Apply Your Christian Faith Safely

Danger Ahead

If the title of this post caught your attention, you may be thinking “I didn’t know there was an unsafe way to apply my faith.” The answer is yes, there is an unsafe way to apply your faith, and it can be lethal. More accurately I should say that immersing oneself with reckless abandon in certain teachings or practices of the church (which can look like a zealous faith) can be hazardous to your health. Allow me to elaborate with two examples:

A good friend of mine became a Christian as a young adult after years of indulging sinful enticements and unorthodox spiritual pursuits. His conversion was so radical, miraculous and complete that the church and all things Christian and biblical completely consumed him. He became and uber-believer in Christ and in the healing power of Christ. He believed it with ALL his heart and mind. He had good reason to believe it because he witnessed firsthand examples of God healing illness and other issues in the lives of people in the church. But many years later my friend was diagnosed with a potentially deadly illness. He lived in denial for years, but eventually he accepted the diagnosis with the unshakable conviction that God would heal him. He waited, and waited, but no divine healing came. Eventually he began medical treatment and has been relatively stable, though his health paid a price for his procrastination.

Recently, a family member of mine was not as fortunate. She was a devout Godly woman who embraced the Pentecostal tradition of the church. So when she was diagnosed with cancer, she automatically assumed God would heal her. And why not? All her life she felt the movement of the Holy Spirit and witnessed the Spirit’s healing power in the lives of fellow believers. But like my friend, she delayed treatment, opting for a miraculous healing. She eventually sought medical treatment that worked for a while. But when the cancer returned, other Christians (who felt they had “a word from the Lord”) tried to support her by telling her that they felt in their spirit that the Lord was not finished with her yet and that she still had work to do, especially within her family. She passed away about a week ago. Her death left me feeling sad, and angry. It also left me with a nagging question: Would her life have been prolonged had she sought medical treatment instead of thinking that God would miraculously heal her? Certainly she bears some responsibility for her own decisions, but I also lay part of the blame at the foot of the church. How so? The church may be harming people by the way it teaches about miraculous healing and the way it projects healing in the church. The church tries too hard to have a positive attitude about miraculous healing (and just about every type of miracle), often leaving the flock with the impression that if we just have a positive attitude and strong faith, God will heal.

A well-intentioned pastor I know has for years taught about hearing God’s voice. He has built an entire teaching based largely on one passage found in John 10:27 where it says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The pastor teaches young and old that we can hear God’s voice since God’s spirit is constantly communicating with our spirit because God’s spirit lives within us. The pastor’s specialty is teaching Christians how to discern the difference between God’s voice and our own internal dialogue. It is a fascinating teaching, and there is some truth to it. I myself have experienced God’s voice on rare occasions (no, it is not an audible voice) communicating with my spirit. Most of the time striving to hear God’s voice is a harmless endeavor. In fact, it can help us grow spiritually. But it can be a dangerous endeavor because if you get it wrong, it can lead you to make bad decisions about things like your health, which can reduce your survivability when faced with serious illness. Your see, despite our conversion to new life in Christ, we remain flawed beings who live in a damaged imperfect world. With flawed minds we are easily seduced into hearing what we want to hear when seeking to communicate with God. Even young Samuel had trouble discerning the voice of God in 1 Samuel chapter 3.

After decades of witnessing what goes on in a variety of churches, I feel confident saying that many of my brothers and sisters in the faith have a distorted perception of how and how often God speaks to us as well as how often God intervenes to heal medical afflictions. For instance, a large church in Northern California has regular healing services where the sick are invited to seek miraculous healing. If a hundred people show up but only ten get healed, the church responds with raucous celebration over God healing the ten. Little, if any, is said about the ninety who did not receive healing. Don’t get me wrong, giving God all the praise for healing is definitely the right thing to do. But by ignoring the real numbers we perpetuate the false perception that God always heals, or that he heals Godly men and women who have walked faithfully in the ways of the Lord for decades. We can’t apply a healing or speaking formula to God. Those with seniority in the faith do not always get healed and brand new Christians sometimes get healed despite their rookie status.

In some ways, the church is a lot like a Norman Vincen Peale seminar on positive thinking. When praying or seeking a word from the Lord, any negative thought, suggestion or attitude is shunned. Yet some of the most beneficial things I ever heard from God, well, let’s just say Mr. Peale would not have approved of their real-world tone. My wife experienced a negative-sounding word from God. It happened during an altar call where people were invited up front to be prayed over for physical healing, my wife prayed for a well-known Godly man in a wheelchair who was struggling with a potentially deadly illness. He had sought healing on numerous occasions. My wife felt God was telling her to tell the man that he should simply rest in the Lord (in other words, there would be no miraculous healing from God). She prayed what God was telling her, and the man received it with humility. Such stories do not get all the hoopla in the church as the miraculous healings.

The church must tell it like it really is instead of presenting an overly positive, yet illusory, projection of how often miraculous healings and dialogue with God occurs. Sometimes we commit to our faith so wholeheartedly—which is admirable in many ways—that we live in an inaccurate world of faith. Yet even stout Christians sometimes think “If I only had more faith, I would get healed.” Here’s the thing: At some point it is not possible to have MORE faith. You either believe that Christ is the Son of God, that he died for your sins and rose from the grave, or you don’t. You believe Christ has the power to heal, or you don’t. Beyond that, we only need commitment to the long haul, without assuming so intensely that God will perform a miracle for us that it becomes a presumption (which is dangerously close to a demand).

Yes, the Bible tells us to have faith like a child. It also tells us to be as shrewd as snakes. If we only have faith like a child, we will get hurt. If we only have faith like a shrewd snake, eventually we won’t have ANY faith. A healthy faith requires both.

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Posted on September 26, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly here.

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