Sometimes Yes – Sometimes No ?

We’ve all heard the claim, and have probably said it ourselves at one time or another:
“God always answers prayer, but sometimes He answers ‘yes’ and other times He answers ‘no’.”

It’s a convenient response to justify why someone appeared not to receive what they had prayed for.

But is that statement based on God’s word or man’s tradition?

Is it true or false?

What does scripture say?

 

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matt 21) NIV

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.(Mark 11)NIV

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it (John 14) NIV

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15) NIV

whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you (John 15) NIV

Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name (John 16) NIV

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us —whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him, (1 John 5)NIV

If it was possible I’d highlight all of the following quote with vibrant flashing text, in the boldest print possible.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Cor 1) NIV

Do any of the above give, or even hint at, the possibility of a ‘No’ answer from God?

Not that I can see, and the final quote specifically states that ALL of God’s promises come with a guaranteed YES! – with no hint of a possible ‘no’.

But there are some things I’d like to point out.
There are conditions to all of the statements above.

1) The reference from 2 Cor refers to God’s PROMISES, so if God hasn’t promised something, His ‘yes’ isn’t necessarily guaranteed.

2) Those in John 15 are dependant on an IF being fulfilled, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you”.

3) All of the others from the gospels have the condition of BELIEVING.

The 1 John reference explains on an important aspect of our ability to believe. Our faith needs a foundation. We need to know God’s will regarding a matter before we can genuinely believe He will give us what we ask.

“If we ask anything according to His will He hears us…”

“If we know that HE hears us…”

In other words, if we know we are asking according to His will, “we know that we have what we asked of Him”

So if it seems we aren’t getting our prayers answer, is God really giving a no answer?

Or is it more likely that we’ve failed to fulfil the conditions He has established related to prayer?

 

 

Foundation of Faith: God’s Word And His Will

My recent writings have made it clear that I’ve been pursuing a very personal journey of faith building. The reasons that journey became necessary have been covered in what I’ve written recently. (See my testimony posts).

The first part of that journey was surprisingly easy: to find a BIBLICAL foundation establishing God’s will regarding healing. I thought I’d have a harder task than I experienced.

God’s will regarding healing couldn’t have been made more obvious.

It IS His will for His people to live in health.

The importance of that can’t be emphasised enough. By ignoring it, or worse rejecting it, member’s of Christ’s body have been robbed of their health and even their lives, being deceived into thinking there was something noble in suffering sickness; that suffering their illness was for God’s glory.

God gets no glory from His children being hampered by sickness, especially when He’s made it so clear that He wants them healthy and able to serve as workers in His harvest field.

What I’ve written throughout my recent articles hasn’t been intended as a be-all and end-all study of healing.
My intent was to discover the very basic truth of God’s will, not necessarily how we are to obtain healing or how to lead others to healing.
It is futile to venture into the territory of receiving and imparting healing without establishing a foundational understanding of God’s willingness to heal.

Without knowledge of God’s will, anything we pray is merely a shot in the dark, hoping for results that we have no assurance of obtaining. And scripture makes it clear that we need to BELIEVE if we are to receive – vague hopeful prayers don’t have that same guaranteed outcome of receiving “whatever you ask for in prayer”, given to those prayed with BELIEF.

Not only has the church been robbed of health and life, its witness and message have also been compromised. While allowing ourselves to be denied the health God wants His children to “enjoy” – we also deny a very important aspect of the gospel we are supposed to be sharing, in word and deed, with the world.

The ministry of Jesus, the apostles and the early church was not a matter of word only.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Cor 2) NIV

…our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. (1 Thess 1) NIV

The public preaching of the gospel was almost always accompanied by the healing of the sick.

While the initial motivation for starting this healing journey had a significant personal emphasis – being a literal battle for my own life – the ramifications are significantly broader than my own situation.

 

Paul’s Thorn Again

Paul’s thorn in the flesh continues to be raised as an argument against it always being God’s desire to heal.

I share the following video from David Servant and follow up with a repost of an article I wrote back in 2013, where I suggest that God’s response was not a “no” answer to Paul’s prayer for the thorn to be removed, but a revelation of its purpose, pointing Paul to the way he needed to deal with it – through obtaining and applying grace (which is given to the humble).

Finally, I include an audio version of F.F Bosworth’s chapter on the subject from his book Christ the Healer

(My article from 2013)

A few thoughts about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”.

Despite common assumptions, there is no indication that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a health issue – the scriptures describe it as a messenger (angel) from Satan sent to buffet Paul.

Paul had the understanding that God COULD remove it and would possibly be willing to remove it and therefore was able to ask for it to be removed. Then Paul was open enough to God’s Spirit to seek and hear God’s reason for the non-removal. He didn’t merely assume God wasn’t in the thorn-removal business.

