FAITH AND HEALING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-26-66 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message on the gifts of healing. This is the second part and the concluding part of the sermon that was delivered last Sunday morning. In our long series on the Holy Spirit, we have been following a series in the series. We are preaching on the gifts of the Spirit. Paul has four listings of them, and in those four lists in Romans [Romans 12:6-8], in Corinthians [1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28], and in Ephesians [Ephesians 4:11], he names thirty gifts of the Spirit. And when we allow for duplications, there are nineteen separate endowments of heaven that God bestows upon His people. They are sovereignly given and all of the members of Christ’s body have some gift; an endowment for you, especially and particularly for you.
Now in the first message, we spoke of five basic gifts for the evangelization and teaching, the Christianization of the world: the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor and the teacher [Ephesians 4:11]. Then the next message concerned precious ministering gifts that make the household of faith dear, both to God and to us to one another; the gift of wisdom, the gift of knowledge, the gift of mercy, the gift of comfort, the gift of giving [Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8]. Then there remain the four sign gifts; the gift of miracles, the gifts of healing, the gifts of tongues, and the gift of interpretation of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:9-10].
Now having spoken of the gift of miracles, we are preaching on the gifts of healing, and three times in this twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians does Paul name that gift, and always in the plural. Charismata, grace gifts, plural, a charismatic gift, a gift from heaven, a gift from God. Not something we learn or achieve, it is an endowment from glory, charismata, grace gifts; iamaton, plural of "healings." There are different kinds of diseases; one can be sick in his body, one can be sick in his mind, one can be sick in his soul. Very frequently, so very frequently will people come to me when we have the memorial service for someone who has taken his own life. Very frequently people will come to me and say can it be possible that one who has taken his own life could be saved? You have might as well ask, "Is it possible for one who has tuberculosis to be saved? Is it possible for one who has pneumonia or diphtheria or cancer to be saved?" There are many kinds of illnesses, and you can be ill in your mind, you can be distraught and destroyed and diseased in your mind, just as much as you could in your stomach or in your lungs or in your anatomy anywhere. And it is a foolish question to ask could one be saved if he were sick in his mind and took his own life. Those things are beside the point. They have no pertinence whatsoever. I marvel that people ask them. There are different kinds of diseases, there is not anything about us that Satan cannot afflict. There is nothing about us; your finger, your foot, your tooth, your tonsil, your eye, your ear, your heart, any part of us that God has made can be hurt and fall into illness. And it is in the mercies of God that we live.
Now having spoken of the gifts of healing last Sunday morning, we speak of them now and conclude this Sunday morning. How should a Christian meet sickness? First of all he ought to meet it as any Christian should, honestly. We ought to be honest even if we aren’t Christians. It doesn’t hurt us to be honest and to be Christian. There are cults in the Christian religion that deny the existence of illness, of sickness. My first pastorate out of the seminary was in a town where there was a state college. And in that college was a professor, and her mother belonged to our church. She was a very devout godly Christian mother. She fell down the staircase into the basement – she was a large heavy woman – and it nearly broke her up. That daughter dashed down to the basement floor and said, "Mother you’re not hurt, you’re not hurt, you’re not hurt!" I went out to see the poor critter in her house. She was black and blue and broken up all over, but she could not have a doctor, she could not have any medicine, she could have no ointment, she could have nothing because she was ‘not hurt.’ That is the strangest cult in this earth, to deny illness, hurt. And it reaches into death.
When I was a teenager, there was a couple whom I knew so well, and they belonged to this cult that says illness just exists in the mind, it has no basic reality. And the husband died in that home, and the dear surviving widow was oh so sad and filled with tears. But the practitioners came, and she dried her tears, and she was chipper, and she was smiles, and she was all of those things around the house, and I listened to some of my elders ask her, "What in the world has happened to you?" And she said, "Why, he’s not dead. There is not any death, death does not exist." And as a youngster, I looked on his face in the casket and I thought this is the strangest doctrine I ever heard of in my life, for there he is just as dead as he can be; but there’s not any death. Oh, these aberrations, I cannot enter into them, they mean nothing to me. Nor can I understand how intelligent people are swept away by them. You can be diseased in your mind, in your thought; you can find aberration in your thinking processes just as well as you can in your motivation or your anatomical processes. And that is a mental, intellectual disease, to deny these realities. What should a Christian do in the face of illness? He should admit it. "I am sick, believe me!" Or you are sick, and I can see it, and we admit it.
