FAITH AND HEALING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 12:9
6-26-66 10:50 a.m.
On radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Gifts of Healing. For a long time now, a very long time, we have been preaching a series of sermons on the Holy Spirit. And in that series on the Holy Spirit, there is a series in the series on the gifts, the heavenly endowments of the Spirit of God.
In four lists in the Holy Scriptures, in Romans 12 [Romans 12:6-8], twice in 1 Corinthians 12 [1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30], and in Ephesians 4 [Ephesians 4:11], Paul names thirty of these gifts of the Spirit. All of the children of the Lord have some of those gifts. You do, all of the saints do. When we take out those that are repeated, there are nineteen of the thirty named that are left. There are nineteen separate gifts of the Spirit that Paul names in these New Testament letters. Of those nineteen, five of them I preached on, five of them are basic to the Christianization of the world: the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor, and the teacher [Ephesians 4:11].
Then in the following message I spoke on the precious ministering gifts of the Spirit: the gift of wisdom and knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8], the gift of comfort, of sympathy, of consolation, the paraclete gift, the gift of giving [Romans 12:8]. Then I began preaching on the four sign gifts. There are four of them: the gift of miracles, the gift of healing, the gift of speaking in tongues, and the gift of interpretation of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:9-10]. I have preached on the gift of miracles. Last Sunday I preached on the gifts of healing but I was able to encompass only one half of the sermon in that message. So this Sunday I shall seek to finish the message on the gifts of healing [1 Corinthians 12:9, 28].
In the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul names it three times: “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, to another faith, to another the gifts of healings” [1 Corinthians 12:8-9, 28]. And all three times, when Paul names it, he writes it in the plural, charismata plural, grace gifts, charismata, the charismatic gifts of iamatōn plural; iaomi, to heal. And you’re going to meet that word. Remember it. You’re going to meet that word later on in the sermon in an unusual way, iamatōn, healings. And all three times he writes it in the same and identical way, charismata iamatōn, gifts, plural, of healings, plural. The reason for that is quite obvious; every where else it will be the gift of wisdom, or the gift of knowledge, or the gift of miracles; but there are the gifts, plural, of healings [1 Corinthians 12:9, 28]. The reason, I repeat, is obvious.
There are different kinds of illnesses. One can be ill in his body. One can be ill in his mind. One can be ill in his soul. That is why I have never been able to understand the endless question that is brought to me concerning one who has taken his own life. And they ask me, “Can a suicide be saved?” You had as well ask, “Can someone who has died of tuberculosis be saved? Can someone who has died of cancer be saved? Could someone who had died of arthritis be saved? Can a suicide be saved?” You can be sick in your body. You can also be sick in your mind. And Satan afflicts God’s human race with every evil affliction that he could think of. And to destroy our minds and understanding, our equilibrium and balance, is one of the things that he’s able sometimes to do. So the plural is used because there are different kinds of illnesses: of the body, of the mind, and of the soul.
Now what should a Christian do as he faces sickness and illness? First of all, he ought to be honest, even if he is a Christian, he ought to be honest and admit it. “I am sick. I am sick.” Or, “My family is sick,” or “My friend is sick.” He ought to admit it and face it. “We are ill and not well.” To me, one of the strangest of all the cults of the Christian faith is that cult, so very numerous, that denies the existence of hurt, and sickness, and illness, and disease.
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. Her mother was one of the dearest Christians that I ever knew. And upon a day she had the misfortune of falling down the basement steps and landing on the hard concrete basement floor. Her daughter ran to her and said, “O mother, you’re not hurt. You’re not hurt. You’re not hurt.” And I went out to the house to see the poor critter. She was black and blue all over. She was broken from the top of her head to the sole of her foot. She was in pain and in misery but she was not hurt. It was just in her mind. And she couldn’t have a doctor. She could have no ointments. She could have no medicines. It was just an imaginative thing. It has no existence.
And when I was a boy I knew a family most intimately who belonged to that cult. And he died. And when he died, the poor and lonesome widow began to weep and lament. And in came the practitioners. And she dried her tears and she was chipper, and lightsome, and smiles, and all up. And I was present when some of her adult friends said, “What is the matter with you?” And she said, “He’s not dead.” Well you can imagine what that did to a boy. I went over there in the casket to get a good look at him. “He’s not dead. There is no such thing as death. It just exists in the mind.”
