Living in the risk as we go about our day...
There will be times you see healings happen instantly, progressively and not at all. You will see more as you step out and nothing if you don't risk anything.
The reality is that I'm more shocked now when I don't see someone healed, and I'm always like a kid on Christmas when I do see the in-break of God's kingdom come upon someone and they are set free, healed or loved on by His presence.
Yesterday , Jeanine and I were hanging out at the outlet mall when I saw a woman on a crutch. We gently approached her and asked her why she was using a crutch, and she said she had knee surgery. I asked if she was in any pain, and she replied there was some, especially since she had been walking at the mall. She said that on a scale from 1 to 10, it was maybe a 4. I told her the reason I was asking was because I'm a follower of Jesus and we see healings often. "Could we take moment to pray for you?" She hesitantly agreed, and I prayed for her 3 times. Each time nothing really changed. I asked if I could pray one last time again, and she again agreed. But no healing manifested at that moment. She was thankful for the prayer, and we thanked her for allowing us the opportunity to pray for her.
I would have loved to have seen her healed right on the spot but we didn't.
So why share this? Because for those of you who choose to step out and risk it, this will be part of the journey. Some people I know get uncomfortable talking about these kinds of things or encourage me not to share this because it doesn't build faith. However, I think it hinders faith not to share the struggle. Over the last 15 years I've prayed for more people than I can count. I've seen a lot of amazing healings, from deaf ears to blind eyes to cripples walking and some crazy other-worldly / heavenly encounters. But I've also seen lots of people not healed, deteriorate and die, and even some people who were healed and then died. A good friend has often told me, "Even though Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he still died again." But he will also rise again because Jesus is the resurrection. Complete healing doesn't come until we are with Jesus in heaven. We live in tension, and this can be hard to wrap our minds around. So we come up with pat theological answers that do more harm than help on either end of the spectrum. If we're honest, we are all growing in our understanding of His kingdom and practice.
This tension arises from the tangled factors we contend with, including war / opposition from the enemy, the hardness of peoples' hearts, our own faith struggle and lack of understanding, and the mystery of the now and the not yet of the kingdom. Looking into each of these factors can provide some perspective on our experiences (or lack of experience) with healing, but they can also each become excuses that we allow to prevent us from stepping out in risk. However, stepping out and doing kingdom ministry is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding activities because that is what we were made for - to put His image on display to others, to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth. We are to expand the garden of His delight everywhere we go.
I believe it is Jesus' will to heal, just as I believe it Jesus' will that all men would come to saving faith in His love. However, sometimes His will doesn't happen. I know a statement like that can scare people, but if we look in the book we find many examples of people not receiving his love and kingdom and his disciples not being able to heal everyone that came to them. Jesus also rebukes his disciples when they can't heal the sick. Ouch! And everyone who came to Jesus was healed. Even in the case when his disciples couldn't heal the sick boy, Jesus stepped in and healed him. I know I'm opening up a can of worms, so to speak, but come on! We all think about this stuff and wonder about it. That's OK. It's just not OK to allow the unanswered question to form a theology that leads to keeping it safe and not living a lifestyle of love that risks. I don't have the answers. I've gotten more comfortable in saying "I don't know" and then asking for more revelation and power to walk like Jesus.
We also need to learn to mourn with those who mourn, help the dying die well with love and comfort, and also listen to God's heart and have boldness to even raise the dead - not from our desperate wishes or wants but from his commissioning. This stuff is messy to our un-renewed minds and we will live in tension, but may we grow in compassion, wisdom, love, boldness and risk. May we mourn rightly, and may we rejoice that His kingdom has come, is coming, and will one day fully come. Our job is to simply look, listen, and respond to His calling, which is always love coupled with his power to heal or comfort. There is more of the "now" of the kingdom than what we think. The tension of the "not yet" is never to be a free pass or excuse not to live the gospel. We will simply have to be comfortable living in the radical middle as heaven is invading the earth through us maturing as sons and daughters of God who still have clay feet and minds.
So yesterday, like always, I faced a couple options when nothing seemed to happen in response to my prayers. One, I could get super discouraged, as is almost always the temptation. I think to myself, I'm not risking it again - this is foolish and maybe it's not God will to heal. Or two, the other option is to think, OK, I'm not sure why nothing seemed to happen. Holy Spirit, is there anything I need to learn from this? Lord, give me more boldness and love to keep stepping out. Open my eyes and heart for more. Then I make the choice to either quit or look for other opportunities to show and demonstrate his love and power.
So here's what I did yesterday at the outlet mall. I was bummed that I didn't see this woman freed. I wondered why, shared my discouragement with Holy Spirit and Jeanine, and then I asked for more boldness, love and opportunities.
It's normal to feel the discouragement and to ask questions, as long as your questions don't lead you into doubting the goodness of God and his commissioning. I love what I heard someone say once: "Focus on what God is doing, not on what we don't see him doing." I believe this is a great kingdom way of thinking.
So, Jeanine and I went about shopping, eating, and hanging out. I happened to see a young girl, maybe 18 or so, walk by with a limp. We were busy completing a purchase, and I thought to myself that I would love to see what's going on with her. Then the thoughts of discouragement started hitting my mind, like I would just look like a fool and nothing would happen. Remember the lady with the crutch? I prayed and said, "Lord, if you want me to go and minister to her, have her stop so we have a chance to catch up to her."
As we wrapped up our purchase, suddenly she stopped walking and looked at her phone like she was texting. So, what did I do? I bolted towards her before she started walking away again.
"Hey, I saw you having a little trouble walking. Are you OK?"
"Oh yeah. I have this limp because I had a staff infection when I was 12 and they had to remove a huge chunk of muscle around my leg and hip and a piece of my femur." She said that it sometimes caused her pain, but she wasn't in pain at the moment. I told her the reason I was asking her this was because I'm a follower of Jesus and I would love the opportunity to pray for her if she was OK with that. She was very open, saying, "Yes, I've never had anyone ask anything like this." I wonder how many others like her have never had someone step out of their comfort zone on behalf of a stranger. The truth is there are millions like her.
I began to pray for her and ask her what she was feeling. She said she felt strange tingling in her feet and her heart was pounding. I asked if it felt like a good or bad thing, and she definitely said it was good. "I've never felt anything like this," she said, a little amazed.
We sat down on a bench, and I kept praying and talking with her. She continued sensing the strange but good feeling all over her, and she kept saying she felt so light all over. She was fighting back tears, smiling, and having trouble finding words for what she felt. Jeanine and I told her this was the love of God, that he doesn't just tell us he loves us but also comes close to us with his love in a way we can feel and know. He wants a real relationship with us.
I asked her if she had a relationship with Jesus. She said she didn't, but she was very intrigued and was surprised to be feeling this strange but good tingling presence all over. I shared more about the gospel and his desire for her. I told her all she needed was to invite him into her life and that the same presence she was feeling all over her wanted to also fill her heart and life. We prayed for her some more, and she continued to feel the stretching and tingling in her leg where the staff infection was removed and where she also had arthritis.
She was amazed by the feeling and she opened up about her life a bit, sharing some personal things and that she just moved to Oklahoma from Texas. She asked if we went to some kind of church because she wanted to come. I asked where she lived, and I told her of a friend's church that was close to where she lived. We talked with her more about what she was experiencing and how much God loved her.
There wasn't a full manifestation of the total healing, but the Lord was encountering her in a very real and tangible way that caused her heart to be strangely warmed by his good news towards her. The invitation was given not only in words but also in power. It was sweet and powerful. We simply stepped out of the temptation to not risk because of what we experienced earlier. Our job was to believe, love, pray, and invite her.
She hugged us and thanked us. We gave her our business card and wrote our friend's church info on the back. She excitedly said, "I want to come to church and find out more! I'll talk to my boyfriend and bring him with me." She encountered his love and he was drawing her heart.
No, we didn't see a full healing or even her fully taking hold of the gospel invitation at that moment, but what we saw was a girl touched by the power of his love and presence. Seeds were sown and watered but not yet a full harvest, so to speak. Our American mindset would say "Failed! Deal not sealed!" We aren't cheap, back-lot car salesmen! We are kingdom ambassadors who are obedient to proclaim and demonstrate his good news. It's the work of the Holy Spirit that woos, calls, convicts, and changes a person's heart.
Our job is to look, listen, and respond in his love, proclaim his heart, and risk stepping out of our comfort zones to release an encounter of heaven. So let's keep on risking it.