I apologize for the length of this blog. It is both an update on my condition and a labor of my meditation this week. I have written parts of it gradually, and it has been edifying to me as I wrote it. I pray that it may help someone else as well.
The last week and a half was rough. I have been coming along well and strong in my back’s healing and recovery – actually ahead of schedule -- but then last week it almost seemed like things were going the other way. Last week in particular, the pain seemed to come back with a vengeance. It literally felt like my sacroiliac and lower lumbar region of my back were on fire and in terrible pain. I couldn’t walk without painful spasms that took my breath away. I had a doctor visit earlier this week and a few times I almost jumped off the table as he examined and tested individual vertebrae in my spine and tender points around my sacroiliac joint.
I felt like both my physical strength – and my faith – was waning. I was doing everything medically and naturally advised but, most critical for me, I was working at keeping my eyes on Jesus. Yesterday in particular was a rough, long day for me. I was feeling a lot of pain. I prayed myself to sleep last night, exhausted and asking God what to do next. As I started to wake up this morning, a gentle voice clear as day spoke into my mind, “Overcome unbelief.” I heard it several times as I roused myself from sleep. When I got up, I turned on my Christian cable programs, and wound up listening to several sermons on dealing with unbelief!
One of the many things that impress me as I meditate through the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) is how much emphasis and pleasure Jesus took in people having unwavering faith in Him, in God.
Scripture shows me it is possible to have both faith and unbelief. In one example in Matthew 17, we read how the disciples tried to cast a demon out of a boy but they were unsuccessful. Since Jesus had previously empowered them to do this in Matthew 10:1, they should have been able to. When they later asked Jesus why it didn’t work, He answered that it was because of their unbelief. As the father of the boy sought out Jesus to accomplish this deliverance, he cried out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
I find on some days that this is my cry as well. I have to keep turning my attention from any lingering symptoms in my body and other distractions in my life back to the Lord.
I’m not ashamed to admit I am still a work in progress with the Lord. I am still learning and growing. I know that I have faith but I also have a measure of unbelief I am working at getting rid of.
Understand – I know what I used to believe. I know what I believe now. As a child and young woman growing up, the faith I had was powerless. We were taught about religion but not relationship. We were taught that the power of God was for the “old days” but not for today. Well, all you have to do is look around at the world today with all of the new diseases, war, terrorism, destruction, horrors and evils of every imagination, and I’d say the power of God was for today. It is most desperately needed for today.
For most of my life, while I believed in God’s existence, I didn’t know the love of God and I didn’t really believe in the power of God. Back then, I thought, what’s the point of praying if I’m not going to get answers? Why continue to talk to a God who doesn’t communicate back? What’s the point of hearing the Scriptures about Jesus’ miracles and the things He promises, if they’re not true or they don’t work? What’s the point of praying for healing when, instead (as we were taught), God might put some horrible plague or sickness on me to “humble” me? As a young teen, I felt overwhelmed by all the “holiness” exercises and “punishment” prayers (e.g. pray this many prayers as a penance for your sins) we went through just to keep God from being mad at us. It didn’t make sense to me. And what was the Good News that I kept hearing about? Very little of what I was being taught sounded like good news.
Suffice it to say that I tried many spiritual avenues in life, none of which worked for me; in fact, a lot of things in my life got worse. But I was drawn back to Jesus through a process. And as I drew closer to HIM, and really began to see HIM – the Second Person of the Trinity of the Godhead - and not just a denomination or religious exercise or practice, that was when things started to turn around. I began to listen to ministry programs that really fed me the expanded, explained, clarified, and revealed Word of God in a whole new way. I learned things that I never knew before; they had always been there, laid out in the Scriptures, but I wasn’t really raised to study the Scriptures, to dig into them, to study the nuances and meanings behind the Hebrew and the Greek languages they were written in.
For example, for years we had heard that God might NOT want good things for us, like healing, like provision, like a family or having nice things. We were taught that you never knew what God’s will might be, He might want you well or He might want you sick, but even so healing miracles died out with the original Apostles. But as I studied the Scriptures I learned some things.
That God loves me personally and unconditionally as His child.
That God does speak to us, His children. He does it in many ways – through His Word, through words or impressions that come to our minds and spirits, through a sense of just knowing, and through various other means. I’m not saying I walk around hearing voices or that you should listen to any voice or impression you hear. Whatever you believe you are hearing MUST line up – it must agree – with what the Word of God says. So, for example, if a voice is telling you to steal, that would not be God because God tells us not to steal. Everything must be checked against Scripture and depending on what it is, you may want to check it with trusted godly counselors.
