There are several occasions in the Gospels when Jesus heals someone or raises them from the dead and then gives them strict orders not to tell anyone. Have you ever wondered why Jesus did this? If I or someone I loved was supernaturally restored, how could I not shout it from the rooftop?

One Story

We find one such story in Mark 5, where Jairus, an official of the local synagogue, begged Jesus to place his hands on his little daughter, who was very sick. Jairus believed that if Jesus did this, she would get well and live. However, while Jesus was on his way, Jairus’ daughter died. Upon arrival at the house, Jesus held her by the hand and said, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” To the astonishment of everyone in the room, she stood up and began to walk around.

At this point, Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone and to give her something to eat. People believed that ghosts and spirits could not eat food, so Jesus told the family to feed the girl to prove that she was alive. Furthermore, it had been a big day, and she was probably hungry!

Tell No-One

Why did Jesus order them to tell no one about the miracle? He did this on several occasions. One of these gives us a clue as to why Jesus was firm on this. It concerns the leper’s healing (Mark 1): Then Jesus spoke sternly to him and sent him away at once, after saying to him, “Listen, do not tell anyone about this…but the man went away and began to spread the news everywhere. Indeed, he talked so much that Jesus could not go into a town publicly. Instead, he stayed out in lonely places, and people came to him from everywhere.

It was the same with the healing of the deaf man (Mark 7): Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. Nevertheless, the more he did so, the more they talked about it.

Five Reasons Why

I have pondered the reasons why Jesus was so strict about this and suggested five reasons why Jesus told people to be quiet:

  1. Jesus wanted people to know the genuineness of the miracles.

Through the years, I have heard many people claim they’ve healed. I have also listened to evangelists glorify their ministry by talking up the hundreds or thousands of people saved and healed at their meetings – all without proof. It appears that Jesus is concerned about genuine miracles. Who would have thought?

When the leper was healed, Jesus spoke to him sternly: “Don’t tell anyone, but go straight to the priest and let him examine you; then, in order to prove to everyone that you are cured, offer the sacrifice that Moses ordered.” If you believe you have been healed through prayer, I encourage you to go to your doctor to authenticate the legitimacy of the miracle.

  1. Jesus didn’t want the publicity to make him too famous.

The former leper mentioned above talked so much that Jesus could not go into a town publicly. Word spread like a bushfire about Jesus’ healing power, and he became too much in demand. His popularity restricted his ministry. He had to change location from the towns to deserted places.

  1. Jesus’ popularity affected his personal life and emotions.

Mark reports that Jesus stayed out in lonely places. That’s an interesting choice of words by Mark. We tend to think about famous people with a touch of envy but consider how restricted they are because of their fame. Many of the freedoms we take for granted are off-limits to them, thus impacting their personal lives and emotions. Jesus undoubtedly saw his popularity as affecting him deeply and wanted to care for himself so that he could also care for others.

  1. Jesus wanted the miracles to stay within his message.

Jesus’ message was to preach the good news of the kingdom of God, a genuine offer for God to rule in the hearts of those who believe in His name. Miracles are incredible, but the message changes a life now and for eternity. Throughout my many years of following Jesus, I have come across many people who follow signs and wonders, and in so doing, they often miss the life-changing message of the Gospel. Miracles belong within the gospel message and should never be our focus.

  1. The miracles and crowds made the Pharisees jealous.

Jealously was the driving force that eventually caused the Pharisees to arrest Jesus. However, Jesus would be cautious about inflaming their envy unnecessarily because he had much to do before he was finally arrested and crucified.

Consider Matthew’s account of the healing of two blind men when their sight was restored. Jesus spoke sternly to them, “Don’t tell this to anyone! But they left and spread the news about Jesus all over that part of the country. Matthew then tells of an unhelpful interaction with the Pharisees. Jesus did not want to be arrested and crucified ahead of time.

The Exception

The only time Jesus told someone to talk about the miracle was the man delivered from the legion of demons: Return to your home [the Decapolis] and declare how much God has done for you. (Lk. 8:38-39).

The Decapolis was a gentile area that Jesus would visit later with great success. This man would do the groundwork for Jesus by sharing his testimony. Jesus did not need or desire the same level of publicity in Jewish regions.

