Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

I remember speaking to a man in church once who was telling me about an illness he had suffered with for many years. He believed in healing, and had even experienced a miracle in the past. For this particular illness however, he told me that it was his “thorn in the flesh.” Meaning God would not remove it from him.

I want to explore this today, and think about the interpretation of Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Many have cited it as evidence for God not always healing the sick, or rather not always wanting to.

Let’s explore the text together and see what we can find out.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (ESV)

Why did Paul have a “thorn”?

Before we investigate what this thorn might have been, let us consider why Paul was given such a thorn in the first place. What did Paul say?

To keep me from becoming conceited because of the exceptional nature of these revelations…

2 Corinthians 12:7a (ISV)

So we see that Paul’s thorn came to him to keep him grounded. He had received such deep revelations of God, that he needed some kind of anchor to humility. Imagine having the kind of revelation needed to write the vast majority of the New Testament – to be the person who noted down the very Word of God for the church! Imagine if that was you… would you stay humble?

Earlier on in chapter 12 of 2 Corinthians, Paul discussed an individual who was caught up to heaven. A man who actually visited heaven – whether in the body or out of it, not even the man knew. It turned out that this “man” was in fact Paul himself. So not only was he receiving such incredible revelation of God’s will and purpose, he also visited heaven! Astonishing!

We really need to understand this before we claim a “thorn” of our own. Few, if any, of us can claim to have received the depth of revelation that Paul did. We ought to be very careful about claiming the same limitations that Paul faced, without the responsibility that went along with it.

Who’s messenger was it?

It is also important to understand the source of this thorn. The text clearly states that this was a “messenger of Satan.” This thorn, whatever it was, came from the enemy. The text itself does not say that God sent the thorn, although of course you can read such an implication from it. At least, many will say God allowed this “messenger of Satan” if He did not send it Himself.

I make this point because we must not read what we think the Bible say, but rather what it actually says. Many teach and accept that God gave Paul a physical thorn, and thus in some circumstances, God will not heal. But it is difficult to obtain such an understanding from these verses – in my view at least.

The text does not clearly say if God did or did not “send” or “allow” this thorn, but it does say definitively that it was a “messenger of Satan.” Nothing good comes from the enemy, and we must understand he is a very real adversary who can wreak havoc in our lives if we allow him.

That is not to say that God cannot use hardships or difficulties to bring about His will or purpose in our lives, of course, He can. I would argue that He would not choose to do so if He had an alternative. I can learn that punching the wall really hurts and that I should not do it, but I can also learn that by instruction.

So then, what exactly was this “thorn”?

In the flesh

Many say that as Paul’s thorn was “in the flesh” that it was clearly a physical ailment. There can be no question surely, that this was anything other than sickness of the body therefore. In fact, some go as far as to say that this “thorn” was Paul’s eye condition. I discussed Paul’s sight last week, and so don’t necessarily believe that Paul even had an eye condition, let alone one God refused to heal. It seems more likely to me that the damage to Paul’s eyes was as a result of his stoning at Antioch, rather than an illness.

But are there any alternative views?

Think of this example. If I said to you that “work is a real pain in the neck at the moment.” How would you interpret that? Would you think I was saying that I had injured my neck in an accident at work? No, of course not! You would understand that “pain in the neck” is just a turn of phrase meaning “annoyance” or “frustration”.

Let’s say I’d written this to you in a letter, and someone was reading it 2,000 years into the future. If the phrase “pain in the neck” was no longer in common use, then the reader might struggle to understand my meaning.

This, in my opinion at least, is what is happening with Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”.

How can I evidence that? Can the phrase be found elsewhere in the Bible, and how is it interpreted?

Here is a verse from Numbers 33:

But if you fail to drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, their survivors will become irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, to prick your sides and afflict you in the very land in which you’ll be living.

Numbers 33:55 (ISV)

This verse is clear, and the meaning apparent. If you don’t drive out the nations before you, then they will become an irritant and “thorns in your sides.” We all understand this is not literal – the enemy nations would not turn into physical thorns and stick in the sides of the Israeli people! Instead, we understand this is a turn of phrase, and one Paul would have been familiar with.

Similarly, in Joshua 23, we read:

know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.

Joshua 23:13 (ISV)

Again we see here an example of the same sort of phrase. A “Thorn in the flesh”, be it eyes or sides, is clearly meant to indicate an irritation or vexation.

So the thorn was…?

