Bible Speaks by Rev. L Althouse
Jan. 25, 2015
Background Scripture: James 5
Devotional Reading: Lamentations 3:52-58
The last chapter of this epistle has three important concerns: verses 1-6, the judgment that will fall upon those who consider their riches to be their treasure; verses 7-12, cultivating patience in all things, including awaiting the return of the Lord; and verses 13-20, handling the vicissitudes of life with joy, love and prayer.
All three of these concerns, although simply stated by this epistle, are topics that require a lot more time and thought than this column will permit. So, I will concentrate on the third, verses 13-18.
When we speak of “healing with prayer,” most people think in terms of physical illness. But the church’s ministry of healing is focused on healing all kinds of brokenness: physical, mental, spiritual, situational, interpersonal, congregational, community, national and worldwide.
In verses 19 and 20, James is concerned with the brokenness that occurs when “anyone among you who wanders from the truth and is brought back by another.” Unfortunately, many people have a “blind spot” when the ministry of healing is mentioned because of the extravagances, both material and spiritual, of some of the more widely known and publicized “healers” with their claims and judgments and excessive financial success.
The thesis of my book, Rediscovering The Gift of Healing, is that healing and wholeness belong to the churches and the Church, not just the self-promoting few. Christians are called to make whole all kinds of brokenness.
To make whole
The Greek word sozo is invariably translated into English as “to save.” But sozo also means “to heal” or “make whole.” Similarly, the Greek word soter is often translated as “savior,” but it also means “healer” or “one who makes people whole.” Thus, the term salvation does not mean simply the rescue of the spirit, but the bringing of wholeness to wherever we are broken.
The German word heilen also means “to save,” “to heal” or to “make whole.” Christ’s ministry, therefore – as well as that of his church – is a healing, saving ministry that seeks to restore wholeness to broken minds, broken spirits, broken hearts, broken bodies, broken lives, broken families, broken communities … and he died to heal a broken world.
In his enthusiasm, the writer of James makes a statement which could lead to difficulty: “The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up, and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven …” (5:15). James could be interpreted as saying if you have enough faith, you will be healed of whatever you ask.
Lots of Christians today believe much the same thing and assume if someone is not healed, that person is deficient in faith. That has not been my experience. I have witnessed seemingly miraculous healings of bodily diseases with people for whom divine healing was a new and surprising experience. I have also witnessed people of deep faith who did not receive the healing for which they asked, but received, instead, the capacity to deal with it.
I have also known people who by the power of prayer were enabled, not to be healed, but to extend their lifespans. There were others who were enabled to accept and adjust to their incapacities. Some people were helped because they gained the strength to make changes in their lives that brought healing.
Some healings were immediate, while some experienced gradual improvement and eventual healing.
‘Can’t you do something?’
In my church in Mohnton, Pa., I had a weekly healing service. It was a quiet, reflective service in which often the spirit of those attending was healed first, opening the way to eventual physical healing. Some of the people who attended came for healing and, having received it, continued to come in order to pray for and help others. I will share just one of many experiences this ministry provided.
Late at night I received a call from the mother of a little girl of eight years, Doreen. She had been taken to the hospital with respiratory problems and a dangerously high temperature. Her mother told me Doreen had been delirious for an hour, thrashing about the bed, moaning and sobbing. Also, she would permit no one near her but her mother.
“Can’t you do something?” the mother demanded. Inwardly I was quite concerned because I didn’t know how I was going to place my hands on Doreen with her thrashing about. But I reached over and let my hands move with her as she tossed back and forth.
I tried to pray aloud, but I had difficulty with Doreen’s moaning. At last I said, “Amen,” and removed my hands from her. Stepping back from her bed a few paces, I was amazed to see a dramatic change come over her. She was lying still and was moaning no longer! Then, she smiled weakly and closed her eyes to sleep.
The next morning Doreen’s parents called to say that she had passed the crisis and was beginning to feel fine again. I did not heal Doreen, but I attribute her healing to the power of God in Christ that was somehow released in that hospital room. I had not promised her parents that she would he helped or healed.
Was it a miracle? I don’t really know, and don’t care to give it a name, except that it was a blessing I will never forget – and hopefully neither will her parents and Doreen. As Christians we are called to help in healing all kinds of brokenness.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Those with questions or comments for Rev. Althouse may write to him in care of this publication.