How Faith Can Help the Sick
THE accounts of miraculous cures in the Bible reassure us that God is concerned about our well-being, and they show his power to heal. Since these miraculous cures glorified God and brought so much joy, it is reasonable to ask, Does the gift of healing by holy spirit still operate?
The answer to that question is no—and the reason may surprise some. Those miraculous cures in the first century have fulfilled their purpose. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary correctly notes: “The purpose of the healing miracles was theological, not medical.” What were some of the theological purposes served by those miracles?
For one thing, Jesus’ healing miracles served the purpose of identifying him as the Messiah. And after his death, they helped to establish that God’s blessing was upon the new Christian congregation. (Matthew 11:2-6; Hebrews 2:3, 4) Further, they demonstrated that God’s promise to heal mankind in the new world will be fulfilled. They confirm our faith that the time really will come when “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’ The people that are dwelling in the land will be those pardoned for their error.” (Isaiah 33:24) Once these first-century purposes were achieved, miracles were no longer needed.
It is noteworthy that Jesus’ first-century disciples themselves suffered infirmities that were not healed miraculously. This is further evidence that Jesus’ miraculous healing activity as well as that of the apostles was designed to teach important truths, not to provide a medical service. When recommending therapy for Timothy’s frequent cases of sickness, Paul advocated the medicinal use of wine, not faith healing. Paul, who performed miracles of healing, got no relief from the “thorn in the flesh” that kept “slapping” him.—2 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Timothy 5:23.
When the apostles died, the gift of healing passed away. Paul himself indicated that this would happen. Likening the Christian congregation to an infant, Paul said: “When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.” The point of his illustration was that miraculous gifts of the spirit were part of the infancy of the Christian congregation. They were “the traits of a babe.” Hence, he stated: “They [miraculous gifts] will be done away with.”—1 Corinthians 13:8-11.
Can Faith Help When We Fall Sick?
However, even if we do not rely on faith healing, it certainly is appropriate to pray to God for help when we fall sick. And there is surely nothing wrong with prayer by others in our behalf. But the prayers have to be realistic and in harmony with God’s will. (1 John 5:14, 15) Nowhere does the Bible command us to pray for faith healing.* Rather, we pray for Jehovah’s loving support during the trials caused by sickness.
The Bible shows what faithful ones may pray for in sickness when it says: “Jehovah himself will sustain him upon a divan of illness; all his bed you will certainly change during his sickness.” (Psalm 41:3) Meditation on God’s Word will help those suffering emotional sickness. The psalmist wrote: “Your own loving-kindness, O Jehovah, kept sustaining me. When my disquieting thoughts became many inside of me, your own consolations began to fondle my soul.”—Psalm 94:18, 19; see also 63:6-8.
In addition, we need to show good sense in health matters, and the Bible counsels us about this. It is much better to live according to Bible principles than to engage in drug abuse, smoking, heavy drinking, or overeating and then when sickness follows, turn in desperation to faith healing. Praying for a miracle when one is struck by sickness is no substitute for wise conduct to escape avoidable sickness, such as by eating nutritious food if it is available or seeking qualified medical aid where possible.
God’s Word also encourages us to cultivate healthy mental attitudes that can benefit our physical health. The book of Proverbs counsels: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer, but a spirit that is stricken makes the bones dry.” (Proverbs 14:30; 17:22) Praying for the holy spirit to develop calmness and joy in us can only have beneficial effects on our physical health.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
What About Faith Healing?
Of course, even if a person lives as healthy a life as his situation permits, sickness may still strike. What then? Is there any harm in going to a faith healer in hopes of being healed? Yes, there is harm. Modern faith healers rarely perform free of charge. And spending money on a faith healer when that money could be spent on medical help could cost us dearly. Besides, why give money to individuals who take advantage of people’s credulity?
Some may argue: ‘Surely, faith healing must have some value if even a small percentage of those who go to the “healers” are healed.’ But it is arguable whether faith healers really heal anyone in a permanent way. The Encyclopædia Britannica acknowledges: “Relatively little controlled research has been achieved on the many unknown factors in faith healing.”
Even if a small number seem to be healed, this is not evidence of holy spirit at work. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22, 23) Jesus also said that certain ones, although disapproved by God, would attract attention to themselves by means of signs: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” (Matthew 24:24) Surely, modern faith healers could be included in the application of those words, with their dramatic presentations, constant demands for money, and claimed miraculous healings.
Such ones are not following in Jesus’ footsteps. Who, then, are they following? The apostle Paul gives us an indication when he says: “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness. But their end shall be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15) If faith healers do not perform the healings they claim, then they are deceivers, following the path of Satan, “who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) But what if, in a small minority of cases, they do perform healings? Must not their “powerful works” be effected in the power of Satan and his demons? Yes, that must be the case!
The Time of Real Healing
The miraculous cures of Jesus were performed with the help of God’s holy spirit. They demonstrated his purpose to solve all of man’s health problems in his due time. Jehovah promises “the curing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2) And he will not only heal sicknesses but do away with death. John explains that Jesus came “that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) What a fine healing that will be! Jesus will again perform cures like those recorded in the Bible but on a far grander scale. He will even resurrect the dead! (John 5:28, 29) When will this happen?
In God’s new world, which, according to all the evidence, is close at hand. That new world, to be ushered in after the wickedness of this system of things has been removed forever, will be a real blessing for righthearted mankind. It will be a world without suffering. “[God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) What a contrast to what we see around us today!
Therefore, in cases of sickness, pray to God for support. And whether sick or healthy, learn how eternal life without sickness will indeed be possible. Build up your faith in this trustworthy promise of God by studying the many references to it in the Bible. Learn how God’s purpose in this regard is nearing fulfillment according to his own timetable. Have no doubt, for God’s Word assures us: “He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.”—Isaiah 25:8.
Some think that the words at James 5:14, 15 have to do with faith healing. But the context shows that James is here talking about spiritual sickness. (James 5:15b, 16, 19, 20) He counsels individuals who have become weak in the faith to call on the elders for help.
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Jesus’ miraculous healings fulfilled their purpose
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Jesus will repeat and multiply healing miracles