"It wasn't meant for me"
I hear these a LOT from Christians.
I've struggled with them myself - and probably always will. There's always more to learn and do in our Walk with God. Always more that we feel we should have seen or done. Could have done or said. Would do or say if we had the chance again.
But it didn't happen.
So what does it mean?
Jesus was explicit in His teaching on healing, casting out demons, in fact every instance where the word "sozo" was translated differently depending on the context.
Basically His message was "I've taken care of that. Just go in My Name and get it."
We've learned to add "Except (insert your name)......... You didn't learn enough yet from the situation"
He never said that. Quite the opposite. He made it clear that although He was a Jew and living among the Jews, His message and Power was for all people. He spoke into the Samaritan woman's life and touched her emotional need - something a "religious" Jew would never do. He Validated her life and forgave her past. A Samaritan. A woman. That woman...
He spoke to the Centurion and agreed to go to his home. The centurion refuses, telling Him it's not necessary as he understands the power of authority. And Jesus is gobsmacked.
Yes, Jesus is surprised. By the fact that the centurion believed? No. But by the fact that the whole of Israel to this point had not produced anyone with this level of understanding of Faith in Him.
The centurion's servant is healed. The Samaritan woman's burden is eased.
But why does it seem like it doesn't work sometimes?
There's a number of clues in Scripture to what happens - or fails to happen - when we pray that decides by our actions whether we receive or relinquish the answer to our prayers. For simplicity's sake I'll only mention a handful here, but there's more - many more - than I have here.
First, we need to address a simple question: Is it God's Will for (X) to happen?
(X) can be anything. Healing, Prosperity, a new car, enough money for a pint of milk. Anything we're praying for from a position of need.
The need is the issue. It's a perceived "need" we have that we're asking for, or to be set free from.
So is it God's Will?
Generally, a Christian will look to pray in line with God's Will. We try to seek His face in our lives. It's the New nature. I must stress, what I'm saying here does NOT apply to non-believers. They may get lucky in their prayers, like a monkey typing Shakespeare by hitting random keys, but in general what I'm saying here calls for a known relationship with God.
Knowing His Will is the key. Jesus called us His Friends in John 14-16. He said we needed to maintain a perspective on Heaven - His Father's house.
But what's His Will here? Healing? Yep. He even changed His Name to emphasise it. I Am, the God who Heals you. (Exodus 15:26)
"Saying, If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God and will do what is right in His sight, and will listen to and obey His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord Who heals you." Exodus 15:26
This actually hits 2 points. Confirmation that God's Will is to Heal - and we're talking physical healing, not some transcendental claptrap referring to an "ethereal" state of being in the afterlife. This World. This life. Right now.
Isaiah echoes it: Isaiah 53:5 says "by His stripes we are healed". Peter changes the tense, indicating his revelation of the New Covenant in Christ: 1 Peter 2:24 "By whose stripes you were healed". It's done. Complete. Established by the crucifixion and resurrection.
The second point Exodus 15:26 makes is that God doesn't put sickness on those under the New Covenant. Now OK, Exodus is in the Old Testament. But when Jesus was being interrogated by the religious leaders He stated "Before Abraham was, I Am" (John 8:58) Either the statement was possible more profound than almost any other or Jesus needed Grammar lessons.
I'm leaning towards profound...
When Jesus shouted from the Cross "It is Finished!" (John 19:30), completing the Messianic Prophecy of Psalm 22 running through the whole psalm, He declared the Old Covenant completed and the New Covenant to be established. "They shall come and shall declare His righteousness to a people yet to be born—that He has done it [that it is finished]!" (verse 31)
Now if Jesus's sacrifice reaches backwards as well as forwards, which His entire Ministry indicates is the case, then we can be certain God does not put sickness onto us to teach us. Jesus was a perfect reflection of the Father, and as such perfection He did everything God did - and does. Anything He did, we can do. Anything He didn't do, we can be certain means it is not part of God's will.
There isn't a single reference in the New Testament of God using Jesus to put sickness, death or poverty onto an individual to teach them. Not a single instance where someone who came to Him in faith being turned away. Every person who acted on their faith received their need met in full - and only once did He need to pray twice for the same person - and that, like the problems in His home town, was related to the blind man's faith, not Jesus's.
So yes, Healing is God's Will. Now.
But we can delay it.
God will not usurp our authority in our own life. We have a choice to accept or reject His Blessing. I regularly fall over myself when I'm praying. I end up with "I'm not worthy of this that I'm asking for" screaming through my head. When I let it, it prevents me receiving from God. Every time.
The first example of that is in Exodus. The land is filled with frogs. They are everywhere. Houses, gardens, dinner tables, beds. The plague has been going on for a while, and Pharaoh has had enough. He summons Moses and tells him he may take the Children of Israel to sacrifice to God and Worship Him - if the frogs can be taken away.
