Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sick, HEALING, and miracles.

     We shouldn’t fall into the trap of saying our day is “just another day.” We should be cherishing Jesus more even in times of trouble.
If victory is cherishing Christ, then whether we live or die, we win, for we gain Christ. “To live is Christ, to die is gain” – for at death we will see “face to face.” "What we now know in part, then we shall know fully…" (1Corinthians 13.12). 
     Why then is there sickness and suffering? God gives us the general reason: we are fallen people living in a fallen world. Though the brilliance of a good creation dazzles us, the fall casts its dark shadow across every beam. It is not the way it’s supposed to be. The world is bent, and all suffer. By why this specific suffering? Why now? Why her? Why me? 

      The Bible avoids specific answers for individual cases. Not because there are no answers; more because there are so many answers. An eternity would be required to explain to finite creatures the complexity of interwoven reasons for God’s workings. What we are given, however, is some benefits which may come of suffering. [Here is a sample list, mostly from Howard Dial, ‘Sufferology’: Counseling Toward Adjustment in Suffering. The Journal of Pastoral Practice, Vol. III, No. 2, 1979, pp. 19-24. Others have been added and some of his have been edited.] 

1. The promotion of spiritual maturity and Christ-like character (James 1.2-4). 
2. To promote endurance—the ability to turn adversity into spiritual prosperity (James 1.2-4).
3. To promote wisdom—the ability to relate truth to experience (James 1.5-8).
4. To produce humility (James 1.9-11).
To provide the opportunity for rewards (James 1.12).
6. To prove the genuineness of our faith (1Peter 1.6-8).
7. To manifest the fruit of the Spirit (2Corinthians 4.11; Galatians 5.22,23).
8. To provide opportunities to witness for Christ (1Peter 3.15; Philippians 1.12).
9. To learn contentment (Philippians 4.11).
10. To help others who suffer (2Corinthians 1.3-24).
11. To rebuke believers guilty of pride and spiritual cowardice (1Corinthians 4.9-16).
12. To demonstrate the power of God in our lives (2Corinthians 11.24-33; John 9.2).
13. To learn obedience to the will of God (Hebrews 5.8).
14. To vindicate the character of God before Satan (Job 1.6-12).
15. To vindicate us before Satan (Job 1.6-12).
16. To instruct the believer in the holiness of God’s character (Job 42.5,6). 
17. To deliver us from sinful thoughts and actions (Hebrews 12.5-11). 
18. To wean us from earth and fix our hearts on heaven, where our hope is (Colossians 3.1-2). 
19. To drive us to the Word (Psalm 119.71). 
20. To create a more unified church and a more interdependent body of believers (“one another” verses). 
21. To teach us about our weaknesses and cause us to depend on God (2Corinthians 12.7-10). 
22. To bring him glory (the Bible). 

The late Bruce Thielemann, pastor of Pittsburgh’s First Presbyterian Church tells, the story of a clergy friend Southern California who knew a woman who had been in a mental hospital many years suffering from extreme depression. She used to just sit on a bench every day staring at the earth—no conversation, no response. One day a new doctor who’d never seen her came down the hall and greeted her. He said, “Good morning!” She made no reply. “What is your name?” he said. No answer. “Well, my name is Doctor Heven, H-E-V-E-N, and I’ll be by to see you again tomorrow.” Then he started away.
“But she lifted her head and said to him—and because he did not know the patient, he did not know how remarkable it was that she was saying anything at all—‘What did you say your name was?’
          “He said, ‘Heven, H-E-V-E-N.’”
          “Now, somehow in the confused process of that wounded mind, the woman confused the word Heven with the word Heaven, and she thought of God’s love made know to us in Christ. The next day she said to everyone she met in the hospital, ‘This is the day which the Lord has made.’ And the day after that, ‘Yea, I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Evil, but I fear no evil.’ Within six days she was saying, ‘I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.’ Within five weeks she had been released from the hospital, and for the last fourteen years she has been carrying out her responsibilities as a leading teacher in Southern California.”
          Here’s an example of healing:
Matthew 9
18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”
19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.
21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
            Notice Jesus says it was HER FAITH THAT MADE HER WELL. How does this work? She suffered for 12 years. This is a medical nightmare that Jesus heals in an instant! When she first got sick Jesus was 18 years old. Now He is 30.

