By Tysen Bidd
Some time ago I was flipping through the TV channels and happened upon something that caught my eye. On the screen was an auditorium filled with people, most of whom had their hands raised in the air and were swaying to soft music playing in the background. There was a man on a stage who had an exciting, confident voice, filled with emotion. It was his words, though, that really caught my attention. He was talking about being “filled with the Holy Spirit” and was having people come to him on stage so that the Holy Spirit could “heal them of their sicknesses and diseases.” The program was a Christian faith healing service. It was at this point that I turned the TV off and shook my head in frustration. You might be wondering, Why did you turn it off?, Why were you frustrated?, or Didn’t you want to see the Holy Spirit heal people? I suppose my answers could be summed up with one sentence, “I do not like people being deceived about God and His Word.” Sound harsh? Let me explain…
It is easy and even natural to be attracted to and drawn in by claims that God will miraculously heal people right before your very eyes. Who wouldn’t want to see that, right? The issue isn’t that God cannot heal people instantly and dramatically. God can do whatever He chooses! He is all knowing, all present, and all powerful! The issue is that our Heavenly Father chooses, most of the time, to work through the vocations of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to bring us healing. Perhaps more than that, is that it is God who chooses when healing happens, not us. I do have to say that the “preacher” in the faith healing program was giving quite the performance, and this is another issue altogether. The program was a performance. Faith healing services are relatively easy to find on TV. They are regularly scheduled and taped for mass consumption by an audience eager to see signs that God is active and working in our world today. Let me ask you a question. Can you schedule when God, the Holy Spirit, is going to suddenly fill you with power to miraculously heal people? Didn’t think so. (If you think you can you should go talk to your Lutheran pastor about that.)
So is God always unpredictable or unknowable in the way He works in the world? No…and we should thank and praise Him for that! In fact, God has revealed who He is and how He comes to us and how He works among us in His Holy Word, the Bible. Jesus, God’s Word made flesh, came to fulfill the Law, die for our sins, and rise from the dead for our salvation. It is for Christ’s sake that we are forgiven! (Galatians 4:4-5, Ephesians 8:2-9). If that weren’t enough God has given us Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution and Holy Communion through which He gives the forgiveness earned for us by Jesus. God is very active in the world and wants us to not only know who He is but also how He works.
Every time you go to church and see a Baptism, God is saving someone from the ultimate disease…sin. Every time your pastor absolves you, you are healed from sin. Every time you receive Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion, God is giving you forgiveness, strength, and salvation. In fact, every time God’s Holy Word (Law and Gospel) is preached the Holy Spirit is working to convert sinful human hearts and bring the Good News of forgiveness in Christ alone. God works through His chosen means, Word, water, body and blood . Once again it comes back to God choosing when healing and salvation happen. It is not a question of whether or not God does heal people so much as how God heals people. And as it turns out God is actively healing souls and forgiving sins all over the world every day through His Church and also healing sick bodies through doctors, nurses, and other health professions.
Thanks be to God for His grace, mercy, and love! Amen.
Tysen Bibb is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at Golden Valley Lutheran Church in Golden Valley, MN. He is a graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin. He enjoys fishing, camping, cycling, reading theology books, and spending time with his wife (and best friend) Sarah. Tysen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.