All right, having admitted it, there is such a thing as illness, and there is such a thing as pain, and there is such a thing as death; having admitted it, what should a Christian do? He should first of all search the mind of God to find its cause. Why am I ill? Or why is my family stricken? Now the Bible presents, and all I am is an echo, I just study this Book the best of my capacity and ability and try to preach and to present what God says. Why are we ill? There are, and I have chosen four, there are four reasons I find in the Word of God why we are sick.
First, there are satanic reasons. Satan afflicts us sometimes. This is an area into which it is very difficult for me to enter. My feeble and finite understanding with difficulty gropes to the reality of the spirit world around us and above us and beneath us. But the Bible clearly says that some illnesses are satanic in origin.
For example, in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, there was a woman which had an infirmity eighteen years, and she was bowed down and could in nowise lift herself [Luke 13:11]. And when Jesus healed her, He said, "Ought not this woman whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond?" [Luke 13:16]. Our Lord said that it was Satan who bound that poor woman and bent her over for eighteen long, weary years.
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Simon Peter, in the household of Caesarea, preaches Jesus, he spoke of the Lord who went about healing all who were oppressed of the devil [Acts 10:38]. So, we learn that first there is illness that is satanic in origin. Satan oppresses us, and whenever he has opportunity, he would destroy us. It is satanic in origin.
Now there is also illness that comes as a chastening and as a judgment from God. If there is divine healing, there is also divine affliction and chastening. When Miriam sinned, God struck her with leprosy [Numbers 12:1-2, 10-11]; when Gehazi sinned, God struck him with leprosy [2 Kings 5:27]. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Acts, Herod Agrippa I in his pride let himself be received as a god, "and immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and died." He was smitten by the angel of the Lord [Acts 12:21-23].
Then, of course, there is this passage that – oh it is difficult for me! In speaking of the Lord’s Supper in the eleventh chapter of the first Corinthian letter, he speaks of our not discerning the Lord’s body and not discerning the Lord’s blood by eating and drinking unworthily, without reverence for these holy emblems. Then he says, "For this cause, many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" [1 Corinthians 11:29-30]. Many have died: a judgment from God upon their dis-reverence, irreverence before the Lord’s Table.
Then one other: in the twelfth chapter of the Hebrew letter, you have this long passage, that we have an opportunity but just to mention, about the Lord chastening those whom He loveth, "and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth . . . and if we be without chastening, where all are partakers, then are ye illegitimate children, and not sons" [Hebrews 12:5-8]. So he encourages us and leads us to the healing of the Lord. I can know, therefore, from this Holy Book that there is illness and affliction that comes from the hand of God. And when we are ill, we ought to search our souls and ask of God, "Lord, am I afflicted in Thy sight because I am being chastened in Thy love and mercy?"
Now a third way, a third reason why we are sometimes ill: we disobey God’s laws of health and of well-being. And how frequently do we do it? We do not eat right, we do not drink right, we do not breathe right, and we fill our lives with anxiety and worry and disturbance. We do not eat right. There has been a survey made by the medical profession of over one million deaths in America, and seventy percent of those deaths were connected with diseases that are especially prevalent in overweight. We dig our graves with our teeth; we do not eat right, we do not drink right. The alarming increase of alcoholism in America argues for the ultimate destruction of this nation. In one of the papers this week, there is a doctor who is writing and answering a question about teenage drinking. A survey shows some eighty-five percent of our present teenagers drink. When you see a hundred teenagers, eighty-five of them, if they are in the average, eighty-five out of a hundred of our teenagers drink. What starts our teenagers on alcohol?