I repeat there can be aberrations and malfunctions in the human body. There can be also aberrations and malfunctions in the intellectual world, in the mind. And to me that’s one of them. To deny the existence of pain, and disease, and illness, and finally death is of all things to me intellectually impossible, and untenable, and inexplicable. So even though I am a Christian, I shall be honest and admit that there is sickness, and there is illness, and there is disease, and there is malfunction of the body and of the mind. And there is death.
Now being honest and having admitted it, what shall a Christian do? First, he ought to search the mind of God. There is a reason for our sicknesses. They are all causative, all of them. Now I am a preacher and all I do in this pulpit is say what I read in God’s Book. I am an echo. I am a voice. I do not originate this message. So many of the times the sermon I preach comes out of something God has said and God has revealed that I do not understand. Now a part of the message this morning is like that.
First: why are we sick? God says that some of our diseases are satanically inflicted upon us. We are sick because of the oppression of the devil. And one of the beautiful healings, compassionate of our Lord, in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, there was a woman which had an infirmity eighteen years, and was bound together, and could in no wise lift up herself [Luke 13:11]. And when Jesus healed her and they found fault with Him because it is done on the Sabbath day [Luke 13:13-14], the Lord said, “Ought not this woman…whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond even on a Sabbath day?” [Luke 13:16]. The Lord said that Satan had bound her in that infirmity for eighteen years [Luke 13:16].
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts when Simon Peter is preaching at Caesarea in Cornelius’ household, as he introduced the message of Christ he spoke of the Lord who went about doing good, “healing all who were oppressed of the devil” [Acts 10:38]. So there is a satanic origin in some of our afflictions. In a divine permissive will into which I cannot enter, sometimes Satan is allowed to hurt us, and to afflict us, and to bow us into the dust.
Second: why are we sick? Sometimes our affliction lies in a chastisement and in a judgment of Almighty God. If there is divine healing, there is also divine illness and affliction. When Miriam sinned against God [Numbers 12:1-8], the Lord smote her with leprosy [Numbers 12:9-10]. When Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, sinned against God [2 Kings 5:20-26], God struck him with leprosy [2 Kings 5:27]. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Acts, Herod Agrippa I took the reverence and adoration as though he were a god, and immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten up of worms, and died. God smote him! And he was stricken and died; an illness from the Lord [Acts 12:21-23].
In the eleventh chapter of the first Corinthian letter is one of the strangest passages. Speaking of the way, the manner, in which the Lord’s Supper ought to be received by the people [1 Corinthians 11:22-26], he says, “For this cause,” that they do it irreverently and unworthily in a blasphemous way, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” [1 Corinthians 11:27-30]. Many have died. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? Because of the irreverent way that they took the bread and drank of the cup, the Lord sent judgment upon them, and some were sick, and some had actually died [1 Corinthians 11:29-30].
Then of course, I haven’t time. It would be a message in itself to speak of this long passage in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Hebrews of the chastening of the Lord. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye are without chastening, without chastisement, ye are illegitimates, you are not children” [Hebrews 12:6-8]. Some of our illnesses and some of our infirmities are due to a judgment of God.
Third: some of our sicknesses are due to our violation of God’s laws of health. This whole world and everything in it—pleased God to do it that way—this whole world and everything in it follows patterns of God’s sovereign and elective purpose. He flings the spheres in their orbits around their central suns, and flings them out into Milky Ways and into these vast immeasurable constellations. But everything you see in it and the infinitude in which it moves is according to divine law, Everything you see follows a divine pattern. And when you break that law, when you violate that law, it has in it inherently a judgment. And that is true also with respect to our human anatomies, these physical frames. We don’t eat right. We don’t drink right. We don’t rest right. We don’t breathe right. We don’t live right. Then we are amazed that we are sick. We don’t eat right.
This medical profession made a study of over one million deaths in the United States and found that seventy percent of those deaths were with diseases associated with overweight. We dig our graves with our teeth. And somebody said to me after the 8:15 o’clock sermon, “Preacher, you’re kind of preaching to yourself today, aren’t you?” I said, “That’s right. That’s right.” I have gained more than forty pounds since I’ve been pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. We don’t eat right, then we wonder why we are sick.
