The Woman Who Refused to be Healed

Pastor Bill Johnson  of Bethel Church in Redding, California, tells of a story of a woman who was suffering from a physical affliction. He asked her whether he could prayer for her to be healed. She answered, “No, God has given me this affliction to teach me character.” To which Bill Johnson aptly replied, “If I did that to my children, I would be arrested for child abuse.”

Like the woman in this story, we may believe God desires that we suffer, even physically. The truth is, however, this is a concept foreign to Scripture. In the Old Testament, sickness and disease are always associated to the consequence of sin, and in the New Testament, they are always an opportunity for God’s miraculous healing power to be demonstrated. It is very difficult from a casual reading of the Gospels to draw the conclusion that Jesus wants us to be afflicted.

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The Mortal Sin of Belief

In the last couple of posts, I have perhaps opened a small can of worms by suggesting God, as supreme author of life, is responsible for the bad things that befall us. The thought is reasonable, and  — the more we contemplate God’s omnipotent and omniscient nature — inescapable.

But what is it about the idea that God has some part in the difficulties that befall us, that causes us pause? I believe the answer is: We fear this must mean that He is bad, no better than the devil. It would seem to suggest, at least on the surface, that He endorses the bad. That He intends for us to suffer.

But our misgivings go deeper than this. To allow the possibility that God is involved in the bad is, for many of us, to commit the mortal sin of questioning God’s goodness. Because faith is foundational to Christian doctrine, attributing God to the bad is seen as a failure of faith. We refuse to set foot in that direction.

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God is not in It

The Christian life — and by this I mean the true one, not the outward one where time is spent engaged in church activity — consists of a connection with the Spirit. This connection can ebb and flow, and when it ebbs, the goal is to draw close again. My goal is to be in constant contact with Jesus. That is the whole point of the Christian life.

I pause here because it is easy to nod and say “Yes” to such a statement but walk away with an entirely different understanding of what it means to be in contact with Jesus. It is easy to think of following Jesus in a metaphorical sense alone. As if to follow Him means to do what we think He would want us to do, or what we think He would do Himself, or even do what others who speak for God say we should do. And we call that “following Jesus.”

But such efforts will only drive us to utter boredom, emptiness, and most likely, a good deal of anxiety. This is because we weren’t designed to have a metaphorical relationship with Jesus; we were designed to have an actual relationship with Jesus, through the presence and Person of the Holy Spirit.

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Hiding under the Umbrella

Christianity is not about following the rules. But it is not about following no rules, either. Nor, following principles derived from Scripture that promise to achieve success in the Christian life. It is much simpler. It is about remaining. The quality of the Christian life rises and falls in relation to our ability to remain in the place Jesus has for us, a place that is not a concept or idea but a reality, more real in fact than the physical universe that surrounds us.

We have recently been discussing the voice of God and how it is is the only means of effectively living out the Christian life. It is God’s Spirit that that leads us into a place where all things are available to us.

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Defying Gravity

Last time, I shared a bit about my personal journey to understand what it means to remain in Jesus, and my coming to understand that when Jesus said “if you obey my commands,” he was not talking about obeying all that he taught which is recorded in the Bible (or even obeying the Bible itself) but rather obeying His voice. In fact, it is only by hearing and obeying God’s voice that we can ever move into the deeper abundant life Jesus promised.

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