Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Faith or Presumption?

When I was a young Christian, I spent several years under the influence of the Word of Faith movement, which taught me that the atoning work of Jesus Christ had purchased divine healing for all my diseases, and that all I needed to do was to claim my healing and to believe that I was healed. Although the teachers I followed, primarily Kenneth Hagin, gave grudging permission to seek normal medical assistance, they allowed this only for those whose faith was too weak to receive supernatural healing. Since without faith it was impossible to please God and I certainly wished to please God, the appropriate course of action was obvious: don't see the doctor/dentist/whatever.

During this period, I heard a lot of sermons taken from the miracles of Christ. One of the most popular was that of the woman with the issue of blood, who only had to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus' garment in order to be made whole. In these sermons, a great deal was made of how she claimed and received her healing, but a small little detail of context was omitted that makes all the difference in understanding how this miracle brought such great glory to Christ, as well as shedding light on the difference between true faith and vain presumption that masquerades as faith.

OK, let's suppose this woman's story was a little bit different. Let's say that her condition was such that it was self-limiting (i.e., would go away on its own) or was readily treatable with the assistance of a competent physician. In such a case, what glory would Christ have received if He'd healed her supernaturally? Not a whole lot. If she'd told a person of her healing, they could have said "You just had a cold; you would have gotten over it in a few days anyway" or "Dr. So-and-So helped me get over the same thing by taking some medicine." Given that one of Christ's main purposes for His miracles was to confirm that He was who He claimed to be, such a low-rent miracle would have served only to cheapen His glory.

But that's not how the story turned out, because the woman in question had diligently sought all sorts of medical assistance prior to turning to Christ. She had exhausted all possible ordinary means, and came quite literally to the end of her rope. By doing so, she proved that her malady was one that was beyond the help of ordinary means, something that neither time nor medicine nor surgery could help. Thus, by seeking ordinary medical assistance prior to turning to Christ, she helped to magnify the miracle into one that brought great glory to Christ, and her doctors' vain efforts helped prove that her eventual healing was beyond the ability of man or nature.

Based on this observation, I'd like to make a simple application. If you are sick and in need of healing, do two things: (1) pray and trust God; and (2) seek all available types of medical assistance. Experience shows that in many cases, God will choose to heal you through perfectly ordinary means. In that case, you ought to glorify God for His mercy, for ultimately it is God, not your doctor, who heals all your diseases. Should He choose to heal you in an extraordinary manner, the ordinary assistance that fails you will only add to the glory He will receive through your deliverance and will make that deliverance all the sweeter.

Thus, there is no contradiction between true faith and seeking out ordinary medical assistance. Now that I realize this, I've resumed seeing the doctor or dentist when I need help, and I've taken care to improve the nutritional content of my diet. Although they've not done any miracles for me, I can say that through them God has given me many smaller mercies. Should the Lord one day be pleased to allow me to suffer much greater affliction, I will also seek ordinary assistance, but not without prayer, and will trust that God will heal me through one means or another, whether in this life or in the life to come, at which time complete eternal health will be granted to me in the form of a new, glorified body. This is the hope which I share with all those who trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation from sin.

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