There are a few reasons that Jesus told people to remain silent when he healed them. Today, some of these explanations still apply. Followers of Jesus should be careful not to follow miracles, thus making them idols. Moreover, when miracles happen, they should be tested to ensure they are genuine. Let us be wary of calling something a miracle or healing before it has been authenticated.

If you’ve been on social media during the rise of Covid-19, you will no doubt have seen several references to Psalm 91. One verse, in particular, has been quoted repeatedly, “no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your dwelling”(verse 10).

Psalm 91 is an amazing song that has brought comfort to believers for centuries. But to quote a verse in isolation and make out that all will be well is unwise and unbiblical. It’s not a statement of faith but instead of foolishness. And we’ve seen plenty of that recently.

Mega Statements & Mega Risks

Consider the megachurch that assured members their faith in the Lord means “no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.” And the Church in Perth which released a statement telling followers they need not worry because they are ‘protected by the Blood of Jesus.’ The church’s leadership is “in agreement that this COVID-19 will not come near our dwelling or our church family.”

But Covid-19 is no joke, and the outbreak of this pandemic is not a time for spiritual bravado. It is a genuine threat as a church in Sydney’s north has found out after seven of its parishioners tested positive to COVID-19 following a service on March 8th. NSW Health asked the other 300 attendees to monitor themselves for symptoms. Why didn’t Psalm 91:10 work for them?

An evangelist speaking recently at a Christian gathering stated, “I promise you, the blood of Jesus will protect you from this!” Others have suggested that Covid-19 is a demonic spirit or a conspiracy. But, “Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.”

It’s such a beautiful promise, except something bothers me, and that’s the elephant in the room. That elephant is the millions of believers who have died from a plague over the last 3,300+ years since Moses wrote Psalm 91.

Consider the impact of the Spanish Flu, which broke out in the US just over a century ago. Churches closed their services, but some kept their buildings open to be used as emergency hospitals by the Red Cross because the hospitals were full. Some Christians gave their time and energy to care for the sick. Some of them died from the Spanish Flu and Pneumonia.

And this has been the case for all time. As stated by Christianity Today last week, “If you interacted with someone with plague in 1350, or with Spanish Flu in 1918, there was a real possibility you would get it and die. The prayer, “and if I die before I wake, I beg the Lord my soul to take” was a real plea, not a night-time trope.”

Understanding Psalm 91

So, did Psalm 91 fail these followers of Jesus? Is it a false promise? Or was it because they had unconfessed sin or a lack of faith?

Remember, these were the accusations that Job’s miserable comforters expressed to Job. One of them, Eliphaz, was convinced Job had sinned and was being punished by God. That if he repented, “From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you” (Job 5:19). But he was wrong. In fact, at the end of the story, God said to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7). Job hadn’t sinned and didn’t lack faith, but harm still came to him and his family. One of the many amazing truths expressed by this story is that Job remained strong and righteous in his faith throughout his suffering, and, by God’s grace, so will we.

Understanding The Bible

So, how should we understand Psalm 91? I gave you a hint earlier in the blog. Hebrew tradition ascribes the authorship of Psalms 90 and 91 to Moses. These are the first two Psalms in Book IV of the Psalms*,  the section that relates to the Book of Numbers. Remember, Numbers revolves around the Israelites, heading to the promised land under Moses’ leadership. The Nation was fresh out of Egypt, where God used Ten Plagues, so “the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord” (Ex. 7:5).

The Israelites were settled in Goshen in the Northern part of Egypt, where the Nile flowed into the Mediterranean. While some of the plagues did effect Goshen (the plagues of blood, frogs, and gnats), the Israelites were supernaturally protected from the others: “But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people” (Ex. 8:22-23). In light of this, think back to Psalm 91, “nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.”

But, you may ask, some of the plagues did come near the Israelites, but Psalm 91 says, “nor shall any plague.” What do we make of this apparent contradiction?

Understanding Literary Styles

A couple of years ago, I taught a message at Bayside Church titled, Is the Bible Really True? In the sermon, I outlined three kinds of truth: truth as Fact; truth as meaning; and truth as life. I encourage you to watch this sermon when you want to give Netflix a rest during this season. 

As we read and study the Bible, we need to ask ourselves, “Is this passage stating facts about physical reality? Is this “truth as fact” or am I reading something else?”

