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.

 

Being Transformed: Testimony 9

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12)

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world.”
A simple command, but how seriously is it taken?

Clearly not seriously enough in my case.

We are surrounded by the world. We are in it every day of our lives. Remaining untainted by it is impossible, without taking active measures. We can’t afford to be passive, thinking we’ll remain immune from its effects while casually going with the flow. That’s as likely as staying dry if we are walking into a swimming pool.

While we won’t get noticeably wet at first, (just our feet on the top step), it only needs another step to be taken for our knees to be submerged, and not many more before we find ourselves committed to a full drenching.

Conforming to the pattern of the world is rarely as sudden or intentional as taking a headlong dive into the water. It starts with a dipped toe, then a tentative paddle.

The only prevention is the right kind of change. Transformation. We can’t remain static and expect to escape the effects of the world in which we live.

Paul reveals the MEANS of transformation: the renewal of the mind. Changing the way we think, amending our point of view, to bring us into line with and able to recognise God’s will.

But how do we do that? How is our mind renewed?

Psalm 1 gives a good indication.

Don’t walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers, but delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate on it day and night.

Proverbs 4 echoes the Psalmists instructions.

“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked,
or walk in the way of evildoers.

Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.”

And

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.

But we should not be lulled into the false security that may come with church membership, or the fact we are listening to sermons, or reading Christian books.
While they can sometimes be helpful aids, it is only through a personal connection to God’s word that we’ll get the essential mind-renewal leading to the right kind of transformation.
But it needs more than a regular bible reading plan. Meditating on what is read, BELIEVING it and putting it into action is essential.

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1) NIV

If we deny ourselves that personal, active involvement with scripture, we will inevitably expose our thinking to unhelpful, even dangerous patterns, that may not necessarily have a worldly appearance or flavour. They may even seem to be spiritual, and be endorsed by your church.

So if we want our lives to conform to truth, we need to choose to love the truth, and not be satisfied with anything less.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17) NIV

When to Live is NOT Christ (3): Testimony 8

From my “testimony 7“.

So why has my health failed to such a serious extent?

I allowed far too many other things take priority over obedience to Him and His word.

I prioritised man’s trivia instead of God’s commission.
And the promise of health and a full life is conditional.

Compromise.

It’s a condition that tends to deny its own presence.

I recently came across a statement that seems to get to the heart of the matter in my own life.

“It is essential that we become fascinated, gripped and captivated by the Lord. If not we will struggle with boredom, and our hearts will be vulnerable to pursue other things” (Insurgence by Frank Viola).

Boredom is something I KNOW I suffered. It’s a condition that if treated incorrectly will actually become reinforced and compounded. Remedies are often nothing more than trivial distractions, filling the void with something, anything, to get through the tedium.

I think we all desire purpose, to do something worthwhile in our lives to give some kind of meaning to who we are and what we do. The world increasingly offers alternatives, basically redefining what we understand as having value.

Today our western society revolves around consumption. The whole economic system underpinning society seems to revolve around a thing called “consumer confidence” – what is effectively our ability and willingness to keep spending. Without that confidence national economies struggle. We are encouraged to spend, to accumulate, to buy and replace.

Buy, buy, buy!!!
Consume, consume, consume!!!

More and more the products on offer are transitory, with little (or no) substance: brand names that are all show and no real value;  beauty and grooming services, (I’m always surprised how many manicure places there are in most shopping centres); and entertainment. These days, the latter can be also purchased in a non-material form, all digital, literally having nothing to show for the cost of purchase.

Shopping has become a pastime, a hobby, instead of the way we stock up on life’s necessities. Ongoing, frequent expeditions looking for things to buy, instead of  occasional, planned shopping trips to purchase what is needed at a particular time.

Entertainment (and the purchasing of) became my distraction. Collecting books, DVDs (movies and TV series). Anything to fill those hours after work to avoid taking the drudgery of the office home. Owning them was as much a part of it all as the reading and the watching. Collecting classic Science Fiction films and books: as well as books and DVDs related to military history, crime (fiction and true), literature, Tudor history, Australian history, the space program, astronomy and art…

I wasn’t satisfied with one or two items touching on those topics, I had to have everything I could find. I had to have a complete collection of books or films, many of which remained unread or unwatched as my interest moved to another topic.

Wasted money. Wasted time.
Wasted life.
Pushing aside what was really important.
Increasingly relegating Jesus to the margins of life instead of placing Him at the centre of it.

