Last week, I offered a response to the challenge of the Pentecostal doctrine of the Initial Physical Evidence (IPE) of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This week, I’d like to share a bit of my personal struggle as a Pentecostal who continually prayed for someone to be healed and didn’t see the results I asked for. (Yes, even those in the academy have ministry struggles.)
A few years ago, I prayed that a friend of mine would receive a physical miracle. I prayed repeatedly for God to move in the midst of the situation, but as far as I could tell nothing ever happened. I had seen God move in people’s lives before. I grew up in a church where there were medically verified stories of miraculous healings on a regular basis. I didn’t quite understand what was going on. There would be times of prayer where you could tangibly sense the presence of the Holy Spirit, yet…nothing. This internal struggle literally brought me to tears as I began preparing to preach a message on healing.
I wrestled with how I could preach such a message when I was struggling with this very issue in my own life. I really wanted to say that I couldn’t preach on Christ as healer at that time. I felt as if this sermon would be no more than perfunctory palaver. With the little energy I had left, I acknowledged God’s sovereignty and the fact that I knew God had the ability to heal. I also acknowledged the fact that I had seen his healing power at work in my own life and in the lives of others. So, I began to write.
I had to rely on God more than ever as I delivered that sermon. A friend of mine who had suffered physically told me that it was one of the best sermons on healing he had ever heard. Despite this, I still asked, “Why?” Why does God heal some and not others? Can we really quantify faith? If so, how much faith is enough to receive a healing? Is more faith required for someone to be healed of heartburn than of a headache? Is more faith required for heart disease than heartburn? It can’t be so; people of little faith in the Bible were healed. I began to understand that there is no equation for healing. I considered that Paul had a thorn in his flesh (possibly a medical problem) and Timothy had to use wine for his stomach problems. Paul, a man through whom extraordinary miracles were performed (Acts 19:11), wasn’t delivered when he asked God (2 Cor. 12:9). This puzzled me, but at least I was comforted by the biblical precedent for an experience similar to my own.
Then it struck me one day while reading Acts 2.
As I continued to study Pentecost, I found that this event served as fulfillment of the promise to David that his seed would sit on the throne forever (Acts 2:30-31). And I discovered that the outpouring of the Spirit functions as far more than empowerment for witnessing and speaking in tongues; it also functions as the fulfillment of the promise that Christ would be exalted to the right hand of God and of the coming of the Kingdom of God into the earth by way of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:6-8). The Kingdom came at Pentecost, but we continue to pray, “Your Kingdom come,” as the kingdom of God has not yet come in its fullness. As long as we need to pray that prayer, not all will be healed. When the Kingdom does come in its fullness, all will be healed and delivered of their ailments; none will suffer. In the present, we are privileged to see glimpses of what the Kingdom will be like in the future age. In the meantime, let us continue to pray, “Your Kingdom come,” and watch the Spirit of God manifest himself by way of miracles and healings, bringing glory to the Father and the Son.