Take it away, Moses:
"Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the Lord, that He may take away the frogs from me and my people; and I will let the people go that they may sacrifice to the Lord. Moses said to Pharaoh, Glory over me in this: dictate when I shall pray [to the Lord] for you, your servants, and your people, that the frogs may be destroyed from you and your houses and remain only in the river. And [Pharaoh] said, Tomorrow. [Moses] said, Let it be as you say, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God. And the frogs shall depart from you and your houses and from your servants and your people; they shall remain in the river only." (Exodus 8:8-11)
"Tomorrow". Moses's instruction from Pharaoh is to pray the next day. Pharaoh has the authority to tell Moses to pray there and then. Take the frogs out right then. He delays it another day.
We do the same. Sometimes we're so used to the pain we're in that we cling to it and can't give it over to Jesus. It's our plague of frogs.
It prevents us receiving God's Will. From seeing healing or prosperity or any answer to the prayers we throw out every day.
The next thing to consider is timing.
Timing is used as an excuse for many things. It is used by us to explain why we didn't receive what we asked God for.
We use it to avoid responsibility for our doubt or unbelief.
We have to accept responsibility for our actions and choices. God has done everything He needs to do for us to have everything we need. He sacrificed His Son for us to have relationship with Him restored. Jesus went through whipping, crucifixion, death and Hell for us to have everything He gained from it.
This modern world is big on passing the buck to someone else. Responsibility has been swept away and deniability ushered in. We have it in every aspect of our lives on a daily basis. Whether it's a psychology reference telling us that homosexuality is just another type of "normal" or a national leader justifying the use of public funds for his personal desires or a sporting hero crying "the Devil made me do it" into the microphones of the press we expect it, and worse we accept it.
Christianity is based on taking responsibility for our actions, and submitting that responsibility to Christ for His atonement. The whole point of the Faith we walk is responsibility. We have to put our understanding through the World's eyes away and lean on Faith. Hebrews 11, the great Chapter of Faith, says it is the substance of things hoped for. It is the evidence of what we have not yet seen manifested in the physical world.
How long the manifestation takes is, under the New Covenant, down to us. When Daniel prays the first time and receives his answer as he finishes speaking, the Angel tells him that he was dispatched as he began to pray. When Daniel prays the second major prayer he has to wait three weeks for the answer, but again the Angel tells him when his prayer was first received by God he was sent with the response, but demonic interference delayed him for 21 days. Daniel could have halted God's power by giving up on day 20. The Angel would have been recalled and half the book of Daniel wiped away.
We don't like that thought. Daniel didn't have the authority under the Old Covenant to rebuke Satan or his demons, but we do. We have the Name of Jesus, and the full power of that Name to rebuke all power of the enemy, be it poverty, sickness or even death. We have this Power and the responsibility that comes with it. We can strike at the heart of the enemy in a way Daniel longed for but never knew. We have the authority to march into the enemy's camp and walk out with anything and everything he's ever taken from us.
But we have to do it. Just as we don't call the power company to turn on our living room light when the sun sets, we flick the switch ourselves, so God has already set the Power flowing for us to use. We simply need to "plug in" to it and see it manifest.
"Simply" may not be the right word. The theory is, granted, very simple. But we tend to overthink things. We look for ways to abdicate the responsibility of the authority we have, because we are unwilling to accept the responsibility that a mistake on our part may cause.
Nelson Mandela, who died earlier this month, embodied accepting responsibility brilliantly. He took responsibility for his actions that led to his imprisonment for 27 years. He spoke of his past and hopes for the future regularly and freely admitted he made mistakes. And that he expected to continue making them. He resisted the notion of himself as an "icon", preferring people to see him as a man with a flawed past and an imperfect nature. His humility in the Godly sense was inspiring - not once did he ever claim to be either more or less than God had made him.
But responsibility, whether we like it or not, lies with us. In the same way, however, there are some things for which we are not responsible for. We are not responsible for the way others respond to movement of God. Even Jesus could not override the doubt of His home town. When He spoke to the blind man outside Bethsaida He prayed for him twice, making clay and putting it on his eyes first, then when the man was not fully healed He prayed again and his sight was restored. The man was told not to go back into the town. Bethsaida is listed in Jesus's prayers later under the "woe to you" section for rejecting God's Word and messengers repeatedly for generations. Jesus prayed twice, not because His faith was incomplete, but because even though the man had Faith to receive, he had unbelief as well brought in by the people he associated with, the environment he lived in, and his prior experiences up to that point. First Jesus took him out of the town, then as the healing began to manifest at His command, He needed to effectively take the place out of him. Overcome the circumstance, overcome the doubt, see the Power of God flow.
It's our responsibility. We don't need to believe harder, simply to believe is sufficient. Yes, the more we operate on a particular area, the stronger our faith in that area becomes, just as a bodybuilder who only focuses on his legs will not develop strength in his arms, so if we focus exclusively on healing, or prosperity, or anything else sozo is translated as then that is the area we become strong in. But God would have us walk as "little Christs", the literal meaning of "Christian", and see us grow in all areas, not just one or two.
