If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 1 John 3:20–22
Our hearts can be misled—but God knows all! He is wonderfully greater, much greater, than our hearts! We must trust God regardless and not trust our feelings. He knows we are not perfect. If we are walking in the light, the blood of Christ continually cleanses us even though we may not feel perfect. Good news, eh?
Yet some preachers suggest that if our hearts condemn us, our prayers will not be answered and so we are not healed. But John is assuring us that God is greater than our feelings. He sees all where we see only in part and his love and grace are freely offered to us. And we are assured that our hearts need not condemn us, John making this plain for us who: believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
Again some writers will say that forgiveness and healing were “potentially” provided in Jesus’ sacrifice for us, but go on to suggest healing is somehow dependent on the sick one confessing their sins. But an examination of the Gospels shows that Jesus healed countless people without them having to confess their sins or repent.
There is no record of Jesus requiring anything from people whom he healed. For example he did not look at the epileptic boy and ask if there were any sins standing in the way. No, he spoke the word and the boy was healed after sharply scolding the disciples’ failure (Mat 17) of unbelief. At least the disciples didn’t blame the boy.
Neither is there any record of the spirit-led apostles demanding a clean slate from people before their healing.
One Australian writer on healing the sick asks the question with reference to James 5:15: “How did those praying know if the sick person had sin in his life?” He then claims the next verse “tells us”— as if James writes that this is so. But James is in no way here suggesting that the elders will know if the sick person had sin.
And who is without any sin anyway? If that was a pre-condition for our healing, no one would be healed or saved.
But in fact, James says “IF they have committed sins . . . . . .”. This makes it clear that James is not saying that the sickness is the result of sin. It is also clear that the healing of the sick one is described as preceding the forgiveness of sins, if any, and not as a condition for healing. Note also, that here James does not even mention repentance.
James seems to simply take it for granted that the person’s sins will be forgiven when the elders pray the prayer of faith. This sounds like the good news and is remarkably like Jesus’ declaration to the paralytic “Take courage, son your sins are forgiven” (Mat 9).
Sometimes in our desire to help people, to see them healed, we might think there is some unconfessed sin that prevents their healing, especially when our efforts seem powerless. We might even say to the sufferer “there’s sin in your life that stops your healing”. That of course usually adds substantially to their suffering and sends them on a futile quest to find what that sin could possibly be. That is very hurtful.
For us to make such an assumption, we are thinking it must be something in the sufferer that renders us disappointed with the outcome. Are we perhaps trying to hide our failure to heal and to shift the responsibility from ourselves? If sinlessness was a condition for healing, no one would be healed or saved. But this is not about us and “our ministry”! Jesus calls us to heal the sick person, whatever their condition—it is the love and grace of God, for not one of us deserves it. As disciples, we have the responsibility—he commands us to do it. We obey Jesus because he deserves it, not because the sick person deserves or the one ministering healing deserves the blessing. Still, love, patience and kindness for the sick is never out of God’s mind . . . . . .
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails . . . .
absolutely agree with everything you said Ian, thank you! I also agree with Stewart though and know that on many occasions I have “failed” to receive healing after prayer but within a few days discovered that the reason why I was sick in the first place was because I was eating or doing something that was making me physically sick. In one case it was a potassium supplement that I was taking that was building up in my body. That could have killed me. I”m so glad that God didn’t provide miraculous healing for that headache but rather allowed me to discover the cause and then remove it. I think anytime miraculous healing doesn’t occur we must ask God what else we need to know. Is it a natural cause that we can reverse, spiritual oppression requiring a different type of prayer, lack of belief etc etc.
Great and timely post for me Ian!
Thanks Nicole for your helpful remarks which I heartily endorse.
Are we trying to hide our failure to heal? If someone says ‘you must have sin in your life’ it is a cop out. If it is about doing what Jesus commanded – freely giving what we have freely received – wouldn’t we want to help? Pray with the person and ask the Lord to reveal to them what is hindering the healing. Be honest. Jesus was limited by unbelief – and that’s probably about all that stopped healing from manifesting for him. We still have much to learn, and we can still do while we are learning.
Thanks Lisa. Yes, let’s keep learning–that’s what ‘disciple’ truly means–and actually doing what we learn. Today.
How reassuring that our sin will not stop salvation or healing in our lives. God knows how frail and sinful we are so he makes the way for us through his grace and mercy. Thank you Lord.
From a purely practical level, what if someone is unwittingly poisoning themselves? Miraculous healing may deal with today’s symptoms, but will God also render the person immune to the poison they are unaware of, or instead expect the person to seek Him to find out what it is in their lives that is hurting them? It’s not always sin, and a miraculous healing may not always be recognised when the symptoms return the following day, eh?
And then there is unbelief, rife in the church. Unbelief leads to fear, uncertainty, depression, which on a purely practical level weakens the immune system and leads to all manner of illnesses. Heal one illness today, another pops up tomorrow. The illnesses are just a symptom of the underlying problem, which in this case is sin but a subtle and yet particularly nasty one, and a personal affront to God as well. Original sin was first unbelief that God wants the best for us – eating the apple followed. The person may have faith that God can and will heal them, but lack faith for their finances, their family, kids, future wellbeing etc.
Thank you Stewart.
Yes, symptoms can return. A classic example is that of a woman with emphysema who got wonderfully and instanly healed but then she was not determined to stay free from smoking and then the addiction came back even worse than before with an almost certain return of illness.
I agree that fear is the basic cause of many sicknesses. To get free of such fear and torment may mean the sufferer desperatly needs deliverance. And then there is that background fear arising from unbelief in the promises of God plainly given under the new Covenant which must be dealt with by repentance and faith in the One who makes such lavish promises for us to benefit.