This essay can help elders encourage individuals in their sphere of influence experience both help for today and hope for tomorrow in these uncertain times as we answer the question: Does God still heal?
As we welcomed the arrival of 2020 in the early hours of January 1, never would we have imagined that we would welcome a new life-threatening virus to the United States. In simply a matter of a few weeks, this new virus (SARS-CoV-2 virus / COVID-19 is the disease) has not only swept around the world from nation to nation, but it has now swept across our country to the very places where you and I live. Moreover, as one day passes to the next, both the number of infections and deaths continue to rise. Panic is real. Anxiety is measurable.
Many people – even the strongest of Christians – struggle with fear of the unknown, wondering if they or a loved one will contract the coronavirus. And should that happen, we wonder, does God still heal? If we or someone we know and love contracts this virus – or any disease for that matter – does God still heal? It’s one of our most pressing yet unasked questions.
We hear updates that our medical systems are insufficient to handle the anticipated number of Americans who will contract this disease. Knowing that there is not yet a vaccine for this virus and that the number of beds in ICUs are limited for such a crisis, people’s panic is amplified. The New York Times ran an article with statistics from the CDC saying there could be more deaths from this virus than the number of Americans who died in World War 2 (“Worst-Case Estimates for U.S. Coronavirus Deaths”; 3/18/2020). Our lives have been invaded by a life-threatening enemy.
When I read that article, I thought of one of the most powerful invasions that took place in World War 2. It was the invasion known as D-Day. On June 6, 1944, our Allied Forces launched a massive attack against Nazi Germany along the beaches of Normandy, France. The battle began just before dawn. Indescribable emotion gripped the hearts of many thousands of soldiers landing on those beaches, even as they witnessed more than 4,000 fellow fighters gunned down by the Nazis. Massive confusion reigned with more than 11,000 planes flying overhead, more than 6,000 vessels sailing towards shore, and more than 150,000 soldiers landing on the beach. Yet, when the battle came to an end and the smoke cleared, a conclusion was reached and it was obvious who would eventually win the war.
As this new virus invades your world and mine, we experience emotion and confusion that will lead to a conclusion. In the midst of it all, let’s ask – and answer – the question: does God still heal?
King Hezekiah experienced his own personal D-Day. His life was suddenly invaded by a life-threatening illness. The prophet Isaiah went to the King and told him he was terminally ill. Hezekiah was told to put his house in order for him impending death. Hezekiah was to make sure that his last will and testament was written, his accounts at the bank were in joint custody, and more. Notice also, that his D-day invasion was full of emotion. Immediately he prayed, while sobbing uncontrollably.
Centuries later, nothing has changed. COVID-19 has suddenly invaded our lives and as we hear that people of all ages are becoming infected, emotions begin to unsettle us. We panic and the shelves in stores become empty. Worry and anxiety begin to take their toll as we hear of schools shutting down, and the closing of offices, restaurants, work places and more. We become unnerved when we begin to cough, sneeze, run a fever – wondering if we have the virus. And not only do we experience emotions, but…
Notice that Hezekiah prayed, asking God to remember how he had lived a devoted, faithful, godly life. King Hezekiah was a morally good king, a godly king. We even refer to him as “good King Hezekiah.” Could Hezekiah have experienced confusion? Could he have struggled with the “why” question of suffering this terminal disease? Was God punishing him for something in his past?
This line of questioning has always been part of this life. Many people are confused, thinking that each and every illness is a direct consequence of sin. Yet, that is a wrong assumption. Before Jesus healed a man who had been born blind (John 9:1-3), His disciples asked Him, “…who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus’ answer was that neither of them had sinned. His being blind had nothing to do with sin. Even the righteous man Job was afflicted with much suffering. His wealth was stolen from him. Serious illness afflicted him. Then all ten of his children were killed in a single catastrophe. Once Job’s three friends arrived to console him, they quickly began to accuse him of cherished sin in his life that resulted in what they believed to be God’s punishment. What CONFUSION!
Should we be personally impacted by the coronavirus, we should not be surprised when confusion comes. In confusion, we may struggle with the question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” If we allow confusion to reign and we assume that our sickness is God’s punitive response to our sin, we may begin to doubt His love and care for us. Our confusion becomes worse when we hear of people being healed, but we know of others who are not. Is God’s love and care arbitrary? Will our prayers make a difference? Will God hear even hear them?
Once the smoke-filled skies cleared over the beaches of Normandy, France, we knew who would eventually win the war. The conclusion of all the battles that were fought throughout the World War 2 led to the final victory of the Allied Forces against the Axis. Likewise, a conclusion was reached by good King Hezekiah: 1) God heard the king’s passionate prayer, 2) God’s heart was deeply moved because 3) God healed Hezekiah. Previously, God had told Hezekiah to “Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die; you will not recover” (v. 1). Obviously, God relented. God showed mercy.
God is immutable. God does not change. He even declared, “I, the Lord, do not change” in Malachi 3:6. That means you and I can reach the same conclusion whether we are “invaded” by COVID-19, cancer, TB, malaria, H1N1 or another disease. The conclusion of the matter is this: God STILL hears our prayers, we STILL can touch the heart of God, and God can STILL heal.
Copyright 2020 by e2: effective elders. All materials presented by Dr. Gary L. Johnson are copyrighted material. You may use this material for your teaching purposes. In doing so, please retain all copyright, trademark and propriety notices on this document, and do not make any modifications to the materials. For any uses other than this, written permission is required. (e2: effective elders; c/o Dr. Gary L. Johnson; 6430 S. Franklin Road; Suite A, Indianapolis, IN 46259
Dr. Gary Johnson has served in the preaching ministry for four decades. He now leads e2 as Executive Director full-time, coaching pastors and elders nationwide. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Church history from Lincoln Christian Seminary, Master of Ministry and Divinity degrees from Cincinnati Bible Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Grace Theological Seminary (Indiana). Gary has taught as adjunct professor for a number of seminaries, including Cincinnati Christian University and TCM Institute, a seminary serving Europe and Asia. Gary has been blessed to travel overseas for the purpose of training elders and pastors in cross-cultural settings on over 100 mission trips. Gary and Leah have been married over 40 years, and have married sons; Jared and Aaron, who are both serving in the ministry. His pursuits outside of church life include running, mountain climbing, racquetball, cycling, and back-packing. Still, one of the greatest joys in life for Gary is being called “grandpa” by his six grandkids.