There are two causes. One is in their desire to belong. The second cause of teen drinking is the most serious: this is home environment where parents drink. Abstaining parents have the greatest number of abstaining children. The seriousness of adolescent drinking is shown in one statistic: that we are producing five hundred thousand new alcoholics every year, a new crop underway every twelve months. We are producing far more alcoholics than we are college graduates. And where does the liquor industry find its recruits? They have to find them in our children. If they didn’t find them in our children, they would go out of business. So the great dedication of the liquor industry is to teach our children to drink. And five hundred thousand – one half million – every year find themselves caught up in that horrible habit that shortens the life at least twenty years in everyone. Oh, we can hardly believe such things. Why are we sick? We do not drink right.
Why are we sick? We do not breathe right. Twenty-five thousand deaths in American alone every year are due to cancer of the lips, mouth, and respiratory system because of smoking. And the uncounted diseases and weaknesses that follow, not breathing right; God never made us to breathe into our lungs those interminable successions of cigarettes. We have a great high school named here in Dallas for a distinguished man. He and a doctor friend and I went to Chicago on a plane and then into the hotel room. And I noticed this man, one after another, smoking cigarettes. I met the doctor friend in the corridor of Baylor; he said, "Did you know that our friend has a big cancer in the upper lobe of his right lung?" I met the doctor a few days later, and he said, "Did you know our friend has just died?" He died in the prime of his life. He would be vigorously active this moment, but he did not breathe properly, he did not breathe right. These things contribute to our illnesses. We break God’s laws of health.
Another reason; we are prone to worry and to be filled with anxiety. Four times here in the Sermon on the Mount in [Matthew] chapter 6 does Jesus say, "Therefore, I say unto you," and it’s translated "take no thought, take no thought" [Matthew 6:25, 28, 31, 34]; merimnaō, merimnaō. That literally means, "do not be distracted," filled with burdensome worry about what you are going to do in your life, about what you are going to eat, what you are going to drink, what you are going to wear; all of these things, the cares of life. Oh, how we need that! I need it, most people need it. Philippians 4:6 says, "Be merimnaō," that same word, "for nothing; but in everything with prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God." We become sick and ill because we do not live right. And these things are brought on us ourselves.
Why are we ill? We are ill sometimes because we work too hard. Epaphroditus, though he did it for God, Epaphroditus "for the work of Christ was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me" [Philippians 2:30]. Jesus said to the disciples, "Come ye aside and rest a while" [Mark 6:31]. And when they went out to find manna on the Sabbath day, the Lord said, "Six days shalt thou work," and six days gather manna, but not on the Sabbath [Exodus 16:26-30]. That is the ordained rest of God. We are to rest some. No man should work all of the time. And many a man breaks down under the heavy stress of difficult and hard work. We need avocation as well as vocation.
Then sometimes we are sick for the purpose of spiritual deepening. "Before I was afflicted I went astray," said the psalmist [Psalm 119:67]. Then again, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted" [Psalm 119:71]. These are some of the reasons in the Bible why we are ill.
Now, how shall we meet this illness? We are sick, our family is sick, how shall we meet it? First: we shall meet illness with faith in God. Make it a matter of prayer; take it to God in prayer. The apostle John prayed in the third [letter] for his friend, "I pray that you may prosper in health as your soul prospers" [3 John 1:2]. Hezekiah, when he was ill, prayed to God [Isaiah 38:2-5]. And James, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, wrote, "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church," the pastors of the church; "and let him pray over him: for the prayer of faith shall save the sick" [James 5:14-15]. Thus, having admitted that we are ill, facing it honestly, and having searched our souls why we are sick, then let us make it a matter of prayer. Take it to God in prayer. We shall meet our illness with faith in God. Faith is a vital part of our healing. I cannot stress it too much, not only anatomically, physically, but spiritually and scripturally.
I want you to notice in the ninth chapter of the Book of Matthew itself, there are four different kinds of faith here in healing. First: there is a faith of substitution, somebody else has the faith. "And when Jesus saw their faith," the faith of the four who bore that palsied man, the Lord, "when He saw their faith, said to the sick and palsied, "Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. Rise, take up thy bed and walk" [Matthew 9:2-6]. This man was healed because of the faith of somebody else. Sometimes a great godly father, or a mother, or a pastor, or a friend will have faith, and God honors it, and the one is healed.