That I can know God’s will for my life and standards for my life from His Word. I no longer pray “if it be thy will,” because I can know His will from His Word. His Word tells me that healing is for me, deliverance is for me, provision is for me, prosperity is for me, and help and rescue are for me, and so on. And if it’s an area that’s not specifically covered in Scripture, then I pray for wisdom and guidance.
That I was not expected to be perfect in my performance. For years I was banged over the head with the verse Matthew 5:48 “You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Many a long-term guilt trip was launched with teachings on that verse. Yes , I know we depend on God to help us. But perfect? Here and now? Right this minute? Then I learned that the verse actually translated as “You, therefore, must be growing into maturity of godliness in mind and character, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Growing in maturity… cool…. I can do that. How wonderful that God understands us and is patient with us!
That when Jesus died in my place on the cross, He bore the penalty and punishment for ALL my sins – past, present and future, so that I would not have to. (See Isaiah 53:4-5) When Jesus died, all of our sins and mistakes were already in the future.
While I don’t want to sin or make a mistake because I love God and I want to please Him, the fact is I am human and mistakes do happen. But I am no longer under condemnation (see Romans 8:1) if I fail at following God’s standards because Jesus has already fulfilled all of the Law – He followed and fulfilled everything perfectly and offered Himself as my substitute. When I do fail, I don’t have to beat myself up or “hide” from God for a few days until things “blow over,” but instead I turn to the Lord Jesus, I repent, and thank Him that He already bore the punishment for the sin or mistake I made. Then I go on and aim to do better with His help.
I strongly recommend reading Galatians, Chapter 3, very slowly and carefully and perhaps even in several versions (i.e. Amplified, New Living Translation, etc.) It explains how the Law was given to us to show that it was NOT humanely possible to perfectly follow it. In fact, James 2:10 says, “For whosoever keeps the Law as a whole but stumbles and offends in one single instance has become guilty of breaking all of it.”
Galatians 3:19 clarifies, “What then was the purpose of the Law? It was added [later on, after the promise, to disclose and expose to men their guilt] because of transgressions and [to make men more conscious of the sinfulness] of sin; and it was intended to be in effect until the Seed (the Descendant, the Heir, [which is Jesus]) should come, concerning Whom the promise had been made. And it [the Law] was arranged and ordained and appointed through the instrumentality of angels [and was given] by the hand of a go-between [Moses, as intermediary person between God and man].”
DON'T GET ME WRONG. God's commands in His Word are important to understand and follow. They are great standards and rules for living. But if you mess up, you're not going to get stoned for it!
I learned that God is more than willing for me to have earthly blessings as long as they don’t have me and they don’t take God’s place in my life. Rather, as 1 Timothy 6:17 says, I am to set my attention and hope on God Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
I learned that salvation – which I used to think meant just barely scraping into heaven after death – actually means more than eternal life; a study of the Hebrew and Greek words for salvation reveals this includes deliverance, safety, preservation, prosperity, healing, and soundness. Andrew Wommack gives a nice exposition on it here:
I learned that Jesus said the things He did were all what God the Father was telling Him to do. In John 5, Jesus says (paraphrased), “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. I do as I am told. I only do what I see My Father do.” So everything that Jesus did – the miraculous healings, deliverance, feeding of loaves and fishes, etc. – were completely in line with the Father’s will.
I learned that God does not send destruction, loss and disease into my life. He is not the one behind evil that comes my way. Yet I was taught this earlier in life and it never made sense to me. I could not imagine my earthly Father, who loved me and was good to me, inflicting me with pain or devastating injury or disease in order to teach me something, or to use me as an example for someone else. And if my earthly Father wouldn’t do that to me, why would Father God want to do that to me? Especially now, I am under a new blood covenant through Jesus. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief (Satan) comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance to the full, till it overflows.” God is NOT the stealer, killer or destroyer!
Even in Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus said, “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
As I began to grasp hold of these and other truths, I have seen God’s goodness and promises manifest in my life. I have had some hard times and losses but I have had blessings and deliverance and protection and healing before as well. I have been protected in the midst of accidents that should have taken my life yet I walked away without a scratch. I have been healed of illnesses, injuries and tumors before but I have also seen that illness and injury occur LESS in my life than they did before.
It doesn’t mean my life is perfect – Jesus did tell us that trouble would be part of life – but when trouble does come, I look to Him to take care of it, to deliver me out of it, to heal me from it, or to provide whatever I need.
Jesus indicated that miracle healing power was available for all who would believe on Him. In John 14:11-12 Jesus said, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” This was a message for all New Covenant believers, not just those back in the day! This is for believers today! I’m a believer!
So what do I do until the full manifestation of my healing (or whatever I need) comes?
