I am of the opinion that if you are not constantly re-examining your doctrine, then you probably are not reading your Bible consistently or correctly.
Is that too harsh?
Here’s why I believe that to be true. We all bring presuppositions to the biblical text. We all have some grid through which we view the Scriptures. For example, any Southern Baptist lifer will probably look at the text through the lens of a traditional Southern Baptist. Health and wealth guys look at the text through the lens that God wants to bless his people. And Reformed guys tend to look at the text with a view of God’s absolute sovereignty (and his desire that we all be miserable all the time).
If it sounds like I’m giving the Reformed guys a hard time, it’s okay, because I am one of those fellows.
As I have read through Matthew this past week, the Scriptures have once again begun to confront my already molded doctrine. This is a good thing. As a fan of Reformed theology, I am surrounded by guys who believe that God is done working miracles in today’s age. These are called Cessationists (God has “ceased” doing wonders and miracles at the close of the biblical canon). On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Prosperity Gospel movement, which is prevalent in my local context. This doctrine communicates that as long as the believer has enough faith, he or she will always be drowning in monetary blessings from a God that seeks to bless his people and that his will is that we should not be sick or suffer.
Both ideas are a cop out.
It is far easier to believe that God has laid down his ability to work miracles in our lives than to grapple with those times when he chooses not to. And it is easy to believe that God always wants to work miracles in our lives and that when he does not it is because we lack faith. Both theologies miss the mark.
Of course, in a reaction against health and wealth theology, my view has always leaned toward the Cessationist view, although I would never have admitted the fact. Truthfully, my lack of faith is often covered by a strict view of sovereignty. My prayers often sound something like this: “Lord, please heal them…BUT IF YOU DON’T, we will still praise you and recognize that you are God and you’re in control.” How sad, right?
While there is nothing doctrinally incorrect in this sort of prayer, I don’t think, it leaves so much on the table! God desires his people to believe in his goodness and power. If you don’t believe me, watch how he responds to the sick and the lame in the book of Matthew.
“Jesus turned (to the woman with the issue of blood), and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’” – Matthew 9:22
When healing the two blind men: “According to your faith be it done to you.” – Matt. 9:29
Showing the compassion of Jesus on EVERYONE who followed him: “And many followed him, and he healed them all.” – Matt. 12:15
Jesus was not well-received in his hometown, so: “He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” – Matt. 13:58
In the story of the Canaanite woman, the only event I can think of where Jesus almost refused to heal: “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” – Matt. 15:28
“And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered…and they glorified the God of Israel.” – Matt. 15:29-31
Is it not clear that Jesus has compassion on those who need him the most? Is it not clear that Jesus responds to the faith of his people? Is it not clear that healing corresponds with faith?
Make sure you don’t misunderstand me. I am no health and wealth apologist. There are many examples in Scripture that illustrate that things will not always go well for followers of Jesus. He promised that we will be persecuted (Matthew 10:16-25). Jesus himself was betrayed by a close friend, beaten, and brutally murdered. Paul went through hell on earth repeatedly for the cause of Christ. Most of the apostles were martyred. But even after all this, James urges the sick to pray for healing:
“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 one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” – James 5:14-15
We must come to the text as a blank canvas, allowing the Word to dictate what we believe, not the other way around.
After reading through much of Matthew, I am left to grapple with the reality that neither Cessationism nor prosperity teaching are adequately biblical. Does God desire to heal the sick? It seems so. Does God respond to great faith with great works? It certainly seems so. Will God always heal the sick if they pray? No. What I am sure of is this: God will respond to great faith with great works and he will do it in order to glorify himself among us.
Part of the key, I believe, is that we pray according to his will.
It was God’s will for Jesus to heal everyone who asked in Matthew’s Gospel. And it was God’s will to glorify himself in the death of his Son and his apostles. God will get the glory. Praise God if that means he is glorified in our healing! I believe he wants that! And praise God if that means he is glorified in our suffering, for in our suffering we learn true faith.
So, my friends, do you have a need? Do you need God to work a miracle in your life? I believe he wants to work miracles in our lives according to his will and his plan.
Can I just be real with you for a quick moment?
I have a need and I struggle with lack of faith often. But I have prayed and I believe that God’s will for me is that I finish my education. Here’s the deal: I can’t afford it. Not even close. But I know a God who can afford it and I believe that if it really is his will, then it is his bill!
God doesn’t struggle with a lack of resources. If he did, Jesus would never have fed two different multitudes (Matthew 14:13-21 and 15:32-39). So, I’m exercising some faith TODAY! The application is finished and I am enrolling in a Seminary program I absolutely cannot afford. But God can! And I believe strongly that he WILL! And when he does, I’ll get back on this website and glorify God for his provision.
What miracle do you need God to do in your life? Start praying and start believing! He will uphold his purpose and he will glorify himself in your life. Don’t let a lack of faith or a lack of resources hold you back. Get out of the boat (Matthew 14:28-33) and follow Jesus. He will respond.
After all, Jesus loves to do miracles.