From A Used Car Lot To Heaven

 

Used Car Lot

Used Car Lot

Used car salesmen have not always received the best reviews, when ratings are given to the various professions in terms of public esteem. Prior to meeting Gerald House, I had no personal experience with either buying or selling used cars, so I could not relate to some of the unkind things or jokes that were said about their profession. My friendship with Gerald changed my attitude about judging someone based on the type of work that he does.

Gerald was a natural-born salesman. He never met a stranger, and seemed to be comfortable in every environment- from an executive board room to a sale barn. He owned and operated a well-known used car dealership in my hometown, so he was easy to find when I began shopping for an inexpensive, low-mileage vehicle for our teenaged son. “Come on in, Doc,” he said when I introduced myself and told him my need, “let’s find you just what you need for that boy!” At that point, I knew he would find the right car, or at least make me think he had. The one thing that attracted me to Gerald was his on-going conversation about the things of the Lord. He knew I was a member of a sister Baptist church, but he did not know initially, that I was passionate in my desire to walk by faith, and hungry for Christian fellowship. There was an immediate and eternal bond forged between us, and that bond was Christ.

I learned that Gerald’s car lot was his mission field, and everyone that set foot on that lot, became a prospect, either for salvation or spiritual growth. It didn’t matter to Gerald if you were a “dignified physician,” which is the way he would teasingly identify me to some of his customers, or if you were unemployed. Most of his customers were plain and simple folks, and Gerald knew just how to speak their language. Over the next several weeks, while I continued shopping at his lot for the right vehicle, I witnessed Gerald’s unique techniques for sharing the gospel. I happened to be present one afternoon, when a man who had stopped by, came under conviction of his need, and prayed to receive Christ’s free gift of salvation. Even after I purchased the vehicle we needed, I spent a few hours of my free Wednesday afternoons at his lot, observing and learning the “House” techniques of evangelism. Gerald had a unique way of identifying each of the regular attenders at his lot. After a person had been there 2 or 3 times, he was given a nickname or an identifying phrase. Most often, when I   walked into his office that was always filled with 4 or 5 men, he would say, “Look, here comes Dr. Moore- all flash and no cash!” I never really knew what he meant by that, but accepted it as his way of saying, “I’m glad to see you, come on in and have a seat!”

On one Saturday afternoon while at home watching an exciting Razorback football game on TV, the phone rang, and Gerald asked if I “had any more of those pocket Bibles in the glove compartment of your car?” He said he was witnessing to a man, and had run out and needed one. I told him that I did, but could I wait until the half-time of the game to bring it? He said, “I guess that’ll be alright.” Over the next few minutes, the Spirit convicted me to leave that important game, and do something that was much more important; so with some grumbling and complaining in my spirit, I drove the 7 or 8 minutes to his lot, to deliver the Bible. Upon arrival and prior to parking, I heard the sounds of shouting and laughter inside the office, and was not prepared for my next “House experience.” As I opened the door to the office, a very large Black-American had picked up Gerald off the floor and was twirling him around, while shouting and chanting, “Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus!” Gerald seemed to be crying and laughing at the same time, but had the presence of mind to say to James, “There’s Dr. Moore- grab him!” James immediately loosed Gerald, lifted me, and began twirling me with his brawny arms, and shouting to Jesus some more. When Gerald could control himself, he said that James had just prayed to receive Christ as his Savior, and was rejoicing that “he was sure that he was going to heaven someday.” I had learned not to be shocked by anything that occurred at Gerald’s used car lot. My grumbling and complaining had quickly vanished and was replaced with a spirit of thanksgiving, even before James put me down!

It was perhaps a year later, that I received a phone call from Nell, Gerald’s wife for 35 years. The call was late in the evening on another Saturday, and Nell said these words, “Gerald just died.” Certain that she was in on another of his pranks, I said, “Come on Nell, what’s the old boy up to now?” She said, “No, I’m serious, Gerald just drove down to the lot, and when he got there, he slumped over the wheel and his heart must have stopped.” I was in total shock just like Nell, and everyone that knew him and loved him. This was the last thing any of us expected. That’s what I frequently experienced with Gerald; the unexpected.

We buried his remains a few days later, but his funeral was not a concession of defeat, but a celebration of victory. Whenever I drive by that used car lot now, my mind is flooded with many wonderful remembrances of spiritual battles that were fought and won there. In the process of learning, witnessing, laughing and crying at that place, I know that my spiritual life enlarged-all the while having the time of my life. I can’t say about the present situation at that lot, but I can attest to the fact that once the Spirit of Christ, embodied in my pal Gerald House, walked and worked at that used car lot, and many souls received heaven as their reward right there. It is only fitting that on Gerald’s last trip to his lot that evening, he stopped, bowed his head and stepped into the physical presence of his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seeing the Unseen

 

Jesus in the Clouds

As a physician and surgeon for many years I was trained in the art and skill of observation. From the time I entered the third year of medical school and left the classrooms to enter the patient’s rooms, I was taught how to look at a patient from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. I was taught to look for tell-tale signs of impending or actual health problems in order to begin prescribing the needed remedies. It is a reflex pattern of observation which I learned early to use, and since that time have painfully discovered by experience this skill is only appropriate in medical settings. The Bible speaks about things that are seen and things which are not seen (II Cor. 4: 17-18). The things we see are temporary, while the things that we cannot see are eternal. We are challenged to look for the latter things rather than the former.

My brother Berry Lee was a family physician, who practiced for 50 years in our home town of El Dorado, Arkansas. I began my surgical practice there about 10 years following his start, and was very grateful to have his expertise and encouragement, particularly in the early years of my practice. He referred the majority of his patients who needed operations to me, and that was an added incentive and blessing to live and work in the same town as my brother.

George was a 93-year-old gentleman who had been one of Berry Lee’s patients for many years and had been in relatively good health until 6 months prior to my introduction to him. He had been having vague stomach pains, particularly after meals with foods having a high fat content such as pork chops, barbecued meats and turnip greens, all of which he loved. Following a particularly severe bout of pain associated with fever he was admitted to our hospital ICU in a very serious condition. I saw him in consultation, and the diagnosis of acute gall bladder infection with abscess was made. In spite of his age I recommended surgical removal rather than medical treatment, because his condition was worsening despite aggressive medical treatment with antibiotics. My brother was reluctant to allow him to undergo such a dangerous procedure considering his age and weakened state, but agreed if the operation was not done quickly, George was not going to live.

I went to George’s bedside to give him our decision and to get his permission to proceed. I explained all the facts we understood and tried to help him understand the risks and consequences, both with and without an operation. He agreed to accept our recommendation, and said he knew he might die either way. I then said to him, “George, I am going to do everything in my power to get you through this, but I need to know if you are certain you will go to heaven if you don’t make it.” “O, yes suh,” George said in his deep southern accent, “I have loved Jesus mos’ of my life, and I’m a lookin’ forward to seein’ Him.” I then prayed with George and asked for deliverance for him from this disease, and then thanked God George was certain of his eternal future.

The operation was very difficult, and the findings confirmed the diagnosis of gall bladder abscess, along with perforation and a rapidly spreading intra-abdominal infection. Post-operatively George’s condition worsened, and he became comatose never awakening from the effects of the anesthetic. He lingered near death for the next 30 hours, while his family and his physicians prepared for the inevitable. I went to see him shortly after lunch the following day, and while reading his chart at the nurse’s station his assigned nurse said to me alarmingly, “Look, he is trying to get out of bed!” For the first time since the operation, he had his eyes open and had lifted his head and shoulders slightly from the bed while extending his arms toward the opposite wall. His palms were turned upward as if he was welcoming someone into the room.  I told the nurse, “Don’t disturb him, he is seeing something or Someone we can’t see, and he is not going to fall out of bed.” We watched him for at least a minute, and then he closed his eyes and lay back on the bed with a look of total peace on his face. Within the hour George’s spirit left his body and we pronounced him dead.

What or whom did George see that afternoon? I don’t know for sure, but I told the nurse that day I believed God had pulled back the curtain for George, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself had entered his ICU room. I believe He came to welcome and to take home one of His children from his long and faithful service for Him. I also believe God allowed the nurse and me to witness what it will be like for us on the day when our earthly service is completed. Right now most of us can only see the temporary things with our physical eyes while the eternal things are only imagined. As believers in Christ as Savior we do have spiritual eyes and are commanded to look upon eternal things with them. I cannot state exactly how to do it, but the Spirit of God always empowers us to do what He commands.

