Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. - 2Corinthians 12: 10 (KJV)
One very appealing false doctrine that continues to grow in this country is the notion that it is always God's will to heal us. That God has already decided that He will always heal and if we find ourselves in a place of not being healed, then it must be our fault somehow. We either did not have the right measure of faith, were harboring a secret sin, or maybe were unforgiving. This is an extremely damaging doctrine for many, especially those who are still babes in Christ. It is simply reprehensible to promise someone who is ill that God will always want them healed and then blame the sick person when that healing does not come to fruition. From a spiritual perspective, the more damning thing is that this belief completely robs God of His sovereignty. The arrogance is stunning to suggest that God no longer has a say in whether He wants to heal someone.
Wait a minute preacher! Are you suggesting that God may decide to deliver sickness upon someone? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. God's sovereignty, is either in His implicit will or His permissive will. God is in control of everything. I am sure most of us know people who finally came to Christ because of a serious illness. Many come to Him as the thief on the cross did, at the last possible second. So, would God use an illness to have someone avoid the eternal damnation of hell? Absolutely. His desire is that none perish eternally, not temporally. We keep valuing the wrong life. I know people who were so impacted by the death of someone that they changed their life and finally came to the cross. Sickness and death will often force us to consider the fragility of life.
Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. - Jonah 1: 5 (KJV)
The sailors thought the ship was going down and all started crying out to the gods they served. Such is the human condition. There are no atheists in foxholes. Yet despite this there is a flawed theology out there that insists on perpetual, pre-decided healing. Here is Bill Johnson trying to explain this position:
"How can God choose not to heal someone when He already purchased their healing? Was His blood enough for all sin, or just certain sins? Were the stripes He bore only for certain illnesses, or certain seasons of time? When He bore stripes in His body He made a payment for our miracle. He already decided to heal. You can't decide not to buy something after you've already bought it." - Bill Johnson
I first find it interesting that someone who actually espouses this belief system wears prescriptive eye glasses like Bill Johnson does but we will put that little nugget away for now. The miracle Christ purchased for us is eternal life, not temporal healing on demand. Is healing available through the atonement? Absolutely, but that does not mean it is always guaranteed. God is still God. Johnson's understanding of Scripture and theology is, as usual, very poor. Let's take a look at some examples in the Bible that reveal this never get sick/mandatory healing doctrine as false.
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. - Philippians 2: 25-30 (ESV)
First up we have Epaphroditus. From the text we can see he was certainly a believer. He was a brother. He was a fellow worker. He was someone who meant enough to Paul to actually be mentioned by name. and what do we see? He was ill! Not only ill, but the illness almost took his life. He was seriously ill! But wait a minute. According to the Bill Johnson's of the world, God always wants to heal. Now they may say, but look he was healed! Yes, but how long did it take? His illness almost killed him! Was God just toying with him and Paul? Waiting for the right measure of faith to be shown? Is that the god Bill Johnson wants to serve? This is no small point to forget. In order for this to be true, God turns into a cruel entity waiting for some magic combination of faith and works before healing someone He already decided He wants to heal? Yikes. What about Timothy?
(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) - 1Timothy 5: 23 (ESV)
Paul has to give some practical advice to his younger protege because apparently, Timothy was rather sickly. That is odd considering some today think that we should never be sick and if we are, it must be our fault. So in order for Johnson to be correct, we would have to believe that Timothy was constantly leading a sinful lifestyle or in some manner kept allowing sickness to pervade him. Johnson must be leading a much more holy lifestyle. Unless you count all the false teachings, false signs and wonders, the heretical school of the supernatural he runs and the "grave sucking" anointing his pupils engage in. No, I think we will stick with the Bible here. Timothy was somewhat sickly. He was given to stomach ailments. That does not speak to his faith, his walk, or anything else other than the state of decay we are all in since the fall of man. What about Trophimus?
Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. - 2Timothy 4: 20 (ESV)
The Bible never says if Trophimus ever was healed. The larger point however is these examples seem to destroy the notion that we are never supposed to get sick. Also notice that Paul does not lay hands on any of these people. He does not try to heal them himself. The other doctrinal error in this theology however is the notion that if we do not receive our healing that it must be a problem on our end; such as a lack of faith. Then why wouldn't we see someone perpetually living? On the day Bill Johnson passes, what will have happened to his faith? This theology does not pass the logic test; or hold up under the light of Scripture.
The key verse today comes at the end of the section dealing with the thorn in the flesh for Paul. Many theologians have speculated that this thorn was in fact a physical ailment of some form. Is it so out of the realm of possibility? That God would say to Paul that His grace is sufficient for him to deal with his affliction? Do we honestly believe that Paul lacked faith somehow? Even if the thorn was not a physical ailment, the key verse plainly states that he will take pleasure in his infirmities because when he is weak - Christ is strong. Why would Paul, who wrote most of what would become Christian doctrine, make such a statement if all infirmities were guaranteed to be healed by God? Why wouldn't God specifically state such doctrine if that was his intent? How many theologians throughout history suffered from various sicknesses? Charles Spurgeon constantly battled depression. Martin Luther was very sickly, suffering from Menière's disease, vertigo, fainting, tinnitus, and a cataract in one eye. Towards the end, he also developed kidney stones, arthritis and a ruptured ear drum. Horatio Spafford, who wrote "It Is Well With My Soul", died of malaria. The list can just go on and on. Were all of these people just lacking faith? It defies reason to think so. For a more contemporary example I present Justin Peters.