"The nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes." ~ Ezekiel 36:23

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Then He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well." (Mark 16:15-18)

"… they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well."

Jesus said that I will get well; that's a promise.

Several weeks ago, as I prepared to begin a new set of treatments for swollen lymph nodes brought on by leukemia, four believers laid hands on me and prayed for my healing. During their prayers I recalled this verse and grabbed on to the peace that came with the remembrance.

I have received a variety of interpretations on this verse. Some say, "It is not for today" but I can't find anything in the Bible that supports their view.

Others say, "Only the 12 apostles had that power" but Jesus said "these signs will accompany those who believe" and I count many more than 12 believers in the world; at least five were in my dining room that day.

Some would argue that I am taking the verse out of context. In the preceding verses Jesus is rebuking the eleven apostles because of their unbelief.

Then after this, He appeared in a different form to two of them walking on their way into the country. And they went and reported it to the rest, who did not believe them either. Later, He appeared to the Eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table. He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who saw Him after He had been resurrected. (Mark 16:12-14)

Hardness of heart affects our level of belief.

Strong's Concordance tells us that the Greek word used for believe is pisteuo, "to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), that is, credit; by implication to entrust (especially one's spiritual well being to Christ): - believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.".

A believer is one who has placed their faith, their trust, in Jesus; in what He said and in what He did; one who believes and trusts that Jesus is true. A believer trusts that Jesus has paid the price for their sins. His shed blood covers them from the cross. A believer trusts that Jesus's promise to give them an eternal life is true. A believer commits himself to Jesus as Lord of his or her life.

I know the four who prayed for me that day would fit into this category. I know they believe that Jesus is true.

Earlier in Jesus' story, He gave specific authority to the 12 disciples to heal (Matt 10, Luke 9)

Summoning His 12 disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. (Matt 10:1)

As you go, announce this: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge. (Matt 10:7-8)

Later He expanded the authority to include 70 others.

After this, the Lord appointed 70 others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1)

Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near you.' (Luke 10:9)

He gives it to us.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: (Mark 16:17a)

He gave a commission to the eleven to be passed on.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20)

The authority was passed on to others and signs and wonders followed.

Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:8)

Philip went down to a city in Samaria and preached the Messiah to them. The crowds paid attention with one mind to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the signs he was performing. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed, and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city. (Acts 8:5-8)

I can't find any times limits on this authority, nor can I find any cause to believe that it was a short term assignment. Jesus told us that those who believe will manifest signs, among them the laying on of hands and of healing.

I have seen it, it has been done through me and it has been done to me. Why will I doubt it now?

Why do we struggle with sickness? Why do we tolerate illness among us? Why is the church not a vibrant, healthy testimony to an unbelieving, unhealthy world?

"Repent," Peter said to them, "and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call." And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, "Be saved from this corrupt generation!" So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.

Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved. (Act 2:38-47)

The key to our receiving the promises of God lies in, I believe, the "simplicity of heart". We struggle to lay hold of God's promises because our world, our culture, our minds rebel at the very notion that Jesus is speaking to us across the sands of time and that it is, should be, can be, will be, just that simple.

Jesus said "these signs will accompany those who believe".

Why is it so hard for us to believe that line?

When they reached the crowd, a man approached and knelt down before Him. "Lord," he said, "have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers severely. He often falls into the fire and often into the water. I brought him to Your disciples, but they couldn't heal him."

Jesus replied, "You unbelieving and rebellious generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me."

Then Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and from that moment the boy was healed. Then the disciples approached Jesus privately and said, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"

"Because of your little faith," He told them. "For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matt 17:14-20)

Faith, the size of a mustard seed, is required. We must grab on to the promise of God and not let it go! This miniscule portion of faith required to see God work is sometimes overwhelmingly huge in our eyes and in our minds!

I have seen sick bodies healed and restored. I have received this same healing in my own body and have seen others healed as God worked through the touch of my hand. In moments of uncompromising faith, I have seen God work, Jesus' promise fulfilled.

The norm, however, is that I think too much and doubt God's Word. I don't believe it every time. My faith is weak, unstructured and lazy.

Then He asked them, "What are you arguing with them about?"

Out of the crowd, one man answered Him, "Teacher, I brought my son to You. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn't."

He replied to them, "You unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me."

So they brought him to Him. When the spirit saw Him, it immediately convulsed the boy. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

"How long has this been happening to him?" Jesus asked his father. "From childhood," he said. "And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."

Then Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' Everything is possible to the one who believes."

Immediately the father of the boy cried out, "I do believe! Help my unbelief." (Mark 9:16-24)

Oh Lord, help my unbelief!

Herein lays the difficulty most of us face; we do not believe God's Word all the time, or we do not believe all of it all the time! We struggle with unbelief.

Jesus said ""these signs will accompany those who believe"".

Why do I have a problem believing that 24/7?

Unbelief. A weak heart.

"On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.

Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How welcome are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!

But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message?

So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ." Romans 10:8-17 (HCSB)

Faith comes through hearing and hearing through the Word of God.

Ten years ago, shortly after I came to know our Lord, I was continuing to struggle with sinful thoughts and desires, impurities that I thought should have been "washed away". I cried out to God and asked Him when these thoughts and desires would leave me.

He let me know that it had taken 44 years to fill my mind and my body with the knowledge of and desire for sinful things and that it would need to be gradually washed out, flushed out, by the filling of His Word.

I received a picture of my body, filled to the brim with sin. The lid, my mind, was now off and ready to receive new information, God's Holy Word. His Word would gradually flush out the filth within me until I was full of Him instead of sin. His promise to me that day, was that a new mind would accompany a new body, the new creation, but that I needed to do the work and allow Him to do His work in me.

I have not been faithful over these ten years, to allow this work to proceed as planned, to allow myself to be consistently and continually "flushed out and filled up".

"Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one." Rom 12:1-3 (HCSB)

My faith level has not grown according to what God has designed for me to have. My "measure of faith" is weak because I have not allowed my mind to be "transformed" according to the plan God gave me. I have not been faithful in daily study, prayer and fellowship with God.

A weak will performs weakly.

In understanding the weakness of my faith, however, I am jubilant in that understanding.

Ten years ago, God gave me a message of renewal. That formula is good for today.

I can still be "transformed by the renewing of (my) mind" and my faith will become stronger by the hearing of the Word. In that strengthened faith I have the hope of seeing God's promises lived out in my life and in the lives of others.

Can we "move mountains" today? Can the sick be healed with regular consistency through the hands of believers?

Early in the morning, as they were passing by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. Then Peter remembered and said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that You cursed is withered."

Jesus replied to them, "Have faith in God. I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for--believe that you have received them, and you will have them." Mark 11:20-24 (HCSB)

I believe, based upon my understanding of God's Word, that healing is available to us today through prayer and the laying on of hands of faith filled believers.

Lord, help me to not doubt!

I believe that God's Word is true, from cover to cover.

Lord, help my unbelief!

I believe that I have been healed of my leukemia through the laying on of hands of faith filled believers.

Lord, help me to see that which is!

My wife asked me why I was continuing treatment if I believed that I had been healed.
Why indeed?

Lord, help me to walk in my belief!

My white cell counts have returned to normal and the pain I have been experiencing is almost gone.

I thank God and I praise Him for his mercy to me.

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