Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Shortly after I started attending my first Pentecostal church (A/G), I was befriended by a single mom. She had an eleven-year-old daughter. For several months, this lady had me to her apartment for dinner on numerous occasions. She was a very sweet and kind person, but she was instrumental in turning me on to a number of false teachings and practices. One summer day, I was visiting and noticed that much of her daughter's legs were covered with bruises. Her mom explained that she'd fallen off her bicycle a while back and the bruises had been slow to heal. Afire with zeal for divine healing, I asked permission to lay hands on the girl's legs and pray for healing. I visited several times over the next few days, each time noticing a substantial improvement in the girl's bruising, until finally the bruising had entirely disappeared. The healing, although gradual, was sufficiently rapid that we all agreed that we had just seen a miraculous healing.
Needless to say, this incident was more than sufficient to encourage me to do more of the same kind of thing. Usually, the "results" my wishful thinking imagined were far better than the reality, but on at least one other occasion I received a better result. On that occasion, I was leading prayer in a small prayer circle during our church service. An older gentleman had asked that we pray for his grandson who'd been diagnosed with a very serious condition (I think it was spinal menningitis, but my memory is cloudy on that point). The boy wasn't physically present because he was in the hospital. In good charismatic style, I rebuked the disease and commanded it to leave in the name of Jesus. A week later, the gentleman got up to offer testimony. He shared the story of how his grandson had been airlifted to a major hospital in Chicago for more extensive treatment, but when he arrived, the doctors checked him out and said, "Why did you send this boy here? There's absolutely nothing wrong with him." I'm not aware of the boy's subsequent medical history, but at the time this alleged healing was considered to be one of the more major miracles that our church had seen in quite some time.
Although all of this seemed very exciting and encouraging at the time, it didn't have a good effect on me. Most critically, it didn't take long for me to adopt the "going to see the doctor is for the weak in faith" mentality of the faith teachers to whom I was listening. This didn't have a very good effect on my health. I even went so far as to put off visits to the dentist for several years. Why go to the doctor/dentist/whatever when I had the right to divine healing in the Atonement? Another bad fruit of my charismatic beliefs was a lack of compassion for the sick and suffering. All too often, I found myself looking down on the afflicted as being weak in faith, disregarding Christ's own teaching that the weak were the very people to whom I ought to minister. As in the case of the extraordinary provisions I shared the other day, the spiritual fruit of the alleged miracles of healing I'd seen turned out to be 100% rotten.
After leaving my last charismatic church, it took quite a number of years for me to reject this thinking and seek professional help for my physical problems. Although I regret my foolish presumption which caused all sorts of needless worry, expense, and discomfort, God in His mercy spared me from lasting consequences for my negligence. Although I wasn't in the greatest shape, say, six years ago, I've since become more diligent about diet and exercise, and I've visited the doctor for several (thankfully minor) maladies. Although I've adopted the practice of using ordinary means to tend to my physical health, I'm happy to report that I feel better today in my mid-forties than I felt as a twenty-something charismatic! However, I don't give myself or any doctor the glory for this improvement, because I recognize that every good and perfect gift comes from my Heavenly Father, who is the One who--whether through means or without means, whether in this life or in the life to come--heals all my diseases. At no point in my physical recovery has God intervened in a miraculous manner, but at every point His sovereign control has been evident. As I learn to trust God both in times of prosperity and times of affliction, I find that I grow far stronger in faith than I ever was as a "health and wealth" charismatic.