Have You Thought About Death?

The Function of Miracles—Part 4

“Healing is part of the normal Christian life. God put it in His book; He illustrated it in the life of Jesus. He told us to emulate what Jesus did. So why is it so easy for us to be fully convinced when we pray for someone to be saved that our prayer will work, and yet when we pray for healing we find it difficult to believe they will be healed? Because salvation, as it pertains to a born-again experience, has been embraced and taught continuously by the Church for centuries, while the revelation of healing has not been widely embraced, and has even been fought. … Disease is considered a gift from God to make people better Christians! Think about how badly the Church has backslidden, to believe such lies! We have tolerated the deception that accuses God of doing evil, which is why today healing remains so controversial, little-practiced and little understood.” [829, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, by Bill Johnson.]

Johnson goes on to speculate on what the Church would look like if healing had been embraced as “an essential part of the Great Commission. Normal Christians would see deformities and say, ‘No problem.’ Cancer, ‘No problem.’ Missing limbs, ‘No problem.’ We would pray in power without one iota of doubt.”

Johnson neglected to add, “Death, ‘No problem.’”

I am going to go out on a limb and say there has never been a time or place in human history where people said, “Missing limbs, ‘No problem.’” As Philip Yancey has noted, Lourdes displays discarded crutches and wheelchairs, but there are no glass eyes, no artificial limbs.

Why do Christians pray for salvation with confidence, but for healing with less confidence? Johnson is right that the church teaches them that. But I don’t think it’s because of backsliding. I think the church teaches that because it deals with reality. Many prayers for healing are not answered.  And everybody dies.

That is not how it is in heaven. But we’re not there yet.

That’s why, in our prayers, the sovereignty of God is so important. Every single day we pray and hope for God to act “on earth as it is in heaven.” And he often does. Most diseases are healed. Personally, I have been sick many times and God has healed me every single time.

But today I am going to see a dear friend who is in the final stages of Parkinson’s disease. I have watched him slowly decline to the point where he can no longer walk and hardly can talk. It’s painful to see, and I know it’s not the way God means life to be lived. When heaven comes to earth, we won’t.

To tell you the truth, though, I’ve stopped praying that Tom will be healed. I am pretty sure he is dying, and I have no indication that God intends to stop that process. If God wants me to pray for Tom’s healing, he needs to tell me clearly. Otherwise I will pray for signs of grace as Tom succumbs to the power of death. I believe that Tom will be resurrected on the other side.

If Jesus was right and he inaugurated the Kingdom of God, we need to live that way. You can make a biblical case, as Johnson does, that it’s all available to us now, if only we believe.

You can also make a biblical case that we are only part-way there. We await the fullness of the Kingdom, when Jesus returns and heaven comes to earth “like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Revelation 21: 2) We expect that in the hope and frustration of “already, but not yet.”

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2 Responses to “Have You Thought About Death?”

  1. chasta Says:

    good post. Any other recommend reading on this topic, preferably that takes the nuanced approach?

  2. Paul Vander Klay Says:

    Once again I really appreciate you using your blog for another book summary/review. At another blog Chris Armstrong is reading and commenting on a book on this history of hospitals: Mending bodies, Saving souls, which I think really connects with the angles you are poking around in here. http://gratefultothedead.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/what-did-medieval-hospitals-look-like wee see the connection the medievals understood between illness and the process of sanctification and the Christian life. The church was all about healing, and seeking healing was very much a spiritual discipline, but the imagined outcome entitlement is the difference. Fascinating stuff. pvk

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