           She had tried everything. WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG for God to choose to heal her? Why didn't she have faith enough THEN? Was it at the point of her encounter with Jesus that she became a Christian?
            WHAT IF I DON'T HAVE FAITH THAT THE PERSON I AM PRAYING FOR WILL BE HEALED? I can only pray with what faith I have in the One who is able to heal. I can only trust in His judgment to do what is best. It makes no sense to the one who does not know Jesus. But the more I know Jesus, the more I trust Him.
        AS LONG AS A PERSON LIVES THERE IS HOPE FOR HEALING. It may take years before I see the answer to my prayers. It may take only a moment. But WHILE THERE IS HOPE THERE IS THE ABILITY TO EXERCISE BELIEVING PRAYER. You've heard it before.Hebrews 11:6 (NLT) says, "It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him." 
        Jewish law restricted this woman with uncontrollable bleeding to come anywhere near a crowd, let alone be right in the middle of one. She was CONSIDERED TO BE UNCLEAN, polluted and contaminated AND SHE WAS. But she is also a woman VALUED AND LOVED BY JESUS. And she is desperate enough to do something about her sickness.         Maybe she feared rejection from Jesus but instead He says, "BE ENCOURAGED..." He always assures me that MY DESPERATE NEED IS HEARD and that I am not rejected.

     In the crowd that milled around Jesus it is the touch of this woman that Jesus recognizes. He always feels it when FAITH REACHES TO TOUCH EVEN THE HEM OF HIS GARMENT. HE ALWAYS FEELS MY TOUCH OF FAITH and responds with the power of His healing grace. Even when I feel He will pass by, all I need to do is reach out to Him in faith and touch Him. HE NEVER IGNORES THE TOUCH OF FAITH. In Psalms 91:15 (NLT) God says "When they call on Me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honour them."

      Mark 5:30 (NLT) says that "Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from Him, so He turned around in the crowd and asked,
"Who touched My robe?"" 
     Jesus was in on His way to a life or death situation and yet He took time out to speak to this woman. He TURNS AND FINDS HER in the crowd and tells her that it is her faith that He has responded to. In Mark 9:23 (NLT) Jesus says, "Anything is possible if a person believes." 

       Jesus calls her
"DAUGHTER." Does this indicate that she is considered as part of the family of God? Was her faith the kind of faith that enabled her to be BORN AGAIN INTO THE FAMILY OF GOD? I think so. John 1:12 (NLT) puts it this way "But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD." 

         How amazing it is for me to meet with Jesus with enough faith only to touch the hem of His garment. How amazing it is when He touches me with His healing grace and salvation. How amazing it is when He turns and looks me in the eye and speaks words of encouragement and life into my soul.
      John Powell is Professor of Theology at Chicago’s Loyola University, in a sermon entitled “Prayer as Surrender,” he shares this illustration: “I recently read a story by a woman who said that as a girl she was poor. She said, ‘I grew up in a cold water flat, but I married a man who had money. And he took me up to a place where I had flowers, and I had gardens, and I had grass. It was wonderful. And we had children.
     “Then suddenly I became physically sick. I went to the hospital, and the doctors ran all sorts of tests. One night the doctor came into my room, and with a long look on his face, said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you this. Your liver has stopped working!’” 
     “I said, ‘Doctor, wait a minute! Wait a minute! Are you telling me that I am dying?’” And he said, ‘I can’t tell you any more than that. Your liver has stopped working. We’ve done everything we can to start it.’ And he walked out.
     “I knew I was dying. I was so weak, I had to feel my way along the 
corridor down to the Chapel of the hospital. I wanted to tell God off! I wanted to Tell God, ‘You are a shyster. You’ve been passing Yourself off as a Loving God for two thousand years, but every time anyone begins to get happy, You pull the rug out from under them!” I wanted to tell off God face-to-face!
     “And just as I got into the center aisle of the Chapel, I tripped, I swooned, I fainted, and I looked up, and there, stenciled along the step into the sanctuary, where the altar is, I saw these words: “LORD, BE MERCIFUL TO ME, A SINNER!”
    “I know God spoke to me that night. I know He did.”
    “She didn’t say how God communicated this to her, but what God said was, ‘You know what this is all about. It’s about the moment of surrender; it’s about bringing you to that moment when you will surrender everything to Me! These doctors, they do the best they can. But they only treat. I’m the only One who can cure you.”
      “And she said, ‘There with my head down on my folded arms in the center of the Chapel, repeating, ‘Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I surrendered to God. I found my way back to my hospital bed, weak as I was.
      “The next morning, after the doctor ran the blood tests and the urinalysis and so forth, he said, ‘Your liver has started working again! We don’t know why. We don’t know why it stopped, and we don’t know why it started up again!’ And I said in my heart, ‘But I know! Oh, but how I know. God has brought me to the brink of disaster, just to get me to turn my life over to Him
     God doesn’t bring us to the brink of disaster, but He may “permit” disaster or sickness as He did in the case of Paul in II Corinthians 12:7-10, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was give me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the LORD three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness!’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weakness, with insults, with distresses with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak; then I am strong.”
     Jesus is our Great Physician. He can redeem any circumstance. Sometimes His power is manifested in healing, but at other times He enriches the sufferer and empowers him/her to endure hardships, pain, sickness, and difficult circumstances in the spirit of praise. 

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