For many years, the teaching on faith in many churches has gone something like this: “God’s Word says that He (heals/ provides/ delivers/ protects …) You need (healing/ provision/ deliverance/ protection …) Just believe and you will receive.”
There is a large element of truth in this. God does not change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. In the Gospels, Jesus healed every person who came to Him in faith, and every person who was brought to Him by the faith of others. It is reasonable, then that we would expect Him to heal every person who comes to him in faith today.
Likewise, the Bible shows God providing for His people. It shows Him delivering them in times of adversity, setting them free from spiritual bondages, and protecting them from the attacks of both human and spiritual enemies. Since He is no respecter of persons – He did not favour the people of 2000 and more years ago more than those of today – we could reasonably expect that He would act the same way toward the people of the early 21st century.
Much of the time, that is exactly what He does. When we come to Him in faith and present our requests, He responds positively and meets our needs.
Yet there can be few Christians who have not experienced the opposite at some time in their Christian walk. They need healing. They have prayed. They have had others pray. They have received the laying on of hands, and perhaps anointing with oil. They have searched out and claimed every Scripture relating to healing. They have confessed wholeness. They have bound the spirit of infirmity, they have cut off curses, they have cancelled demonic assignments. They have commanded their bodies to come into line with the Word of God.
Still nothing happens. Their bodies continue to hurt. The cancer continues to spread. The paralysed limbs continue to refuse to move.
Someone says, “Oh, but you have received healing in the spirit realm.” Big deal! They want it in the physical realm. They want a body that works.
The issue may not be physical healing. It may be any of the other areas in which we believe for God to move on our behalf, because we know that we are beyond the place where we can help ourselves: financial relief for the person staggering under a load of debt; the restoration of a relationship that is hanging by a thread; protection in the face of injustice and persecution. In any one of those areas we either know or have heard of people who have experience God’s miraculous intervention. If we are honest, we will admit that we also know or have heard of people who have not.
The question is not, do we believe God is able to intervene. It is, what will we do if He chooses not to intervene. Will we throw a tantrum and go off to sulk? Will we tell God that He doesn’t really love us (in spite of abundant evidence to the contrary)? Will we lose faith, if not in God Himself then at least in His ability to heal/ provide/ deliver/ protect or whatever?
This was the question that once confronted three young men. Snatched from their home and family and dragged off to a foreign country, they had nonetheless risen to a place of prominence in that country’s public service. Then came the crunch. The king set up a massive idol, and commanded that at a given signal everyone in the country was to bow before it. Anyone who did not would be sentenced to an horrendous death. The three young men, however, were worshippers of the true God, and to them the idea of bowing before a heathen idol was absolutely unthinkable.
When their defiance of the king’s decree was discovered, they were hauled before him. Without mincing words, he told them that they would either bow before his statue or face the furnace.
They knew that the God they served was able to deliver them out of this impossible situation, and did not hesitate to tell the king so. Yet they were also prepared to bow before the will of God. He was not their servant, they were His. They admitted to themselves the possibility that He would, for reasons only He could understand, choose not to deliver them in this situation. They remembered the prophets who had gone before them, many of whom had given their lives in their witness for God.
So it was that Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, three young lads from a conquered nation, stood before Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful king in the world of that day, and declared, “Our God is able to rescue us. We believe He will rescue us. But even if He doesn’t, we won’t bow before your idol.”
But if not… God is able to heal me, I believe He will heal me, but if not, I will still serve Him. God is able to provide for me, I believe He will, but if not I will still not go after other gods. God is able to come up with the miracle I need in whatever situation I happen to be in, but if I never see the miracle, I will still cling to God.
Basically, it comes down to what is most important to us – God Himself, or the things He can do on our behalf.