Healing and the Heart of God

June 26, 2016 Speaker: Josh DeGroote Series: James - A Portrait of Living Faith

Topic: Healing Passage: James 5:13–5:16

We are going to talk about divine healing this week and probably at least the next two weeks. Unfortunately this is a subject that is controversial and challenging. It is controversial on a theological level because of mystery regarding supernatural activity and debates over the purposes of God in the present age. Oftentimes, however, the controversy arises at a more emotional level. We have unanswered questions that perplex us. We have probably all prayed for people who have not been healed – some of whom died. Many others have suffered their own sickness for some time and prayed and, at least yet, have not been healed.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to you children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” This verse says there certainly are things which are hidden from us, but the things that are revealed are there for us to believe and obey.

So we must never let our inability to understand mysteries surrounding healing keep us from what seems to be clear teaching in the scriptures.

Furthermore, the Christian worldview affirms the goodness of the physical creation, including our bodies; and the health of our bodies. We are not Gnostics and neither is God.

When I read this text, it gives me the impression that we should see people healed through our prayers – AND that we should have an expectation that people would be healed through our prayers.

Without ambiguity, which is quintessential James, our text says that if someone is suffering general affliction or serious phyiscal sickness, prayers are to be offered that the suffering and sick may be healed – not comforted in their sickness, but healed.

So my desire is that we would be people of faith when it comes to God’s ability and willingness to heal, that this would be an increased expectation among us, and that there would be a growing company of people excited to pray for healing. Healing is not ultimately up to us. It is up to God. Nevertheless, the book of James is a treatise on acting on what we believe; on hearing and doing the word of God. So healing is up to God, but we are called to pray.

We know that he was heavily influenced by the teachings of his half-brother, Jesus Christ. He witnessed the healing ministry of Christ, the disciples, and the early church because he was part of it. I can imagine James even talking to his brother, though he didn’t believe in him, regarding his healings. So what James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes here is no doubt influenced by Jesus’ own understanding and ministry. Therefore I want to take a bit of time to unpack that. In other words, what does the bible say and what did Jesus show us that would have impacted James’ understanding of healing and God’s purposes.

God's Name: The Lord your Healer

(1) We need to start with the fact that God has revealed himself as a healing God. The self-revelation of God in telling us that his name is “The Lord your Healer”. God’s name: Jehovah Rapha. Talk about “names” of God. The names of God used in the bible act as a roadmap for learning about the nature and character of God. So when God identifies himself with a name – he is revealing his true nature to us. I am the LORD your Healer (Exodus 15:26). Physician. In Psalm 103, David commands his soul to praise God:

Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me. Bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, and forget not all his benefits. Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. Psalm 103:1-3

In Psalm 107, we see a cycle of sin which leads to calamity, crying to God for help, and then God in mercy delivering.  Check out verses 19-21:

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men. Psalm 107:19-21

God’s name is “The LORD your Healer.”

Jesus Life and Ministry

Clearly, Jesus demonstrated the heart of God when he healed. Colossians Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature. So when we see Christ, we see God. We don’t have to wonder what God’s attitude is toward healing. Look at Jesus – he shows us! As you read through the gospels, the extent of Jesus’ ministry that consisted of healing is breathtaking.

But there was also a motivation behind it. One of the great motivations of Jesus was intense compassion for those who suffered. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke often say that Jesus was “moved with compassion” which led him to heal them. Just to give you a sampling:

Matthew 14:14 says, “When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

In Mark 1:41, after being approached by a leper to be cleansed, it says, “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I am willing, be healed.’”

I love the account in Luke 7.  A woman has just suffered tragedy.  She is a widow and her son has just died.  Luke 7:13 says, “When the LORD saw her, he felt compassion for her, and said to her ‘Do not weep.’” Jesus stopped the funeral procession and raised the young man and gave him to her mother.

God’s heart is full of compassion and mercy. If you suffer today or you know someone who does, God is not indifferent.

Expanding Healing Ministry

Jesus expanded his healing ministry in and through the disciples. In Luke 9 Jesus calls the twelve disciples to himself for an assignment.  What is their assignment?  Verse 2 says, "he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal."  

In Luke 10, it says Jesus sent out "seventy-two others" into every town where he was about to go. What were they to do?  Verse 9 says Jesus told them, "Heal the sick and say to them, 'the kingdom of God has come near to you.'"