2 Cor 12 spells out the nature of this “thorn in the flesh” and God’s revealed reason for not removing it:

“…because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations [given to Paul], a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Paul’s thorn wasn’t removed because it prevented him from becoming conceited (proud) due to the revelation he’d been given.

God told Paul that His grace was sufficient, but sufficient for what? Sufficient for Paul to endure, or sufficient for Paul to personally resist that messenger from Satan?

An interesting parallel dealing with similar issues of pride, humility and Satanic harassment can be found in James 4:6-7

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

I find a comparison between the two scripture passages suggests a viable answer to my question above about sufficiency.

_____________________________

A reading of F.F. Bosworth’s chapter on Paul’s thorn in the flesh from his book Christ the Healer.

Forgiveness, healing and faith.

In my previous post I asked:

If we can no longer believe in the promise of healing, how can we continue to believe in the forgiveness of sins?

Maybe the answer to that is simple.

With the promise of forgiveness the expected evidence of the benefit is in the future. With nothing here and now to convince us it’s not valid, as long as we trust the giver, it’s easy to believe the promise.

However, healing is different. The effects of illness are there to be seen, felt and experienced, and having them remain after prayer easily convinces us that healing hasn’t taken place.

While we are able to accept forgiveness without needing any experienced proof, we don’t view healing in the same way. If signs of an illness remain, it is assumed there was no healing given.

But is that the way faith works?
Surely anything seen and experienced requires no faith.
Faith isn’t needed to accept the reality of something obvious, right in front of us.

The bible’s references to faith speak of “evidence of things NOT seen”.

Faith is described as a prerequisite of receiving, not something we experience when, or after, we’ve already received.

“Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you HAVE received it and it will be yours” (Mark 11)

“If you believe you will received whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matt 21)

Believing precedes receiving in these promises of answered prayer. Effective prayer is conditional on believing BEFORE we see evidence of an answer.

But believing that leads to receiving needs to be based on a secure foundation: God’s revealed will (His word), and not merely on human presumption.
And that is why I’ve written so much recently to address God’s will regarding healing.  (The Bible does not leave us in ignorance).

Doubt about God’s will to heal prevents anyone from believing for their healing.

“…the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (James 1)”

Find God’s will FIRST and there will be a secure and confident foundation from which faith can not be shaken.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him”. (1 John 5)

 

Choose Life 2: To Live IS Christ (13)

Sadly, many professing believers selectively reject God’s promises, having been taught to push aside His clearly stated will and obscure it behind convoluted, faithless theologies.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits –
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases (Psalm 103)

Why have we become so disobedient when remembering?
The Psalm commands that we “forget not all his benefits”.

All Christians gladly cling to the promise of the forgiveness of all sins – but many balk at the promise of all diseases being healed.

In previous posts I’ve looked at numerous OT and NT healing references, and have even considered the handful of cases where Paul and his companions experienced sickness. Overall I found the BIBLICAL evidence of God’s will regarding the health of His people is overwhelming.

God wants us to live a full life span
He wants us healthy.
He wants to heal when health has failed.

But all of those are conditional on our faith.

However, countless years (centuries) of faith-destroying traditions and theologies, have robbed God’s people of an important benefit that we have been told should NOT be forgotten.

If we can no longer believe in the promise of healing, how can we continue to believe in the forgiveness of sins?

Unless the validity of the promised healing ALL our diseases is accepted as equally valid as the promise to forgive ALL our sins, it will be impossible to have the faith required to be healed.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5) NIV

That promise regarding answered prayer highlights an essential requirement – knowledge of God’s will. Without that knowledge we cannot have the confidence to approach Him with our request, fully assured that He will hear us and give us what we ask for.

As Hebrews 11 says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

If we lack confidence and assurance, we cannot act or pray in faith.

…when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1)NIV

Considering the above, how can anyone pray in faith for healing without first being convinced it is God’s will to heal?
Uncertainty leads to doubt – and therefore a failure of faith.
That uncertainty, instilled by tradition and false theology, exacerbated by the unanswered prayer for healing that false teachings have caused, has robbed many of their health and life.

I do not intend to be one of them and thank the Lord throughout every day for healing.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11) NIV

Does this all seem extreme?
My situation is extreme with no more room for playing it safe. no more room for compromise.
No more time to waste on man’s traditions, theologies, excuses and doubt-filled arguments.
Just time to seek God for HIS truth – which is the only Truth.

Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word (PS 119) NIV

turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body. (Prov 4 NIV)

Choose Life 1: To Live Is Christ (12)

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…

…The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die. (Genesis 2) NIV

God gave Adam a choice between life and death.
Two trees in the middle of the garden. One gave life. The fruit of the other led to death.

