Does Scripture put God on the hook to heal everybody all the time? (1)

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

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Question: My question is about healing. A friend of mine believes that, if God promises to heal people in his Word, then he is accountable to do that. So, if someone is not healed, then it's that person’s fault, not God’s. She said the fact that the Lord put those promises in scripture means that he's giving us the go-ahead to stand on the promises and hold him accountable to his Word.

This sounds wrong to me somehow. If God is God, can’t he do what he wants with us?

Answer: Greetings friend. That’s a good question. I will pray for your friend. It sounds like she is immature in life-experience and in her thinking about God. She is also weak in knowledge of the Bible. What would I say to her? I would say that her views don’t comport with reasonable expectations of life, Natural Theology or the Bible. She’s off-base in all three metrics.

Now, you did not tell me what Bible verses your friend cited — and I’d be curious to see these. This is because I don’t think any verses say the same thing she is saying. I agree that God is accountable to his word. I don’t agree his word says that he will heal everyone who applies a sufficient amount of faith when they petition him. That is spiritual poppycock... and I will give you three reasons why I believe this.

First, the Bible doesn’t teach this. In fact, it teaches the opposite! God withholds healing from faithful people all the time — and it’s not a function of that person’s faith; it’s a function of God’s will. When he heals someone, that’s because he wants to... not because he is forced into it by tripping over some nonexistent scriptural promise. Look at how he treated the apostle Paul.

My assumptions about Paul are that he knew Scripture and wanted to serve God. His writings also reveal that he had a tender heart, so his motivations were pure. I would rank Paul as the most well-informed and spiritually well-adjusted person in the Bible. Now, if the conditions your friend proposed were true, Paul would certainly have had enough faith to be healed based on his faith. But — and despite earnest, repeated petitions from Paul — God refused to heal him!

“… Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
(2 Corinthians 12:7–10, NIV)

What was God’s motivation for withholding healing? Did it have anything to do with Paul’s faith? No! It had everything to do with building Paul’s character. Paul understood that because God refused to heal him, he would be weak… a failure by worldly standards. But he also understood that his weakness shows Christ’s power. Contrast this with people who want to be healed like your friend thinks healings should go. They want to show their power — their triumph… their superior spirituality!

This is not just the wrong motivation; it’s selfish, immature and worldly. Furthermore, it’s spiritually unjustified, ungodly and unbiblical. Yet people routinely “buy into” faith healing — and consider themselves to be spiritually inadequate when God doesn’t jump through the hoops of their own making. Although this is the natural fallout of these Charismatic excesses, I don’t wish these people harm; I wish them the truth.

Did you notice that Paul petitioned God three times about this? Three times? So, there was no mistaking that Paul wanted this thorn in his flesh removed. Now, it is unusual for Christians today to get a direct revelation back from God as Paul did. (Remember, Paul was writing Scripture, and that was a more common phenomenon for him.) But there is no question about God’s answer to Paul.  “No.”

With us, the “no” from God often comes silently and in the form of our problem not being relieved. But not so with Paul. God told him “no” directly. Now, there is only so much room in the Bible, so why did God include that? To teach that God has purposes for our suffering… and these purposes are more important than our feelings, our convenience or our opinion on how he should run things.

My second issue with your friend’s assertions is this: it is not God’s will that everyone who asks him to heal them gets healed — not in this age. We need to learn that God’s will is what prevails — and that more often than not, it is his will that people are not healed from their illnesses. Just think about this: most people die from illnesses they are not healed of... like heart disease or cancer — and millions of these people petition God for healing.

Occasionally, someone is “healed” — that is, given a miraculous reprieve. But the vast majority of people get sicker and die. Do you know why God does this? Because he is merciful. A limited lifespan is one of the mercies of this age. Would you want to live forever in this world of sin and sickness? Not me. But after Christ return, that’s a different story.

Don’t get the wrong idea: there is no problem asking for healing. But until we get our glorified bodies — and unless God has a lesson to teach by healing someone — I would not expect one. And remember, even if you were healed, you’d die soon anyway.

Third, the purpose of healing is to show that God was with the healer — like he was with Jesus and his disciples (John 3:2; Acts 5:12). Now, the healings certainly helped the afflicted. But that was not their point. The lame man that Peter made to walk (Acts 3:6) got old and died — as did Lazarus — who was touched by the Lord himself! (John 11:4). The point was not to heal; the point was to give the healer credibility — to show he was speaking the words of God.

I am not one of those evangelicals who believe that healings have “officially” ceased in today’s Church. In fact, I pray for healings all the time! But the three things I do not do: I do not test God; I don’t put on a show — and I do not think my faith is defective when God does not heal people at my request. I don’t expect him to! I expect that their suffering serves a greater purpose.

But if God were to heal someone through me — and I mean overtly, under my hand — I would consider it a sign but not my due. The burden would then be on me to share the story of the healing with the world and use that platform to spread the gospel.

The problem is, I have that burden anyway. Christ gave me those marching orders 2000 years ago, right before he ascended into heaven (Matthew 28:18-20). Should I wait for a sign before I start to fulfill the Great Commission? Or should I just get going? I say the latter.

So, what would a sign do for a person like me? … and do you think we should let signs be proof of our value to the kingdom or our spiritual acumen? I do not.

“He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39, NIV)

I hope this helped. Thanks again for this question, and God bless you.

(Note to reader: This person followed up by supplying Bible verses. To see this follow-up discussion, click here.)

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20210222 By his stripes we are healed… but how?).

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