The Bible is full of various kinds of literature. There’s poetry, history, promises, commands, stories, songs, rhetoric, logic, proverbs, hyperbole, wisdom, irony, parables, figures of speech, apocalyptic and metaphorical language. When we’re reading the Bible, we need to ask what the meaning is behind what we’ve read. That is, we ask ourselves how this should be understood. What type of literature am I reading?

The Psalms are songs and poems which use poetic license just as our songs do today. Poetic license is the freedom to depart from facts when speaking or writing creatively. That’s what Moses does all the way through Psalm 91. Consider verse 4. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” Is God a cosmic chicken, or is Moses conveying a more profound truth? What do those words mean to you?

Be Smart

Finally, I would do well to point out that Jesus was tempted by Satan, who quoted Psalm 91:11-12: “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”

In other words, come on Jesus, take this Psalm literally, do something brave and spectacular, then people will believe that you are who you say you are. Jesus response? “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” We would do well to heed Jesus’ words!

Responding To Psalm 91 Today

What encouragement can we take from Psalm 91 at such a time as this? I’ll answer that question by telling you of an experience I had two decades ago.

In the year 2000, I made my first trip to Africa to visit a couple from Bayside Church who’d gone to Mozambique to establish a medical clinic. While I stayed with them, I was in a bedroom that was a distance from the main house. Each evening I walked to the bedroom using a torch to light my way. One evening we had dinner with a missionary couple who took delight in telling me stories of encounters with snakes. Apparently, there were people who had stayed in the room where I was sleeping who had black mambas dropping from the ceiling rafters onto the bed at night. Everyone thought this was hilarious. I joined in the laughter, but deep down, I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night. The fear I sensed was palpable.

The next morning, while I was reading and praying, I mentioned my fear to God. He led me to read Psalm 91, a psalm that has comforted me greatly on many occasions. Verse 13 stood out to me, “You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” The fear I had experienced disappeared and, in its place, the most beautiful sense of peace. I did see some snakes while I was in Mozambique but fortunately not in my bedroom. But I didn’t take the Psalm literally. I didn’t go out looking for snakes and lions to step on and squash. If I did that, I wouldn’t be writing this blog!

And this is how Psalm 91 can comfort and encourage us during the Covid-19 pandemic. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way, use wisdom, follow instructions, don’t test the Lord, but do trust God. Spend time meditating in Scripture and praying. Allow the Holy Spirit to remove fear from your heart and replace it with his marvelous peace.



* The 150 Psalms are divided into five books that relate to the first five books of the Bible (Pentateuch) as follows:

  • Psalms 1–41 Genesis
  • Psalms 42–72 Exodus
  • Psalms 73–89 Leviticus
  • Psalms 90–106 Numbers
  • Psalms 107–150) Deuteronomy

The first four books are marked off by concluding doxologies.

Psalm 150 serves as a doxology for the entire collection of Psalms.




Forgiveness. We know we should do it. Christians (and many others) believe God has given it. But what is it? What does it mean to forgive?

Shedding Light on Translations

The Bible uses four Greek words that have various connotations of forgiveness. The one Jesus uses in the Lord’s Prayer (aphesis) is translated in a variety of ways in the New Testament. In the Lord’s Prayer, aphesis is rendered “forgive” and “forgiven,” but almost everywhere else, it is translated, “to leave; to have left.”

Delving into Biblical Words

This Greek word (aphesis) is used to translate its Hebrew equivalent (Yo’bel) that is usually rendered as “Jubilee” in English. It alludes to the Biblical Law that required periodic forgiveness of debt. The Hebrews were commanded to “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan” (Leviticus 25:10). The Year of Jubilee restored personal liberty to those who had become slaves, and full restitution of all property also took place.

Consider this in the light of forgiveness. It’s an action that leads to release, liberty, restitution, and Jubilee. It’s about leaving something behind. We’ll explore this in greater detail later in this blog.

Another picture of “aphesis” in the Hebrew Scriptures is the scapegoat as part of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). By sending away the scapegoat, the Israelites were symbolising the leaving behind of their sins.

What Forgiveness Isn’t

Before we start looking at what forgiveness is, let’s find out what it isn’t. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you will put yourself back into a hurtful situation. Jesus’ teaching on turning the right cheek isn’t about letting someone slap you on the left cheek repeatedly. You’re not called to be a doormat for Jesus.

