This week, in small group, we were talking about how Jesus related to people and how we can relate to people. It was an interesting discussion. One point I brought up was that if Jesus stumbled upon as many sick people as I do in a day, he would heal them. Which brought about a brief discussion on why God hasn’t healed one of our small group members or the people in the hospital. Was it a matter of faith? Is it because miracles like that don’t happen anymore? Why?
Then, today in church (before I was evicted to go help with nursery again), the pastor was preaching on Matthew 14:22-33. You know, the whole Jesus walking on water and scaring the pejeepers out of the disciples. Then Peter, hops out to join him (I don’t know if hopped is really the appropriate word… We really don’t know how long it took him to decide to actually get out of the boat). And there he is, walking on water. Then he realizes what is going down and panics. Then he is going down. So, he calls out to Jesus (despite the fact that, as a fisherman, odds are he can swim). And Jesus hauls him up. And calls him out on it… The whole not trusting Him thing.
Whoo Peter. I love this guy. I feel like I can relate to him on so many levels… Reserved, yet outspoken. Speaks his mind and it sometimes gets him into trouble, but he remains silent at other times.
I know, thus far these thoughts seem a little jumbled. But let me explain the logic.
Image from walkingthefenceline.wordpress.com
Jesus walking on water is pretty epic. Its just not done. Physics-wise its not possible (well, unless the water freezes…). So, clearly, it is a normal response for the disciples to be a bit freaked out by the figure approaching them. Much like we are when crazy things happen. But, Peter needs to assess the situation further and tells Jesus to tell him to come if it is really Him. And of course Jesus calls him along. Knowing full well that this is going to be huge (Jesus was a pretty intentional guy). Then Peter does it too. Until he processes what is happening.
How often do we do that? Something epic is happening. Definitely God driven. And then we realize what is happening and our mind takes over. And we freak out. Because there is no way we could do that and thus we must be about to fail.
The cool part is that Peter starts to think he is going to fail and panics. But, he trusted Jesus enough (I mean, they had been hanging out for some time now and Jesus was still afloat) to call for him. And what does Jesus do? He hauls him out of the water because that is what friends (and saviors) are for. But then, as the good friend and deity He is, Jesus calls Peter out on having such little faith. Because if he continued to believe, he would still be strolling on the water.
When we fail, we often panic. We resort to our own devices. We start swimming. Things have to get bad before we start to call for Jesus. Odds are, I would be drowning before I would be like, “Ummm… Help?” But, Peter actually has it right here… Even though we badmouth him for having “little faith.” Realistically, we would have less… Or at least I would. And I would have swam first. Whereas Peter knew and trusted to call for help. What a good example for us!
This was not all just a random event. As I said before, through the Bible, it is apparent that Jesus is very intentional. He develops relationships with certain people; he is a pretty straight shooter in conversation… He had a purpose and He knew it. So, the fact that He stayed back when the disciples peeled and then strolled out in a storm is no mistake. The fact He called Peter out is no mistake. He knew that this would show them His power. He knew this would demonstrate how much He could be trusted.
And now, finally this brings us back around to the healing thing.
One of our questions was whether or not healing had something to do with us not having enough faith or praying hard enough. I have heard enough people say that we don’t have faith and that is why our prayers aren’t answered. I disagree. God tells us that we can do more if we have more faith, but the Bible also tells us that if we ask, we receive. The thing is, God’s answers aren’t always our answers. And His timing is not always ours. Sure, if we have more faith and grow more, we may gain new gifts and perhaps heal someone. But if we don’t, does that make us terrible failures? Maybe our faith is being used to conquer other giants.
In the story about Peter, we see him have enough faith to jump out of the boat. He has enough faith to cry to Jesus for help. But, not enough to stay afloat. And that was Peter! So, imagine us. I know, I am nowhere near that point. At least not consistently. We can all stand to grow in our faith. But, people with less faith are healed and that leads them to faith… So, who are we to judge?
Another talk we had was about whether or not healings still happen these days? In the gospels, we hear about Jesus going around healing everyone. But, there were still hurting people in towns. I’m sure he didn’t get to everyone. Or if He did, there were still many other people elsewhere He didn’t get to… He didn’t love them less. He died on a tree for them. So, it can’t be God’s favour. I have heard of people being healed. I have seen terminal cancer patients somehow live far past their prognosis. So, I do believe it does happen and God can make it happen. Even if we try to explain it away by other means. We are so spread out and there are so many people in this world, it may seem less common, but maybe its not. Or maybe it is, but God has purpose and reason behind it.
Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee … “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:14, 18
Which brings me back to God being intentional. When Jesus and the disciples were off gallivanting around healing and performing miracles, they had a purpose. They were doing these things to show them the deity and power of Jesus. They were demonstrating God’s love and power. The people who were healed often became followers (regardless of their prior faith). People who truly believed sought Jesus out to be healed. And Jesus commended their faith. He encouraged them to spread the word. Jesus was following a plan. The disciples were following a plan. God was healing these people with a purpose, for a message.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14
Healing is not solely a way to get a message across. It is not the only witness. Even though to us today, it seems the biggest and the strongest. Kind of the be all end all of signs and wonders. When people think miracle, they think healing. You forever hear of people praying for a miracle for such and such in the hospital with terminal illness B. Because what a great witness that would be.
But, messages can be spread in other ways. Peter and a few of his other buddies wrote letters to the early churches about the matter. They spoke of how suffering is a witness. How the way in which you endure persecution, or trials, or pain, or sickness can show a lot about yourself and your faith.
Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:19
God is intentional. And He is all-powerful and all-knowing. So, who is to say that he is choosing not to heal someone for a purpose. God is a loving God who cares deeply about us. But, He allows suffering and He give us free will. Sometimes, our suffering may show more about Him, may grow us more, and may be a bigger witness than if we were all healed from our ailments. He has perfect time. I bet those lepers who Jesus healed wondered why he couldn’t have showed up when they first got sick instead of after they had been outcasts for ages. But, that is where God’s timing comes in. He uses miracles to make an impact. I have seen Him use suffering to make an impact too… We come to Him at our lowest. We are more trusting when we can’t trust ourselves. And we are more receptive to people who have been stretched and have trials. It just seems to be our nature.
God is a great healer. And He can heal us. But, I think sometimes we put Him in a box. And say that because we aren’t healed, we must not have faith or favor or that we are doing something wrong. But, perhaps God is using that for bigger things. Like letting Peter sink. Maybe He wants to draw us closer. Maybe He will use the suffering to demonstrate His power to others.
Working in Medicine, I have seen a number of people who are very ill and suffering. Some with physical ailments, others emotionally. I have prayed for healing for family and friends and these patients. And sometimes they get better, sometimes they don’t. I can’t make any rhyme or reason for it beyond the science of medicine. But, there is sometimes more to it. The whole healing issue baffles me. But, many God-related things do. I guess that is why I need to trust and believe that He has it all figured out.
I have a friend who deals with chronic migraines. Much worse than what I experience (and I know I would love to be healed of those). I wish God would heal her. I pray God would heal her. And so does she. But, the way she copes is an amazing witness to others about dealing with chronic pain and suffering. She and her husband have taken measures to pray more about this issue and I can see the growth in her faith. It doesn’t seem fair, but who is to judge what God has in store for them.
I have a second father who was always very sick. And one of the most faithful people I know. I know for a fact that hundreds prayed for his healing. I know he had faith that God could heal him. But, instead, he struggled and suffered and yet stayed faithful through it all. He died almost three years ago. And I miss him. A lot. But, I remember one of the last thing he told myself and my two best friends (one of which is his daughter)… He quoted 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing.” That kind of faith. That kind of belief in prayer is a huge witness. Despite the sorrow that came with his death. I can picture him rocking out in heaven with the choirs and talking everyone’s face off. His death was, in essence a healing. An answer to prayer. Just not the one we had in mind. And I think God used him both in life and even in death to show people more about Him. Even though it wasn’t in the way we would like.
God promises to heal us. But, spiritual healing is the main goal. He uses physical healing and suffering and all kinds of elements of life to show us things about Him. And I guess, like Peter on the boat, sometimes the results aren’t what we expect, and yet they are. But, we need to trust that God is intentional and that because the “big miracle” didn’t happen, it does not mean that we are failures or aren’t somehow working in His purposes. He heals in His time. And in His own way. Not in our time or on our terms. He is bigger than that.
So, next time you are considering walking on water (figuratively of course, unless you have a nice icy lake nearby), trust where God is putting you. And know He is intentional. And if you start to sink, call out for Jesus, because He is a fisherman, so He can fish you out, even if He lets you sink a little first. He probably sent you there on purpose to teach you or someone else something, even if it isn’t what you think He should.
Here is a beautiful song about how God can use situations we can’t imagine to help us to grow (like illness or trying to walk on water). Because He sees the big picture and overall wants what is best for us, even if in the short term (in eternal terms) it seems miserable. He heals when He needs to, He lets things happen when He needs to and it will all be explained when we meet Him (at least I hope He explains it).