I went to the vet the other day. In fact just three weeks after my Mom died, I had to put my beloved cat down. The vet said Mr Tiggles was suffering and would not get better, and putting him down was the right thing to do.

Now we know this vet, and when other vets had given up with a previous problem, he had persisted until Tigger came right. I don’t class myself as an animal lover, but Tig has taught me a great deal: in fact he had previously taught me some things about God as well (which I intend to repost later); now in his death (as my wife, my daughter and I sobbed our hearts out) he was teaching me something again.

When a day or so later I was expressing some doubts about having The Tig put down, I was told, “D__ (the vet) knows him, and loves animals; you should rely on his judgement.” And here was the lesson. God knows when we should die.

Have you ever wondered why some people who are prayed for do not get visible healing? I have. And only recently have I begun to get the glimmer of an understanding about this.

Some years back our church had a lady who was a leader of a woman’s group, and was really loved and respected. She went down with an incurable disease relating to her nervous system, which led to a slow, progressive death. She was prayed for, and prayed for, and prayed for. I recall at one service the assistant minister said that we weren’t even going to pray for healing “if it was God’s will” because we knew it was God’s will for her to be healed, and so she WOULD be. I felt really uncomfortable about this, but at the time couldn’t articulate even mentally why I felt that way. Was I just in revolt because (according to the minister in charge) I did not speak in tongues and therefore did not have the Holy Spirit?

Both my wife and I had also been prayed for; been told; “You are healed: now walk in your healing;” and certainly still suffered. Because we weren’t healed, the blame (i.e. guilt) for that was plonked on us: not enough faith.

I belong to a kind of email-based intercession group. Some of the people we’ve prayed for have had healing (disease, injury, financial circumstances), and some (outstanding people in their churches) have not been healed as we know it, and have died. Did we not have enough faith? Did we not put in enough effort? Did we not twist God’s arm enough?

Whose healing is it anyway?

A close friend of mine has a very dear friend who has cancer. This has spread to various organs, including the brain. We have obviously been praying for healing; but, medically speaking, the outlook is gloomy. My friend was “tackled” for considering the possibility that her friend would die, the argument implying: if you admit to the possibility that your friend could die, you lack the faith required for him to be healed.

Again, as far as I am concerned, we have the heresy that faith implies that we can say there will definitely be a healing, and we usually mean of the physical sort.

To assert this is the same (I think) as saying Naghmeh Abedini’s pastor-husband, Saeed, is still in gaol in Iran because she doesn’t have enough faith that he’ll be released. If you believe that, you haven’t heard Naghmeh’s testimony.

If everyone were healed, we’d have people who were centuries old in their “current” physical bodies. It’s a fallen world: everyone has to die: “… people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,.” wrote Paul [Hebrews 9:27]. Under these natural (fallen) circumstances I have no wish at all to invite you to my 5304th birthday tea!

Of course, if all suffering is illogical and random, the only thing that matters is what makes us feel good.

Moreover, whose Sovereignty is it anyway? Is there any purpose in suffering? If our suffering has a purpose, then (firstly) it’s not all pointless and (second) it will stop only when that purpose has been achieved. If we hold that God is sovereign, then He has a right to choose, and that probably won’t sit too well with our quasi-democratic – and definitely self-centred – notions; but we don’t call the shots: God does.

Let’s go back to Naghmeh and Saeed: since he’s been imprisoned in Evin he has brought at least 30 people to know Jesus. Given that he is an evangelist, this means he is accomplishing his purpose while suffering in gaol: his life and suffering have themselves become a testimony. Naghmeh has addressed the issue at the UN – so those people have heard the Gospel. She’s been on US and BBC programmes in the Farsi language during prime viewing time in Iran, and has testified to Jesus; so thousands of Iranians have now heard the Gospel. Of course we all pray for his release, and that of all the others who are imprisoned or persecuted for their faith in Jesus.

My wife spent 3 weeks suffering in hospital because of a totally smashed ankle: during those three weeks, I learned the meaning of Grace. My friend went through suffering in her marriage; our prayers for her husband weren’t answered according to our wishes; but, having seen her suffering and tested, I know her faith is real, and that she’s not just some perennial optimist. And so she has been a massive blessing to me and my whole family – because of her suffering.

