Foundations begins again next week. Foundations is our 3-session discipleship course that introduces people to the life of The Belfrey. I normally lead it along with Wanda Patterson and it’s for people who are just joining the church who want to find out more, and for those who’ve been around for a while who want a refresher. I really enjoy it – both delivering the material and meeting the new people. Because in the end church is about people. We forget that at our peril. If we think church is a building or an institution then we miss the point altogether and we’ll soon find ourself going off in the wrong direction.
When Wanda and I sat down last week to tidy up our planning of this next Foundations she began by telling me that I might have to speak up as she had a sinus problem that had made her temporarily deaf in one ear. So we before we got going we prayed. After all, church is about people more than courses or planning, and that was the immediate need. So we invited the Holy Spirit to come. Wanda laid a hand on her ear and I placed my hand on top of hers and I spoke to the ear in Jesus’ name, telling it to open. And it did. Immediately. Wanda was very pleased! And so was I. It’s nice to be used in healing. Interestingly I felt no particular emotion or special nudge from the Spirit to pray. Sometimes I get that, but not this time. It was all pretty matter-of-fact.
I told Wanda before we prayed that I often have faith for ears. By that I mean that when I pray for healing for people with some degree of deafness I find that I’m fairly expectant that they will hear. And often they do. But not always.
When they do, how much of that is linked to my faith? Mmm. I don’t know. I know faith from someone is often helpful in releasing God’s power. Jesus said just that on a number of occasions (eg. Matthew 9:22) and that a lack of faith can hinder healing (Mark 6:6). But how the faith comes, and why we sometimes have more faith for some people or in certain situations is really a bit of a mystery.
That’s why, in the end, I agree with John Wimber that praying for healing (like most things that followers of Jesus are called to do) is really a matter of obedience. Whether we feel like we are full of faith or not… whether we sense the powerful presence of the Spirit or not… the bottom line is Jesus told his disciples to heal (Matthew 10:8; Luke 10:9; Matthew 28:20). So that’s what we should do. Of course we don’t have the power or ability to do that. Only God can do that. But he wants to flow through us, if we are willing and obedient.
I actually find that idea very liberating, because it means that if someone gets healed or touched by God in some way, that’s great. We can give thanks to God. And if they don’t then it’s not my fault! As long as I haven’t promised anything, and haven’t held back from being Christ’s representative in that situation, then God is the one who is responsible. What he does is up to him. That’s why I’m not feeling especially burdened by the fact that someone else I prayed for this week who had a stiff neck did not, as far as I know, improve. Obviously I’d have liked him to have been healed – instantly if possible – but he wasn’t. But that won’t stop me praying for healing. It’s what obedient disciples do.
What about you? Is there something God is calling you to do but you’re reluctant because you’re concerned that you might look bad if it doesn’t work? It could be praying for healing. Or something else. If that’s you, I would encourage you to be brave and step out and do it – not in your name (for nice as you are, there’s nothing particularly special about your name or mine!) but in the name of Jesus. Working in his name is what it’s all about. That way Jesus Christ bears the responsibility. We are simply his workers. And whilst followers of Jesus want him to look good, he is the one who has the power, not us. Our job is to do what he says, in his name. That’s what disciples do. They obey.