Ephesians 6:10-13 tells me, “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord; be empowered through your union with Him; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides]. Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against all the strategies and the deceits of the devil. For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against master spirits who are the world rulers of this present darkness, against spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day of danger, and, having done all the crisis demands, to stand firmly in your place.”
So as I do what I need to in the natural, I pray in faith (believing for God’s provision); at the same time, I give Him any unbelief, doubt or fear that I sense in myself (I literally say, Lord, I give any unbelief, doubt and fear to You). I read and meditate His Word – but I don’t do it in a frantic way such as “oh I need to read 10 chapters a day” or “Oh I need to recite these Scriptures 10 times today!” I’m learning to read and meditate in His Word from a position of REST. Just simply resting in the Lord and trusting Him to do what He’s promised. I look up and find Scriptures that relate to my situation – healing, finances, whatever – and I spend more time focused on those Scriptures as I feel led by God. When actual physical pain or fear comes, I tell it to get lost in the name of Jesus, and I go on seeking the Lord. I’d rather spend more time focused on Jesus than on yelling at the devil.
I also listen to Scriptures on healing on CD. I spend time listening to and singing along with praise and worship music. I find that all this helps me to feel better and, even when I’m having a difficult day with pain, I find that the pain lessens as I immerse myself in God and His Word. I am standing my ground.
According to God’s Word in Isaiah 53, I have already been healed of this back injury; the Scripture uses the past tense. In the supernatural realm, it is done. It’s only a matter of time until it manifests fully in the physical realm.
In Mark 5:36, Jesus said, “Do not be seized with alarm and struck with fear; only keep on believing.” In Mark 11:24, He said, “For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will get it.
Some other materials I am reading and studying right now are:
Watching and reading the Copeland’s Healing materials online:
Joseph Prince Daily Inspirations Devotional
Kenneth & Gloria Copeland Faith to Faith Devotional
Currently reading : F.F. Bosworth’s book Christ the Healer
On TV/Cable, I watch a variety for spiritual nourishment:
The Believer's Voice of Victory
Destined to Reign w/ Joseph Prince
Place for Miracles (Richard Roberts)
ADDITIONAL COMMENT: I am adding this in response to some questions and comments I received.
I know there's differing opinions in the Body of Christ over God's will to heal. I used to question it myself, and I know that traditional teaching has taught that Paul's thorn in the flesh was a physical affliction or sickness. Yet when we study the Word, we find this is not the case. Paul states in II Corinthians 12:7 that because of the abundance of revelations he had received, he was given a thorn in the flesh and the thorn was "a messenger of Satan." When you research it, the Greek word translated as “messenger” refers to someone - it refers to a being - who is sent and it denotes a definite personality.
This same word for messenger is translated in other verses of the New Testament as "angel." Angels, as God's messengers, are created beings with personalities. Satan's messengers fall into the same category. Illness, however, is neither a personality nor a messenger.
Paul's thorn in the flesh was a wicked spirit or angel sent by Satan to buffet him. Buffet means to strike repeatedly, like waves on a shoreline. God does not send wicked spirits against people in the Body of Christ for any reason (James 1:13). He sent us the Holy Spirit and He gave us His Word which is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness to discipline and guide us (see John 16:13; II Timothy 3:16-17).
The phrase "thorn in the flesh" is a figure of speech. It is comparable to calling someone who annoys us "a pain in the neck." Likewise, Paul's thorn was an evil angel who caused him great irritation, but not sickness or disease. In II Corinthians 11:24-26, Paul lists some of the "irritations" he endured - being imprisoned, stoned, beaten, shipwrecked and attacked by angry mobs. Other examples of the persecutions Paul suffered are found in Acts 13:45, 50 and Acts 14:5-7, 19-20. The people in these verses were instruments used bythe messenger of Satan to persecute Paul.
Additionally, where Paul speaks of the "thorn" being given to buffet him to keep him from being exalted, he was not speaking of exalting himself through pride, but rather, Satan was buffeting him to keep Paul from being exalted by God in the eyes of the people. Many more people would have received what Paul preached if everything always ran smoothly for him. But this messenger of Satan buffeted Paul and scared away the faint-hearted from committing themselves to Jesus, whom Paul preached.
However, in every case, Paul WAS ultimately delivered. In 2 Timothy 3:11, he writes, "Persecutions, sufferings—such as occurred to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, persecutions I endured, but OUT OF THEM ALL the Lord delivered me."
This evil messenger was assigned to Paul to stop the Word of God from being preached. Everywhere that Paul traveled, the messenger of Satan worked to incite people against him. The persecutions that Paul suffered were Satan's attempt to steal the Word from him (see Mark 4:14-20) and prevent him from sharing it with others.
I hope this helps clear some confusion. Thank you for comments! I love to discuss the Word of God!