much is said about Job’s healing. The record focuses on the spiritual benefits. A great amount of detail is given to us about the wisdom of men which was used by Job’s friends (?), delving into things which they did not understand, and the damage it did them. Not much is said about his wife—even whether she even got any help.
There are other “glory grabbers” that hinder our faith and frustrate God. If there is a disposition to give the glory to people… our church… our ministry; God will not give His glory to another.
The Redemption of the Body
There is coming a time when the sorrows and cares of this life will only bring a little smile of remembrance to those who are accepted by Him at the end of this life. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) And, after the resurrection, that same body that was used as an instrument of instruction and tempering through suffering will be ours again, and we will know as we are known. But, oh, how changed! The corruptible will be made incorruptible. The redemption of the body will be complete.
Those who have gone on into glory before us can see the entire subject in perspective. Do you think for a moment that they regret their suffering in this life? Would they take matters into their own hands if they had it to do over again? Can you hear them saying “Amen” to this scripture? “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Was it not worth it? “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (James 5:11)
Beloved, God has a healing plan. It is infinitely superior to the healing plans of men. It addresses all the needs of mankind: physical, spiritual, and socially. It is given for specific purposes for this time side of eternity and offers tastes of a promise that will be gloriously fulfilled at the resurrection.
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:10-12)
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” (Philippians 3:13-15)
We pray that all of God’s children will experience the blessings that come in pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.