Recently, I had a strong sense that the Holy Spirit is saying that God wants to heal more people than he does. Before I explain how this might happen I must confess that I am not given to praying for healing. I have been working on a journal article arguing that if a person is not healed this does not necessarily imply a lack of faith. I also believe that God uses sickness and disease for his purposes. This said, I am convinced that there are many people in the church who God desires to heal and yet he has not healed. There is a reason for this.
The reason, I believe, is the attitude of Christians towards gifts of healing. There three attitudes towards spiritual gifts which are proving to be a hindrance to God’s desire to heal many people. First of all, evangelicals seem to put spiritual gifts into the category of secondary experiences that are optional and unnecessary for the Christian life. The thinking is that as long as you have the fruit of the Spirit it is not so important if you have spiritual gifts. Yet 1 Cor 14:1 commands us, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” The purpose of spiritual gifts is that the church might be edified (1 Cor 14:4-5). Ignorance of these things among evangelicals, accompanied sometimes by a fear of supernatural things, means that a large part of the church is failing to actively seek after spiritual gifts. This is hindering God’s desire to heal people through gifts of healing.
Secondly, Pentecostals are happy to speak of spiritual gifts. However, many Pentecostals make some assumptions about healing which are unbiblical. There are still many who believe that healing is part of the atonement and therefore insist that Christians are all healed all the time. The only hindrance to our healing is therefore our lack of faith. This is a presumption that is not biblically founded. It hinders the work of God to heal for two reasons. It demands healing instead of relying on God’s grace and it results in a failure to seek out people with gifts of healing. Since the Holy Spirit distributes gifts for the purpose of working in the body of Christ, we should not simply demand healing from God, but rather make use of the means by which God desires to heal his people, namely through gifted people.
The third theology which is hindering God healing more people is Third Wave attitude toward spiritual gifts. The teaching of Third Wave is that every Christian is able to use spiritual gifts when the need arises. So if I need to heal someone I will just ask for a gift of healing and I can have that gift for the moment of need. Yet this theology is also unbiblical because it undermines the interdependence of the body of Christ. The church is a body (1 Cor 12:12-31) and each member needs all the other members. We must not assume that we can operate without the need of other persons in the body. I have spiritual gifts, but I do not have all the gifts and therefore I need to rely on the gift of others as they must rely on my gifts. Third Wave theology would suggest that there is no need to rely on someone else with a gift of healing, since I can have that whenever I want.
All three of these issues are preventing God from healing as many people as he desires to heal. The way forward is to see spiritual gifts as vital to the wellbeing of the church and to seek the Father for gifts in order to build up others. In the case of healing there are many people whom God desires to use in a ministry of healing, but who lack any awareness that this is a possibility. So every part of the church must begin to seek God for an outpouring of gifts of healing and to look to those who have these gifts to heal the sick. If we are not ignorant, not presumptuous, and realise our dependence on one another, then I believe that many more Christians will be healed. This is the will of our gracious God.