Of course there were times when He was given priority. In the worst cases that was more out of obligation than anything else, but usually there was a recognition that I needed to do better, needed to seek Him more.
Maintaining this blog always helped to motivate and stimulate my interest, but that by itself was not enough.

I wanted to have that deeper commitment.
I longed for it. But how could I get myself out of the rut I’d been digging?

The answer was simple – but not easy.
It took a medical death sentence to free me from an increasing addiction to the trivial and to seek the only hope I have. The only One I should have been “fascinated, gripped and captivated by” all along.

I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

The Lord has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death. (Ps 118)

When to Live is NOT Christ (2): Testimony 7

If God’s will is for health and life, then what has gone wrong?
Why has my health failed to such a serious extent?

If I could sum this up in one word, I’d probably say “compromise”.
If I had to sum it up with a more accurate word, I’d have to say “disobedience”.
In reality both reflect the same truth.

It doesn’t matter how much Bible someone reads.
It doesn’t matter how much a person refers to the Bible.
It doesn’t matter how much a person points to the Bible as God’s word and ultimate doctrinal authority.

Blessed are those who HEAR the word of God and OBEY it (Luke 11).

Reading and promoting scripture are fruitless activities IF we ourselves are not hearing it AND obeying it.
It has to be LIVED, not merely read and taught.

Importantly we need to be sure of what IS the word of God and know how to distinguish it from man’s interpretations and traditions, and then we have to live as if the word of God can REALLY be trusted to be THE authority upon which our beliefs and actions have their foundation.

So why has my health failed to such a serious extent?

Because I allowed far too many other things take priority over obedience to Him and His word.

I prioritised man’s trivia instead of God’s commission.
And the promise of health and a full life is conditional.

do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years…

…Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
(Proverbs 3)

When To Live is NOT Christ (1): Testimony 6

My recent posts have been looking at the issue of God’s will regarding healing.
As I made clear at the beginning of this series of brief studies, it is MORE than an academic exercise, and for me is literally a matter of life and death.

What surprised me is how blatantly obvious the answer is: that God’s will for His people is health and a full life, so that we can live and love the Lord our God.

The scriptural evidence for this is overwhelming and should be indisputable, however, it’s a truth that many seem reluctant to recognise. At first that reluctance seemed puzzling, but then I realised I only needed to look at my own life to understand why.

Until recently it didn’t seem to matter too much to me. I’d never had any serious health issues, and anything I had faced was relatively easily fixed by a trip to the doctors – even if on the rare occasion it might mean the inconvenience of minor surgery.

It was a very pragmatic approach, requiring very little commitment from me, as well as no real challenge to my faith. And by challenge to my faith – I mean I never had to really consider the question of whether I actually HAD faith – at least faith that mattered; faith that actually achieved anything, to produce any fruit. There was never any urgent need, I had a mostly comfortable life and any difficulties were minor in comparison to so many others.

What a difference a serious cancer diagnosis can make!

Complacency was no longer an option.

Not only did I need to consider God’s willingness to heal – there was also the question of why I found myself in this situation.
But don’t get me wrong. The question of “Why Me?” didn’t arise, and neither did any feeling of unfairness. I know these things happen. A lot of people get sick. A lot of people die from their sickness. The fact that I’d previously lived a reasonably healthy life seemed to be a blessing in itself.

However, if I was going to consider, and discover, God’s will regarding the health of those professing to love Him, the answer could also mean facing the reasons that His will might not have been done regarding my own health.

If God’s will is for health and life [AND IT IS!] then what went wrong in my case?
Why did my health fail to such a serious extent?

Clearly the problem came about through MY shortcomings  – not God’s.

To Live IS Christ (11). God’s Clearly Stated Will.

In previous posts I’ve tried to address what scripture says about God’s will regarding healing, to see what kind of foundation we have to believe that He wants His people in health.
So far I’ve given mostly New Testament references, however there are many in the Old Testament. Rather than address selections individually, I’ll provide links to several after this post.

However, I consider the quote I give below embraces and confirms everything else that could be said about God’s healing and the physical well-being of His people.

I tried to emphasise, as much as possible (uppercase, bold, italics), what I see as the they key phrase in the quote.

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… (Deut 30 19-20)

God starts this section by saying he has set before the people of Israel clear choices.

Life or death.
Blessings or curses.

However He doesn’t merely offer them the choice, then step aside to let them consider it. He continues with a command – HIs choice – HIs will for them.

