This morning as I prayed, I felt God’s great sadness for the fact that many Christians believe this lie of the enemy: that God has some higher purpose for their suffering and/or death. And God said to me: “Which do you think brings Me more glory in the eyes of unbelievers: the suffering and death of My saints or the healing and victory over the enemy that will likewise bring healing and salvation to them?”
Then I remembered something that I had heard in a sermon recently: that the Bride of Christ (the Church) is not coming home bruised, bleeding, and battle-weary, but glorious and victorious.
So why is it that we all know Christians who suffer or who have suffered and died despite having great faith? And the Lord showed me the reasons:
- Unconfessed Sin – Any unconfessed sin in our lives opens us up to attacks from the enemy. Most often it is idolatry that most people don’t even realize is idolatry: food, money (and often jobs), technology (specifically computer games and movies or TV), their family, children, spouse, or parent. Anything that becomes more important—even briefly—than God is idolatry. He showed me that even a person’s ministry can become idolatry. We must soberly judge ourselves before God, asking His Holy Spirit to reveal any unconfessed sin in our lives.
The unconfessed sin can also be in our ancestry. If any ancestor has ever been involved in witchcraft, tarot card reading or fortune-telling, freemasonry, or any other occult activity, we must repent and break that curse off our family tree. If you don’t know of any such activity, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you, repent on behalf of your ancestors, and break that curse in the Name of Jesus.
- Unforgiveness or Bitterness – Hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, and unresolved anger all run through the veins like a poison. And when poison runs continually through the veins, it will eventually have some kind of physical effect upon the body. I believe this is why Paul urged us not to let anger continue to rage overnight (Ephesians 4:26).
- Fear and Stress – Fear, dread, and stress are likewise poisons that run through the veins. Fear is not just an emotion. There is a spirit of fear (named in 2 Timothy 1:7). And if left to run through the veins, it will also have a physical effect upon the body. Since fear may be caused by a spirit (this takes discernment!), it can be cast out of the person’s life.
- The Desire to Die – The honest truth is that some people, for whatever reason, just want to die. If they are believers, the idea of Heaven and resting forever in the arms of Jesus may be much more attractive than staying and continuing to fight earth’s battles. Even Elijah felt this way, so there is no shame in having these thoughts. But we must always turn to God, who is the Lord of Life, as our Source.
It’s true that earth is a battlefield. There is an enemy army here that want nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy us. One becomes tired of constantly fighting, fighting, fighting. But here’s hope: there is another army that outnumbers the enemy by at least two-to-one. If we remain plugged into the power of the Holy Spirit, He will reveal to us how to fight. Often our weapons of warfare don’t make sense to our tiny human brains. They are the Sword of the Spirit, which is the spoken Word of God. That is how Jesus fought the devil while on earth. This is also how we can fight. But sometimes the Holy Spirit will indicate other things like praying in tongues, worship in song and/or dance, a Jericho March and Shout, or even simple declarations based on the Word of God. If Spiritual Warfare is taking too much energy, then your flesh is probably more involved than it should be. Let God and His Armies fight your battle for you. Ask for Heaven’s help, and you will get it.
- Failure to Discern (or Mishandling) the Lord’s Supper – Paul told the Corinthian church that this is why many believers had gotten sick and died, (1 Corinthians 11:28-30).
- Lack of Faith – I’m sorry! I know that many of you may have lost good Christian friends and family members to heart attack or cancer. This is not meant to make you feel like your faith (or that of your loved one) wasn’t up to snuff. But sometimes the word cancer pronounced by a doctor can be so intimidating and so devastating that we simply can’t believe for healing. Believers in Brazil, or in Africa have seen such miraculous healings that they have actually seen missing limbs grow back, missing eyes appear, the dead raised, etc. Why haven’t we seen such things in America and other parts of the Western world? Probably because in our modern culture, we’ve always put too much faith in doctors, medicine, and medical science. So that when a doctor says, “You have Stage Four Cancer,” and predicts only a year or less to live, it’s very hard for us to go against that culture. This is where praying in tongues can be very valuable. Praying the healing scriptures is also very valuable.
- Wrong Prayers – Wrong prayers go along with a lack of faith and a wrong belief about God’s will. Going back to the example of a grave diagnosis of cancer: we take the news to our cell group or prayer group. Everyone expresses sorrow over the diagnosis, and often believers will pray for a release from pain rather than healing and a full restoration of health. Or sometimes half the group prays for healing while the other half pray for release. Prayers at cross-purposes are not going to work.
Sometimes, believers will pray for “God’s will,” without ever asking Him for healing. We’ve got to ask specifically for what we want from God—that is a hallmark of faith: that we ask for complete healing and restoration of full health for a person, in the belief that God hears our prayers and will answer accordingly. If you want your son to bring you a glass of iced tea with sugar, you don’t say, “Bring me something to drink.” Unless he’s a mind-reader, he’s just as likely to bring a glass of water, a glass of coke, or maybe orange juice. Yes, God knows what you want before the words are formed on your tongue or in your mind, but He acts only upon what we specifically ask in faith. “Ask and you will receive,” said Jesus, (Matthew 7:7).
I have heard believers actually pray, “Lord, we know that sometimes You choose not to heal. . .” When did God ever refuse to heal anyone? Jesus healed everyone who came to Him, asking for healing. Often people will point out God’s Sovereignty. But God is not insecure about His Sovereignty—He knows very well that He is Sovereign. But that’s the amazing thing about Grace: that Sovereign God chooses to be generous with us! To believe otherwise because of the results we’ve seen of prayer is to walk by sight. But we are called to walk by faith and not by sight, (2 Corinthians 5:7).
And sometimes people will point out Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” which he calls a “messenger of satan,” (2 Corinthians 12:7). There are ranks of angels called messengers. Messengers in the Bible are always persons. And Paul admits in this passage to a problem with pride. It is Paul’s pride that opened a crack to let that enemy into his life. And although Paul prayed three times, God did not take it away. Why? Because apparently the pride had not been overcome. So instead, God told Paul: “My Grace is sufficient for you.” Thus Paul’s pride was addressed, and he was able to continue being used mightily for the Kingdom of God.
So after God showed me these things, He told me to go to Deuteronomy 12:24-25:
You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. Do not eat it, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord. (emphasis mine).
Not that we are bound now by the Old Testament food restrictions, but the point is obedience. When we live a life of obedient respect toward God, then He will not permit the enemy to touch us.
Friends, we are going to have to learn and discern if we want God to be able to use us to reach people with the Gospel message, which is the message of hope and healing and salvation. God is good!