This may seem like a strange question coming from a physician who for many years has dedicated his medical practice to the healing ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. The question, however is valid in light of certain applications of Biblical principles regarding healing which are made by many sincere Christians. All Christians today would resoundingly agree God does heal all manner of diseases, but does He heal today in the same way Jesus Christ and his disciples healed when He walked upon the earth? The larger question to consider is; did Christ die for our sicknesses as well as our sins? Was physical healing from diseases made available to Christians as a result of Christ’s atoning death on the cross? Should I expect to be healed from any illness on the same basis I am forgiven of sins whenever I earnestly pray?
There are some who believe it is not only a Christian’s privilege, but also his right to be healed from any disease. The scriptural basis for that belief is from Isaiah 53:5, where the prophet Isaiah foretells the Messiah would be “wounded for our transgressions; bruised for our iniquities; chastised for our peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” Another passage for the belief in atonement healing concerns praying in faith from Mark 11:24, in which Jesus told His disciples whatever they asked in faith believing, they would be given. It is believed by many that healing is available today to believers as it was in Jesus’ day based on Hebrews 13:8, which states, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
It is easier to think and write about the availability of God’s healing when the problem exists in another person; but quite another thing when I am the one who is sick and conventional methods of healing have not worked. As a surgeon who operated on hundreds of patients with hernias, I am well aware hernia recurrences unfortunately do occur, and some are very difficult if not impossible to repair. While dealing with my own problem of a twice-recurrent hernia, I was lying at home in pain on our couch one evening while listening to a well-known television healer. At one point in the program the evangelist said, “ I perceive there is a professional individual watching this show, and he is in great pain suffering with a recurrent hernia. I am claiming in the name of Jesus, he is now healed!” I was absolutely convinced he was speaking to me, and I claimed that word of faith in healing as my own. When I stood to tell Cathy that God had healed me by faith, I discovered to my great disappointment the hernia was still present and healing had not occurred. What was wrong? Was the televangelist wrong in his word of faith, or was my faith so weak God chose not to heal me? Should I discount as bogus anyone who says God is still in the business of healing by faith? Was it wrong for me to presume upon God and to ask for such a miraculous healing? I was filled with many questions, and no answers.
In my professional career as a surgeon for over 30 years, the patients I served did not come seeking miraculous healing. They wanted to be cured of their hernias, their gallstones, their cancers, and their internal infections through particular surgical procedures which I was trained to perform. Did I think I was the one who could or would heal them? I told many of my patients, “I am the one who puts in the sutures, but it is God who heals you.” However; how was I to advise someone in whom conventional methods of medical practice had failed to heal them? Should I have advised they pray for healing before consulting a physician? Is prayer always the answer for healing? Again, more questions than answers.
In this series on healing, I purpose to answer some of these perplexing questions based on God’s Word, and my personal experience in the healing ministry over the past 45 years. First, I will address the question of atonement healing and the Christian’s response to illness. Then I will explore the dilemma of when a person should pray for healing and when he should consult a physician. Finally, I will attempt to answer the oft-asked question, “What should I do when I have tried everything I know, and I am still not healed?” When faced honestly these questions do not beg glib or quick answers but are personal, usually painful and potentially life-changing. We can be comforted in knowing that our heavenly Father is aware of our concerns and will direct our paths when we seek Him with all our hearts.