After my first time here R… stopped me on the way out and said… They would like to hear some teaching on healing… I had to stop and think about that. I’m part of a prayer and healing team in our Presbytery, we are invited to various churches to teach on and pray for healing. I know you guys have good medical care here as well. But I said I’d take that as the Holy Spirit prompting me. But can I say I’ve been a bit scared to do it… Reluctant. I know many of you have been through the pain and sorrow of losing someone close to you, you’ve probably wrestled with praying for someone to get healed and felt as if the doors of heaven were closed shut, and God had gone home for the day, put his feet up and dozed off in front of the TV. But every time I’ve come back she has reminded me to speak on it so I am today.
I believe God heals people, yes by medical science, but also through prayer by the Holy Spirit, I love the truth in what John Wimber said “ he found that more people got healed when he believed that God healed people and started praying for them, than when he didn’t and so didn’t pray’. In Psalm 30 it is David’s witness that God heard his prayer and delivered him from the pit, from a dire illness, and death. In our gospel reading today Jesus healed a man at the pool of Bethseda… I love the story because the man seems to be resigned to not ever getting well again and displays no faith, he does not even know who Jesus is! But in the mercy and Grace of God Jesus heals him.
I just want to talk about four types of healing.
1. The first is death. Look I know that sounds rather pat, rather pie in the sky when you die, opiate for the masses. But in the end it is to go home to our maker, to be with Jesus a place where there is no more suffering or sorrow. I’m preaching on Luke 16 on Sunday the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus paints the picture of Lazarus in heaven in Abraham’s bosom, all his suffering and sorrow behind him. Through deprivation, homelessness, illness and the shame of being a beggar he had kept his faith in God and now he finds himself, with God, consoled and cared for. It still leaves us here to deal with the grief with unanswered questions with loneliness that someone is not with us anymore. But it is the gospel hope.
2. The second is forgiveness and reconciliation: Is healing. Healing of our relationship with God, the start of the process of finding wholeness in our lives, spiritual life and spiritual growth. It also enables reconciliation with each other the healing of broken relationships. I love the story of Louis Zamperini. He grew up a wild kid in California, became an Olympic athlete in 1936, was shot down in the pacific in world war two, survived 40 days in an open life raft, was captured by the Japanese and brutally treated as a prisoner of war. You might have seen the film ‘Unbroken’. After the war Zamperini became an alcoholic full of bitterness and hate from his mistreatment. One night he went to a billy graham crusade and his life changed. He became a Christian. He stpopped drinking right away and found his life starting to be on the up and up again. However he sensed to be made whole, be healed, God wanted him to go to Japan and seek reconciliation and forgive the guards who had mistreated him. He meet with all but one. The Japanese people so respected him for this he was invited to be part of the Olympic torch relay for the winter Olympics in Ngagano. God’s forgiveness opens the way up for healing and wholeness in our lives.
3. People come to a new place of knowing God’s presence and peace even in the face of pain suffering, illness and even death. Walter Brueggemann is an Old Testament scholar. He talks about a process that he sees in the Psalms. He says there are the psalms of orientation, the happy clappys when everything is as it should be, life is good, God is good, its all good. Then he says there are Psalms of disorientation, like life is like going to the beach and being picked up by wave after wave and spun round and round gasping and fighting for air, and you don’t know which was is up… they are laments where people cry out well where are you God. Finally Brueggermann talks of psalms of reorientation, where the psalmist, come to the place of realising that God is present and with them even though it may feel he is far away, a distant disinterested deity. Psalm 33 has that in it it starts off you my refuge but I feel like I’m refuse, and comes to the point of saying But I will trust in you, I say my times are in your hands. Often when we pray for people to be healed God will lead a person through to that place… of spiritual health and maturity. the hebrew word for peace is shalom which means wholeness, finding that peace and trust in Christ is wholeness.
4. Finally God does answer prayer and heal people physically as well. Some would call it a miracle but the God who created it all, who is able to forgive sin and restore us to right relationship with him is also able to deal with the consequences of our fallen world as well. There is no formula to it, or a person or anything it is simply the sovereign grace and love of God. Often we can get put off by the showmen and the charlatans, or the rigmarole and razzmatazz that seems to go along with our Pentecostal brothers and sister. But you know what it is simply a matter of asking God and trusting in him to do what he wills.
I’ve experienced in my own life. Deloras Winders was a very ordinary Presbyterian women from the states and when she came to New Zealand I had just started going out with Kris, my wife of 29 years, we were at Bible College (bridal college) which is now Laidlaw and she was thinking she’d have to go home because her asthma was so bad… The bible college is out in Henderson on what was a swamp and it was affecting her badly. When Deloras finished preaching she said ‘God wants to heal someone here of asthma’… Kris thought that’s nice but its not for me…about five minutes later Deloras looked up and said “god wants to heal someone of asthma and they are sitting over this side of the church… and pointed to the side of the church we were sitting on… again Kris though that’s nice… but its not me… finally after about ten minutes Deloras kind of put her hands on her hips and pointed down the back where we were sitting and said God wants to heal someone of asthma and they are sitting down the back… and pointed to us…like being told off by your grandma. Kris thought God might be talking to her and so she went forward Delores prayed for her, she was healed of asthma and has never had it again. Praise God because she stayed at bible college and against all odds fell in love with me and we have been married and ministered together for 29 years.
Can I just finish by saying I believe that God heals people… I’m always happy to pray with people and just see what God does.