I learned a lesson that day from George. I learned from in spite of the seemingly painful process of death, it is not to be dreaded by me any believer in Christ Jesus. When the time comes my Savior will come for me to take me home, and He will no longer be imagined. My eyes will see Him for the first time, and His beauty, His glory and His majesty will be so great everything else will be insignificant. He has promised to do this for me and for everyone who loves and trusts Him and believes on Him as their Savior.

Dr. John

I Never Want Fire On Me Again

 

Burn Wounds

Burn Wounds

I was on ER surgical call the weekend Fred was admitted to the hospital for 2nd and 3rd degree burns to about 40% of his body. Although the burns were severe we were confident in our ability to  treat Fred in our hospital and not have to transfer him to a larger hospital with a special burn unit. His major problems were fluid loss and pain relief, and we could handle those very well in our regional hospital.

Fred’s life over the previous 6 months was a continuing series of reversals and poor choices. Although he was 35 years old he had not married and had chosen to live out of wedlock with a number of different women over the past 10 years. Understanding that his current lifestyle was not conducive to any long term relationship he had chosen the friendship of several like-minded men and confined his heterosexual relationships to multiple one-night stands. Fred was not very good husband material to say the least. The friends whose company he enjoyed all loved drinking alcohol to excess and partying until early morning hours, and this was the source of many of Fred’s problems. If he made it to work at all he was usually sleepy and shaky, and he was fired from at least 3 good jobs over the past 6 months because of his unreliability. With his savings depleted he was able to afford only the bare necessities, but this didn’t prevent him from spending what he wanted purchasing alcohol and cigarettes. He had a dilapidated car but seldom drove because he couldn’t afford the gasoline.

On the fateful Saturday afternoon of the accident Fred and two of his buddies were in the oil-field at a producing well site “just drinking and having fun,” according to them. They were also stealing casing-head gasoline from the oil company, so that they could each fill their cars tanks, along with four additional 5-gallon tanks they had brought along. In the course of their fun Fred was accidentally sprayed with the gasoline and was soaked from the waist up. One of his buddies jokingly said, “I think I’ll just set you on fire,” and pulled out his Zippo lighter. With the lighter in his hand, his thumb instinctively pushed the wheel, and a spark accidentally ignited the gasoline. With Fred running and screaming, it took longer than necessary to extinguish the flames, and Fred was severely burned.

Following hospital admission he was given the necessary burn treatment which included heavy sedation with IV morphine, so that for about 48 hours he was incoherent in his thoughts and speech. When I believed he could understand what I was about to say I pulled my chair up to his bed and asked his permission to ask him a few questions. “Fred, you know you could have been burned to death out there in the oil field 2 days ago,” I said. He replied, “I know that is true,” without even hesitating. “Where do you think you would be right now if you had died out there?” Without the slightest hesitation, he said, “In hell!.” “Is that where you would want to be? I continued.  The Bible describes hell as a lake of fire, and that fire is never quenched.” Without waiting for the words to completely exit my  mouth Fred said, “I never want fire on me again!”

I told Fred if he would allow me the privilege I would show him from the Bible how he could receive Christ’s free gift of eternal life, and he would never have to fear being cast into the lake of fire. After showing him several passages from the Bible regarding personal salvation and assurances of those promises Fred quietly and humbly bowed his head, confessed his sins to the Lord and asked Him to save him. I believe Fred’s eternal future in heaven was secured that morning in that hospital room which for him was transformed into a delivery room! Several months later, when Fred’s body had healed from the burns, he was baptized in a local church as a new believer in Christ, and to my knowledge he remains a faithful follower.

