Healing ministry

In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 10, Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, and He gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness (v1). Jesus commissioned them specifically to preach the message of the kingdom; to heal the sick; to raise the dead; to cleanse those who have leprosy and to drive out demons (v8). They were to declare that the kingdom of God has come and is coming. But it wasn’t just the disciples that Jesus specifically commissioned to do this! In Luke chapter 10, Jesus appointed seventy-two others with the same commission, to heal the sick and preach the kingdom, to proclaim God’s Kingdom come. It is the very same charge that is given to Christians today; to us: we are to heal the sick and proclaim the good news. ‘In the Bible there is a clear connection between declaration and the release of power. Nothing happens in the Kingdom unless there is a declaration.’ Proclamation and testimony are powerful because they increase faith and give glory to God, and this seems to release the power of the Spirit and bring more glory to God. It’s not a formula but a fact.

Does God still perform miracles of healing today? The short answer is: Yes, God still performs miracles and yes God still heals people today. Let me share an example with you. Pastor Surprise Sithole (pronounced ‘Sit-holy’) works for Iris Ministries (founded by Heidi Baker) and in the last twenty-five years he has planted more than ten thousand churches in Malawi, Mozambique and throughout southern Africa. In his book, Voice in the Night, he shares his own personal story about how God called him to be an evangelist, and how miracles and healings are demonstrating the power of the gospel and impacting the church all over Africa.

In one of many incidents described in the book, Surprise Sithole was on the outskirts of a village when he heard a woman screaming and then he heard someone else shouting his name. When he arrived at the scene, a group of people had gathered around a young woman who sobbed in excruciating pain and cried out, ‘I don’t want to die! Oh God! Please don’t let me die.’ The young woman had been bitten by a deadly snake; a poisonous puff adder. Her right leg was already twice the size of the left one and, with the nearest hospital some distance away; she would never have made it in time to receive the antidote treatment! One of the women asked him, ‘Will Jesus make her well?’ Surprise knew that Jesus can do anything, and so, in faith, he sat beside the poor girl, put his hands on her swollen leg and simply prayed over and over again, ‘Lord Jesus, please bless your child; please bless your child.’ As he prayed droplets of fluid, like beads of sweat, began to drain out of the injured leg and a few moments later the fluid began gushing out and the crowd gasped in amazement as the girl’s leg returned to its normal size! She stopped sobbing; the pain had gone and she immediately got back on her feet and walked around feeling fine. It was a miracle! That very same night Surprise Sithole held a public meeting which was full of people who had heard what had happened and who wanted to know more about Jesus. The healing of the young woman demonstrated the power of the gospel and opened the way for effective evangelism, and the end result was that the church in that village grew very rapidly indeed. Yes, God still performs miracles and yes God still heals people.

Surprise Sithole says he’s often been asked why so many miracles happen in Africa when they seem to be so rare in the West. Interestingly, he believes it’s because in Africa people have a simple faith: they believe what God’s Word says and God blesses them for their faith. Whereas in the West, he says, ‘people think they are too clever and sophisticated to simple believe and accept God’s Word, and so they question everything, including what the Bible says, and this displeases God.’

Surprise Sithole, 2012, Voice in the Night, Chosen Books: Michigan USA, p.63

Nicky Gumbel comments… “I once heard a preacher, who believed that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ended with the apostolic age, being asked the question, ‘Is the Pentecostal movement a move of God?’ – He could not answer the question. To say that ‘it came from God’ would mean recognising the outpouring of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit in our contemporary world. To deny that it came from God would be to deny the experience of over 600 million Christians around the world who have experienced God’s power through the Pentecostal movement.”

Nicky Gumbel: Bible in One Year – Alpha, Day 62

Enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

Acts 4:29-30 NIV

Bill Johnson shares the following insight to explain how and why he believes the watered-down doctrine of healing has become prevalent in the west.

He tells how a number of years ago, he heard a pastor talk about a building project he once had for his church. The pastor related how much he wanted to help the contractor in the building process. He was obviously excited for the new project, but because he had no building skills, it wasn’t easy to find a place for him to fit in. He was persistent in asking if there was any work he could do. His enthusiasm over the building project finally persuaded the contractor to find him something to do. The contractor told him he needed one hundred two-by-fours cut to eight feet in length for the next morning. The pastor was excited he got to be involved in his own church project. So after everyone else had left for the night, the pastor stayed and cut the timber. He took the first piece of wood, measured eight feet with his tape measure, and marked it. He then carefully cut it to eight feet exactly [it was a perfect measurement]. So, instead of using the tape measure for the second piece of wood to be cut, he used the previously cut board, as he thought it would be much easier. He laid it on top of the new one, carefully drew a line where the board needed to be cut and sawed off the part that was too long. He then took the newly cut board and placed it on top of the next piece that needed to be cut. He used this method of measuring throughout his assignment to cut one hundred boards.

I’m sure you can see the problem. By using the previously cut board as a measure, the next board is marked and cut about one-eighth of an inch too long [the width of the saw blade]. This process wouldn’t have been so devastating had he only had two or three boards to cut. But when that method is used for one hundred boards, you end up with ones at the end of the pile being over nine feet long.

