Does God Want to Heal … Or Just Reign?
We need powerful truth coupled with counsel for practical living to live victoriously.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, weighing 450-pounds, you have Deeeeeep Theology!” the announcer booms while a huge boxer stomps to the middle of the ring bathed in the wild cheers of the crowd. Half of the crowd, anyway.
The other half saves their roar until the announcement of his opponent, “Practical Living and Miracles,” who skips out and bounces around a few times, arms raised as if he’s already victorious.
Let the match begin.
Which One Is Right?
There is a conflict between those who think pastors should teach deep spiritual truth almost exclusively, and those who bear down on a practical approach to God to get your daily needs met.
And both of them land some good punches. Those who prefer deep theology rightly note that some reduce God to a Coke machine—put in your dollar of prayer, push the button and voila!, all your needs are met. And woe to God when He doesn’t do what you want Him to.
According to them, the “shallow, practical bunch” couldn’t find John 3:16 if you spotted them the page number. I’m reading an excellent book by pastor J. D. Greer. “We want a God who will restore us to peaceful equilibrium, take away our stress, and promise us a blissful afterlife. Most Christians haven’t rejected God; they have just reduced him.”
He continues, “I am, in part, the product of a Christian culture that has fostered and promoted a small, domesticated view of God. The Western Christianity in which I have been immersed focuses on the practicality of faith. We present God as the best way to a happy and prosperous life. We show how God is the best explanation for unanswered questions and the best means to the life we desire. Our worship services seem more like pep rallies accompanied by practical tips for living than encounters with the living God who stands beyond time and whose presence is indescribably glorious. These shallow glimpses of God are fine as long as our faith remains untested, but they are utterly insufficient in the midst of serious questioning or intense suffering.” (Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems by J.D. Greear and David Jeremiah)
Our friend, “Practical Living and Miracles,” is unfazed. He bobs and weaves and lands his blows. “Those folks hide away in ivory towers and put the Gospel so high that no one can reach it,” he says. “They spend their time in their office reading dusty theology books while right outside the door people are hurting, confused, and need help from a personal God who still intervenes for those who trust Him. If you’re having problems sleeping, just listen to one of these doctors of theology speak. They will cure you instantly.”
You know who is right? Both of them. Who is wrong? Both of them.
God’s Word shows clearly that the Lord is for the whole man.
A Body, Soul, and Spirit God
Think about the Lord’s prayer: Jesus starts with the spiritual—worship and surrender; then He continues with requests for practical needs—daily bread, help to forgive, battles against temptation and trials. Then worship again.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament emphasize God’s concern for the whole man.
OLD: Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
(Psalm 103:2-4, NLT)
NEW: Beloved, I pray that in every way you may prosper and enjoy good health, as your soul also prospers. (3 John 1:2, BSB)
We are body, soul, and spirit. We’re not disembodied spirits floating around without physical needs. I think sometimes those who advocate for the “spiritual,” all the while insisting that God no longer does miracles, are afraid of seeing God meet natural needs. Why? Because they really don’t want Him to challenge them to see how great He is. A today-present God is rather scary.
Or they are afraid He won’t answer as they want and that will injure their faith. But, the fear of asking betrays a lack of trust.
But the “practical” adherents sometimes want to eat the miraculous fish and bread, then go about their life, leaving Jesus out. At times, their lives strongly resemble that of those who’ve never heard of the Lord. There is no witness to the power of God because their life is no different from everyone else’s.
No! The danger here is to be so excited about God’s provision that we’re not hungry for God himself. The God of truth is incredibly great, holy, and powerful.
Sometimes they are like someone who marries for money. They love the benefits and put up with the one who provides those benefits. No!
The ones who please God come for the Word AND to have their needs met. We are body, soul, and spirit, and God wants to work in every aspect of our life.
Balanced teaching and faith in life emphasize both. These two truths aren’t opponents. They walk in lockstep to help us know and love the God who loves us.
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.” Luke 5:15 NIV.