Some might say that I took advantage of a helpless patient; and he couldn’t refuse to do what I said because he was scared he might die. My response is he certainly was in danger of death, but his greatest danger was not physical death but spiritual death. By his own belief and admission he was headed for an eternity in hell. Secondly I didn’t take advantage of a helpless patient. I believe God allowed the accident to happen to Fred in order to show him the reality of his fragile mortality and his ultimate future. I was simply the agent to tell Fred the good news that Jesus saves, and to show him from the Bible how to receive His free gift of salvation. When one is saved by God’s grace he will never have to worry about the fire which Fred feared! Have you considered your future in the same way Fred did that morning? My prayer is you will, and you will make the same wise decision he made. Your future depends on it!

Dr. John

 

A Beautiful Person

The world seems to have a fixation on beautiful people, and some of us who do not fit into that category can be made to feel very unattractive. Physical beauty is assuredly relative, but there seems to be a standard that is promoted on television, in movies and in all other visual media. The endless supply of beauty aids we are advised to purchase, promise if we will use their particular cream or spray, we will be made beautiful. Our experiences with such products are they do not work as advertised.

In the practice of medicine for many years I have seen and treated hundreds of people, who through no fault of their own have been physically handicapped and scarred. The emotional consequences of such handicaps can be far-reaching ranging from thoughts or actions of self-destruction, to withdrawal from social contact with anyone. When we first met Judy Crumpler we quickly discovered she was one of those who had withdrawn from all social contacts, except those most necessary for her existence. It was not in a medical setting we met her, but rather in church where my wife, Cathy spotted her sitting alone with no one sitting within several feet of her. The most obvious reasons for the space were Judy was extremely unattractive which made her difficult to look upon, and she had a foul body odor. No one except Cathy bothered to investigate the reasons for her significant problems, but neither of them was Judy’s fault. She was born with a rare skin condition called elephantiasis, which caused enlarged and thickened skin folds over her body, most noticeable in the exposed areas of her face, neck, arms and hands. These folds of skin prevented her from adequate hygienic cleansing, and the excessive perspiration from this abnormal skin contributed to the odor. Judy had other congenital abnormalities of which I was not fully aware, and even though she was in her late 30’s in age, her mental capacity was that of an 8 to 10-year-old. She was living alone in an independent living center, and a staff member was bringing her to church. She loved coming to church because her mother had taken her to church every Sunday when she was living at home.

Cathy took a seat next to Judy while the rest of us followed, and we all introduced ourselves to her. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, primarily between Cathy and Judy, but definitely involving the rest of us. Our relationship with Judy changed forever our attitudes toward outer and inner beauty.

At first Judy was a little suspicious of us because in the past others had reached out in friendship to her, only to have the relationships fade because of Judy’s multiple physical problems. Judy bonded first with Cathy, whom she called “Caffy,” and as a family, we determined early that we were going to include Judy in our friendship circle. She had our telephone number by her night-stand, and it was not unusual for her to call several times a day to ask Cathy an important question. When I answered, she identified me as “Shahn.” By knowing that some member of our family was available to her when she had a problem, she gained more confidence in our love and concern for her.

Within a short time of our new friendship, and while attending an evangelistic meeting at our church, Judy turned to Cathy and said, “Caffy, I want to have what that man is talking about.” Cathy asked her to explain what she meant, to which Judy responded, “I want to go to heaven when I die.” Cathy took Judy into an adjoining room where, along with another Godly woman, they explained God’s plan of salvation to Judy, in terms that she could understand and receive. There was great rejoicing that day in that room and in heaven, as Judy was born into the Kingdom.

For the next several years Judy was included in many of our family gatherings, especially on holidays and for Judy’s birthday. Cathy was able to help Judy with some of her personal issues, including better skin cleansing and the use of more effective antiperspirants. She was also able to assist Judy in making arrangements for consultation at the state medical school, which led to several corrective surgical procedures for her skin condition. With these improvements in her appearance and better control of the body odor, Judy gained increasingly more self-confidence. One amusing aspect of her new health awareness involved her love of coffee. She was advised by one of her doctors to only drink decaffeinated coffee and was made to understand that concept by telling her to only drink “coffee from a green can and not coffee from a red can.” One evening shortly thereafter I received a call from Judy and she asked, “Shahn, I can’t remember. Am I supposed to drink red coffee or green coffee?” I reminded her to stay away from red coffee since it wasn’t good for her!

