God Is a Healer
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
Does God heal today? Can we expect to see miraculous cures in our modern, high-tech world? Yes! I have personally experienced divine healing. For the first six years of our marriage, my wife Mickey suffered from a medically diagnosed infertility condition. We longed for children. There were times when Mickey would come home heartbroken from baby showers where she had been the only woman present who was not a mother of children.
Firmly believing that Jesus heals today, we had prayed diligently, and we often received prayer from others for the healing of this infertility. Then one day a lady in our church said that the Lord had spoken to her in the middle of the night to tell this to my wife: “Your barren days are over!” Mickey put “feet to her faith” by buying a roomful of nursery furniture, and we would go into that room often and pray for the baby that we were trusting the Lord to grant us one day to sleep in that crib.
Well, just a little over a year after the Lord spoke to Mickey “Your barren days are over!” she delivered our firstborn son, Brian. The Lord’s healing was so complete that in subsequent years Mickey bore us three more children. Jehovah-Rapha — The Lord Our Healer!
My desire in this Bible study is to show from the Scriptures that God is both able and willing to heal the sick, the diseased, the infirm. My family has personally experienced this blessing of divine healing. So have millions of others. Multitudes of books have been written on the topics of faith healing, spiritual healing, divine healing, healing prayer, healing ministry (and other similar expressions). And genuine testimonies abound of God’s power to heal sick and infirm bodies.
But the foundation for this truth lies not so much in men’s experience — as wonderful as that may be — but in the Scriptures, the Word of God. So let’s turn now to the Bible to see its revelation of this great truth of spiritual healing. (Explanatory note: the terms "spiritual healing", "divine healing", and "faith healing" are essentially synonymous in this bible study.)
• Sick believers don't need to remain sick!
James was writing to Christian believers (2:1). He asked them if any of them were sick. It is a “given” of life in our fallen condition that our bodies on occasion tend to sickness, and eventually they die. However, as the verse directly below points out, it is also a “given” for the believer that God is Jehovah-Rapha, “the Lord who heals you.”
God identified Himself to Israel in a variety of names and ways. Here He revealed Himself to His people as “Jehovah-Rapha” — “the Lord who heals you.”
Healing is not just something that God “does.” No, more than that, healing is part of God’s very nature — “I AM the Lord who heals you.” Remember always that you serve a healing God who has declared that His intent towards you is “not [to] bring on you any diseases ... [but to be] the Lord who heals you.”
• God is FOR us, not against us, in the matter of healing.
God’s heart towards His people is health and healing. See, for example, the following Scripture portions:
• God's spiritual healing power extends to ALL our diseases and infirmities.
The greatest of the Lord’s “benefits” is that He forgives all our sins! But the Psalmist here charges us not to forget another of the Lord’s benefits — that is, He “heals all our diseases.”
ALL our diseases! None are too hard for Him. No illnesses are excluded from this great “benefit.” Whatever disease you or a loved one may have, it falls under God’s promise to “heal all your diseases.”
• Jesus died for both our sins and our sicknesses.
It was Jesus’ willing offering of Himself on the Cross that bore our sins. But the very same tormented body of Jesus, in His scourging and crucifixion, purchased for us the blessing of divine healing — “by His wounds you have been healed.”
And notice the differences in the verb tenses used by Isaiah and Peter. Isaiah, prophetically seeing this seven centuries before Christ, said, “By His wounds we are healed.” The apostle Peter, looking back to Christ’s historical death and resurrection, declared, “By His wounds you have been healed.” Jesus cried out from the Cross, “It is finished!” Sin has been overcome. Sickness has been overcome. The Cross of Jesus Christ has conquered both sin and sickness. Dr. Roger Sapp, whose CDs and DVDs on healing I have greatly enjoyed, strongly emphasizes that healing is ours because of what Jesus accomplished at the Cross.
The following are some of the numerous instances of divine, spiritual healing in the Bible. Let’s see what insights we can learn from them.
• God responds to prayer for healing.
The principle here is simple — faithful Abraham prayed, and God healed. Moses prayed for leprous Miriam, and God healed her.
King David understood the power of prayer for healing the sick — “O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me” (Psalm 30:2).
The ongoing principle seen here and elsewhere in the Bible, is the power of a believer’s prayer. Abraham, Moses, and David believed in God’s healing power and His willingness to heal, and they prayed for it. Jesus taught on this same power of a believer’s faith-filled prayer:
• And it's OK with God if our prayers for healing are deeply emotional!
