This short book (109 pages) by Doug Jones published by Faith Library Publications comes from the so-called ‘Faith’ stable and seems to be a fair representation of their position (the author graduated from Rhema’s Bible Training Centre and was Director of Kenneth Hagin Ministries’ Healing School). There are some very good things here, some great reminders and exhortations to trust God, as well as some points we see differently.
Positive about the Medical Profession
He is clearly positive about the medical profession (which is a relief to hear) and advises that anyone suffering goes to a physician early to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment. ‘Some see receiving medical attention as a lack of faith. How far from the truth they are.’ (p.2)
Jones builds an argument to help the reader trust God for healing, based on Mark 11:24 ‘Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.’ (He uses the King James translation throughout.)
To help us get to the place where we genuinely believe we receive when we pray he seeks to encourage faith by the following progression:
1. It’s God’s will to heal all
2. God is a generous Giver
3. God gives through the laying on of hands
4. God gives healing power to the sick
5. Believe that you receive when you pray
There are genuine insights and encouragements in these points. He makes it clear that ‘laying on of hands’ is only one means of receiving healing. Interestingly, when he comes to the cross he doesn’t attempt to build a past-tense healing argument for believers (ie, the claim that you were healed at the cross, therefore you already have been healed, you just need to realise it by accepting it) as some teach.
Rather, when he speaks of the cross he speaks in terms of provision for both salvation and including healing, and thus healing is a benefit of the sacrifice that Jesus made. This seems closer to our understanding that all the blessings or benefits of God’s grace are made possible by the cross.
God’s will to heal – a promise and a dilemma
While we are free to declare that it is God’s will to heal, we might find it difficult to make a statement such as ‘It is God’s will to heal everyone!’ because it is an absolute claim. But clearly those associated with this type of teaching are standing up in healing meetings and are asserting this. I don’t want to be restrained by previous experience, or to capitulate to unbelief, but we also need to consider the pastoral implications of all that we teach.
It is clear, even from the briefest look at the gospels, that Jesus never said ‘No’ to a person coming for healing. He didn’t tell them that God had a different plan for them. He certainly wanted to heal everyone who came to Him for healing. Also, he was successful in healing those who came. I agree. But in our own churches’ experience while some have been healed, some have not been and some have died of their condition, even after much prayer. We are learning.
So we are conscious of the fact that the rule and reign of God is breaking in but is not yet fully realised as it will be during the future reign of Christ (see The Presence of the Future by Eldon Ladd).
Also, the mixture of our own experiences of seeing healings and seeing continued suffering means that we must concede the point that we don’t know all the mysteries of the will of God. This may not be a challenge to everyone, but to those who hold to the sovereignty of God it can be both a comfort but also a potential dilemma. It’s not an easy cop-out.
We must encourage folk to examine the Scriptures. We ought to be comfortable with someone coming to the conclusion that, based on Scripture, it is God’s will to heal, and that that includes them personally. But I don’t think we can absolutely promise every individual that they will be physically healed.
The Big Shock!
The main problem of the book, and the most shocking comes towards the end when Jones deals with the actual moment of receiving prayer. And this helped me to understand why some who come forward for prayer seem reluctant to really examine whether or not they have been healed. It could also explain how some preachers do seem comfortable making absolute claims in respect of healing. To me, though, this is unreality:
At the point of receiving he emphasises ‘believing you have received’ in this way: He makes a distinction between God’s healing power being given (separate item) and a healing ‘manifestation’ (separate item). In other words, he argues that, because it is always God’s will to heal all (which means you) you therefore do receive healing when hands are laid on you, but you don’t necessarily receive a healing ‘manifestation’. In fact, you’re not to expect you will actually be ‘manifestly’ healed at the time of prayer!
OK, so that was a surprise! Everything in his argument has been moving toward this key moment but then the person is NOT to expect to be actually healed – yet must believe that ‘healing power’ is given. So he writes: ‘The very fact that Jesus tells us to believe that we receive informs us clearly that when we pray we will not receive an instant manifestation.’ (p.88) Again, ‘This indicates that there is going to be a period of time between the time we pray and the time it manifests that we are going to have to walk by what we believe and not by what we see.’ (p.88)
Why people who are not healed say that they are
So, according to Jones, a person’s expectation is to be based on this distinction between ‘healing power’ and a ‘healing manifestation’. He argues that at the time of prayer the person does receive something, not nothing, but that it is healing ‘power’ and not healing ‘manifestation’ (ie, actual healing). And thus, he states, they ought to make a confession of healing which is not based on what the sick person sees or feels. In fact, he seems to be discouraging an expectation that we might see any ‘healing manifestation’ at the time of prayer.