The Outpouring of the Spirit and Healing

The outpouring of the Spirit and the ministry of the early church shows us God’s continued inclination to heal through the present age. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12:9 says that God gifts NOT A gift of healing, but gifts of healing. Gifts - plural of healing.  In other words, gifts given to different people to be used to heal different kinds of sickness. So healing continued and continues through Spirit-empowered followers of Christ.

God's End Game: Perfect Healing Forever

Finally, God cares so much about physical health, that he is committed to you having an eternity with it! In the future, there will be perfect physical healing forever! So let’s be clear about something: healing in this present age is a foretaste of the future - it is partial, it is incomplete.  What I mean is, perfect healing is reserved for the future. Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 5 talk about the groaning we all experience now. But some day, all the groaning will end!  In the future, when Jesus returns, Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more mourning or death or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

God has not changed. His heart has not changed. He has not changed in how he views sickness and suffering and those who suffer. I find great comfort in what theologians call the immutability of God – he doesn’t change. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the LORD do not change...” He still overflows in compassion toward those who are suffering and sick. The writer of Hebrews rightly said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Five Brief Observations From James 5:13-16

1. God is not aloof or indifferent from your pain, suffering, or sickness.

James asks the question in verse 13, "Is anyone among you suffering?" Is anyone suffering adversity or pain generally?  Then he asks in verse 14, "Is there anyone sick?" These questions are to you. God is not indifferent toward your pain. Feel that. Know that. God is not stoically looking on as you suffer!

2. Call the elders when you need prayer for healing.

Is anyone sick? Call for the elders of the church. Why just the elders? Should we not all pray? Yes, we should all pray. Why does James single out the elders? Elders are called to be “shepherds” under the Chief Shepherd Jesus Christ.

Peter brings out this truth wonderfully when he says,

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you…” 1 Peter 5:1-2

To shepherd suggests to tend or to care for.  Furthermore, the text suggests that the sickness in view is such that it prohibits the person from going to the elders, so they “call the elders of the church”.

This verse suggests that elders, if they are true shepherds, are required to be willing and ready to pray for the sick – AND eager to see them healed. Reid and I are willing, ready, and eager to pray for you to be made well.

3. The Holy Spirit is present when we pray.

Verse 14 goes on to say that the elders "anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord." Some suggest that the oil had a medicinal purpose. Certainly oils did and still do have some medicinal value, but it cannot be purely for medicinal purposes. I believe that the anointing with oil is a physical action with symbolic significance. It is symbolic of the presence of the Holy Spirit and his power to heal. Perhaps, it is a way of stimulating the faith of the person being prayed for – to direct their attention to the God who has power to heal.

So the anointing with oil represents the presence of the Holy Spirit and his power to heal. It is a way of directing everyone’s faith to the power of the Spirit who is present when we pray. There is nothing magical about the oil – we would be wrong to fix our hope on oil from a bottle. Put your faith in God – who is here and has power to heal!

4. Faith is key.

It is “the prayer of faith…” that makes the sick person well. Only once does this phrase appear in the scriptures and it relates to the healing of the sick. Faith is key.  Faith in the ability of God.  Jesus asked a blind man, “Do you believe I am able to do this?”  Jesus, often as he was ministering to the sick said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.”

But it is also faith in the willingness of God.  Not only his ability, but his willingness.  Is God reluctant or is there a great willingness to heal? Well, we need only to look at the Person of Jesus Christ to see God’s willingness. We look to Jesus and see that God is willing.

5. Each one should pray.

Verse 16 says, "Pray for one another that you may be healed." This is one of the many "one another" texts in the New Testament.  Very clearly, we are all given the responsibility and the privilege to pray for the sick and suffering. 

The book of James is a treatise on how to become practitioners. How to live out our faith.  Whether it is counting it all joy when enduring trials or praying for one another than healing may be granted. 

Let's go for it. Let's live with expectation that God is able, willing, and wants to use us to bring healing to the sick and suffering.

More in James - A Portrait of Living Faith

July 17, 2016

The Important Work of Turning a Wandering Brother Back to God

July 3, 2016

God's Pathway to Healing

June 19, 2016

God's Prescription for Suffering and Blessing

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