Serious illnesses can be emotionally devastating. King Hezekiah was “sick unto death.” To make matters worse, the prophet Isaiah brought him the Lord’s message that this illness would be fatal. Hezekiah’s reaction is very illuminating for us.
The Bible reveals to us that, having learned that his illness was terminal, Hezekiah “wept bitterly” (NIV) as he “prayed unto the Lord.” Note that God regarded both Hezekiah’s prayer and his emotions — “I have heard thy prayer; I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee.” It’s OK with God if we are quite emotional in approaching Him with our healing needs.
Now let’s look at some examples of Jesus healing the sick, the infirm, the diseased, those in pain, etc.
• Jesus healed a broad range of illnesses — in fact, He healed "every disease and sickness."
Christians serve a healing Savior, Jesus Christ. His heart, as here, is for “the people.” The Gospel records abound with illustrations of Jesus healing the masses, the men and women on the street. He preached and taught, yes. But He also “healed every disease and sickness among the people.”
“Every disease and sickness” — Christ’s healing power is without limit. His healing touch is available to everyone. There is no illness beyond His ability to cure. He healed them all, including:
So don’t hesitate to bring any healing need to Jesus, because He demonstrated His ability and His willingness to heal “every disease and sickness among the people.”
• Jesus' healing power was prophesied in the Old Testament.
God had this in mind all along. The prophet Isaiah spoke of it seven centuries before the New Testament era:
• Be encouraged to reach out to Jesus for your healing.
Our part is to reach out and touch Jesus for healing. Bring your sick ones to Jesus. Encourage them by faith to reach out and touch Him, because then, as now, all who touched Him were healed.
• Don't pray the leper's prayer; pray Jesus' answer!
Do not establish your healing doctrine on the leper’s cry, “If you are willing.” No, but rather build your faith for healing on Jesus’ confidence-building reply, “I AM willing!” Fix this thought firmly in your soul — Jesus IS WILLING to heal those who come to Him in faith.
• BELIEVE the Lord for divine healing. Have FAITH in His power and willingness to heal you.
A principle of great importance is seen in these verses — that is, “thy faith hath made thee whole ... according to your faith be it unto you.” Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” But conversely, we are told, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22). God expects us, in asking for healing as well as in other prayers, to believe Him, to believe His word, to “have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). Divine healing is quite appropriately called "faith healing"!
• God may ask us to demonstrate our faith for spiritual healing.
There may be times when the Lord will ask you to show your faith, to give observable evidence of your faith, as in the case of the man whom He told to stretch out his withered hand. I wrote earlier how my wife Mickey, sincerely believing God for the healing of her infertility, felt faith to buy a roomful of nursery furniture. Not many months later, after six years of infertility, she found herself pregnant with the first of our four children. I can only conclude that God saw the sincerity of Mickey's faith (edit 2010: see Tribute to a Life Lived Well).
• Healing comes through faith in Jesus, not faith in faith.
Healing comes “by faith in” someone — JESUS! Over the years I have heard sincere Christians misdirect their faith. Some have fallen into the error of having “faith in faith.” No! Our faith is in a Person, Jesus, who heals. Others have properly searched the Scriptures concerning healing, but have unfortunately been content to use them merely as a “formula” for healing, rather than as a revelation of the Healer Himself. "Faith healing" is not primarily believing the doctrine of healing (true as that doctrine is), but believing in the Healer, the Person — that is, in Jesus Christ.
Peter understood the proper object of our faith — Jesus! He told his listeners how the lame man had been healed:
• Sometimes we may need to "walk" for a while in faith, then the healing comes.
This is a very reassuring verse. Notice that the lepers were not healed the moment they prayed. No, but rather they were healed “as they went” to show themselves to the priests in obedience to Jesus.
There may be times when we need to “walk” for a while in faith, and then the healing comes. Although many healings in the Bible were instantaneous, some were not immediate. Be willing to maintain steadfast faith as you pray for divine healing, and don’t be discouraged if your healing does not immediately occur.
• Don't pray, then doubt!
In his epistle James reveals a valuable principle for the person asking something of God — “When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7). When you ask God for healing, don’t doubt! Don’t waver! Believe God. Believe the healing promises of His word. Reject doubt, choosing rather to say, “God is true ... His word is true ... so my doubts must go!”
