Beginning March 19, 1994, Sylvia and I took a week of vacation and visited our families in Florida.
Mom and Dad each had a number of health problems and were constantly in pain. One of Dad's problems was his hearing. Before we went on this trip, I envisioned putting my hands to Dad's ears and asking God to heal his hearing. I thought Dad would be receptive because of what he had said during our phone conversations. But, I didn't think Mom would be receptive because she had told me over the phone that nobody in our family believes "in that stuff." I was surprised and disappointed that Dad was not receptive at all, but just as surprised and excited that Mom was open to God's healing power.
To Obey Is Better
Almost from the moment we arrived, I felt a darkness and oppression and sensed that Dad did not believe God would heal his hearing. During our last day there, he confirmed it. I asked him outright if he believed God would heal him.
He responded with an emphatic "No. It's inherited. Papa and two of my brothers were both hard-of-hearing."
I did not pursue the matter further.
Two nights earlier when Sylvia and I returned from eating out with my sister and her husband, we found Mom waiting up for us. Dad had already gone to bed.
We said, "Goodnight," and started toward our bedroom when I noticed how much pain Mom was in. I could tell that she was in agony.
She lifted her arms slightly, began rubbing her shoulders and upper arms, and said, "I have this awful pain in my shoulders and arms. I wish I could get some relief so I can sleep tonight."
Sylvia asked her to raise her arms and pull her hands close together. She checked Mom's hands and said, "Your arms look like they are about the same length."
This suggested to us that her upper back was in alignment. I was surprised to see Sylvia do this, and a little puzzled at Mom's acceptance of this as if it were a normal thing to do.
Then Sylvia looked at me with a facial expression that said, "Well, Bob, aren't you going to do anything?" At the same moment I felt a nudge from the Lord, as if He was standing behind me and giving me a gentle push toward Mom.
It wasn't easy to do what I felt the Lord wanted. I imagined a strong rejection from Mom. But with a burst of courage I stepped forward, put my hands on both of her shoulders and spoke to her problem in the name of Jesus.
Then I took a step backward and added, "Thank you, Jesus."
Mom looked at me. She moved her shoulders around, shook her arms, and looked down at them as if searching for pain that was no longer there. Then she said, "You're making a believer out of me!"
She moved her shoulders and arms some more and added with a chuckle, "When I tell the rest of the family about this, they're going to think I'm crazy too."
"Would you rather have the pain?" I asked.
Then she turned her back toward me, pointed at a place on her spine between her shoulder blades and said, "Here. Do this too."
And so I did.
I never cease to be amazed when the Lord does something like this. All three of us were so excited that we stood in the bedroom doorway and talked for a while. I asked Mom if she would like for us to address some of her other problems tomorrow night. She said, "Yes."
The next morning, Mom expressed her joy and pleasure of having rested so well during the night without the pain to keep her awake.
That night Sylvia and I put our hands on Mom and prayed for her. Sylvia spoke to every part from the top of her head to the tip of her toes, including internal organs. Mom had a severely twisted spine. I spoke to that.
I had hoped to see her spine straighten up and the hump in her back disappear. There would be no doubt in anyone's mind that the Lord had performed a miracle. But nothing seemed to happen.
I continued to pray for Mom's healing after I went to bed.
The next morning when I came out to the kitchen where Mom was preparing breakfast, I noticed that her back still looked the same. I asked her how she felt.
"About the same," she replied. But she didn't seem discouraged.
Later that morning, she said, "Pray for me again before you leave so I can sleep good tonight."
The Missing Wind and Fire
Next we visited with David and Vickie and their family.
On Sunday morning we went with them to the church where David preached. The adult Bible class was taught by a former volunteer fireman who seemed to be trying to get the members "fired up" for the Lord.
He compared what happened in the early church, the way Christianity spread in the first century, to a wildfire and described one that he had witnessed. The wind blew the heat sideways and grass would explode into flames on ahead at tremendous speed, he said.
I thought that was a good example of what we read about in the book of Acts. I raised my hand and asked why the same thing wasn't happening in the church today.