For over two thousand years, we’ve been comparing ourselves to the previous generation, noticing only slight differences. And to console ourselves with the task at hand – the Great Commission to disciple nations, displaying the greater works – many create water-down doctrines that dismantle the example and commandments that Jesus gave us. Instead of comparing ourselves with ourselves, we should have been using the original standard found in the life of Jesus so that the measure of God’s goodness revealed in Christ would have remained the same through the past two thousand years. God is bringing us back to the original measurement so that He might be revealed more accurately as the Father who loves well.

Source: Bill Johnson, 2016, God Is Good, Pasadena USA: Destiny Image Publishers, p.41-42

‘In the first letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12 through 14, some of the wonderful and supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed for us, and we are told to eagerly desire them, especially the ‘greater gifts’ as Paul calls them, which includes the gift of healing (12:31). Why are we to eagerly desire these gifts? The answer is for God’s glory, not for our entertainment; because in receiving and using these spiritual gifts we edify and build up the church and bring much honour and glory to God. This begs the question then, if we don’t eagerly desire the greater gifts the Holy Spirit bestows, well then, we are not actually doing what the Word of God implores us to do, and we can then end up quashing the Spirit or suggesting maybe that God doesn’t do miracles anymore!

It is entirely possible that major miracles, such as healing the blind or the crippled or raising the dead etc., may have dried up here in the West, for a time maybe, but the Bible says nothing about such miracles ceasing altogether or that the ‘greater spiritual gifts’ are no longer needed or available. In fact, quite the opposite: Jesus said in John 14v12, ‘I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.’ Does that actually mean we will do even greater miracles that Jesus did? Well maybe not greater in quality but certainly there has been a greater quantity of miracles since Jesus walked the earth! (We don’t know how many people Jesus healed altogether but there are accounts of thirty healings recorded in the four gospels.)

When it comes to major miracles, maybe God has chosen to be ‘silent’ for a time here in the West, but isn’t that His right, if He chooses? God, in a sense, was ‘silent’ when He allowed the Israelites to remain in Egypt for 430 years… but then God sent Moses who performed many miraculous signs and wonders and the people were set free. I wonder if the Israelites in Egypt said God doesn’t do major miracles anymore! We mustn’t quash the Holy Spirit; we mustn’t limit God or use the argument of ‘silence’ to suggest that God is no longer active in performing miracles.’

R. Ian Seymour, Empowered Personal Evangelism, Weybridge: New Wine Press (2014), p.175-176

When we pray the model prayer Jesus taught us we say: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray this with faith, we are praying for God’s power and authority and lordship (His kingdom) to break into this world; we are praying for things to be done here as they are in heaven. And when we pray with faith and in the power of the Spirit for healing, it’s like we are reminding God of this, we’re saying: “Lord, you commanded us to pray for things here as they are in heaven, where there is no sickness or disease, so we pray in the name of Jesus for (?)” This is actually a great way to pray for healing.

‘When you read the gospel stories about healings, you notice that Jesus and his disciples never prayed petitionary prayers for healing. Instead they commanded in prayer every time. Their prayers were not directed towards God, but towards people’s conditions.’ [Robby Dawkins who has a powerful healing ministry says ‘you’ve got to tell the body what to do.’] ‘You are not commanding God to do what you say. You are commanding the body that needs healing to respond because you are an ambassador – a representative of God’s Kingdom with authority to heal the sick.’

Quote from Bill Johnson & Randy Clark, The Essential Guide to Healing, p.223

Nicky Gumbel says we should think of it like this: The value of a cheque depends not only on the amount, but also on the name that appears at the bottom. If I wrote out a cheque for ten million pounds it would be worthless; but if Bill Gates, reputed to be the richest man in the world, were to write a cheque for ten million pounds it would be worth exactly that. When we go to the bank of heaven we have nothing deposited there. If I go in my own name I can achieve nothing; but Jesus Christ has unlimited credit in heaven. He has given me the privilege of using his name.

Nicky Gumbel, Alpha Questions of Life, 2007 edition, Eastbourne: Kingsway Communications, p.70

Let’s not forget the famous passage in Matthew 28:18–20, known as the Great Commission, where Jesus commanded us to: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ We are told not just to make converts and baptise them, we are told to make disciples and to teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded us to do; and that includes healing the sick. Jesus commanded us to heal the sick.

Now, having said that, it is not always God’s will that sick people are healed. Sometimes it is God’s will that people are healed and sometimes it’s not. We don’t know why that is; it’s all part of the divine mystery, but one thing I regularly find to be true is the more people we pray for, the more people are healed. The apostle John helps us to get a proper perspective on this issue: In 1 John 5v14-15 he says, ‘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.’ Again, sometimes it’s God’s will that people are healed and sometimes it’s not. One of the consequences of the Fall is that sickness, disability, disease and death are a reality for everyone. And unless Jesus returns beforehand, everyone who is alive today will eventually die as a direct result of some kind of health related issue, even if we just wear out. Again, it is not always God’s will that people are healed but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for healing. Even when people are not healed, they are often still touched by the compassion and love of God, or by the presence and peace of God, ministered to them through the one who is praying.