Judy lived only for a few more years, and it was after we had moved from our hometown to another city, we received word Judy had departed this life. We were saddened to hear this news, but rejoiced in our confidence Judy was in heaven with her Savior. One day very soon Judy will receive a new body that will be perfect with no blemishes, and the same promise is for everyone who is a member of God’s family. We all have imperfections, and the world will try to convince us we ugly, displeasing to others, and we should live separated lives. Our Creator and Savior does not look on the skin or on the outer person, but on the inner person where His image is beautiful, and He is growing stronger in us every day. Our sweet and beautiful friend, Judy Crumpler reminded us of this, and for her we are eternally grateful.

Dr. John

 

 

Aileen’s Apple Pie

Apple Pie

Apple Pie

 

Ask any member of my family what they remember about Aileen Ross, and without hesitation, each one will say that she was one of the sweetest and most generous people they ever knew. They will also say that she made the most delicious apple pie they ever tasted, and I will agree wholeheartedly with both statements. In my estimation, we were the grateful recipients of at least 50 of her pies. She gave us so many pies over a 2-3 year period, that we lost count!

I had not known Aileen until she was referred to me by a physician friend, because she was in need of a major surgical procedure. She was already in the hospital as a patient, and I went to her room to introduce myself and explain the details of the operation she was facing. During the visit, she was quiet and more subdued than usual; probably because she was not comfortable with a new physician, and also because of her apprehension of what lay ahead the following morning. After spending the necessary time explaining the details regarding the operation, and allowing her time to ask the questions she wanted; I asked if I could have the privilege of praying for her. She said she would love that, and before I could bow my head, she literally sprang from the bed and was on her knees at the bedside, leaving me standing with her chart in my hand. I didn’t want to pray standing while someone was on their knees in front of me, so I laid the chart on her bed, and joined her at the bedside on my knees. It was a sweet experience of prayer that remains etched in my memory.

Following a successful operation and a recovery that took approximately 6 weeks, I received a call from Aileen on a Saturday afternoon late in the day. During the conversation which took about 20 minutes, we talked very little about the operation, her recovery or anything medical in nature. Instead, we discussed her family and their ministry in the community, their involvement in church, her pastor, and lastly what was happening in the lives of my wife and children. Toward the end of our conversation she said, “Pete is on his way over there to bring you a little something!” Pete was Aileen’s husband, and they had been happily married for nearly 50 years. Pete had a good job with a utilities company, in addition to managing a tree service business with his sons, which provided needed supplemental income.

Within 3 or 4 minutes of Aileen’s announcement, there was a knock on our back door, and Pete was standing there with a tray holding 2 freshly baked pies; an apple and a cherry. I talked with Pete for perhaps I minute, because he seemed to be in a hurry. He always seemed to be in a hurry, especially when delivering pies, and although I never asked him, I suspected he had many more pies to deliver, and he didn’t want any of them to get cold. Pete was not out of our driveway before I called to Cathy and our children to come to the kitchen quickly, because I was cutting into the pie that was still warm and smelled heavenly. I can remember that first bite, and telling everyone present, “Without a doubt, this is the best apple pie I have ever eaten!” My opinion has not changed, and that was more than 25 years ago!

For the next 2 or 3 years, either Cathy or I would get a similar telephone call from Aileen. She would call us at least twice a month, and for a period of time, it was weekly. Her call was usually on a Saturday afternoon; lasted at least 20 to 25 minutes, and her lengthy conversations were interspersed with, “Honey, I’m telling you!” just to emphasize a particular point. When she finished talking, she would then say the magical words, “Pete is on his way over there – -.” After the first 2 or 3 times that she sent us pies, we offered to pay her for them; but our offers seemed to offend her.  We quit asking to pay, and simply thanked her and thanked Pete over and over. We later learned there were at least 10 other people for whom she was baking pies on a fairly regular schedule.

Aileen’s gift of love to us and others, was a model for our family of several Christian qualities. She had an on-going attitude of gratitude, demonstrated by giving to everyone that had given to her. I believe she also gave to many others that she had never met, but had been made aware of particular needs in their lives. Pies were definitely her special gifts, but she also gave her time, her presence by visiting, by phoning, by praying, and by just being there when someone was hurting. She had experienced the deep pain of death of a son, and was particularly sensitive to mothers in similar circumstances. We never saw Aileen discouraged or depressed, even when she seemed to have cause. I believe the reasons were the constant trust in her Savior, the Lord Jesus; and her personal belief and confidence that God would meet all her needs according to His riches in glory.