All right, the second: sometimes the faith is on the part of the one who is ill. "And Jesus said unto her, Daughter, be of good faith, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour." "Thy faith hath made thee whole" [Matthew 9:22]. The one who was ill had faith. Now in the next verse you find Jesus with Jairus’ daughter, and Jesus had faith, and He raised that poor girl from her sick and death bed [Matthew 9:23-25]. Then you have an instance, a fourth one, where both had faith: the one who was healing and the one who was being healed. Two blind men [said], "Lord have mercy upon us . . . and Jesus said, Believe ye that I am able to do this? And they said unto Him, Yea, Lord. And He touched their eyes, and said, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened" [Matthew 9:27-30].
There are four instances here; where somebody else had the faith, where the one who was ill had the faith, where the Healer had the faith, and where both the Healer and the one who was ill had the faith. What comes to me especially as I read that, is this: that faith, commitment to God, trust in God is a vital part of our healing. And I can see that in the life and ministry of our Lord. For example, twice it said Jesus opened blind eyes by making a clay of spittle and anointing the eyes of the blind [John 9:6-11; Mark 8:22-25]. And one time it says Jesus did that, anointing the ears of the deaf [Mark 7:32-35]. Now when I tried to read why such a thing as that, I found that spittle was in that day believed to be efficacious and wholesome for diseases of the eye. Is it? I would doubt it. But what Jesus was doing was this: anything that would help that man believe, Jesus did in order to encourage his faith.
And being human beings and living in this world, we are like that. We need encouragement to believe. That’s why Gideon put out the fleece [Judges 6:36-40]. And that’s why Hezekiah when he was healed asked for a sign, and the shadow on the dial turned back ten degrees [2 Kings 20:8-11]. We are human beings, and we need to be encouraged. I think that’s why the anointing oil, when the elders prayed, it was an encouragement to those to have faith [James 5:14]. And any doctor can talk to you about psychosomatic diseases; our anatomy, our bodies are so largely controlled by our subconscious selves and the attitudes of our mind. And if we can be right and strong and healthy in our minds and in our souls, it helps us mightily to get well in our bodies. Faith is a tremendous concomitant and corollary and necessity in our well-being.
All right, how shall a Christian meet illness? Not only with faith in God, but with means, the use of means. Do you mean preacher, that you believe in the doctor, and you believe in the pharmacist, and you believe in the hospital? Are these of God? Oh, my brother! You could not begin to read God’s Word and escape that. Now listen, now listen, in these glorious healings in the Bible, Hezekiah turned his face to the Lord and prayed to God when God said, "Set your house in order, you shall die, and not live" [Isaiah 38:1-2]. And when he wept and cried, God send Isaiah back to him with a word. "I have heard thy prayers, and I have seen thy tears; behold, I add to thy life fifteen years [Isaiah 38:4-6]. For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it as a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover" [Isaiah 38:21]. Isn’t that an amazing thing? With all of the miraculous healing of God, yet God had them make a plaster and put on Hezekiah that he might be well.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, the Lord said that that fine and generous hearted man picked up that traveler who had been bruised and beat, and poured in his wounds oil and wine in order that he might be healed [Luke 10:33-34]. Jesus said, "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick" [Mark 2:17]. May I point out to you, in the life of the beloved physician, the companion of the apostle Paul, when they were shipwrecked on Malta, the leader, the governor of Malta, Publius, was sick. And Paul healed him, iaomai, Paul healed him [Acts 28:8]. Now look, the next verse: "So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed": thereapeuō. "Who also honored us," now look at that; now this is Dr. Luke writing, "Who honored us with many honors: and when we departed, they bestowed upon us all of these wonderful gifts" [Acts 28:9-10]. Do you see that? Paul prayed, and laid his hands on him, and he iaomai, that was Paul’s miraculous healing, iaomai. Then others came, and there Dr. Luke says, we therapeuō, the physicians healing, "who honored us with many things" [Acts 28:8-10]. And I can see those two men of God: there is Paul, iaomai, praying and laying his hands on the sick, and there is Dr. Luke, therapeuō, healing as a physician heals. Ah, the two belong together!
