Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Further Thoughts on Successful vs. Faithful and Divine Healing

The last couple of days I have reported on Art Azurdia’s presentation at the Spurgeon Fellowship on the topic: Faithful or Successful: Shattering the Dichotomy.    And I absolutely appreciated Art’s emphases.  It is worth listening to, if you weren’t there. (You can find the audio here.)  It helped me put a number of things from my last pastoral ministry in context.

But I struggle with one aspect.  And perhaps I am coming at it wrongly, but it is where I am coming from. 

(Excuse me for the excurses into divine healing. I promise to bring it back to Art’s lecture)

In recent years I have been in regular contact with a pastor friend from Beaverton, Craig DeMo, who espouses the principles of image_thumbPortland faith-healer John G. Lake. (Lake—picture to the right--ministered in Portland in the 1920’s).

I do not want anything I say to come across as anything but respectful to Craig. I value him and the ministry he performs. I just can’t buy into it.  My friend has evangelistic and healing ministries both in the US as well as in Asia, particularly Pakistan. 

He teaches regularly in writing, in classes and on CD recordings on “divine healing” that I have studied & of which I have tried to make sense.  He has seven principles of divine healing, the first and last which are:

#1: We cannot judge whether or not someone is healed based on what we see, what we hear or on ANY external evidence. (p. 3)

and

#7: The Word always works.  Healing always comes. (p. 28)

Later, he seems to qualify this a bit when he says, “Whenever we act or move in faith for healing, healing always comes.” (p. 30) But his principle still stands: Healing always comes.

Let me break down a little bit more what I believe Lake & DeMo are saying:

#1: We cannot judge whether or not someone is healed based on what we see, what we hear or on ANY external evidence.

Divine Healing144He compares it to salvation: When someone accepts Christ, we may not immediately see any observable difference in their lives or behavior. But we have no qualms declaring that they are saved. Craig notes: “When it comes to the New Birth, we don’t judge based on what we see—but when it comes to divine healing, we change the rules.” (p. 3)

I just don’t see evidence of that in the New Testament.  When Jesus healed someone, there was an immediate, observable change in the physical condition of the person asking for healing.  The example that Craig uses as his main point of evidence is the healing of the blind man who was healed in stages in Mark 8.

Mark 8:22-26: They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

The point made, was that this man was not healed immediately. It took two steps. Therefore, Craig says, healing may not come immediately: the observable healing may come days, weeks or years later.

However, observable healing DID come when Jesus put spit in the man’s eyes & touched them. He did NOT remain blind. It was an observable difference. Now the reason why the healing was in two stages is a discussion for another article (or not) but I don’t believe this is a valid example of healing not being immediately observable. Even in this case, Jesus did not leave the person until healing was complete.

#7: The Word always works.  Healing always comes.

The only exemption that Craig allows to that is when there is unbelief, but not unbelief on the part of the one seeking healing, but unbelief on the part of the one administering healing. He uses the example of Jesus’ disciples in Matt 17:

Matthew 17:14-21 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

As much as I want to believe Craig’s teachings on divine healing, it just doesn’t add up to me. To say that healing ALWAYS comes whether or not we can observe it or not seems like a bit of word-play hocus-pocus. It comes across as not just faith, but blind faith. “In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe.” And there may, sometimes, be an aspect of that in faith. But that is not a definition of faith. 

I have to say there comes a time when one MUST say, “Healing didn’t come. Whatever God’s reasons; we were not necessarily at fault, the sick person was not necessarily at fault. But God chose not to heal.”

So…back to Faithful-vs.-Successful.

Probably I am just reading too much into this based on my reaction to Craig’s teaching on Divine Healing, butimage these two principles seem to be the same as what Art is saying about preaching and ministry.

Remember where Art left off as his conclusion: “IF YOU STAY FAITHFUL TO THE GOSPEL, YOU WILL SUCCEED.”  And I surmise from both lectures that success will come, even if it is not observable.

He premised that on his previous lectures that –

1. Success does not come because of our efforts, but because of God’s work. (I buy into that).

2. God has said that he chose us to bear fruit. (I buy into that).

3. Therefore…our work will always be successful; we may just not see it.

(Perhaps the fault in the logic that I am tripping over is that Art is equating “bearing fruit” with success?

I hear both of them saying, “In spite of all of the evidence…healing/success will come.”

I understand all the talk about Paul “planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” (I Cor. 3:6) And I ABSOLUTELY believe that.

But I struggle with the blanket statement that “IF YOU STAY FAITHFUL TO THE GOSPEL, YOU WILL SUCCEED.”

“All evidence to the contrary, you will succeed.”

Maybe that is just an element of faith. But I cannot differentiate clearly between what my friend Craig teaches and what I hear from Art.

It seems there may come a time when we say, “We were not successful. Whatever God’s reasons; we were not necessarily at fault, those around us were not necessarily at fault. But God (for his own reasons) chose not to make this endeavor successful.” And blindly saying, “Well, we ARE or WILL BE successful because God promised that,” seems a bit like presuming on God.

I would say of my friend Craig that he has set up human principles on healing that he must defend whether or not the evidence stacks up against it. May we also say that if we accept what Art says about ultimate success, that we may find ourselves having to do the same thing: defend principles whether or not the evidence stacks up against it?

I am not wanting to be negative and prematurely declare failure when the story is not all in. But I (wonder…not conclude…just wonder…if Art is setting up principles that may prove to be indefensible in the end.

Don’t take any of this as dissing Art’s presentation. It was excellent. And I may be splitting hairs a bit too much. l just want to understand if he is taking a scriptural truth and making a man-made principle out of it that is not actually biblical truth. 

Can you help me differentiate between the two teachers and their teaching?

If you can, put a note in the comments section. I may address this again if there is enough interest.

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