We have a list.
Some of the names on the list have been there for a while. Other names have been removed. They really only get removed for two reasons.
We have a list.
It’s a prayer list.
Every Wednesday night, it gets passed out to our church. Before we pray, there are updates. There are new names to add to the list. New people who are sick. And there are also people who are taken off because they have been healed.
That’s my favorite part of our list. I like hearing about people who had cancer but don’t have it anymore.
That’s what we pray for. Sometimes individuals come before the church and ask for our leaders to pray for their healing. There have been a few times when those folks have been healed. And their names have been taken off of the list. All because of God’s goodness and the prayer of faith.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:13-15 (ESV)
Faith doesn’t stop there. There is more to faith than simply believing that God is powerful enough to take your cancer away. Faith is also what reminds you that God is still good and powerful when he chooses not to make you healthy again.
In Matthew 8, a sick man says something strange to Jesus.
And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:2 (ESV)
Not, “I deserve to be healed.”
Not, “You owe me this, Jesus.”
Just, “If you will, you can make me clean.”
What was Jesus’ response?
And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Matthew 8:3 (ESV)
It’s important to remember that Jesus doesn’t always respond to our requests for healing with, “I will.” There are times when he chooses not to heal us. And that’s when faith really matters.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (ESV)
Paul was sick too. And, just like the leper in Matthew 8, he asked God to heal him. Only Paul didn’t get the same answer. His affliction wasn’t taken away. But he did get something better.
It takes faith to know that God can heal whatever suffering it is that you endure.
And it takes faith to keep believing that God is still good when your healing never comes.
God never promised to be your ATM, dispensing out blessings and healing at your wish. But he did promise to always work all things together for your ultimate good. Even if that means that you will continue in your suffering.
My mother was sick for most of her life. A decade or so before she died, a faith healer stopped by her office to work his magic. He went through the whole routine. When he was done, he asked her how she felt.
He response wasn’t printed on that faith healer’s brochures.
She said that she didn’t feel any different.
That faith healer’s response was sickening.
“Well, you must not have enough faith.”
I think that it was the other way around. I think that God gave my mother plenty of faith. He gave her all of the faith and grace and power that she needed to endure years of a terrifying and painful disease without turning her back on the One who promised to work all things together for her good. That faith healer was the one who didn’t have enough faith. He could only see the power and goodness of God when things went his way. My mom saw all of that when everything was sideways for her.
Faith is the belief that God has the power to do whatever he wants.
And faith is also the belief that God is still good and in control when it seems like he is doing nothing.
Faith is what helps you to see that God is never doing nothing. He is always working for your good. Even if it means that your name stays on the prayer list a little longer than you would like for it to.