Professor and church growth consultant Bob Whitesel has written Cure for the Common Church to offer potent and proven cures to foster health in their local congregations. By thoughtfully examining Scriptures, he applies truths through real-life experience from his years of consulting. Questions for group study also help members explore and discern together how to become a healthy force in their church. Cure for the Common Church will fan the fires of change and bring health, vitality, and new life to your church! What would you like to know about this product?
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There is sometimes the misconception that if something did not happen as hoped it was due to lack of faith. As a blanket assumption, this is untrue. What is faith? It is total belief. God may honor faith or belief in something not contrary to His will. Jesus Christ—our perfect example of faith—requested that the cup of suffering and death be taken from Him. It was not removed—not because of lack of faith, but because God had ordained otherwise. Healing is not just a matter of faith—it is also a matter of mercy. Faith usually does—but does not forcibly have to—have something to do with it.
Faith must not be confused with desires, fears, or pressures. Neglect is not faith, neither is fear of doctors and hospitals. It is natural—although surely not wise—for humans to delay undergoing even a medical diagnosis to determine the cause, nature or extent of an illness because of fear of what they might learn. Some even confuse this fear of diagnosis—the unwillingness to face the reality of their condition—with faith.
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Fear and faith are not equal; they are opposites. For some it is a fear of the unknown; for others it is a fear that if they find out something frightening they will not have the courage to face it. But to act based on fear, and convince oneself that it is based on faith, is brutal self-deception which can yield no good result either physically or spiritually. Similarly, it is simple to confuse faith with stubbornness or pride.
Peer pressure can also loom as a powerful force, imposing itself as a surrogate for faith, inhibiting the individual from doing what should be done. Likewise, for some to suffer rather than seek relief can fulfill certain psychological needs.
Having a martyr complex—enjoying watching others watching you languish—is far from the simple faith of those Christ healed. A Christian must walk in continual faith. This faith is demonstrated in many ways. If God allows a person to die, this may be a demonstration of faith. To refuse the operation may be only fear, peer pressure, neglect, or ignorance—not faith. It is likely that God would heal more people, if more people had more faith to be healed. One of the biggest factors that blocks a person from receiving more faith is his own erroneous belief that he already had enough faith when he does not.
One reason people are not healed is because they do not have the appropriate faith. This does not mean they should pretend to have this faith. For a person not to acknowledge his lack of faith in this area would be folly. Healing and faith are private matters between a person and God. Anointing for sickness is a solemn ceremony. It is thus a very personal thing between the individual and God, similar to prayer, though the minister is an important part of the process.
Therefore, any reasonable request for anointing should be honored, regardless of the nature of the illness or affliction and regardless of whether the person is consulting a physician or of what treatment he may be undergoing. There is an extremely important caution here, however. More than one person has died of pneumonia which started out as a cold, or of cancer of the colon which in its earlier stages seemed only a minor digestive problem. It is neither possible nor profitable to determine why God has or has not healed an individual. One can seldom say with certainty why a person has or has not been healed.
To conclude that one person was healed because of his spiritual uprightness is no more accurate than to conclude that another person was not healed because of his spiritual inadequacy. The biblical example of Paul and others negates such reasoning and renders any such exercise fruitless. Healing may relate to any number of factors—the person himself, his immediate family, his close friends, his wider acquaintances, the minister involved, the timing, the circumstances, etc.
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Since all must eventually die, it is inevitable that many will suffer from incurable diseases. Perhaps, ultimately, that is the real test of faith—to die confidently in Christ, entrusting to Him the life He gave to do with as He sees fit. Death may in some cases be a greater sign of faith than life and healing.