Excuse me? What!?
It’s difficult to imagine anything more unlike the gospels or Acts. This distinction does not present itself to us in the New Testament at all. In the New Testament, when they were healed they were actually healed! The blind really saw, the deaf heard and the lame walked. The crowds truly saw ‘manifest’ healings at that moment and glorified God! And, while we acknowledge we are still growing in faith, that’s what we’re aiming for when we pray as elders (cf. James 5:14-15) and in church services that include an opportunity for prayer! But Jones insists on this, even suggesting that there were instances in the gospels where those healed by Jesus were not ‘manifestly’ healed!
What!? You mean that the people healed in the gospels weren’t really healed!?
I quote: ‘What they were given was healing power. It did not say that they were given healing manifestations. And yet, isn’t that what most are believing that they are going to receive when they are prayed for in healing lines today?’ (p. 98) But then why were the crowds amazed? Why did they say things like ‘We have seen remarkable things today!’ (Luke 5:26)?
This teaching explains why some confidently ‘claim’ to be healed when they are clearly not healed (a friend once told me of someone who came to church with her broken leg in plaster, and when she expressed sympathy for her, the lady said, ‘I’m not receiving it, Beryl! I’m not receiving it!’). Frankly, we don’t want folk to come to a meeting where healing prayer is offered and then go away trying to convince themselves that they’re healed when they’re not.
The way forward
May I suggest an alternative approach? Let’s actually step out in the vulnerability of faith and believe God for healing! Do we really want people to go away suffering while telling themselves and their friends that they are healed? Or ‘testifying’ to healing and then limping away from the microphone? Any reasonable person can see this is bogus. I would prefer that our churches step out in real faith for real healings in the moment, even though we struggle with the pastoral tension of not seeing everyone healed.
And when some are healed and some aren’t I would rather shake my head and confess, ‘I don’t know the reason but I do know that God is good!’ and encourage folk to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking; to pray and never give up!
I remember the first time I encountered this up close. It was in the USA and I had a word of knowledge (1 Cor 12:8) for someone with a sore hand. A young man came forward and we prayed together. Afterwards I asked him how he was. He said, ‘I’m healed!’ I said, ‘Wow! That’s great. So how does it feel now when you move it?’ He then attempted to move his hand around and winced with pain. I said, ‘Listen, you are not healed! So let’s not do that. Let’s actually trust God right now for healing. How about that?’ He looked at me as though I was bringing some brand new teaching. We prayed once more and then I asked him again. He was immediately freed from all the pain symptoms and went off running to his friends to show them and tell them. After a while I managed to get him back to the front of the meeting where he was able to lift the microphone stand and share with the whole audience how he had been in terrible pain, unable to lift a mug of coffee, and pointing to individuals who had known his condition and joyfully showing off his new freedom! It was really great, but it also taught me a good lesson about faith.
Healing Power Heals!
All the verses that Mr. Jones quotes are wonderful. The promises are true. The reality is that God does give healing power. I agree. But healing power heals. And often when that power is given it does its work physically then and there, so the person knows, and with the same kind of immediacy as in the gospel accounts. We don’t need to defer things as our starting point. Rather, let’s believe God now. Of course, sometimes healing occurs over time too. That’s our normal human experience because God has built healing capabilities into the human body.
And also, let’s allow for the fact that we are not yet fully accessing all the power that we need for the many works of service we are yet to do. Christ’s command to ‘heal the sick’ (Lk 10:9) still stands. Just like ‘Love your neighbour’. His assertion that ‘Whoever believes in Me will do the works that I have been doing’ (John 14:12) still stands. We hunger for more. We’re still learning. We can allow people to come back and ask again and again until they receive or God redirects. We know God’s heart is good and so we keep seeking Him to have mercy and touch those who are hurting.
So don’t give up! Keep trusting Him for more!
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© 2019 Lex Loizides / Church History Review