As I say above, it was clearly an irritation or frustration of some kind. The text doesn’t give much more detail than that, although it is my personal opinion that this thorn was in fact persecution.

Persecution would fit the bill because it is clear Paul was persecuted pretty much everywhere he went. He was arrested, whipped and imprisoned multiple times and nou doubt, as faithful as he was, was something hard to endure over and over again.

Paul did ask God to remove the thorn from him – three times in fact, and yet God did not. Why? Firstly, every believer (Paul included) was promised that while they were in the world, that they would have trouble (John 16:33). We should take heart knowing that Jesus overcame the world and its troubles.

Secondly, which is an extension to the first, is that God did not promise to remove persecution from us. As much as we would like it, I see no case in the Bible to suggest that we can simply pray persecution away – even with Paul’s faith and experience.

What does this have to do with the subject of healing?

In short, very little in my view. If it is your belief that Paul’s thorn was a physical illness, then I hope what I have said here at least gives you an alternative to consider.

If what I have said is correct, then actually Paul’s thorn has nothing to do with the ministry of healing and nor should it be used as a reason for “God not healing someone.”

Whatever irritations or “thorns” you are facing this week, I pray that they would be removed. And if not, like Paul, then I believe God’s grace is sufficient. Spend time drawing on that grace and being with God in whatever circumstances you find yourselves.

What are you aiming for? (PoW#15)

It’s better to strive for everything and get some of it, than to aim for nothing and get all of it.

I used to know someone who always said “It’s better to hope for nothing and then you can’t be disappointed.” While I can see where they were coming from, I always thought it was a sad way to live.

You are far better to aim for everything and get some of it, than to aim for nothing at all, and get every bit of it. Target the moon and you may miss, but there’s a good chance you’ll at least reach the skies.

What are you expecting? Do you go through life just waiting for the next thing to go wrong, or do you push on to reach the best in all things? I imagine the former way is much harder than the latter.

Aim as high as you can, and give it all you’ve got. I hope you achieve every bit of your God-given goals.

Is it God’s will for you to be sick?

In last week’s post called “Is it God’s Will to Heal?” I examined a number of Scriptures which I believe supported the idea that it is God’s will to heal us. While that remains my view, I don’t want to put across a one-sided view, avoiding all the other Scriptures which may contradict my point, and want to tackle those Bible verses today.

In all of this, I urge you to search out the Bible for yourself. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s, study the Bible for yourself and make up your own mind.

The Source of Sickness

Last time, I spoke of Jesus’ ministry and the massive amount of time He spent healing the sick.

In Acts, we read a summary of Jesus’ ministry:

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, he went around doing good and healing everyone who was oppressed by the Devil.

Acts 10:38 (ISV)

From this summary, we not only learn that Jesus went about doing good, and healing everyone who was oppressed, but also who they were oppressed by – the devil.

Likewise, when we read of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” we discover its source also:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

2 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV)

I want to explore Paul’s thorn in greater detail in a future post, so won’t say a great deal here. It is certainly a Scripture that many use to support the idea of God sometimes refusing to heal. Paul’s thorn was “in the flesh” so clearly in the body right? Well, i’m not so sure about that, but as I say, we’ll pick that up in a future post.

For now though, I want to point out that Paul’s thorn, be it physical or not, was a messenger of Satan. It was not a servant of God, nor inspired by Him – it was from the devil.

This is really important because we cannot have faith to be healed if we in some part believe that it is God who made us sick.

Let’s have a look at some further verses used to dispute this.

Paul’s eyesight

I’ve heard teaching about Paul’s eyesight, and wanted to discuss it here. Some scholars claim that Paul had some form of eye condition, demonstrated by the below verses.

What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.

Galatians 4:15 (ESV)

And:

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Galatians 6:11 (ESV)

The argument is that if Paul – the great apostle himself – was struck with an eye condition, then who are we to say that God wants us well?

While the above verses can be interpretted like that, I think there is another alternative. Only you can decide which you think is right.

Firstly, Galatians 4:15 where Paul said the Galatians would have given him their eyes if they were able. Clearly, this shows that Paul had some kind of affliction with his eyes. I’m not denying that sickness attacks us at times, and being in a battle with sickness is not something you should feel condemned over.

Scholars suggest that this eye affliction was caused by some ancient eye disease not uncommon at the time. But what about this:

But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.

Acts 14:19-20 (ESV)

Just prior to moving on to Galatia (Derbe is a province of Galatia), Paul was stoned outside the city of Antioch. If he was not dead, then those who stoned him certainly believed he was. It may even be that he was raised to life after suffering this execution attempt.

How badly hurt must Paul have been? Even if raised to new life, his body would still need time to recover. God’s healing power can work instantly, but does not always. Is it not more likely that this attempted stoning was the cause of Paul’s eye problems than an ancient disease?

Scholars point at the other verse, Galatians 6:11 to show that Paul had to write in “large letters” because his sight was so bad. Perhaps that’s true, and perhaps it was the stoning rather than the sickness that caused this? But actually, the word “large” here is – pelikos – meaning volume or magnitude. And the word “letter” – gramma – meaning document, note or letter. Together these just mean a large letter, a long note, or substantial document. It does not mean large individual characters!

Timothy’s Tummy

(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)

1 Timothy 5:23 (ESV)

The wine-lovers favourite verse…!

Again, this verse is often used to suggest that if Timothy had stomach problems then clearly God doesn’t always want us well. It feels something of a weak argument to me in this case.

If you were travelling somewhere with low water quality, I might give you similar advice. Likewise, if you were sensitive to certain foods or even allergic, it would be prudent to avoid those things. I think that’s just good sense!

Maybe in this case, Timothy was so firmly convinced that it is indeed God’s will to heal, that he was deliberately drinking the water to prove the point? That is mere speculation of course, but no more so than using this verse to deny God’s will to heal.

The Old Testament

I absolutely love the Old Testament. I know many find it hard to handle, and indeed it takes some study, but it is the Bible Jesus would have read (in a manner of speaking) and without it, the New Testament would be rather thin and meaningless.

When it comes to healing and sickness, we need to properly understand the Old Testament. There are certain occasions when God inflicted sickness on people, that cannot and should not be denied. But we must understand the context first.

Some may deny that God inflicted sickness in the Old Testament, instead using words like “allowed” or “permitted” sickness. While in some cases that is probably true, there are other places where you need to bend or downright change the text to make that so – I cannot condone that at all.

In the space I have remaining, I cannot give you a detailed survey of the Old Testament and its contribution to the subject of healing. Much confusion can be cleared up by understanding the difference between the Law and Grace.

Deuteronomy 28 sets out the blessings and the curses of obeying the Law. Obey the Law, you get blessed, disobey the Law, you get cursed. Simple right? Well not exactly. Israel had made the bold claim that they could do all that God had commanded, and so He introduced the Law (see Exodus 19). This was to demonstrate to them that they were not able to fulfil all aspects of the Law, and that they needed a Saviour.

Listed under the curses, we see things like:

The Lord will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed. 28 The Lord will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, 29 and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness…

Deuteronomy 28:27-29a (ESV)

Sickness is a curse. Plain and simple. For those living under the Law, they would be cursed with sickness when they broke the Law. Many of us Christians today believe this still applies.

Galatians 3:13 tells us:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Galatians 3:13 (ESV)

Jesus took on the curse for us. We could not fulfil the Law and so Jesus did so on our behalf. The curses of Deuteronomy 28 no longer apply to us because Christ became the curse for us.

If good works could not earn us the blessing, then our mistakes now can’t take it away either. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with Christ.

Most of the sickness we read about in the Old Testament is a direct result of disobedience, and the curse of the Law. Without a Saviour to stand in the gap, people had to face the consequences of their own actions. Even then, God’s grace is still abundently clear in His patience in dealing with the nation of Israel.

Other examples of the curse of sickness can be found in the Old Testament:

  • Miriam’s Leprosy (Numbers 12)
  • David’s census (1 Chronicles 21)
  • Hezekiah’s sickness and subsequent recovery (2 Kings 20)
  • Elisha’s servant – Gehazi (2 Kings 5)

We could go on, but all of these examples are as a direct result of disobedience leading to punishment.  Jesus took that punishment for us, so we would not have to. God bore the pain on His own shoulders to free us from its curse.

The Old Testament may be difficult in places, but is also full of examples of healing too.

  • Naaman the Leper (2 Kings 5)
  • Elisha healing the Shumanite woman’sson (1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 4)
  • The First Healing in the Bible, that of Abimilech (Genesis 20)

Concluding Thoughts

Again, I point out that I cannot do a complete study in this one blog post. I am simply trying to point out some of the common arguments against healing, and hopefully giving you an alternative view.

As I try to say often, don’t take my word for it! Seek this out for yourself. Study the Bible and find out what it says. If you come up with something different to me, that’s fine, as long as you can support your view from the text. Bear with those who don’t agree.

My point in this series is to help you to understand that it is God’s will to heal. Last time I drew your attention to Scriptures which support this, and I’ve tried (in this post) to address some of the other verses which may appear to go against that view.

Next time we will tackle Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh, as I think there is some confusion about this and it is often cited as a reason for God not wanting to heal.

In the meantime, pray about these Scriptures and talk to God about it. I pray you receive and stand in good health this week.

One Day’s Dream is Another Day’s… (PoW#14)

Pearl of Wisdom #14

What is now in the junkyard was once somebody’s lifelong dream.

Life is a funny thing, and is so often dictated by the drive to gain material possessions. It is not wrong to have things, and indeed we need many of them, but it ought to shock us to realise how much of our lives are driven by the pursuit of “stuff”.

It is even more humbling when we consider that whatever we gain in life – materially that is – cannot come with us. Whatever you believe about the afterlife, surely you will agree that none of these possessions we worked so hard to get can come with us.

Think about what you will one day leave behind. Your dream, whatever it was and no matter how long it took you to build, will ultimately age, breakdown or be thrown away.

Junkyards and rubbish dumps are full of things that were perhaps once someone lifelong dream.

I don’t say any of this to depress you! But I’ve learned that life is very short compared with eternity, and we only get one shot at it. Don’t waste your life working for something that will one day be trashed.

Work out what is really important and start building a lasting legacy.

Is it God’s Will to Heal?

In my recent post – “Healing is in the Word” – I set out some of my beliefs about healing. I did not, in that post, try to explain my views with backing from the Bible. I want to try to do that over the next few posts.

As I said last time, I know some of you will not agree with my position. That’s ok. Please give me the grace to be wrong if I am. I hope to show you why I believe what I do, and if nothing else, get you to think about what you believe.

As a starting point, we must ask if it is God’s will to heal today.

I am willing

In the first chapter of Mark, we read the following account. This account is also mirrored in Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 8.

Then a leper came to Jesus and began pleading with him. He fell on his knees and told him, “If you want to, you can make me clean.”

41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and told him, “I do want to. Be made clean!” 42 Instantly the leprosy left him, and he was clean.

Mark 1:40-42 (ISV)

A leper comes to Jesus seeking healing. He asks essentially what we are asking today – is it your will to heal? He does not question Jesus’ ability – in fact, that is assumed – “you can make me clean” but asks if He is willing. Before healing the man, Jesus corrects his thinking by confirming that indeed, “I am willing”.

It is never a good thing to take a single verse and make a doctrine out of it. We must interpret God’s Word in the light of other Scripture, not in the light of our experience or our pre-existing beliefs. My belief is that it is God’s will to heal, and I’ve used the above to demonstrate that. However, it could be that Jesus was speaking specifically to this man alone, and we cannot apply it to ourselves.

Are there other Scriptures we can look to?

I want you to be in health

3 John 2 says:

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

3 John 2 (ESV)

John, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes that it is his will for the recipient of his third letter (Gaius) to not only prosper, but be in good health. Again, it could be that this only applies to the addressee, but it is at least another example.

Does it refer to physical health?

The word “prosper” here may make us think of wealth. While that is certainly connected to material wealth, money or possessions alone do not make us “prosperous”. How prosperous is a billionaire whose marriage is breaking down, or whose children are estranged or who has a terminal illness? Wealth alone does not make one prosperous.

The word “health” here is the Greek word – hygiaino. This means “sound,” “well,” or “whole.” We might recognise the phrase to be “safe and sound,” or “safe and well.” This word conveys that same meaning. It can be used in the sense of “sound” or “wholesome” teaching or doctrine, but is used in Luke 7:10 to refer to the healing of the sick.

And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

Luke 7:10 (KJV)

John says “that you would prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” This “health” he refers to cannot therefore be related to the “soul”. The “even as” part suggests that is a given, and he infers that he wants health and prosperity in other respects as well as the soul. Physical health it may well be therefore.

Gifts of healing

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul lists a number of spiritual gifts – special endowments of the Holy Spirit given to the church for the benefit of the church.

Verse 9 says:

…to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV, emphasis added)

So we see that some of the gifts given to the church by the Holy Spirit are for healing. And not just one “gift” but “gifts” – plural – of healing.

It stands to reason that if God did not want us well, then He would not have provided gifts of healing to us.

Elders should pray for the sick

In his letter, James writes:

Is anyone among you sick? He must call for the elders (spiritual leaders) of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer of faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

James 5:14-15 (Amp)

So if we are sick, we are instructed to seek the elders or leaders of the church to come and to pray for us. Again, why would we do this if it was not God’s will to make us healthy?

James not only instructs us to seek healing and prayer support from the church leaders, but in verse 15 says that “the prayer of faith will restore the one who is sick.” It is not an empty prayer, but one of power. James expected there to be results of this prayer for healing. Do we expect the same thing?

Sadly, when we pray for healing, we only “hope” it will work, and if honest, we have little expectation that it actually will.

Why? Because we are not convinced it actually is God’s will to heal. 

One of the benefits of believing

In my recent series, “All the Benefits of Believing,” I spent a good many weeks teaching on Psalm 103 verse by verse.

Verse 3 tells us that one of the many benefits to believing is:

who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,

Psalm 103:3 (ESV, emphasis added)

Not some of our diseases, but all of them. And the word translated as “diseases” there is the Hebrew word – tachaluw – and it means… well, diseases!

You can read more in the blog post called Trusting the Unseen.

Other Psalms also speak of the Lord healing His people. Psalm 107:20 which i discussed last week, says God send forth His word and heals them. Also, Psalm 91:9-10 says that for those who belong to the Lord, no plague will come near their tent.

Jesus’ Ministry

Jesus spent much of His ministry on Earth healing the sick who were brought to Him. There were several occasions when every single person brought to Christ was healed of whatever ailment they were afflicted with. He never turned anyone away and there were even times when just grasping the hem of His cloak was enough to release healing virtue.

It may be one thing for Jesus to go about healing people, but what about us?

Firstly, if Jesus did it, then we must understand that it was His will, and subsequently His Father’s will to heal people.

Secondly, Jesus gave that same authority to His disciples. In Matthew 10, we read:

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority andpower over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

Matthew 10:1 (Amp)

Jesus bestowed His authority and power to heal the sick to His disciples. And they then went throughout the towns of Israel healing in the name of Jesus.

But does this apply to us? On the face of it, Jesus is clearly speaking here to the twelve disciples. The word “twelve” is present, and unless you are over 2,000 years old and a close personal friend of Jesus – you and I are not one of them.

I could not argue with this view if Matthew 10 closed there. Clearly, much of what Jesus goes on to tell His disciples is meant for them and then alone. But Jesus also widens His teaching, talking of imprisonment, beating and that ultimately they would not reach all of the towns of Israel before He returns. Returns? He had not yet left at this point! It’s clear therefore that Jesus was referring to times beyond the twelve apostles alone.

The Great Commission

I want to close this post by thinking about the Great Commission. Most of us think of the book of Matthew when we hear this phrase, and Jesus lasting command to His people to share the Gospel and make disciples of all they can.

Mark also records the Great Commission in his Gospel, and it can be found in Mark 16:

Then he told them, “As you go into the entire world, proclaim the gospel to everyone. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned. 17 These are the signs that will accompany those who believe: In my name they’ll drive out demons. they’ll speak in new languages, 18 and they’ll pick up snakes with their hands. Even if they drink any deadly poison, it won’t hurt them, and they’ll place their hands on the sick, and they’ll recover.

Mark 16:15-18 (ISV, emphasis added)

Most churches I’ve been involved in take the preaching of the Gospel very seriously – and rightly so. Very few seem to take the responsibility for laying hands and the sick, and seeing them recover.

Concluding thoughts

What I have said here is by no means a definitive argument. Many of you will rightly point out that there are other Scriptures not mentioned here which may paint a different view. I agree completely. I hope, next time, to select some of those Scriptures and examine them to see what we can learn from them.

Equally though, what I have mentioned above is just a handful of places in the Bible that suggest it is indeed God’s will to heal. I stop this post here, not because I run out of Scriptures, but because it is already long enough.

I hope that as you read these thoughts and the accompanying Scriptures, that you will consider your own position. Do I believe in healing? Do I believe it is God’s will to heal? Do I base by belief on a whole view of the Bible, or on my own experiences?

Before I close, I want to add that just because it is God’s will to heal, it does not mean it happens in every case. I am not ignorant, and completely understand that there are times when we pray or lay hands, and for some reason healing does not come. It is a tragedy when that happens, and it has happened to me too.

It does not mean that God chose not to heal that individual. It may surprise you to learn that God does not always get what He wants. But that’s a topic for another day.

For now, pray about this subject. Consider the verses here and others you know of. Seek the Lord in this matter and ask Him, “Is it your will to heal Father?”

We are all different (POW#13)

Pearl of Wisdom #13

Not everyone does things in the same way that you do

Don’t you just love it when someone says, “I wouldn’t have done it like that…” just AFTER you finish doing a task?

You often see it in a working environment; when one employee tries to explain something to another. It seems a simple and straightforward task to the person that knows, and they just can’t understand why it’s such a mystery to the one learning.

The truth is that we are all different. What I find easy, you may find hard; and vice versa. Likewise, you may need to explain something to me several times before I get it, but someone else may grasp it on the first attempt.

Is one better than the other? No – it’s just different.

We need to understand and consciously remember that not everyone is like us. It is extremely arrogant to look down on someone else who can’t do what we can. If you look hard enough, there will certainly be things they can do that you cannot.

We must stop judging one another, and learn to work with each other. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and God put us together so we can work together – not against each other.

Be patient with other people this week, as they will no doubt have to be patient with you!

Healing is in the Word

He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.

Psalm 107:20 (NKJV)

I’ve been thinking a lot about healing lately. I know it is a somewhat controversial subject for some, but it has long been a passion of mine to minister healing to the sick.

I know that not everyone believes the same thing that I do, and some believe healing died with the apostles or at least cannot be relied upon today. I struggle with this view, and in my studies feel there is a pretty strong case for healing in the Bible.

Of course there is no specific verse that says “God promises physical healing,” although that would certainly clear things up! But looking at the ministry of Jesus and taking the Bible as a whole, sickness is just not a good thing. We don’t see Jesus refusing to heal, or putting sickness on anyone, nor do we see anywhere sickness described as anything other than a curse.

I’m equally against those who say “you don’t have enough faith to be healed,” as it is not as simple as that. You can have faith for healing, and still not be healed. Having faith in it is not the only thing that counts, as our unbelief or doubt can hinder faith from working also.

I suppose my biggest struggle in this matter is not whether God’s Word does or does not say this or that, although it should be the primary issue. Instead I find myself debating our experiences. We don’t see healing, even when asking for it, as much as we would like and so we draw the conclusion that God does not heal today. Or that He chooses to heal some and not others.

I don’t want my faith to be driven by my circumstances or experiences. I want it governed by the Word of God. If the Bible says it, then it is true, no matter what my experience tells me.

An extreme view that may be, but I’m basing my life on what God has said in His Word.

As I’ve said before, I do not write this as someone who has it all figured out. I have a health issue that I have struggled with for years. But i’m not giving up…

I share the above verse today because I believe God spoke it to me just yesterday. I felt He was telling me that this verse is a life verse for me – and perhaps it is for you also?

God sent His Word and healed them. What a statement!

There is no bad way to get healed

God can heal us in a number of ways. He may very well use doctors and medicines, and thank Him that He does! Healing may come through what we would describe as a miracle; progressive or instantaneous. It may come through the laying on of hands, or the anointing with oil. As our verse for today tells us though, it may come through His Word. And there is no “bad way” to get healed!

For me personally, I’ve come to a place where I believe my healing will manifest through faith in His Word. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being healed through a spiritual gift (or indeed any other way), but my spirit witnesses that, for me at least, the Word is how it will come.

I’ve waited in prayer lines before and had people pray for me. Thank God for people like that. We need those with gifts of the Spirit to minister to those who do not know God’s Word sufficiently to put faith in it.

Imagine a scenario where a non-believer turns to God in the midst of a terminal illness. They may not have time to understand and meditate on the Word of God and so would need someone else to minister to them.

I praise God for those who minister to others, and we absolutely need them. The problem can be however, that we start to lean on them and put our faith in them and their gift, rather than the Giver.

Let’s say you are healed of some condition by the laying on of hands from an Elder at your church. What do you do the next time you fall ill? You can go back to that Elder and receive healing again, but what if they are away, or have moved on to a new church? Do you seek them out and track them down?

Sometimes we chase after the donkey, instead of Christ riding on the donkey’s back!

