HEALING AND MISSION
Click here to listen to this sermon.
In the ministry of Jesus and in the first century church, people experienced Gods healing.
Luke 4:18-21 ... The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lords favor has come.
Acts 3:6 -- But Peter said, I dont have any silver or gold for you. But Ill give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!
Healing continues in the church. In the name of Jesus, his disciples continue this ministry in his name and with his presence.
- Its too bad that charlatans kept us from recognizing the importance of the work of healing in Christs name (Acts 7 Simon the Magician)
- We dont want people to think were faith-healers. Those faith-healers also preach in suits and ties. Do we stop preaching? If we stopped preaching and teaching because of bad preaching and teaching, that would be sorry. So lets not stop healing because of a few eccentrics.
- Lets expand our definition of healing and mission ... its not just miraculous. Healing wasnt the only focus of the miracles. It was a sign that the kingdom of heaven a new reign was breaking into our world. And thats still the case today.
- You do not have to be in the medical, science field to participate in Gods work of healing.
- Body and Spirit are both the domain of the kingdom of God
- We do not command Gods power to heal. Even Jesus was limited in his power to heal. But likewise we cannot say that our faith is proportionate to our experience of healing. Once again, that is trying to command Gods power.
- Death has ultimately been conquered. The resurrection is Gods sign that all disease and death will ultimately be undone that is his will. As Jesus said, we have experienced Gods favor in Him.
I dont think weve truly left healing in the past as some odd artifact of a legendary age. Look at our prayer list. Thats a witness to our hope and faith that God heals. But how wide and how broad is our understanding of Gods healing power the in-breaking of the kingdom?
All sorts of healing ... James 5:13-18
- James is an early word from the Christian community. He seems to assume that there are godly responses to disease and sickness and even sadness and sin. And he doesnt chop these up into separate concerns.
- I find it humorous that medical science begins to accept that these issues are related. Thank God for physicians and counselors who administer wisdom and learning in combination with Gods principles.
- Christian leaders in ages past (including James) understood how sin, sadness, and sickness, and faith were intertwined and they prescribed treatments for the whole experience of illness and wellness.
- But please note: This can sound a lot like new age medicine or therapy that has no relationship or reliance to Gods Spirit whatsoever. Thos views are not wholly wrong, but they are missing the vital core of healing. James, Jesus, and the witness of Scripture always place God and his Spirit at the center of healing.
Some practical responses for the church ...
- Stress, mental illness, depression, addiction We have got to stop saying that these are not real. They may be difficult to understand and perhaps even debatable, but they are real. Whether we attribute it to an evil spirit, or brain chemistry, or a bad day it is real. But it is also all within the power of God to manage. Honestly, is God anymore threatened by a demon than he is by serotonin levels?
- We also need to get beyond the unnecessary burden of shame that surrounds issues such as these and addiction. Do we speak the language of shame or the language of healing? Wait, isnt this enabling the problem? Not at all. Was Jesus enabling the Legion of demons that possessed the Gerasene man when he asked their name? In ages past, Christians understood that naming a problem (or a force or a demon) was a way of overcoming it. Just as a diagnosis can be a first step to treatment, naming problems gives us the handle on them that we need so that we can place it in Gods care.
- Challenge to the church: Lets stop being afraid of sickness and sadness. Lets stop being afraid of the sinners in our midst and let us not be afraid to name truth and humbly work within Gods healing power to overcome them.
- Being a community of truth doesnt simply mean that we hold all the right doctrinal positions. It means that we are authentic and we can speak truthfully to one another. We tell the truth about ourselves and one another and we speak Gods truth. The powers of addiction, depression, stress, and sin are fueled by lies. James is calling the church to speak the truth in song, prayer, and confession.
- We have got to stop despising weakness. Our culture glories in youth, strength, and power.
- This is why health care is such a major concern in our nation. On a big scale, we bought into the modern idea that through our own resources we can create a world in which no one gets sick and no one dies. It is the serpents lie that convinces us that we are no good if we are weak. It is the serpents lie that convinces us that we are less human if we are weak or sick.
- Let the church be a family in which our value is NOT determined by how healthy we are. I know that we find it hard to share our weaknesses (physical and otherwise) because we are afraid that others will treat us differently. We dont want to be pitied. And in church we should not be pitied. (Rose prayed for me and my mom).
- Pain and weakness are not a sign of Gods disfavor. Tragedy and suffering is not a sign of Gods abandonment. (John 8) Nor is God always trying to teach us something. Sometimes we tell people whove experienced a horrible situation What is God trying to teach you. Maybe God is trying to teach us (the questioners) something. Honestly, how often do we pray for people and want others to be well because we arent sure that we can bear their brokenness?
- We rejoice with those who rejoice and we suffer with those who suffer but all have the same worth for all are created in Gods image. Think of how much healing would take place if we adopted this belief and practiced this belief more.
- We can show dignity and respect the humanity of one another (Mark 10) Jesus asks the blind man What do you want me to do for you?
- Lets be serious about healing the sickness of sin. Some of us feel illness in our mind, our heart, our bodies because of sin and broken relationships.
- Man goes to doctor and says, It hurts when I lift my arm like this. ... Stop hurting yourselves.
- Do you need to reconcile with others? There is so much pain in our relationships with one another and the spirit of God can heal it. But thats not easy. No, in fact Scripture says 1) it is hard, and 2) you need to do it.
- Do you need to reconcile with God? Maybe you need to have it out with God. Go ahead. But you will never be healed and whole if you do nothing.
Thomas Aquinas went to visit Pope Innocent IV. Aquinas was amazed at the trappings of wealth, gold and treasures. So the Pope commented to Aquinas, Well, Thomas, I suppose the church cannot say as Peter did, 'Silver and Gold have I none.' Aquinas replied, True, Your Excellency, but neither can we say, 'Arise and walk.'
Whats our message? Can we say Arise and Walk? Are we willing to be so bold? Is our faith in our own resources (silver, gold, science, human effort) or in the Spirit of God? Lets be agents of Gods healing in Gods ways ...
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 18 October 2009
Link to next sermon
Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin