To discover a ministry of healing today that adorns the doctrine of Christ is a difficult thing, yet such a ministry is greatly needed and desired. Its very nature, however, makes it a ministry that the enemy seriously fears and determinedly hinders. But if the believer is to serve Christ adequately he must face hindrances.
Before we enumerate these obstacles let me make it clear that in speaking of the ministry of healing I am not referring to the ministry of a person with the gifts of healing. The ministry of healing is a believer's ministry and the promises relating to it are specifically to the believers. "These signs shall follow them that believe. . . they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark 16:17, 18). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also" (John 14:12).
Certainly every missionary, pastor and evangelist should have a ministry of healing, but the ministry of healing is not just for leaders - it is for all believers. This then is a challenge to every Christian to be a believer.
One of the first hindrances to a ministry of healing is that there is a stigma to it. This is an artifice of the devil. Satan also uses fanatical and heretical behavior to frighten the believer from his inheritance. The aura of eccentricity has been cleverly associated with the ministry of healing. Dr. A. B. Simpson might easily have had more acclaim and recognition by the church and the world at large had he not been an earnest exponent of divine healing. Paul said, "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal. 1: 10). Let the believer who seriously desires the ministry of healing be prepared to displease men, even good and godly men.
Jesus said, "All power [authority] is given unto me. . . and, lo, I am with you alway. . ." (Matt. 28:18, 20) , and the indwelling Christ desires to exercise His authority through the believer. Many believers, however, are unaware of their authority over sickness. Yet he who fails to understand and appreciate this is like a newly commissioned traffic officer complete with uniform, badge and authority, who stands quaking on the curb, fearful of the tons of traffic and failing to take authority committed to him.
The believer who will not receive his authority for the ministry of healing will not step off the curb of indecision into the ebb and flow of life. Nor will he halt any of the ravages of sickness and disease.
Second, there is a distinct discipline required in the ministry of healing. In the case of the epileptic boy (Mark 9) the disciples failed. This was not due to lack of authority but to lack of discipline. Jesus healed the boy. Another time Jesus asked, "Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?" Our Lord's comment, which emphasized His humanity by calling Himself the Son of Man, indicated that the healing was more difficult, for it demonstrated His ability to forgive. (It should be understood that to say healing is more difficult is not to say it is more important than forgiveness.) The believer who desires the ministry of healing must be prepared to face the spiritual discipline of prayer, fasting and denial of self.
Another hindrance to the ministry of healing is the fear of failure, which is related more to pride than to unbelief. It is often manifested in evasive praying for the sick. We avoid giving God or anyone else the impression that we expect the prayer to be answered. We choose terminology full of loopholes, for we want no reflection on our spirituality or faith. But "God hath not given us the spirit of fear. . ." (2 Tim. 1:7).
A sad lack of compassion is certainly a hindrance to the ministry of healing. Where is the believer who has the desire to pray for the sick? To one I know who had this ministry, the mere mention of sickness or the sight of an afflicted person brought a surging desire to pray. Surely this is something like the compassion Christ felt. What the sick world needs is not a cold explanation of the vagaries of fate, but a compassionate expression of the verities of faith.
We remind everyone that the Bible says, "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church. . ." (James 5:14). Then we go farther and imply that this is the only basis for the ministry of healing, suggesting that all initiative must be on the part of the sick person, that any other is wrong or out of order. Actually, the initiative in this ministry may lie in many directions. For instance, in the fourteen deliverances recorded in Mark, four times a vague "they" take the initiative, three times the sick call, friends take responsibility once, parents act on behalf of "their children three times, and three times Jesus Himself initiates the healing.
The rule given in James 5 is indeed a rule worthy of deep respect and full obedience, but it is not the only rule. If it were, then Peter and John should not have healed the man at the Beautiful Gate, nor Paul the lame man of Lystra.
Unbelief, however, is the greatest hindrance to the ministry of healing. No Bible-believing Christian questions God's ability to heal. The unbelief focuses on God's willingness. Doubt faithfully asks her ancient question, tinged with the subtlety of Eden, "Does God really want to heal?" One Alliance evangelist has observed that there are three attitudes commonly held with regard to healing. Most people believe God is able to heal, some that He is willing, and a few believe that God is longing to heal.
No believer who doubts God's willingness to heal is likely to have a ministry of healing. Conversely, the healing ministries of such men as A. B. Simpson, W. G. Weston and others were marked. by an immense and unshakable conviction that God wanted to heal.
Finally, a serious hindrance to the ministry of healing is that the believer is not truly trusting the Lord. Instead of resting in divine health, he rushes for outside help. During my Bible college days I heard a student declare, "I have taken the Lord Jesus as my Healer." At that time I did not understand the import of his statement. The healing ministry of A. B. Simpson issued out of the commitment that he made when he took the Lord as his Healer. The healing ministry of any believer today can spring from no less fertile ground.
The response to these lines can be in three ways. Some may nod assent but neglect action; others may defuse the implications by a theological short circuit; and yet others may. receive, believe, commit and enter into a new ministry. My hope is for the latter.
The Protestant heritage of the priesthood of all believers needs a modem application in the ministry of healing. "These signs shall follow them that believe. . . they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover" (Mark 16:17,18).
-By permission, The Alliance Witness