When we are ill, let us pray and let us call the beloved physician. And if the physician is a Christian, he’s the one that I want. I would leave it of course to the judgment of a hospital staff if I did not know what to do. And if they chose a cursing, blaspheming, God-dishonoring doctor, I would put up with it. But I don’t want him in my heart and in my spirit. When I am sick I want a beloved physician like Dr. Luke who is a Christian man. I believe in Christian hospitals, and I believe in Christian doctors. These medicines are here from the beginning of the creation, and the same God that puts in our hearts the desire to be well is the same God who put the medicines here; penicillin from the beginning of the world. And for a man to refuse medicines and the doctor is of the same class of a farmer who would pray for a harvest, but he does nothing to prepare it. These things are of God. A Christian, when he’s sick, my tooth is ill, or my eye or my ear or my body; take it to God in prayer, and then take it to a beloved physician.
Now, a last thing, oh, so briefly these discussions are! How shall a Christian meet illness? With faith in God, in prayer, with needs, medicine and a beloved physician; no hostility at all, not in the Christian faith; then with, with a divine yieldedness to God’s purposes for us. Dear people God has healed, God does heal, God still heals, but sometimes God does not heal, God takes His servant home. I don’t know of anything more pitiful than this. And Moses said, "I besought the Lord, saying, O Lord God, Thou has begun to show Thy servant Thy greatness and thy mighty hand. I pray Thee, let me go over this Jordan, and see this good land, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. Please, Lord, let me live. But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and He would not hear me; and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of the matter. Get thee up on Pisgah, and look towards the east the west and the north and the south; but thou shall not go over this Jordan" [Deuteronomy 3:23-27]. And when I turn the pages and Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mt. Nebo, and there he died in the presence of the Lord [Deuteronomy 34:1-5]; that’s one of the most pitiful things in all of God’s Book.
That was God’s sovereign choice for Moses: "You shall die and not live, you cannot go over this Jordan." I think of the Lord Jesus; "O God, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; [nevertheless] not My will, but Thine be done" [Matthew 26:39]. "And Jesus said to Simon Peter, Truly, verily, I say unto thee, When ye were young, you clothed yourself and walked anywhere that ye wished: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God" [John 21:18-19]; that is, Simon Peter would die by crucifixion with his outstretched hands nailed to a tree, by which he should glorify God. And if it is the sovereign choice of God for me to live, praise His name. Lord bless the life and the length of days. But if it is His sovereign choice of God that I be translated, Lord, may my last days glorify Thee. May the witness and the testimony be, "Surely this man trusted in the Lord, dying as a Christian, raised for that ultimate and final hour." This is preeminently Christian.
Now, dear people, we go far beyond our time. On the first note of our first stanza, come. In the balcony round, on this lower floor, somebody you, into the fellowship of the church, giving your heart to Jesus, as the Spirit of the Lord shall lead, make it now, make it this morning. When we stand up, stand up coming; "Here I am, preacher, and here I stand," while we stand and while we sing.
I. Christian attitude toward illness
of God why its cause
II. Why we are sick
is satanic in origin; permitted by God(Job 2:7,
Luke 13:6, Acts 10:38)
it is the chastening of the Lord
is divine sickness as well as divine healing(Numbers
12:9-10, 2 Kings 5:27, Acts 12:23, 1 Corinthians 11:30-32, Hebrews 12:5-13)
it is because of a violation of God’s laws of health
We do not eat or drink right
We do not breathe right
We do not rest right(Philippians 2:30)
We worry ourselves into illness (Matthew
6:25-34, Philippians 4:6)
God wills for us a deepening spiritual life(Psalm
III. How the Christian should face illness
faith in God
Take it to God in prayer(3 John 1:2, Isaiah
38:1, James 5:14-15)
Matthew 9 presents four ways faith entered into healing of the people
a. Substitution – sick
too feeble to believe for himself(Matthew 9:2)
b. Faith of the
sufferer alone(Matthew 9:22)
c. Faith of the
minister alone (Matthew 9:25)
d. Combined faith of
sufferer and minister (Matthew 9:28-29)
a. Medical science
recognizes faith has great contribution to healing
God’s means for healing(2 Kings 20:7, Luke
10:34, Matthew 9:12, Colossians 4:14, Acts 28:8-10)
yieldedness to sovereign purpose and will of God
Lord can heal, has healed, does heal – may not heal(Deuteronomy
it is God’s will that we not live(John 21:18-19)