The teacher responded that we don't have the same fire within us. "That's right," I thought.
Someone else said, "It's not the same today. We have to correct all those false doctrines and errors before we can preach the gospel."
Later the Lord let me know the real problem. The Holy Spirit (the wind and the fire of the wildfire illustration) is missing in the lives of many Christians today. That's how it is different from the early disciples. The Spirit has been quenched! Satan has deceived people into thinking the Holy Spirit is not with us today.
The apostle John, speaking of the Spirit, wrote this:
"The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him." (1 John 2:27)
One author makes this observation about those who try to spread Christianity today without the Holy Spirit:
"There is nothing more tragic than people who don't have an anointing trying to produce it. They try to force it, but the touch of the Lord is just not there. How many times have you traveled to hear a great speaker or Bible teacher only to find out that the person is just an empty shell, that there is nothing but knowledge on the inside. Filled with facts and information but absolutely lifeless, they are walking and talking but their words are dead." (Benny Hinn, Good Morning, Holy Spirit (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990) p. 129.)
I had gone from believing that God never heals supernaturally today to thinking God would heal every time if I just had faith that He would do it. But Sylvia and I had already noticed that sometimes God would heal instantly, sometimes there would be immediate improvement but not complete healing, sometimes healing would take longer but not as long as normal, and sometimes nothing seemed to happen at all.
Now I was puzzled over what happened to Mom. One night she was healed when I didn't expect it. The next night when I expected it, she wasn't.
Then I caught a bad case of the flu. In the past when I had the flu and didn't go to the doctor, I healed in about a week. If I went to the doctor and took medicine, I still healed in about a week. And during this time I usually stayed in bed only a day or two and was able to go to work the rest of the time.
This time, however, I prayed and prayed, but I didn't seem to get better. If anything, I got worse. I couldn't get out of bed for two weeks. During this time, God seemed to be telling me that He doesn't always heal. He doesn't jump every time we speak. He has His own plan, and we need to listen for His voice and wait to be used by Him in His own time and circumstance. He confirmed this a few days later with a radio broadcast.
Redeemed from the Pit
The date was April 13, 1994. It had been a number of days since I had listened to the Focus on the Family radio broadcast. On this day I looked at my watch at 11:25 a.m. I thought, "It's time for Focus on the Family." I felt moved to turn the radio on and listen. I also had a strong thought that I should record it.
Duane Miller was the guest. On January 15, 1990, Miller, the paster of the First Baptist Church at Brenham, Texas, lost his voice at the conclusion of the Sunday morning service and couldn't preach Sunday evening. His physician told him to take a six-month leave of absence. When he failed to recover, the doctors told him the myelin sheath to his vocal chords had been damaged and that he would not get his voice back. He tried voice therapy, but that didn't help, and so he had to resign his pastorate in the fall of 1990.
Early in 1992 he began to teach a Sunday school class at First Baptist Church in Houston. He was able to do this by using a special microphone, but even with the special microphone his throat was so sore he could hardly eat or drink for two days after teaching.
On Sunday morning, January 17, 1993, he had just finished reading Psalm 103:3 to his Sunday school class: "Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases." He stopped to comment on that verse, saying that there are two extreme views regarding healing. Duane recalls the event in his own words:
"I had said that on the one side there is the group that believes God always heals miraculously and on the other is the group that says it never happens. But what you have to realize is that puts God in a box, I said, and He won't be put in a box.
"I told them that what you have to do with divine healing is just stand back and say, 'I know God does that from time to time and I can't tell you why. I don't understand why some are healed and some aren't and leave it there and say that is in the Lord's wisdom; so be it.'
"I had just finished saying that and started to read the next line of the Psalm: 'He redeems my life from the pit...
"AND MY VOICE changed. I heard the first word and felt in my throat that what I had been feeling was gone. There was none of the feeling there that I had had for three years.
"I would love to tell you I knew exactly what it was... and that I expected God to do it and wasn't surprised. But it would be a lie. It scared me to death.
"I stopped, startled, and then said two or three words, thinking, 'Am I hearing what I think I hear?'