Reading this post back, I must admit it is not strictly Bible teaching… and I must hold up my hands and admit to pouring out my heart a little here. It is not my intention to convince you of my position, but rather to simply state it. Perhaps you agree, and perhaps you do not, but either way I hope this gives you something to think about.

I suppose these are things I have been pondering on for a few days, and setting them out in a blog post like this is helpful – to me if not anyone else!

I love God’s Word, and in many respects it is not possible to separate God from His Word. In recent days whenever I have asked God about healing (in my particular situation) He has repeatedly said, “Study My Word.” The answer, for me at least, can be found in the pages of the Bible. It may take me a long time to find them, but I will never stop looking.

If what I have written today has challenged you in any way, either because you totally disagree or because it resonates with some situation in your own life, then I’m glad I’ve shared it. I don’t seek to offend or upset, and I know many of you will be facing or have faced terribly difficult situations with regard to physical health.

When I have preached in recent times, I sometimes sit down afterwards and get a sense that I held back. I did not say all that was in my heart to say – and often because of the “fear of man”. I would worry what people would think, or that I would not articulate things correctly. I want to put that right. Both here in the written word and in the spoken.

Something changed in me this week, and a new determination or “grit” for want of a better term rose up in me.

I’m not putting up with sickness anymore. Not in my life, and not in the lives of my family and friends.

I do not promise miracles or instant healing, but I do promise to dig deep into God’s Word and believe it with all of my heart.

I can’t promise miracles, but I can expect them.

I will not be moved any longer by circumstances or experience. When I pray, I expect results. Because I’m so great? Hardly! But because God is! He is so great, so amazing, so wonderful that even my imperfect prayers (presented in the name of Jesus) will bring tremendous results.

Since making this commitment, I’ve felt a definite increase in resistance from the enemy. The devil is real, and will try to hinder us from making progress with God. As much as I know this, I was not prepared for the opposition I felt and did not deal with it as I should have. I’m aware of it now though, and set my mind on Christ.

Proverbs 4 tells us that God’s Word is “medicine”. I’ve never liked taking pills or medication, but I make an exception this time! A good dose, at least three times a day, and with every meal! No harmful side effects, but I reckon can be addictive!

Don’t forget to take the Gos-pill! (Terrible gag, I know!)

I remember the first time I preached the Gospel, waving my Bible at the crowd and encouraging them to read the Word. My message has not changed in all of these years. Read the Bible! Study it! It was meant for you!

God sends forth His Word and heals them – and I believe Him.

Pearl of Wisdom #12

Beating yourself up is a symptom of pride.

In the past, when I made a mistake I would tend to beat myself up about it. The length and severity of my “self-beating” would depend on how serious I perceived the mistake to be.

And let’s call it what it is – not a mistake, but a sin. A falling short of God’s standards.

I’d think to myself, “How could I have done such a thing? I’m supposed to be a Christian! I’m better than that, and I shouldn’t be doing such things! I’m so unworthy. I just can’t do anything right!” And so on and so forth.

Read back what I used to say to myself again. How many times did I use the term “I” or something similar to it?

Answer: a lot.

How could I have done such a thing? Well, because I’m only human, I’m not perfect and I’m still on a journey with Jesus. As long as I live and breath, I’ll never be perfect in and of myself, only in Christ.

It is a symptom of pride. Believing we are above sin or simple mistakes indicates that we have a proud heart.

Often we think that beating ourselves up is a humble thing to do – far from it. In fact, it is suggestive that we don’t think Christ’s punishment was enough, and that we somehow need to add to it.

If you sin this week, don’t spend any time beating yourself up. It’s a waste of time. Just accept Christ’s work and forgiveness and move on.

Pearl of Wisdom #11

No one can give you a bad attitude, they can only give you an opportunity to get one.

Attitudes cannot be given as gifts – either good or bad. In truth, the only one who can control your attitude is you.

I heard a story about a guy on a lift (elevator for those outside the UK!). As he waited for his floor, another man got on with an umbrella. As he turned around, he began to jab the umbrella into the first man’s ribs – completely by accident. Commenting on it later, the first man said “That dude made me so mad!” A friend corrected him, “No, all he did was poke you with an umbrella. You got mad all by yourself.”

This is real wisdom.

No one has the power or right to change your attitude except you. All they can do is give you the opportunity.

You will likely face many opportunities to develop a bad attitude today. Rise above them if you can. Decide right now to maintain a good attitude no matter what life throws at you.