We don’t drink right. And this is one of the pitiful things that seemingly is threatening to destroy the very fabric of American life. Out of this week’s newspaper I copied, I cut out a pericope from a doctor; and this is what the doctor wrote, “A recent survey shows some eighty five percent of our present teenagers drink.” Eighty-five percent of our teenagers drink. What starts our teenagers on alcohol? There are two causes. One is their desire to belong. The second cause of teen drinking is the most serious. This one is home environment where parents drink. Abstaining families have the greatest number of abstaining children. The seriousness of adolescent drinking is shown in one statistic. Namely, 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 college graduates. That’s why the liquor industry insists on advertising for they exist on their abilities to get our teenagers to drink. And five hundred thousand of them every year, five hundred, one-half million, every year is on the way to becoming an incurable addict which shortens their lives by an average of more than twenty years. And we wonder why we are sick.
Why are we sick? Because we do not breathe right. God never made the lungs and the respiratory system of a man to inhale constantly, constantly any kind of a burning, any kind, any kind. Yet the habit is so fastened upon the American people, and through us largely, and out of America to the whole world. Every year twenty-five thousand and more people die because of cancer of the lips, of the mouth, of the respiratory system due to cigarette smoking. The Reader’s Digest had an article not long ago entitled “Cancer by the Carton.” No wonder they call those things “coffin nails” and “cancer sticks.” You jeopardize your health when you smoke. Then we wonder why we are sick.
We are sick because we do not rest right. Epaphroditus, godly man, “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]. A man can work, and work, and work, and finally destroy his health. The Lord said to the Israelites on the seventh day when they went out to get manna, “How long will it be before you observe My commandments? The seventh day is for rest and I will give you double manna on Saturday. I will give you double manna on Friday but the seventh day is for rest” [Exodus 16:15-27]. And no man ought to work all the time even the pastor. There ought to be times when he leaves. There ought to be times when he rests. There ought to be times when he gives his mind an opportunity to refresh, and to reverberate, and to regenerate itself. Jesus said to the disciples, “Come ye aside and rest awhile” [Mark 6:31]. Our work ought to be moderated with rest, and refreshment, and relaxation. I’m not preaching to you and not to myself. We need it. We are sick because we do not rest right.
And we are sick because we worry ourselves into illness. I speak to myself. I am not up here hammering at you as though I were excluded. No man sins and I do not sin, no man weak and I am not weak, no man afflicted and I am not afflicted. We are talking about ourselves together before the Lord. We are ill because we don’t trust God and we worry ourselves.
See this passage here? This whole page over here, it is part of the Sermon on the Mount. And one, two, three, four times Jesus uses this word merimnon don’t, no, not; translated here “Take no thought.” “Why take ye thought for raiment? Therefore take no thought saying, what shall we do to live? Take therefore no thought for tomorrow.” What does it mean, “take no thought”? Wait a minute, here’s a fifth one: “For the morrow shall merimna for the things of itself” [Matthew 6:25-34]. Five times He uses that word there. Merimna is a Greek word meaning “to be distracted, to be worried by anxiety.” And how many of us find ourselves like that? Can’t rest at night, can’t dismiss these things from the mind, can’t go to sleep; we are hurt and finally become ill because we do not obey God’s promises to take care of us and to see us through.
That same and identical word merimnate is used in Philippians 4:6: “Therefore,” he says, “be merimnate for nothing: but in every thing with prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God.”. We are not to worry. We are not to be distracted by anxiety. We are to believe in God and rest in the Lord.
Oh, I wish I could be that way! I wish it for you. I think one of the finest things I heard out of the war was a woman in London, a godly Christian woman in London, who in the days of the terrible blitz, went to bed and to sleep! And when they asked her about it, she said, “Well, God and I were staying awake. And I just decided it wasn’t any need for both of us to stay up. So I went to bed.” Isn’t that good? Isn’t that fine? Let the Lord take care. And there are ten thousand things we worry about that never come to pass. A hundred thousand bridges we cross that we never arrive at or get to. And there is everything in our lives that God has promised to be trusted for; and to care for. I just need the committal in my soul.
Then sometimes we get sick because God wills for us a deepening spiritual life. In the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm, “Before I was afflicted I went astray” [Psalm 119:67]; “It is good for me that I have been afflicted” [Psalm 119:71]. I remember one time that I got down, and that was one of the highest spiritual experiences of my life. Forced to lie there in bed, I thought through ten thousand things times ten thousand. And it was a blessing to my soul. Why are we sick?