God also made it clear that His will was for Adam and Eve to choose life, by His command that they NOT eat the fruit of the tree that would bring them death.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God and chose death instead of life.

Fast forward to the time of Moses, after God freed Israel from the slavery of Egypt.
Just before the surviving Israelites were to enter the Promised Land, Moses gave them a message from God.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life… (Deuteronomy 30) NIV

Effectively God offered the same choice that He had given to Adam and Eve. Between life and death. Both choices were conditional upon obedience to God.
If they continued in obedience, life was promised.
Disobedience would lead to death.

The purpose of life was relationship with God: to love Him, listen to Him, and hold fast to Him. And HE made HIS will totally clear. He wanted them to choose LIFE, and to choose it NOW.

I find it interesting that God prefaces this promise by calling “the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you” – those last two words seem to clearly indicate that God knew that His chosen people would fail to keep the conditions of the promise, and by doing so choose death and curses. God wanted witnesses when His offer of life and blessings was rejected. Witnesses to attest to the fact that it was the people who had failed, it was not God going back on His word.

I mentioned previously, that although this life or death choice was part of the Old Covenant with Israel, and that Covenant was rendered obsolete by the introduction of a New Covenant – the new is based on better promises, and instead of obedience to a law with hundreds of separate requirements, the new covenant and its better promises are entered and obtained through faith. Through believing in Jesus, trusting Him and His word.

Too often Christians try to distance themselves from promises made under the Old Covenant by pushing them into the next life, as if the New Covenant is all about eternity in heaven, and no longer applicable to life on earth now.

Promises of healing? There will be no sickness and disease in heaven.
Promise of life? We’ll have everlasting life after death.

But the promises of abundant life, and everlasting life do not come with a clause delaying their commencement until after death.
Jesus said “whoever lives by believing in me will never die”. Eternal life begins by living a life of faith NOW, not after death. If we don’t enter eternal life now, it will be too late when we are dead.

There is a reason to desire life and health and its no different to the reason why God has always wanted His people to have them, to the extent that HE commanded the choosing of life.

Now Choose life so that you may live and you may love the Lord your God for the Lord is your life.

Or to put it in NT terms:

To Live is Christ

We are also misled if we look to the post-death healing of our bodies instead of believing for health now when we need it.

Some try to give Isaiah 53: 4-5 a spiritualised interpretation, insisting that any healing mentioned has an entirely spiritual, not physical application. They are aided a little by the English bible translators who used the word “suffering” to translate a word that elsewhere is always rendered as “diseases”;

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (NIV)

Compare to the Complete Jewish Bible translation into English

In fact, it was our diseases he bore,
our pains from which he suffered;
yet we regarded him as punished,
stricken and afflicted by God.

But he was wounded because of our crimes,
crushed because of our sins;
the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him,
and by his bruises* we are healed

The latter rendering is later reflected in Matthew’s reference to Isaiah’s prophecy, which makes it clear in more than one way that Isaiah WAS referring to physical, not spiritual healing: not only in the rewording of the prophecy, but also in the events he said the prophecy was fulfilling.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases. (Matt 8)NIV

In my attempt to discover God’s will regarding healing, the finding of a definitive answer was quite easy. Scripture makes His will very plain. We are not left in the dark with nothing to pin our faith to.

God wants His people to be healthy and to live a full life span. His command to choose life (now) is still valid – to enable us to serve Him and to love Him.

I recently read a healing testimony from the early 20th century.
A young man dying from tuberculosis wanted to see his family one last time to say goodbye. Instead he was confronted by a woman who combined selling bibles with preaching the gospel, who told him:

…you are young, you are a Christian, and if you died today, you would go straight to heaven. But I am here to tell you that if you die today it will be the most selfish act you have ever committed. God’s plan is that we should live to be at least three score and ten. What about all the people that God ordained you to reach?

(Christ the Healer, F.F.Bosworth, 2008 ed. Chosen Books p251 – chapter by Bob Bosworth)

He asked the woman to pray for him and was instantly healed. He then lived into his eighties, dying peacefully at home, suffering no sickness, after many decades of preaching the gospel (including healing) all over the world.

I can’t help but compare this testimony to Paul’s conclusion when he considered the alternatives: “to live is Christ, to die is gain”.

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. (Philippians 1) NIV

I am convinced that scripture leaves no room for doubt about God’s desire for our health and life. I have to confess how hard it is for me to understand why so many people are not only ignorant of, or doubtful about, but are actually OPPOSED to the thought that healing remains valid, and would therefore reject any suggestion that God actually wants us to be equipped with health and life.

By declining to accept, believe and obey God’s command “Now choose life”, Christians follow the examples of Adam and Eve, and the people of Israel, choosing the alternative to God’s desire to give life and blessings to His people (i.e. death and curses).