The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
The abundant life Jesus refers to in the verse above can begin now, on this side of the resurrection when we place our faith in him as Lord and Savior. There is no sin that Jesus cannot redeem, no disaster that he cannot overcome, no evil that he cannot triumph over – and no sickness that he cannot heal – as we live our lives on this earth. When we come into our full inheritance in heaven, as God’s adopted daughters and sons, there will be no sin, disaster, evil or sickness to afflict us – and death will be no more. However, the fullness of life in heaven can begin now, on this side of the resurrection. While we must still live in a fallen world, as fallen creatures who will eventually die, we can begin to experience some of the benefits of heaven, now, such as forgiveness, restoration, renewal and healing.
The ‘thief’ who comes ‘to steal and kill and destroy’ can be anything that tries to rob us of health and wholeness – but we don’t have to sit by and let such things be stolen from us. There is no reason to think we must accept as our lot in life — or our cross to bear — the effects of either sin or sickness. Jesus is eager to restore to spiritual and psychological wholeness those of us who have been devastated by the effects of sin and circumstances of life. I see this happen as I minister to people through inner-healing prayer and counseling. And now as I pray for physical healing, along with members of the teams to which I belong, I am seeing people healed of all kinds of sickness and disease.
Jesus offers us an abundant life despite rampant sin and evil in the world, a life in which we lack for nothing (Psalm 23:1), in which we are free to live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died for us (Galatians 2:20). Practically speaking, an abundant life overflows with peace instead of anxiety, joy instead of fear, praise and thanksgiving instead of self-pity and self-preoccupation, and blessings instead of deprivation.
The ‘thief’ who comes ‘to steal and kill and destroy’ can be anything that tries to rob us of health and wholeness – but we don’t have to sit by and let such things be stolen from us.
Another important aspect of abundant life is bodily health. Since we will have a body in heaven, as well as a soul and spirit, the health of our body in this life is important to Jesus, just as is the health of our soul and spirit in this life. Therefore, the fullness of life offered now through Jesus also pertains to our bodies. I am not saying we won’t become ill; I am saying, however, it is possible to be healed of illness, whether through medicine or prayer or a combination of both, just as it is possible in this life for our sins to be forgiven, our spirit to be renewed and our soul to be conformed to Christ.
But should we expect healings to be the exception – a rare sign that the kingdom of God has come near – or the rule? In the New Testament, healings (of soul, spirit and body) accompanied the preaching of the gospel. However, healings were also a part of the everyday life of the Christian church. As I mentioned in my previous post, James, the brother of Jesus, writes in his letter as though prayer for physical healing – followed by a full recovery – were a normal part of everyday life in the church (see James 5:13-15a). Furthermore, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, among which are the gifts of healings (1 Corinthians 12:9), are given so that the church, and we its members, will thrive as we await the return of our Savior. So, what this adds up to for me is that healing – as well as the forgiveness of sins – should be a way of life for Christians, not an exception.
There are instances when the forgiveness of sin plays an important role in a person’s physical healing. James notes in his instructions on prayer for healing that there can be a connection between sin and sickness (5:15b). Over the course of twenty-four years in ordained ministry I have seen how anger, bitterness, deceit and an inability to offer or receive forgiveness can lead to all kinds of physical ailments – and that when a person is able to repent of their sins and forgive others for the sins committed against them, sometimes they experience physical healing as well as healing of the soul and spirit. This doesn’t mean all sickness is related to sin, but in some instances it is. Regardless of the root cause of an illness, the Lord is ready and able to release us from whatever ever it is that ails us.
As a priest, I take seriously the charge Jesus gave to his apostles to preach and heal (Luke 9:1-2). But I pray for physical healing side by side with lay people who pray with the same power and authority as I do. Ordination is not a requirement for people who pray for healing; instead, praying for healing is a requirement for those who are ordained. The Holy Spirit liberally gives the “gifts of healings” (1 Corinthians 12:9), as well as many other gifts, to members of the church, lay and ordained. The apostle Paul includes “faith” in the same phrase in which he mentions the gifts of healings. It may be that a level of faith above and beyond the faith all Christians have in the saving power of Jesus – a faith that Jesus can and will heal any illness – is what is needed to compliment the gifts of healings. If you feel drawn to pray for healing, then that is the movement of the Holy Spirit who will gift you with what is needed so that you can do the work you are being called to do.
Next post: How to go about the laying on hands and prayer for healing.