We moved from our hometown to another state, and during our time there, we received word that Aileen had departed this life to meet her Savior. We were very sad that we couldn’t be there for her family, but we called Pete to tell him and their children of our sorrow and our prayers for all of them. The memory of her lives in my heart on several levels. I remember the sight of that warm apple pie; and can almost smell and taste that indescribable flavor. I remember the cheerful countenance with her wide, gleeful smile. I remember her neat appearance with a blouse and skirt that were always freshly pressed. But my most abiding memory is that of her generous and loving spirit, and best punctuated when I seem to hear her saying, “Honey, I’m telling you!”

Dr. John

 

 

Does God Heal Today? Part 4 – What If I Am Not Healed?

Cross

Caduceus

As a physician with years of experience in the healing ministry, I have witnessed the healing of thousands of grateful patients. The vast majority of these would be classified as assisted-healing, resulting from medications given or surgical procedures done by me or one of my colleagues. A small number of patients whom I observed were super-naturally healed in such a way in which no scientific explanation for their healing could be given. There were some who remained sick; however despite the best efforts of the physicians involved and the fervent prayers offered by spiritual friends and pastors. The over-riding question is this: “Why does God choose to heal some while others remain sick?” That question becomes intensely personal when I am the one who is ill or it is a loved one who remains sick. I can become bitter and angry toward God who appears to have abandoned me; or I can trust in His sovereign love for me and purpose to allow Him to teach me His will in and through this sickness. This is a critical crossroads of faith, and the lessons to be learned are better received in the light of good health rather than the dark shadows of an illness. How can I be so certain my Savior the Lord Jesus Christ loves me;  He knows how badly I am hurting, and He wants the best for me? I must be prepared to take a stand on His inerrant Word and trust what He says in His Word He will accomplish.

The rapid advances in medical science, particularly over the past 10 years, have caused many to believe there is a scientific explanation for every illness. Further, we are confident a cure will result when the correct diagnosis is made and the proper treatment given. There is little credibility given, at this point, to the sovereignty of God over our health; at least not until there is a treatment failure. In prolonged illness I have heard many say, “Where is God now that I need Him?” There are many passages in the Word, such as Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Hebrews 4: 5-16, in which God plainly declares His never-failing love and concern for His children who are ill. He tells us to come boldly to His throne of grace for help when all else has seemingly failed. Regarding His presence, He promises in Hebrews 13: 5, that He is always present and He never forsakes us. When we are caught in the despair of failing health, and the uncertainty of our future, it is comforting to know our God is not only present, but is in control, and wants only the best for us.

There are truths about our lives and health which we will never fully understand. For instance, why am I being afflicted with an intolerable illness, when I have purposed to love and serve God, while others who seem to mock God, are perfectly healthy? Why do I seem to be facing so many closed doors when an open door to good health would bring me such happiness? Do I have so much sin in my life God is punishing me to teach me a lesson, and He simply just doesn’t want me to be happy? It is here I must trust in Romans 8:28-29, with confidence that God is at work in my sickness. He will work it out for my good; and what seems like a closed door to me, is really an open door for Him to work in and through me.

It is possible to have a rejoicing spirit toward God and an attitude of praise in this difficult place. In II Cor. 12:7-10, the Apostle Paul relates, “The thorn in the flesh given to him” was an opportunity to glory in God’s goodness to him, because the strength of Christ could then work through his own weakness. God’s promise is He uses every event in our lives to help us grow stronger and have more of the character of Christ. He further reinforces this truth in II Cor. 4:17-18, stating “our light affliction which is but for a moment,” is working an eternal purpose in us. We are challenged to keep our eyes on the eternal purposes of God and not on the temporal afflictions which have happened.

