“Come on Larry, I’m taking you to a ‘real’ church! We’re going to a healing service!” The first words, after a short introduction, uttered by Dot, an energetic 75-year-young woman who felt led by God to provide a room for me during my studies at Duke Divinity School. Before I could set down my suitcase she steered me back outside to her car and forcefully exclaimed, “I’ll drive!”
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.” (John 9:1)
As we entered the crowded church everyone was exuberantly singing and clapping. We were ushered to the only seats available… on the first row, directly in front of the speakers. Boy, was I feeling intimidated. It had only been a few short weeks since I left the business world to become a preacher and here I was on the front row of a crowded healing service having no idea what was going to happen next. I didn’t even know what a healing service was?! I would soon find out.
“’Teacher,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind?’ … Jesus answered. ‘He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him.” (2-3)
Dot, gave me a knowing look that implied, “Trust me!” The music was catchy and easy to sing and I found myself beginning to relax and enjoy the service. The speaker stressed the importance of individual fasting and prayer. “We cannot be an example for others unless we are willing to practice what we believe!” he said. Nothing unusual so far, but then…
“Then he (Jesus) spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva and smoothed the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, ‘Go and wash in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means Sent). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!” (6-7)
The preacher pointed to a young woman and mentioned a recent divorce and how God would help her cope as a single mother. He looked at a young man and spoke of his struggle with alcoholism and how God could overcome it. Then, the minister looked directly at me and asked me to stand. He told everyone that I was a new minister (that much he knew) but then he shared personal details about my life that he could not have known. He asked everyone to pray for my ministry and let me sit down. Now I was uncomfortable and my head was spinning with questions.
“His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, ‘Is this the same man – that beggar? Some said he was and others said, ‘No, but he surely looks like him.’ And the beggar kept saying, ‘I am the same man!’” (8-9)
As if by unspoken command people began slowly moving to the front. The minister approached one woman standing directly in front of me and gazed into her eyes and mentioned a severe blood disorder. “In the name of Jesus, heal her!” he said and she spread her arms straight into the air, screamed and fell backwards right into my arms. I had no idea what to do but two women immediately grabbed her, gently eased her to the floor and discreetly covered her with a sheet.
“So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, ‘Give glory to God by telling the truth, because we know Jesus is a sinner.’ The man replied, ‘I don’t know whether he is a sinner but I know this: I was blind and now I can see!’” (24-25)
I left the service that night with more questions than answers. Are special healing services necessary for God to respond? Did Jesus really heal that blind man? How did the preacher know so much about me? Was the woman really healed of her blood disorder? What about people who are not healed? Are there other less dramatic ways we can be involved in a healing ministry?
“I don’t know whether he (Jesus) is a sinner but I know this: I was blind and now I can see!” (Jesus healing the blind man… John 9:25)
Last time, I utilized the story of Jesus healing a blind man and receiving criticism instead of gratitude to write about a healing service I attended that seemed to offer miracles but left me with more questions than answers. Are special services necessary for God to heal? How did the preacher know so much about me? Was the woman healed of a blood disorder simply because hands were placed on her? Did Jesus really heal the blind man? What about those who are not healed? Are there other, less dramatic ways we can be involved in a healing ministry?
For years, I struggled with feelings of inadequacy as a pastor and Christian. Should I be leading healing services? Could God heal others through me? In other words, why was I so afraid to take action? So recently, along with several leaders of our church, we began to look into the miracle of God’s healing. Our first Step was to study scripture. Here are a few clear examples:
1. God heals. “He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases…” (Psalm 103.3)
2. Jesus heals. “…and he (Jesus) healed all the sick.” (Matthew 8:17)
3. The disciples heal. “Then he (Jesus) sent them out… to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:2)
4. We can heal. “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray… and their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick.” (Ja. 5:14-15)
Step two: Several months ago we invited leaders from another church to talk about their healing ministry. They emphasized that as Christians we are already deeply involved in God’s miracle of healing. Every time we visit someone in need, send a card, deliver a basket of food, bake a cake, offer a prayer or simply share a conversation over a soothing cup of coffee we are offering God’s miracle of healing. We could stop feeling inadequate and start learning how to improve.
Healing is… a loving act of God’s compassion and mercy… not a performance or circus act.
Healing involves… spiritual, emotional and physical wholeness… as much as a physical deed.
Healing occurs… in God’s way and in God’s time… not simply because of what we say or do.
Healing can include… human responses such as nursing care, counseling and acts of friendship.
Healing may… mean courage to endure suffering and hardship rather than instant reprieve.
Healing ultimately… trumpets our earthly death as a victory ensuring eternal life in heaven.
“Jesus went to the blind man and asked, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ The man answered, ‘Who is he, sir, because I would like to.’ Jesus said, ‘You have seen him and he is speaking to you!’ The blind man responded, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Jesus.” (John 9:35-39)
After months of preparation and prayer our church and I reached a critical turning point. During Sunday worship, I shared what our leadership had discovered and how we hoped to expand our healing ministry in several spiritual and practical directions. At the end of the service, several leaders stood with me as we offered the opportunity for anyone who needed healing to come forward and we would pray with them. For the longest moment, nothing happened…
Then the miracle of God’s healing began. First one woman needed help in dealing with Osteoporosis. Right behind her was another person suffering from chronic back problems. One man confessed an addiction and asked for help. The line grew as we gathered around each person, heard his/her request and took turns offering prayers to God. The recorded music stopped and for several minutes, all you heard were sounds of people sobbing and praying. In thirteen years of ministry, I never before witnessed such a spiritual and emotional outpouring.
Over the next few days, several who came forward told me of dramatic changes and yes… even miracles! Understanding and believing the miracle of God’s healing was a critical turning point in my life and the ministry of our church. Have I successfully answered all the questions and concerns about healing? Of course not! But like the healed blind man, I can now emphatically say to Jesus and to you… “Yes Lord, I believe! I was blind and now I can see!”