Many of us have, at some distinct point in the past, known a time when we realised that Jesus died on the Cross for us personally. For me it was a life changing experience.
We usually associate that experience, if we have had it, with a sense of relief that comes from forgiveness of sins. We are also created in such a way that the Holy Spirit’s conviction of God’s love for us in our hearts causes us, in turn, to fall in love with Him. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Every time we break bread and share the cup we remember these things.
The realisation that it is of grace is very important. We didn’t do anything to deserve Jesus dying for us. In fact we were His enemies before He met with us (Romans 5:8). For it is by grace -undeserved favour – that we have been saved through faith and that faith is not of ourselves, it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
In these days of the corona virus it is good to remember another thing about the work of Jesus on the Cross: He can also freely heal our bodies by the same principles that He can forgive our sins. We don’t deserve it, of course, but healing is also freely available through the same grace which He lavishes on us (Ephesians 1:6-8). In the same way as Jesus offers forgiveness of sins to all who believe, He also offers physical healing. They go hand in hand. Here are some verses which back this up:
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
One of the first miracles recorded in detail in Mark’s gospel is that of the paralytic whose sins Jesus forgave first:
2 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
The trouble with saying someone’s sins are forgiven is that there is not usually any immediate obvious sign to any observer that anything has changed. In that sense, it is easy to say to anyone – who can prove that the sins are not forgiven?
However when you say to someone “Arise and walk” and they are paralysed and couldn’t normally do that, then you immediately run the risk of being put to shame. Normally, there are few things more of a deterrence to a man doing something that being put to shame in front of everyone. It is made even worse if you are also seen to be disproving the power of Jesus.
Of course Jesus has no such problem. So if we stay close to Him and hear His promptings about when to pray and when to claim someone’s healing we can be on surer ground. Jesus didn’t actually heal everyone that was sick all the time (see John 5:1-9 esp. v.3), sometimes He has better plans for them, though we struggle to believe that.
In the Letter of James we can also see the connection between believing prayer and healing:
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
In this passage we are encouraged to pray for one another in the context of confessing our sins to each other (v.16). Elders are expected to have the “prayer of faith” which will save the sick and the Lord will raise the sick person up (v. 15). Elijah was like us, James says, and he prayed effective prayers that we can too.
I hope that the above will encourage you to believe that Jesus wants you to be well during this time. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). If we stay close to the Word of God and hear those living words as from the Holy Spirit we can see ourselves and those we love healed more often.
But always remember God may have a better plan for that person. None of us know another person the way God does. We need to trust Him when He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we would like as well as when He does.
If we ask anything according to His will then He hears us and grants what we ask (1 John 5:14-15). So if our prayers are not answered the way we want it then the problem is with our will not His. We haven’t heard Him correctly or, perhaps, we don’t want to hear the answer He is giving about what He wants. Prayer should always be about hearing first and praying accordingly afterwards. Once you have heard God’s answer then you will believe since faith comes from hearing the (living – ῥήματος) word of God (Romans 10:17).