Over the years, I’ve heard some second-rate teaching on forgiveness. Pastors have told women in an abusive marriage to submit to their husbands, “as the Bible teaches.” It should be remembered that submission in marriage is mutual and conditional. Husbands and wives are to submit to one another (Eph. 5:21). Submission is always based on love: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” and “husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.” No man ever beats himself up, and he shouldn’t abuse his wife either. A woman in an abusive relationship needs to get out as quickly as possible and seek safety. This is not a matter of forgiveness but of self-preservation.

Also, forgiveness isn’t forgetting – only God can do that (Isaiah 43:25). I’ve heard people say, “well, just forgive and forget,” but people don’t have that ability. It’s a Divine prerogative to choose to forget, not a human one.

What Constitutes Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a process rather than an event. Each of us has the choice of when and how we forgive. Don’t be guilty of communicating clichés to others like, “just forgive them,” “move on,” “it’ll be okay.” Real-life cannot be lived by platitudes or formulae.

Forgiveness has to do with release, liberty, restitution and jubilee. In its purest form, forgiveness is about releasing another from your right to get even. It means “to leave, or to have left, your desire to punish someone for their offense against you.” Unforgiveness says, “You hurt me, and I’m going to hurt you back.” Forgiveness says, “You hurt me, but I’m going to release you from vengeance.”

Forgiveness is a choice rather than a feeling. You may still feel hurt, angry, wronged, offended, and wounded. You may feel that way for a long time during which God and time can gradually bring healing and restoration. But these feelings don’t mean you have unforgiveness. If you have relinquished the temptation to get your own back, you have forgiven. When you forgive, you will begin to experience liberty and jubilee.

If you are the one who has hurt or offended someone, then forgiveness for you will be seeking restitution.

Zacchaeus, the crooked chief tax collector, is a beautiful example of this. When he encountered the grace of God through Jesus, Zacchaeus was so impacted that he made restitution with everyone he had offended, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Can you imagine how the forgiveness flowed towards Zacchaeus from people he had ripped off? If he hadn’t responded in this way, he would never have had this experience. People would have known that he was now a follower of Jesus, but they would forever have felt angry with him for the way he stole money from them.

Restitution caused release, liberty and jubilee. True forgiveness will always have that effect.



Last week I addressed two of the most-often asked questions when it comes to spiritual healing: “does God really heal people?” and, “why do Christians get sick?” 

This week let’s look at a few more questions and what the Bible has to say about them:

Question Three: Do I have to deny I’m sick in order to be healed?

This question is based on some of the teaching that has, in my opinion, taken positive & negative confession too far.  It’s based on a wrong translation of Romans 4:17-21.  The King James (and New King James Versions) translate it as follows: “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead…neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb.”  The apostle Paul is speaking of Abraham and Sarah and their inability to conceive.  Notice how the KJV says Abraham “considered not.”  This infers Abraham denied the fact that he was too old to father a child and that Sarah was barren.  The newer translations of the Bible, which use older and more reliable manuscripts, translate these verses very differently: Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.”  Denying you’re sick doesn’t bring healing; facing the facts and then asking God for healing is the Biblical approach.  Jesus always ministered to people on the basis of their honesty.  Consider the blind man in Mark 8:23-24.  Jesus prayed for him once and then asked, “Do you see anything?”  The man replied, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”  On the basis of his honesty “Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”  What if he’d denied reality? He would have been half blind for the rest of his life!  Genuine faith does not ignore the facts; it does not deny reality.  Genuine faith is honest about the facts and remains strong in God despite them.

Question Four: Why isn’t everyone healed when they’re prayed for?

If you are a Christian, I believe God ultimately heals you. In chapter 5 of his letter, the apostle James gives the recipe for healing; is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.”  The Lord can raise people up in two ways: physically, by a complete healing that is either an instantaneous event or a gradual process, or spiritually through physical death and resurrection, ushering the person into eternal life without sickness, pain, sorrow or crying; a place where God will wipe every tear from their eyes!  This is ultimate healing – in heaven with Jesus!  The Psalmist said, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).  I always pray for healing and life.  If God brings physical healing, I don’t take the glory.  If He doesn’t, I don’t take the blame!  My job is to pray in faith.  God’s work is to raise the sick person up either physically or spiritually according to His sovereign will.