R. Ian Seymour, Empowered Personal Evangelism, Weybridge: New Wine Press (2014), p.177

“Healing is warfare. No one goes into war and wins with a single bullet… don’t be discouraged that you may have to pray several times.”

Robby Dawkins

John Wimber said: ‘The ability to hear what God is saying, to see what God is doing, and to move in the realm of the miraculous comes as an individual develops the same intimacy with and dependence upon the Father. How did Jesus do what he did? The answer is found in his relationship with the Father. How will we do the “greater things than these” which Jesus promised (John 14:12)? By discovering the same relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience.’

Source: Nicky Gumbel, Bible in One Year – Alpha (accessed 19/3/2015)

Some people say, ‘The day of miracles is past.’ The truth is there is no day of miracles; there’s only a God of miracles, and He is never past it!

The kingdom of God has come, and is yet to come; it is here and not yet fully here; it is now and not yet. When we pray for healing and healing happens, we are reminded that the kingdom has come in power now. But sometimes we pray and it doesn’t happen and then we are reminded that the kingdom of God is not yet! – We have to live with this tension. – Sometimes God heals, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes healing is instant, other times we have to persist in prayer before we see breakthrough. But one thing is for certain: the more we pray for healing the more healings happen.

“Cessationism is a hypothesis. It is not a teaching grounded in Holy Scripture – like the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus, and salvation by the blood of God’s Son. Cessationists have chosen to believe that God does not reveal Himself directly and immediately today.”

R.T. Kendall

R.T. Kendall, Holy Fire, 2014, Florida: Charisma House, p.113

Certainly God heals today through the use of medicines and the medical profession – guiding and controlling things behind the scenes – but what about divine intervention; God-given miracles. It has to be said, there is much fear and scepticism many of us in the twenty-first century bring to the whole subject of healing. Indeed, there is a fine sounding argument saying that we no longer need miracles or the ‘greater spiritual gifts’ that the Bible talks about, because we now have the full and final word of God. It is suggested, by some, that this is the reason we don’t see major miracles anymore. The argument goes something like this: ‘Yes it is still God’s hand that makes the world go around and the sun come up each morning and yes, God still answers prayer, but we don’t see the major miracles such as were performed in Jesus’ day and which (seemingly) stopped with the dying out of the apostles, because we now have the full and final word of God; we now have the complete Bible, and so we are to put our trust in God’s Word and not in signs and wonders.’ It sounds credible, maybe even convincing to some, BUT no credible explanation is ever given to account for the many wonderful healings that do still happen today, and every day, all around us. And nor is any credible answer given to the numerous written records and eyewitness testimonies of major miracles and healings throughout church history, dating all the way back from the Early Church Fathers right up to present day. (For a really good sampling of some of the miraculous signs and wonders documented by major personalities and Christian movements throughout the centuries right up to the current day, see the Appendix at the back of John Wimber’s book, Power Evangelism, (1985) published by Hodder and Stoughton). God hasn’t changed. God still performs miracles and healings today.

R. Ian Seymour, Empowered Personal Evangelism, Weybridge: New Wine Press (2014), p.175

In Mark 16:15-20 Jesus again spoke about ‘miraculous signs’ that would be performed by those who have faith: He said, ‘These signs will accompany those who believe’ (v17) – ‘those who believe’ means all believers, all Christians; it means us.

Remember Jesus did not say pray for the sick; He said heal the sick – because He has delegated authority to us to do that. We don’t need to ask for it because we already have it; we just need to step out in faith and do it. Faith is spelt R.I.S.K. God is not offended, by us taking risks. We need to display reckless abandonment and take risks… And always assume that God wants to heal, because to not do so, is to assume that God is indifferent.

‘The Bible does not model just one always applicable always correct way to pray for the sick. However, it does present some principles to apply, such as interviewing a person to find out what is wrong. Jesus did this. He also modelled receiving revelation from the Father regarding what to do. Jesus varied the ways He chose to minister and modelled a process of prayer selection based on the condition He was dealing with. He did not minister to the demonized in the same way He ministered to the sick or broken hearted. He also modelled what to do when healing did not happen immediately – He re-interviewed the person and prayed again. He modelled what to do when an evil spirit does not come out when first commanded – He continued to tell it to come out.’ The principles we’re to apply when praying for the sick can be itemised like this:

  1. Interview – Where does it hurt? Why does this person have this condition?
  2. Diagnosis and Prayer Selection – How do I pray into this?
  3. Prayer Ministry: Praying for Effect – Speaking with authority; telling the body what to do.
  4. Stop and Re-interview – Ask how are they doing? Keep going for as long as they let you (from 10 to zero).
  5. Post-Prayer Suggestions – What next?

[Note: The Essential Guide to Healing by Bill Johnson & Randy Clark, p219.]

The Essential Guide to Healing by Bill Johnson & Randy Clark, p219

There is often a difference between a healing and a miracle of healing. A miracle usually happens very fast whereas healing, at times, can be a progressive work.