"I said to them that I didn't understand what was going on, but that God was doing something.
"I tried to get back to the lesson, but I couldn't and nobody cared. People began to applaud. Everybody was weeping. There were 200 in the class and there were no dry eyes. Somebody began to sing the doxology. Someone else said we had witnessed the power of God. We just thanked the Lord for what He had done and walked out of the church." (This story appeared in the Baptist Standard, February 7, 1993, page 24.)
"One of the ironic things about this healing is that Duane Miller was a former Assemblies of God pastor but had left that denomination because he disagreed with their theology of speaking in tongues and divine healing." (Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993), p.282)
The class that Duane was teaching happened to be taped. In addition to the interview of Duane on the broadcast, they played a seven minute segment of that tape. I could actually hear his voice suddenly return to normal. Duane told Dr. James Dobson that doctors later made videos of his throat and again ran the same tests that had been done before the healing. Not only had the scar tissue that had been present disappeared, but the doctors could find no evidence whatsoever that Duane had ever had a voice problem.
I shed tears of joy and praise every time I hear this tape.
The Lord was teaching us a lesson during our visit with Mom and Dad three weeks earlier, but I was slow to comprehend. I finally realized what it was. Mom's healing the first night was God's idea. God decided that He would heal Mom's shoulders and arms, possibly to strengthen our faith and to let Mom know that her son had not "lost his marbles." The second night was my idea. God had not planned it and He did not respond. He let me know that He is not a genie in a bottle to do my bidding.
The Psalmist said it so well: "Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases him." (Psalm 115:3)
Our God is Sovereign!!!
Heal at Will?
In our attempt to understand the gifts of healings today, we should not be looking for or expecting to find people who can heal at will -- anywhere, anytime. Even Jesus could not do that.
Luke 5:17 says, "And the power of the Lord was present for him (Jesus) to heal the sick." Why would Luke say that "the power of the Lord was present for Him to heal" if Jesus could heal at any time, under any condition, and solely at his own discretion? This statement only makes sense if we view healing as the sovereign prerogative of God the Father, who sometimes dispenses his power to heal and at other times withholds it.
A second incident, the healing of the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years (in John 5), is just as instructive. There were many other sick people lying around the pool that day. (John 5:3) You would assume that Jesus would heal all of the sick people at the pool of Bethesda. On many occasions he healed large crowds of people. Sometimes "he healed them all." (Matthew 8:16; 12:15; Luke 6:19) Yet on this day he heals only one person at the pool. Why did he ignore all the other sick people? In a dispute with religious leaders after the healing, Jesus answers that question and gives us the principle that governed his whole ministry.
"Jesus gave them this answer, 'I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." (John 5:19)
Jesus only healed one person at the pool that day because His Father was only healing one person. If His Father was not healing, then Jesus could not heal. He was completely obedient to the sovereign will of His heavenly Father.
Jack Deere says, "This principle answers a question I am asked all the time, 'If you believe in healing and you think you have a gift or ministry of healing, why don't you go empty out the hospitals, or why don't you go into the slums of places like Calcutta where you can really do some good? The answer to that question is that the gift of healing is not automatic; it can not be exercised at your own discretion. The Lord Jesus himself was at an ancient 'hospital', and he only healed one person there." (Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), pp. 60-61.)
Another incident demonstrates conclusively that Jesus could not heal under any and all conditions. The people of his hometown, Nazareth, were offended at him with the result that, "He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith." (Mark 6:5-6) Concerning the same event, Matthew writes that Jesus "did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." (Matthew 13:58) God allowed the healing ministry of Jesus to be limited, at least on some occasions, by the unbelief of the people. Therefore Jesus himself could not heal independently of the Father.
If this was true of God's Son, how much more do you think it was true of the apostles? Jesus told his apostles, "Apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) We find numerous illustrations in the lives of the apostles that they could do nothing divinely powerful apart from the sovereign will of the Lord Jesus and his heavenly Father.
If this was true of God's Son and the apostles, why would we think anyone else could do more, then or now?
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