Pearl of Wisdom #10

We need desire, not discipline, to do the things of God

Most Christians would agree on some of the important things we ought to do as part of our faith. I’m thinking of things such as prayer, reading the Bible or sharing our faith with others. If these are indeed important, then do you feel you do them enough?

Most would probably say no.

We know that prayer and reading the Bible are important for building up our faith and our relationship with God. We know we ought to share our faith with those who haven’t yet heard about it, because no one else can do it. So what can we do?

Many would say we need discipline. We need to discipline ourselves to put down the mobile phone, or switch off the TV set, and do the things we know we should be doing.

We need desire however, not discipline.

While discipline has its place, if we really want to get things done, we need a desire to do them. Discipline only goes so far, but ultimately we do the things we want to do.

Ask God to grow your desire to pray, to read the Word and to share your faith with others. When you have the desire, you won’t need the discipline.

Out with the New

Whatever has happened, will happen again; whatever has been done, will be done again. There is nothing new on earth.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ISV)

A few years ago, we bought a new car. It was wonderful! Shiny, clean, modern, and full of the latest features. It was a real upgrade on our previous vehicle. While my wife and I are not especially interested in cars, it was fun and exciting to have a brand new one. With four “free-range” children however, and a couple of years on, it’s not as shiny as it once was!

There is something amazing about new things, we all love to get something new! And I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with that. However, I think our expectation has now stretched into the church world also. If it’s not new or exciting, then we are perhaps not as interested as we ought to be.

Every Sunday we turn up to church and expect something new. A new worship song. A new cutting edge Bible message. A new sound system or lights or fog machine. A new children’s worker or youth ministry. A new experience. A new “move of God”. Just a new way of doing things.

Some even demand a new Gospel. One that doesn’t challenge or interfere. One that presents all the blessings with none of the commitment.

In this context, I’m convinced that “new” is not all that good at all.

Someone was once asked if they worried about the parts of the Bible they didn’t understand? Their response was telling. No, they said, I don’t worry about the bits I don’t understand, but the parts I do understand but don’t do.

How often are we seeking something new to learn, when we have not yet mastered what we’ve already been told?

A new minister started at a church and preached a wonderful message on the gospel of grace. People very much enjoyed it and congratulated him. The following week, he preached almost an identical message. One or two muttered to themselves – isn’t this what he said last week? Third week, the same again, preached an almost identical message. A few more noticed and complained among themselves. The fourth week, again he preached the same message on the gospel of grace. Finally the leadership team approached him and said – “Why are you preaching the same message over and over again? The people want something different!” He replied – “Once they understand and apply this message, I can move on to something else.”

Isn’t that true? Most of us can’t remember what last week’s sermon was about, yet we now want something new and improved. Wouldn’t it be better to master last week’s topic before moving on to something else?

Whatever we need, there’s a good chance we’ll need to hear it more than once. If you are anything like me, then God will need to draw you back to the same truth a number of times before it sinks in. To be honest, there are still some things God spoke to me about years ago that i am still dealing with today.

New is of course exciting and wonderful and fresh, but sometimes we need to dig into things we have heard multiple times before to really see change in our lives.

Going to church on a Sunday should not be about getting goosebumps and being entertained. Fun though it may be, what good will it do you later that week when facing a crisis? We need solid Biblical truths that will last, wisdom found in Scripture which will show us how to live and have a real positive impact.

Solomon, in Ecclesiastes quoted above, shows us that there is nothing new under the Sun. Whatever has been done, has been done before. This search for something new is indeed futile. God’s grace is sufficient!

Am I saying church should be dull? Far from it! Have you ever met the Holy Spirit? He’s the most exciting Person I’ve ever known! Just being around Him is exciting and energising.

Church should not be a place for us to catch up on our sleep, but nor should it be blown and tossed by every wind of popular culture.

When we seek to entertain, rather than sustain, we water down the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s communicate in different ways of course, but let us never hide or distort Christ for the sake of people having a good time.

Everything is a balance, and I don’t want you to think I’m saying the church should never change. We do need to reach our younger generation for they are the church of tomorrow. But we cannot do so by thinning out the truth.

If you currently find yourself bored with church, then seek the Lord and check your motivations. Are you bored because God has finished with you there and is leading you to move on? Or is it because you are looking to be entertained?

Not everything that is new is good. Seek God this week and ask Him what you really need. Perhaps a little of the old and faithful is just what you need.