This means the issue of timing lands squarely with us. We can speak to fig trees as Jesus did and see them wither - He saw it dead from the moment it was spoken to by Him, and it died. Or alternatively we add "if it be your will" to the prayer and void it completely in the process.
Jesus didn't command the disciples - us - to pray for the sick and posessed. He demanded they be healed and set free. The grammar is an imperative - an order. He heals Peter's mother-in-law. He raises Jairus's daughter and the widow of Nain's son. He calls Lazarus back from 4 days in the tomb. There was no "Father, please if it's your will then do this" at this point. His relationship with His Father (and ours) meant He could boldly call out - like a Lion's Roar - for the death and sickness to be gone, and it left. The recipients of the miracles all knew Him, or of Him, and expected to receive the miracle they got. When Jairus's servants came and said "she's dead" He turned to him immedately and said "Only Believe" as an answer.
We forget that.
I dislike doctors (professionaly only as my wife is an MD) because they bombard me with information and facts. There is littls space in a consultation for Truth most of the time. But as I've written on the essential differences between Truth and fact in the past I won't labour the point here again. We get bogged down in facts. Water boils at 100°C or 212°F but that alone and out of context means nothing. As we move through the life we have, we must remember these things clearly.
Next, we must Face the Fight.
It sounds over simplistic again. But it's a simple truth with a lot of power.
Paul describes the Armour of God in Ephesians. He likens it to a Roman soldier's armour. Helmet, breastplate, shield, sword, belt, battle-shoes. The shoes demonstrate readiness for battle, and the helmet was head protection, but everything else relied on the belt. The shield was so heavy because of the thickness needed to extinguish a flaming arrow that it was hooked into it. The breastplate was attached to hold it in place. The sword hung from it to ensure readiness for use.
Paul likens Truth to the belt. Everything depends on it. We don't have the strength to carry, never mind use, the rest of the armour without it.
But there is an important message in the armour. Nothing protects the back. The armour will be effective only if we keep facing the battle. Only if we face the enemy.
In battle, the roman legionaries would pair up and stand back to back. They would fight facing the enemy and protect their compatriot. In the same way, we need to be in a Fellowship where we have support for our back. We can't defend ourselves from an attack we don't know about.
That's why we need to keep other believers around. It's why we need to be around them. It's why we are told not to forsake gathering with fellow believers. And the inferrence here is not mega-church. It's intimacy. It's accountability. It's responsibility.
The big-name teachers from the past were all accountable to a team behind the scenes. From Billy Graham onwards there has never been an enduring ministry where the teachers at the centre stood alone without it becoming about the man. Some took longer than others, but eventually the message is perverted by self and arrogance.
Even Peter and Paul had companions around them to keep them on track. Sometimes they needed support. Sometimes they needed correction. Paul, the Pharisee of Pharisees left his robes and sat under a teacher for years before he went out. And when he left he took a companion with him. Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs. What lunacy makes us think we need less?
Next: Single Minded Attitude
Stand Your Ground
In ancient greek history is a story from Spatra where just 300 warriors held off a force of several hundred thousand. They chose their ground to fight and held it, no matter the cost. At the end of it, the invading arme was massacred. Because they stood fast.
We must do the same. No matter what is arrayed against us, God promises we will never be exposed to more than we can withstand.
The enemy will lie to us. He will tell us we can't win. He will whisper and scream and shout and dance before us. But we need to stand fast.
"Blessed (happy, to be envied) is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive [the victor’s] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him." (James 1:12)
Patient under trial. That's what we must be. Irrespective of the trial we must be patient. But patient here is misleading. In scriptural terms it means unwavering. Resolute.
Hebrews 10:32 says "But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings". Another translation describes it as a "fight of afflictions". But the key is endurance. Endure and stand and receive from God.
Ephesians 6:13 says "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
Stand. Hold your ground. How do we know when the battle's over? We don't need to stand any more. Simple, but true.
How do we know?
We see the answer to the prayer.
Jesus said all who ask receive. Not most. Not all except you. All. All who seek find. All who knock are invited in.
So don't cast off your security in the promises of God. No matter how long you've been fighting. Like Daniel, you may only be a moment from your answer, or you may be days or even weeks from it, but the moment it was received in Heaven the answer was despatched.
Hold fast. Stand your ground. Remeber if it hasn't arrived yet it doesn't mean it's not on the way.
Ask for wisdom to pray in such a way that the result can be received faster. Ask God to make your heart softer to Him so you can be teachable and grow so next time it doesn't take so long.
But hold on most to the promise of Jesus.
All who ask will receive.
So if it didn't work yet, remember the operative word is "yet" and keep going.
The end is closer than you think.