Let’s return to her friend’s suffering. Can her friend’s suffering have any purpose, and, if so, what would that be? As Christians our main purpose is to glorify God. While we can see that a healing would glorify God, could his suffering also not glorify God? I look at their rock-solid faith and I’m amazed (I know I shouldn’t be) at it and Who it’s inspired by; I see evidence of God’s Holy Spirit in him and in my friend as they go through this. I know theirs is not an airy-fairy feel-good, warms-the-cockles-of-my-heart kind of faith. It’s not the kind of faith that wheel-spins in vain in the mud: it’s got traction; it pulls them through because it’s engaged with God. It glorifies Him because God’s strength is shown in their “weakness” of suffering.

When my friend’s friend dies, I have no doubt that he’ll go to heaven and be with the God he has served so faithfully for decades, because he is in a right relationship with God. He’s getting promotion from this world to a world of glory. He’ll be no longer susceptible to suffering, pain and death. His promotion will depend on the Boss. What right have we to demand that God should heal him? Whose sovereignty is it anyway?

Does this mean I’m callous? I don’t think so: I’ve literally cried over their pain and because the happiness of their friendship will be cut short, and I still pray for healing.

I pray God will heal him and that, if it is not God’s will to heal him, that He will grant him:

1    unshakable CONFIDENCE is his salvation;
2    CONTENTMENT with his life;
3    the CONSOLATION that his salvation and God’s Grace afford in this life;
4    physical COMFORT in his suffering;
5    COURAGE to live each day trusting God.

Am I demonstrating a lack of faith? Am I hedging my bets? I don’t think so.

I do not doubt God’s ability to heal him physically; I don’t know if that is God’s will: there is a difference.

The leper in Matthew 8:2 illustrates what I mean: “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean’.” He exercised faith in Jesus and recognised the supremacy of God’s will in this.

Are we going to accuse Paul of a lack of faith because he was not healed from whatever it was (some think, malaria) that he suffered from?

” Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. T.hat is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” [2Cor12:7] He wasn’t healed the way he would have wanted to be; and note the reason for the suffering: to keep him dependent on God and to glorify God.

Did Daniel say “Chuck me into the furnace and God WILL rescue me from it”?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’.”[Daniel 3:16]

Daniel considered the possibility that God might NOT rescue him, but he still demonstrated faith: “God CAN rescue me IF He wants to; but EVEN IF He doesn’t I’ll still listen to Him rather than to you.” Our faith must be an EVEN IF faith as well as a BECAUSE faith. Our faith must be in God and not in our own faith (which I have just learned is called “fideism”).

So, if someone who has had prayer for healing is not healed outwardly/physically (which is what we tend to mean – and God understands that), we mustn’t think it’s due to a lack of faith and heap guilt onto that person or on those who are praying for him or her. Who made us the judge? It’s God’s decision whether He will heal, not ours. It’s His agenda, not ours that must count; if we don’t respect that we are denying His sovereignty.

Like the vet, God knows when it’s our time to die. God is the loving, almighty, sovereign Lord – not a genie in a bottle.

 

To read the quoted Scriptures in their context, click on the links below:

Hebrews 9:7
http://biblehub.com/niv/hebrews/9.htm

Matthew 8:2
http://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/8.htm

2 Corinthians 12:7
http://biblehub.com/niv/2_corinthians/12.htm

Daniel 3:16
http://biblehub.com/niv/daniel/3.htm

[Come, praise the Lord can be sung to the tune: Maroc 7 by The Shadows. It was written on8 Aug – 16 September 2006]

Come praise the Lord, come praise the Lord all you his people,
Come praise the Lord, come give Him praise
Lift up His name, lift up his name,  all you his people,
Lift up His name, sing praise to the Lord

Come praise the Lord: His mercy endures forever
Righteous is He; and He alone is God
Come praise the Lord (Yes!),  Lift up His Name (Yes!)
Praise Him again and again, and again and again

Come praise the Lord, come sing His praise: He has redeemed us
He’s merciful; lift up His Name:

Father, Faithful, Mighty, Kingly, Gracious, Loving,
King of kings, Counsellor, Living God, Jireh, Sabaoth,
Timeless, Prince of Peace, Saviour, Emmanuel

Come praise the Lord: His mercy endures forever
He has redeemed us by His own Blood
Come praise the Lord (Yes!), Lift up His Name (Yes!)
Praise Him again and again, and again and again,)

Come praise the Lord, come praise the Lord all you his people,
Lift His Name high; for evermore!