• Now let us look now at HOW healing is ministered to people.
1. By prayer, as we have already seen.
2. By a spoken word.
Even at a distance from the nobleman’s home, Jesus spoke the word: “Thy son liveth.” And the man “believed the word that Jesus had spoken” and returned home to find his son alive. There is healing power in the spoken word of faith.
Again, we see the power of the spoken word of faith. Peter simply declared the truth: “Jesus Christ heals you.” Tell the sick, “Jesus Christ heals you.” Make no apologies for that statement. Don’t doubt it. Don’t try to water it down. As the old saying goes, truer words were never spoken!
Once more we see the healing power of the spoken word of faith. The preaching of the word of God inspired an atmosphere of faith. Paul “perceived that [the lame man] had faith to be healed.”
How did the lame man come to this place of having faith to be healed? The answer is that he heard the word of God spoken by Paul. This is a vitally important principle for all churches and all Christians. Preach the word. Teach the word. God’s word will inspire faith in the hearers. And we will begin to see dramatic healings in response to the spoken word of faith — “Stand upright on thy feet!”
3. By the laying on of hands.
First notice that it doesn’t require an apostle to heal the sick. It doesn't require someone with a special healing ministry to heal the sick. Verse 10 identifies Ananias simply as a “disciple.” Mark 16:17-18 records Jesus’ promise to all believers — “And these signs will accompany those who believe.... they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Led by Jesus in a vision, the faithful “disciple” Ananias found Saul and announced that Jesus had sent him to heal Saul’s blindness. It is important for those who are sick to understand that Jesus is able and willing to heal them.
Then Ananias laid his hands on him, and Saul’s eyes immediately received sight again.
4. By filling the needy person’s heart with the faith-building, life-giving word of God.
The words of the Lord, as recorded in the Bible, are life-giving. Jesus said that His words “are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).
But the Proverb reveals another dramatic benefit of keeping the Lord’s words “within your heart”, and that benefit is health — “My words ...[are] health to a man’s whole body.” The secular world speaks of "alternative health". But the best source of alternative health — or any aspect of health! — is the sure promises of God in His word, the bible.
5. Through what have been called “prayer cloths.”
Many churches continue to pray this way for sick family members and friends who live at a distance. I endorse this practice wholeheartedly.
Generally, during the post-service altar ministry someone will hold a handkerchief over which believers will come and pray for healing for the person in need. Then the handkerchief is mailed to the sick person, along with some faith-building scriptures on healing (usually including Acts 19:11-12) and an explanation that believers in the church had prayed for them for their healing. Testimonies abound of people being physically healed in this way.
Many years ago in a church in Anchorage, I was touched to see a medical doctor holding a prayer cloth on behalf of a sick person of his acquaintance. As I joined with the others in prayer, I thought to myself, “Here is this Christian doctor, with all his scientific knowledge, humbly asking the Great Physician to do something better than medical science can do it.” My faith was encouraged.
6. A merry heart contributes to our receiving spiritual healing.
The margin of the New American Standard Bible says that a joyful heart “literally, ‘causes good healing.’ ”
Think of that — the state of our “heart” — referring here to the emotions, not the bodily organ — can substantially affect our good health or lack thereof. This has long been common knowledge in the medical field. Sometimes illnesses are diagnosed as “psychosomatic” in origin. Interestingly, the word psychosomatic comes from the same Greek words that the Bible uses for “soul” and “body.” So medical science agrees with the Bible that the state of our inner man or woman can substantially affect our physical health, for good or for bad.
The word of God says that a merry heart “literally causes good healing”! There is a direct, cause-and-effect result: merry heart —> good healing. Conversely, a broken or crushed spirit has a negative effect on our health (it “dries up the bones”).
One of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) is joy. Those who allow the presence of the Lord in their lives to bring a daily, inward joy will also reap the wonderful promise of their “merry heart doing good like a medicine.”
7. There is healing in “the Lord’s Supper,” the Communion.
“That is why many...are weak and sick.” Why? They take Communion “without recognizing the body of the Lord.” They forget 1 Peter 2:24 — “By his wounds you have been healed.” They participate in the communion service, perhaps needing a physical healing, and remain oblivious to the fact that Jesus’ body bore both our sins and our sicknesses.