Now the pastor discusses what the Christian does when he faces illness. Being honest about it and having searched the mind of God concerning it, now what shall we do? How shall the Christian face illness? First: we are to face our illnesses with faith in God. Take it to the Lord and pray about it. In 3 John the apostle writes to his friend, “I pray, I pray that thou mayest prosper and be in health as thy soul prospers” [3 John 1:2]. Pray about it. When God sent Isaiah to Hezekiah and said, “Set your house in order, thou shalt die, and not live” [Isaiah 38:1]. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and wept bitterly and prayed [Isaiah 38:2-3]. Then God turned Isaiah around and said, “Go back, and tell the king I have heard his prayers and I have seen his tears; and I add to his life fifteen years” [Isaiah 38:4-5]. We are to pray about it. “Is any among you sick?” writes James, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem. “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the pastors, the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil…And the prayer of faith shall save the sick” [James 5:14-15]. We shall face our illnesses in faith.
In the ninth chapter of the Book of Matthew, there are four different ways that the story is told by which faith entered into the healing of these dear people. One, somebody else had the faith. They let down a palsied man, borne by four. Evidently that man was so ill, he couldn’t believe for himself. He was too far gone. And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to that palsied man, “Rise, take up your bed and walk” [Matthew 9:2-6]; their faith.
All right, second: in the same ninth chapter there is healing by the faith in the faith of the one who is ill. And Jesus said to this woman with an issue of blood, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole” [Matthew 9:22]. Then the third is in the faith of the Healer Himself, “And Jesus took the daughter of Jairus by the hand, and raised her up” [Matthew 9:23-25]. And then the fourth one is the faith on the part of both the Healer and the one who is healed: “And the blind man said, Lord, if Thou wilt Thou canst make me to see.” And Jesus says, “Believe ye that I am able to do this.” And they said, “I believe.” And Jesus touched their eyes…and they were healed [Matthew 9:27-30]. They could see.
Now in the life of our Lord, there is so evidently manifest, and in the life of medicine it is so corroborated, that faith, soundness of soul and mind, belief, has such a tremendous part in our health and in our well-being. Now you look at this. Twice it says in the Bible the Lord made spittle, made clay out of spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind. And He healed them [Mark 8:22-25, John 9:6-11]. And once the Lord made clay out of spittle, and anointed the ears of the deaf, and he could hear [Mark 7:32-35]. Then in reading why such a thing as that; I learned that back there in that long ago day, they believed that spittle had efficacy, was efficacious, was beneficial for diseases of the eye.
Now whether such a thing could be true or not, I don’t know. Sounds far out to me, but they believed it. And what Jesus was doing was this: He was trying to help that man have faith in God and in His healing. And that helped him. Like the anointing with oil on the part of the elders [James 5:14]; visible means helps the man to believe. We live in these human frames, and we live in a human nature, and somehow our human weakness seeks for a visible affirmation of what God will do. Like Gideon, he put out a fleece [Judges 6:37-40]. Like Hezekiah, when God said he would be well, Hezekiah, “What shall be the sign that I shall?” And Isaiah said, “The shadow on the dial of Ahaz will go back ten degrees” [Isaiah 38:8]. That’s humanity and these visible signs help us be well because they strengthen our faith.
And medicine confirms that. If a man is down internally, and down spiritually, and down mentally, and down in the inner self, it is difficult to get him up. But if a man has faith, and confidence, and assurance, and belief, and trust in God, oh, it is so much easier to minister when the man is ill! These doctors could talk to you at length about psychosomatic diseases; these ailments of the physical frame that are caused by the aberrations of the mind. Faith has a great, great contribution to make to our healing. So what should the Christian do? First: have faith in God. Take it to God and lay it before the throne of grace [James 5:15].
Second, what should a Christian do in the face of his illness? Second: let him face it with the use of means. Ah, here again we enter into those unusual hostilities to medicine and to the physician. But I can tell you, as I read this Bible and follow this Book, such a hostility is unknown and unthought-of in the Word of God, to use means to be healed, medicines to be healed. I have referred to Hezekiah. God said he should die, and not live [Isaiah 38:1]. And God sent Isaiah to him and said, “I have seen your tears and I have heard your prayers; and I am going to make you well, and I am going to give fifteen years to your life” [Isaiah 38:5]. And then not only that but on the sundial of Ahaz the shadow went back ten degrees [Isaiah 38:7-8]. The sun returned back ten degrees. And yet with all of the miraculous things that God was doing, Isaiah said, “Take a lump of figs, and make a poultice of it, and put it upon the boil, and he will recover” [Isaiah 38:21]. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that astonishing?