Consider these words from Isaiah 57:1-2, “The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.  Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”  Sometimes death is a kinder option for a Christian person in order to spare them from a difficult future.  We need to develop the same eternal perspective as the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:19-26.  We are strangers and pilgrims on earth, just passing through!  Don’t hold onto this life too tightly.

Question Five: Is it a lack of faith for a Christian to see a doctor?

The answer to this question is also found in James 5, “…to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the Name of the Lord.”  In this verse we see the wonderful link in the Bible between faith and medicine – pray and anoint with oil.  Pray means that we always seek God first for the answer to any need we may have. “Anoint” means “to pour or massage.” “Oil” in Bible times was often used for medicinal purposes (cf. Luke 10:34).  God is not anti-doctors and medical science.  In fact he chose Dr. Luke, the “beloved physician”, as one of His key church leaders and the author of Luke and Acts.  Doctors and medically trained people can treat many conditions successfully; diagnose a condition so you can pray more specifically; and confirm that a healing has taken place.  Many times Jesus told people to show themselves to the priests, the ones who could confirm a healing had happened and thus declare a person to be clean.  Of course, Medical science still has its limitations.  It is sometimes when doctors can’t help that God steps in.

Question Six: Should I throw away my medicines as a step of faith?

Simply “NO”, because doctors and medicine are ways that God heals people.  It’s important to realize that many medicines are found in nature.  God created them in the first place and people have merely discovered and refined what God placed in creation.  The Bible says, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  Medical science and healing professions and techniques are a good gift from God.  It can be dangerous to take yourself off some medicines, so consult with your doctor first.

Question Seven: Are all illnesses, particularly mental illness, demonic in origin?

I’ve heard this question particularly amongst Pentecostal and charismatic Christians over the years and it shows a massive amount of ignorance of mental illnesses especially.  Matthew 4:23-24 identifies various kinds of sickness and disease.  People who were (1) ill with various diseases; (2) suffering severe pain; (3) Demon-possessed; (4) having seizures – sudden attacks of a particular disorder and (5) paralysed.  These five categories cover the main areas of sickness, disease and various conditions that many people still face.  Notice that demonic spirits harrassed some and that still happens today as well.  The discerning person will prayerfully discover, often with the help of medical professionals, what the cause of a sickness is and then seek the best way to bring healing wherever possible.  Labelling people who are sick or mentally ill as demon possessed, can often aggravate the distress that is already being experienced. It also brings unnecessary condemnation and anxiety to the one who is suffering, as well as to those who are caring for them.

If you are helping someone who is sick here are a few things to remember:

Don’t constantly ask them how they are.
Don’t ask if they are feeling better.

Don’t make every conversation about their sickness.

Don’t define a person by their condition.

Don’t quote Scripture verses at them. Let them find their own comfort in God.

Ask what they are believing for and then stand in agreement with them.

Weep with those who weep.

Let them know that you love them and are praying for them.

Don’t be guilty of over-caring.  Look after yourself too.

If you visit someone who is sick don’t stay too long.

Find some practical ways to help.

Don’t offer advice that conflicts with medical professionals.

Don’t condemn people by making thoughtless statements.

Be kind, compassionate, loving, gentle and understanding.

As I sit at home recovering from a rather nasty bout of flu and Pneumonia, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what I believe about supernatural healing!  It’s not a simple topic.  In fact, beware of thin books called, “Everything you need to know about healing!”  Over my years in pastoral ministry I’ve been asked many questions about healing and it’s those that I will seek to address over the next two or three weeks.

Question One: Does God really heal people?

The Bible is full of accounts of supernatural healing and anyone who reads the gospel accounts is quickly made aware that healing was at the heart of Jesus’ life and work.  The church continued this work of healing throughout the first century as recorded in the Book of Acts.