I would encourage every reader to ponder these things the next time you take communion. Remember what Jesus’ broken body has done for you. Receive the benefits of that by faith. And expect divine healing to come to your body, even during the very communion service.
8. By calling the elders of the church to lay on hands, anoint with oil, and pray for you.
An important doctrinal point on a related topic — it’s important for each church to have elders. Otherwise, there are no “elders of the church” for the sick to call for prayer and anointing with oil. Can you identify the elders of your church?
In my years as a Christian, I have been an elder in three local churches. I have always considered it a privilege to respond to calls from the sick. The process is simple and will generally be something like this:
9. In some instances, divine healing comes as demons are driven out. [NOTE: The Bible does not indicate that demons can inhabit Christians.]
It is important to remind ourselves that this healing was before the Cross of Christ, so the boy was not a born-again person, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. I find no Bible evidence that a born-again Christian can be possessed by a demon.
Here the boy was clearly possessed and had a demon within (verse 18 — “it came out”). The demon’s presence was manifested by the boy having seizures. When Jesus cast out the demon, the boy was immediately healed.
You too may encounter some instances of afflictions suffered by unsaved people that are caused by demonic power. As in the case of Jesus curing the epileptic boy, healing may come as you drive the demon(s) away in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a similar instance to the healing of the epileptic boy. The woman had been literally “crippled by a spirit” for 18 years. Jesus acknowledged (verse 16) that Satan had bound her and that she needed to be “set free.” He ministered that deliverance to her, and she was immediately healed from her crippling condition.
10. Sometimes healing comes from what would seem to us to be rather unusual, even remarkable, methods.
Jesus spit, made mud, and put it on a blind man’s eyes. And when the man washed his eyes, he could see! Sick people were laid in the streets, and when Peter’s shadow passed over them, they were healed.
These and other extraordinary healings were not written to give us a “pattern” of how to minister to the sick. In fact, neither of these instances was repeated in the New Testament. These are simply manifestations of the multifaceted power of God to heal. As we have seen in items 1-10 above, God heals in a variety of ways. The common denominator in all is this: God does heal!
WHO may be used to bring divine healing to those in need?
1. Ultimately, spiritual healing in all instances proceeds from God.
2. The early apostles healed.
3. A larger group of seventy-two disciples was sent by Jesus to heal the sick.
4. In the Great Commission, Jesus encouraged all believers to heal the sick.
The Great Commission is for all believers to share the Good News of Jesus “in all the world.” And God will confirm the Gospel with supernatural signs, including healings. And the Gospel that He will confirm is not spoken just by apostles and other ordained ministers, but also by “them that believe” (17). Every believer can share the Good News and can minister divine healing to the sick. Jesus’ encouragement to every believer is (18): “Lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
5. There are some Christians (not all) who are especially empowered by the Holy Spirit with “gifts of healing.”
This list is commonly called the nine spiritual gifts or gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are supernatural gifts with which the Holy Spirit endows individual Christians to minister to others.
One of these nine is “gifts of healing.” It is given to some, not all — notice: “to one is given ... to another ... to another ... to another the gifts of healing ...”
This is a similar list of spiritual gifts and ministries, indicating that to some God distributes the specific “gifts of healing.”
Let me add a side thought before our summary. It is this: Faith does not preclude our using wisdom and taking normal antiseptic, antibacterial precautions. For example:
SUMMARY: God’s heart is for healing. It is a “benefit,” as is the forgiveness of sins, that Jesus secured with His death, burial, and resurrection (Psalm 103:2-3). It is a historical "ancient landmark" of both the Old and New Testaments.
Jesus healed again and again while He walked the earth. And He remains “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus heals today!
Biblical healing methods vary, and they include healing prayer, the laying on of hands, the spoken word, and anointing with oil by praying elders, among others.
Jesus has entrusted the healing ministry to His Church. The first apostles healed the sick. So did a large group of disciples. In the Great Commission, Jesus encouraged all believers to lay hands on the sick for healing. And there will be some in the churches whom the Holy Spirit will endow with specific “gifts of healing.”
A closely related bible study by Pastor Feeney may be viewed at Growing in Faith for Divine Healing. Related sermon outlines include Receive Your Healing from God, Divine Healing Flowing from the Mercy of God, and The Power of Healing Prayers for the Sick. These and more are listed in our "God Heals Today" collection of sermons and bible studies.
©2004, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.