[When it comes to the things of God, sometimes I’m a very slow learner. But sometimes God lets me see the things of this world in such a way that I learn something about God from something totally untheological. The following dialogue came to mind after I had read about General Electric’s AC6000CW diesel electric locomotive; this is amassive 6000hp loco.The AC4400 is its 4400 hp little brother.

I started pondering  power and Grace.]

Willem:    Hey, check this, my china: this AC6000CW diesel from GE’s a brute, hey? I mean, just check this: it turns the scales at over 193 metric tonnes, man. That’s more than my mother-in-law, ou!

Andrew:    That’s no joke, hey! She must be huge — the AC6000CW, I mean, not your mother-in-law.

Willem:    Look at this: “Starting tractive effort 180 000 pounds.” I don’t know what’s that in kiloNewtons, but that’s only lank powerful, hey. Lots of guts.

Andrew:    Sorry, but it doesn’t mean much to me. I mean, I can’t see 180 000 pounds of tractive effort; I see your boep [paunch], though, without any effort of any kind.

Willem:    No fine, man. O.K. check this now from Trains mag.:”With four AC4400’s … two on the head end and two 75 cars back the 108 car (that’s coal trucks, my bru, blerrie heavy things) the train was pitted against the more than 2 percent gradient [1 in 50] going at 0.2 miles per hour” — hey, even your Volksie goes faster than than 330 metres per hour, man. “The train didn’t stall, and the motors didn’t overheat. In the end the train was brought to a stop, not because the motors failed, but because the coupling on the first car fractured.”

Andrew:    Wow!

Willem:    Ja, man. Imagine that. That’s power, man, raw power. Hey? Makes you feel kind of puny, like an ant in the face of that power, man, hey? That’s POWER, man, real POWER you can see.

Andrew:    No lie! But now, just, like say, something even more powerful, or like maybe someone more powerful was, say, so powerful it or he was pulling something even bigger, like say, the UNIVERSE —

Willem:    You been drinking?

Andrew:    No, man, seriously.

Willem:    O.K. this thing — or person — or, like, being was pulling this load like the universe and made me feel like an ant —

Andrew:    No, say it came upon an ant on the line —

Willem:    That ant would need more than Grandpa headache powder!

Andrew:    No, man; shurrup man. Say, it — and everything it was pulling — just stopped because of the ant, like it didn’t want to hurt this ant. And remember you said the AC6000CW would make you feel like an ant. So take this thing or being pulling the universe,  and it stops for something relatively like an ant —

Willem:    “Relatively like an ant.” So?

Andrew:    Don’t you get it man; just think: that’s GRACE!

Willem:    Good God!

Andrew:    Exactly.

[The idea of an almighty God is generally acceptable. The idea of a judging God requires a little more faith. The idea of a loving God might require some effort on the part of a philosopher. Put all three together, and what do we have? More than anything else, this STUNS me: a God who is almighty, loving, judging, forgiving all in one! Totally amazing; I wish I could put that into adequate words.

For those of us in the valley that is also amazing comfort. I can get up and face the day (even if it’s Monday!), because God is almighty, God is loving and God is forgiving. On my cell-phone I have set the following greeting message: “This is the day that the LORD has made.” I need to be reminded that,  if God is the Boss, I enjoy the benefits of the Cross.

While I am in awe of Him, I don’t need to be scared of Him or anything else. To live that must be  true freedom.]

O
GOD
You alone
in the very beginning
created the heavens, the earth
and the entire, ever-expanding, spinning universe:

YET

You concern Yourself with humble, stumbling humanity
not only with the great, famous or faithful
but Your love extends to all
to ordinary mortals
such as
i

Rom 8:31  In view of all this, what can we say? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Rom 8:32  Certainly not God, who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all! He gave us his Son—will he not also freely give us all things?
Rom 8:33  Who will accuse God’s chosen people? God himself declares them not guilty!
Rom 8:34  Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus, who died, or rather, who was raised to life and is at the right side of God, pleading with him for us!
Rom 8:35  Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death?