You find that in the life of our Lord. In the story of the good Samaritan, he picked up that broken and wounded man and poured in healing oil and wine [Luke 10:34]. Jesus Himself said, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick” [Luke 5:31]. And when Paul made his missionary journeys he took the “beloved physician,” quote, he took Luke with him, the “beloved physician” [Colossians 4:14]. Now I want to show you something here in the Bible, in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Acts. When they were shipwrecked on Malta, on Melita [Acts 28:1], the [father of the] governor of the island, Publius, was sick [Acts 28:8]. And Paul prayed and laid his hands on him, and iaomi—told you we were going to mention that word again, iaomi—and Paul prayed and laid hands upon the [father of the] governor of the island, and he was well, he was healed: iaomi, the gifts of iamatōn, the gifts of healing. God miraculously healed him [Acts 28:8]. Now, the next verse:
So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came and were therapeuō
Who also honored us with many honors; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as we needed.”
Can’t you see that? There is Paul the preacher, praying and iaomi, healing; and there is Luke the beloved physician therapeuō, healing. And the islanders honored them both, the man of prayer and the beloved physician. That’s what the Christian does. When we are sick, we shall pray, and these who love us shall remember us. And we shall call for the beloved physician iaomi in prayer, therapeuō in Doctor Luke.
That’s why when I’m sick I hope it could always be that my doctor be a Christian doctor, a man of God, a man of prayer. And for us to refuse the beloved physician is like a farmer who would pray for a harvest, but he refuses to cultivate the soil. Why, my brother these medicines have been here from the beginning of the creation. The same God that put in our souls the desire that we be healed is the same God that made the medicines here. Why, penicillin’s been here from the day that God made this world and all these other marvelous drugs. God gave them. And the Lord is pleased when we pray to Him in our illness and when we call for Doctor Luke, the beloved physician; iaomi, in prayer, therapeuō, with the doctor.
Now I hasten to conclude. How shall a Christian meet his illness? First: with faith in God; I believe in the Lord. Second: with the use of means; the beloved physician and the pharmacist with his medicines. Third: how shall a Christian face his illness? In yieldedness and surrender to the sovereign purpose and will of God. No man shall be able to contravene or interdict that judgment God placed upon this earth. We shall age and die, somewhere, someday, sometime. If He delays His coming, we shall face a terminal, final illness. God has healed. God does heal. God may not heal. God may choose to call His servant home. Is there anything more pitiful that you ever heard in your life than this?
And Moses besought the Lord, saying,
O Lord God, Thou hast begun to show Thy servant Thy greatness and Thy mighty hand…
I pray Thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan…Please, Lord, please.
But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak unto Me no more of this matter.
Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, lift up thine eyes eastward, westward, southward, northward, and look, behold it with thine eyes: but thou shalt not go over this Jordan.
[Deuteronomy 3: 23-27]
And when I turn to the last of that Book:
And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the Mountain of Nebo…and God showed him the land.
And the Lord said, This is the land that I sware unto Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed for ever…But thou shall not go over.
So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab.
[Deuteronomy 34:1, 4-5]
Sometimes it is God’s will that we not live. In this incomparable addendum to the Gospel of John, where he writes in behalf of his old friend Simon Peter:
The Lord Jesus said, Peter, when thou wast young, you dressed yourself and walked whither you chose. When thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not.
This spake He, signifying by what death—
That is, by crucifixion, he should die with the outstretched hands:
by what death he should glorify God
[John 21: 18, 19]
Glorify God in suffering, and in agony, and in the most terrible execution ever devised by the heart of cruel man. “By what death he should glorify God” [John 21:19].
So let it be, Lord, when that sovereign time comes. Lord, may it be said that he died like a Christian ought to die, with faith in the Lord, believing in the promises of God; that it is better over there than it is here [Philippians 1:23], that the trumpets are preparing to sound on the other side of the river, and one of God’s children is going home. Grace in this life all sufficient [2 Corinthians 12:9], grace in that last hour abundant, abounding, more than enough; that’s the way God wants us to live, and that’s the way God wants us to die. Whether we live, whether we die, we are the Lord’s [Romans 14:8]. And as Jesus bowed His head and prayed, “O God, not My will, but Thine be done” [Matthew 26:39]. That’s it. And God bless us in the yieldedness, and in the commitment, and in His grace [Ephesians 2:8] and mercy [Titus 3:5], and in His precious name, amen.
Now our time is gone. And while we sing our song, somebody you, give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], “Here I come, pastor, and here I am.” Somebody you, put his life in the fellowship of this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]. Make it this morning. Make it now. However God shall speak the word, shall lead in the way, shall make appeal to your heart, come. Come. A family, a couple, one somebody you, listen to the voice of God’s Spirit, and come, while we stand and while we sing.