Part 1 – An Overview
This may seem like a strange question indeed, coming from a physician who for many years has dedicated his medical practice to the healing ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. The question, however, is valid in light of certain applications of Biblical principles regarding healing that are made by many sincere Christians. All Christians today would resoundingly agree that God does heal all manner of diseases, but does He heal today in the same way that Jesus Christ and his disciples healed when He walked upon the earth? The larger question to consider is, did Christ die for our sicknesses as well as our sins? In other words, was physical healing from diseases made available to Christians, as a result of Christ’s atoning death on the cross? Should I expect to be healed from any illness on the same basis that I am forgiven of sins, whenever I earnestly pray?
There are some who believe that it is not only a Christian’s privilege, but also his right to be healed from all diseases. The scriptural basis for that belief is Isaiah 53:5, where the prophet Isaiah foretells that the Messiah would be “wounded for our transgressions; bruised for our iniquities; chastised for our peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” Another passage for the belief in atonement healing concerns praying in faith from Mark 11:24, in which Jesus told His disciples that whatever they asked in faith believing, they would be given. It is believed by many that healing is available today to believers as it was in Jesus’ day, based on Hebrews 13:8, which states, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
It is easier to think and write about the availability of God’s healing when the problem exists in another person; but quite another thing when I am the one that is sick and conventional methods of healing have not worked. As a surgeon that has operated on hundreds of patients with hernias, I am well aware that hernia recurrences unfortunately do occur; and some are very difficult, if not impossible to repair. While dealing with my own problem of a twice-recurrent hernia, I was lying at home in pain on our couch one evening while listening to a well-known television healer. At one point in the program he said, “ I perceive there is a professional individual watching this show, and he is in great pain, suffering with a recurrent hernia. I am claiming in the name of Jesus, that he is now healed!” I was absolutely convinced that he was speaking to me, and I claimed that word of faith in healing as my own. When I stood to tell my wife that God had healed me by faith, I realized to my great disappointment, that the hernia was still present and healing had not occurred. What was wrong? Was the televangelist wrong in his word of faith, or was my faith so weak that God chose not to heal me? Should I discount as bogus, anyone who says that God is still in the business of healing by faith? Was it wrong for me to presume upon God and to ask for such a miraculous healing? I was filled with many questions, and seemingly, no answers.
In my professional career as a surgeon for over 30 years, the patients that I served did not come to me seeking miraculous healing. They wanted to be cured of their hernias, their gallstones, their cancers, and their internal infections through particular surgical procedures which I was trained to perform. Did I think that I was the one who could or would heal them? Of course not! I told many of my patients, “I am the one who puts in the sutures, but it is God that heals you.” However, how was I to advise someone in whom conventional methods of medical practice had failed to heal them? Should I have advised that they pray for healing even before consulting a physician? Is prayer always the answer for healing? Again, there are more questions than answers.
In this series on healing, I purpose to answer some of these perplexing questions based on God’s Word, and my personal experience in the healing ministry over the past 45 years. First, I will address the question of atonement healing and the Christian’s response to illness. Then I will explore the dilemma of when a person should pray for healing and when he should consult a physician. Finally, I will attempt to answer the oft-asked question, “What should I do if I have tried everything I know to do, and I am still not healed?” When faced honestly, these questions do not beg glib or quick answers, but are personal, usually painful and potentially life-changing. We can be comforted in knowing that our heavenly Father is aware of our concerns and will direct our paths when we seek Him with all our hearts.