It is not an easy thing to be sick and to suffer heart-ache with no apparent relief in sight; but our God who lives in us and loves us more than we can imagine will bring comfort and peace to our wearied minds. At the same time with no extra charge He will put a new song in our heart and on our lips, and many will hear it and give glory to Him who desires the very best for us! (Psalm 40: 3)

Dr. John

Does God Heal Today? Part 3 – Praying for Healing

Cross

Caduceus

Attend any prayer meeting and notice when prayer requests are asked the first and usually the largest number of requests will be related to physical illnesses. Listen carefully to the prayers offered for the sick and dying, and notice whether those praying seem to have a conviction their prayers for healing will be answered. I would not be so callus nor foolish to believe I can discern the intent of one’s heart, but I sense we have become routine in our intercessions, and have lost some vitality and fervor in our prayers for healing. When we pray for healing are we convinced God hears our prayers and answers them according to our needs? Is God concerned about our sicknesses, and if so why do my prayers seem so ineffectual? When medical science has failed and we have been told to expect the worst can we confidently come to Christ in prayer and expect Him to perform a miracle? Should I pray for healing even before I  seek medical treatment? There are so many questions, so many opinions, so much confusion, and so much heart-ache related to this subject. I’m certain; however our heavenly Father does not want us to be anxious, and He has provided direction for us in His Word.

A scriptural truth we can claim is this: when healing is truly a need for us God will meet the need every time (Phil. 4:19). Our struggle is to understand just what is a legitimate need and what is an imagined need? I can already hear the next question: “When I am sick, how can it only be an imagined need for me to be made well?” God has shown us  some sicknesses are for chastisement (I Cor. 11:28-30), some are for the glory of God (John 9: 1-3), while other sicknesses are unto death (Eccl. 3:1-2). Our desires must be what God desires, and when it is His desire to heal us it will happen. Have I ever stopped to consider this present malady may be God’s means not only to get my attention but to teach me an eternal truth which can only be learned while I am sick? If it is God’s will to heal everyone, then why did the Apostle Paul remain sick despite praying three times to have the thorn in the flesh removed (II Cor. 12:7-9)? Why did Trophimus remain sick in Miletus, when he might have come to Rome to speak in Paul’s defense (II Tim. 4:20)? Did they not have enough faith to be healed? It is simply not God’s will to heal every believer of every illness every time. God is definitely concerned about our health, but His primary concern is our holiness, and holiness is strengthened in the crucible of pain and suffering. (Jas. 1:2-4).

It is within God’s will; however when one is sick to call for the elders to pray for healing (James 5:13-16). The mental picture most of us have concerning this passage is a church service in which sick people come to an altar for anointing with oil and receive prayer for healing. There have been some who needed healing who came to such services and were healed; but I believe far more have come and left sick, disappointed and dejected. The command of these verses in James’ epistle is the one who is sick should call for the elders to come to him, and not that he go to a mass meeting for healing. What we are observing in such healing services today in no way resembles what the Lord commanded in these passages.

The prayer of faith mentioned in James 5:15 is not the prayer of a believer, although it is prayed by a believer. It is a special God-initiated and God-directed prayer into the life of the sick one. The definite article “the” indicates this prayer is different from believing faith. I may believe that God will heal everyone, but in reality not everyone is healed. The prayer of faith; however is born from above and accomplishes its’ purpose to save the sick. In verse 16, the ones present are commanded to confess their sins to the Lord, and  healing which results from those confessions are spiritual in nature and not necessarily physical.

When is it appropriate to pray for healing? The Bible urges us to pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17); and this is how often to pray. There are times when God elects to heal in a supernatural fashion, but more often our experience is either a natural healing, an assisted-healing using some form of treatment or non-healing. It is never wrong to call for the elders for confession, prayer and healing particularly when one remains sick despite standard treatment. I do not believe it is God’s will; however to withhold standard medical care while waiting on a supernatural healing through prayer. I am even more adamant about this when one is deciding on the plan of care for a child or a dependent person. God is able to heal in an instant but much more often, God uses people trained in the healing arts to assist in that process.

The final area I want to cover in this series concerns failures of healing. What should be the response of a Christian who has done all he knows to do and still remains sick? What is God trying to teach about His love and concern for us regarding our illnesses? How can we know what He wants us to do, and how He wants us to act? The Bible must be our guide for faith and practice, and the Lord will direct our path according to His Word when we diligently seek Him.

Dr. John