HE tells them “NOW CHOOSE LIFE”.

Any other choice is NOT God’s will for them. HIS will is NOT the death of His people.

He continues with the reasons why they should 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.

He then makes a statement that I understand is echoed in Paul’s later words to the Philippians, that I have used as the theme for this series of posts. “To live is Christ”.

He says: “For the LORD is your life”

Now some might try to dismiss the Deuteronomy quote as being part of the Old Covenant and related to the law given through Moses to the people of Israel, and therefore try to deem it as now irrelevant, outdated or superseded.

But the writer to the Hebrews takes care of those objections when he writes of the superior ministry of both Jesus and the covenant over which He is mediator:

the new covenant is established on better promises.

The New Covenant does not come with lesser promises and assurances than the Old. *

The New Covenant does not deny us the choice of life that God offered (commanded): A life lived to love Him , listening to His voice, and holding fast to Him.

For He IS our life, and to live IS Christ.

NOW CHOOSE LIFE!!!

_____________________________________

*  Also see Romans 10 and compare to the wider context of Deuteronomy 30. This confirms the continuing relevance under the new covenant, through Jesus.

OT healing references.

NOTE:  The context for the following promises include conditions of obedience found in the full reference linked.

Exodus 15:26  “For I AM the LORD who heals you.”

Exodus 23: 25-26  “I will take away disease from among you…I will give you a full life span.”

Deuteronomy 7: 12-15 “The LORD will keep you free from every disease.”

Psalm 91: 14-16  “With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 103: 1-3  “Praise the LORD… Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.”

Psalm 107: 17-21 “He sent out His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave.”

Proverbs 4: 20-24  “My son, pay attention to what I say; 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.”

Isaiah 53: 4-5  “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. (refer also Matthew 8: 16-17 and 1 Peter 2:24 for confirmation of the continuing relevance of the Isaiah prophecy. Particularly note that Matthew makes it clear it refers to physical healing and not merely a spiritual application as some now insist.)

Psalm 119 has many references to God’s promises of health and life – as an outcome of obedience to His word. (“preserve my life according to your word”,  “Your promise preserves my life”, “give me understanding that I may live”.

To Live IS Christ (10): Testimony 5

Previously, I asked:

So why do we so often make excuses and try to find reasons to justify ongoing sickness?

A possible reason is that sections of scripture, even the New Testament, can be cited as examples that seem to suggest that God doesn’t always choose to heal.

As you know, it was because of an illness that I [Paul] first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn (Gal 4)

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses (1Tim 5)

Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. (2 Tim 4)

Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier… longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him.(philippians 2)

Surely those examples of sickness in the lives of Paul and his companions offer countering evidence to the idea that God always desires to heal?

It seems so – but do they?
Firstly, none of those illnesses led to death. They recovered.

At best those examples can show that God doesn’t always heal miraculously or instantly, (but He didn’t leave them sick), while the last one actually credits God mercy with Epaphroditus’s recovery, so is not a good example of God not being willing to heal.

And then there’s the favoured anti-healing reference to Paul’s thorn in the flesh; often linked to the illness mentioned in Galatians, but with no real justification for doing so. According to Paul the thorn was not an illness, it was a satanic messenger (angel) sent to torment him because of the great revelation he had received (and was sharing).

I addressed this issue here many years ago : Thorny Thoughts so won’t go over it again here.

Compare those four references and one dubious thorn interpretation to the many cases detailed in Jesus’s healing ministry and the continued ministry of the church throughout Acts, and the provision of healing gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit, and the instructions given by James , and Peter’s reaffirming of Isaiah’s prophecy  and where does the overwhelming New Testament evidence point regarding Gods will and willingness to heal? (examples here).

In closing this post I have two suggestions.

Firstly it might be more productive to take note of that overwhelming evidence of God’s willingness to heal than in trying to find reasons why He doesn’t. Which of those practices do you think would be most effective in building the faith required to pray in genuine faith?

Secondly, also considering that overwhelming evidence of God’s willingness, we ought to expect that IF God’s will is not to heal a particular believer in a particular case,  then that outcome ought to be considered SO out of the ordinary that He would give a specific and personal unmistakable direction to that person regarding the denial of healing.

In other words, instead of trying to find if it’s God’s will to heal, be confidently assured of healing according to what He’s clearly revealed in His word. And if He has some reason to withhold healing in a rare particular exemption, expect Him make THAT known through some form of personal revelation.

Expect healing unless personally advised otherwise by divine revelation.