The expectation of healing continued past the Biblical age of the First Century:

  • Justin Martyr (165AD), “many of our Christians have healed and do heal.”
  • Augustine (415AD) in his book, City of God, wrote an account of a healing that took place at his cathedral on an Easter Sunday morning.  Though originally a skeptic, he said that he knew of at least 60 incidents of healing.
  • Gregory, at about the same time as Augustine, wrote of his sister’s healing from serious injuries through the prayers of the congregation.
  • Through the dark ages the ministry of laying on of hands, anointing with oil and prayer for healing gradually decreased, and so the accounts of healing during this period are few.  Even the reformation, which brought many tremendous reforms to the church, did not restore the healing ministry to the church.  Martin Luther and John Calvin taught that healing only happened in Biblical times to enhance the preaching of God’s Word.  However, the ministry of healing never completely died out.  John and Charles Wesley knew of it, as did George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends, or the Quakers.
  • Not until the turn of the 20th century did we see the beginnings of a worldwide and lasting revival of the ministry of healing, when an Englishman by the name of James Moore Hickson founded The Society of Emanuel in 1905.  He traveled the world to urge the restoration of the healing ministry.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, was so persuaded by Hickson that the worldwide meeting of Anglican bishops, in 1908, ordered a study of this ministry.  In 1920 the study was accepted.  The bishops urged that all future prayer books include liturgies for healing.  Also at the turn of the century, a movement stirred in the mainline churches that focused more on the activity and gifts of the Holy Spirit, including healing.  This was the birth of the Pentecostal movement.  Since that time, every major Christian denomination has embraced the ministry of healing in some shape or form including the Roman Catholic Church that restored the ministry of healing at the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

Over the years I have experienced God’s healing power personally. I have prayed for people who have been healed. I’ve met others who’ve been healed.  The prophet Jeremiah declared, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for you” (32:17). A God who has the power to create a Universe certainly has the power to heal human sickness.

Question Two: Why do Christians get sick?

So we’ve established that God heals but why do people – including Christians – actually get sick?  Someone may ask, “Aren’t Christians exempt from sickness because of what Christ did on the cross?”  While I certainly believe that Jesus healed – and heals – people, His work on the cross had more to do with healing the human spirit from the ravages of sin than healing the human body from the results of sickness.  The verses most often quoted to defend Jesus’ death for our sicknesses are Isaiah 53:4 and 1 Peter 2:24.  Isaiah says, Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.”  The whole passage is usually considered as fulfilled by Jesus death and yet Matthew teaches that this verse was fulfilled by Jesus’ life: When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.  When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:“He took up our infirmitiesand bore our diseases.”

1 Peter 2:24 is also often misquoted, “… by His wounds you were healed.”  Special emphasis is made of the past tense “you WERE” and so if you WERE then you ARE.  An entire teaching of divine healing and health has sprung from taking this verse out of context and the teaching often leads to unkind and condemning statements:  “If Jesus has taken your sicknesses then why are you still carrying them?  It must be because of your lack of faith or because you have sin in your life.”  Really?  How much faith do you need for healing? Faith the size of a mustard seed will move a mountain – how much faith for a lump of cancer?  For those who would condemn others for being sick why don’t you pray for them to be healed?  In fact James teaches that it is the faith of others than can heal us, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven” (notice here that physical healing occurs before forgiveness of sin).  Sin may be the cause of sickness (sexual immorality, gluttony, anxiety, overworking, and laziness) but it is not necessarily a barrier to healing.

The context of 1 Peter 2:24-25 is Jesus sin-bearing work on the cross, He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”  Peter is clearly speaking of healing, or being made whole, from the effects of sin; particularly the sin of continually straying from God.

Christians are not exempt from the sinless infirmities of life – we get tired, hungry and experience pain and sickness (see Romans 8:22-23).  But all of these things will be abolished once and for all when Jesus returns, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). In the meantime we can experience supernatural healing by Jesus’ life and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but healing is a benefit of salvation and not a guarantee.

The old adage says laughter is the best medicine, but how much does laughter actually affect one’s wellbeing?

I read with interest recently when the Herald Sun reported the visit of “humour therapists” to nursing home residents with dementia.

“Four hundred residents from 36 nursing homes took part in the SMILE study led by University of NSW researchers who wanted to see if humour had an effect on people with dementia in terms of their mood, agitation levels, behaviour and social engagement.The researchers worked with ‘humour therapist’ Jean-Paul Bell, who co-founded the Humour Foundation and works as a ‘clown doctor’ cheering up patients in children’s hospitals.”

Lead researcher Dr Lee-Fay Low said residents who received humour therapy showed a 20 per cent reduction in agitated behaviour such as aggression, wandering, screaming and repetitive behaviour. Other patients who had not spoken for some time started to utter a few words and eventually exchanged conversation.

The results of the humour therapy show that laughter really could be the best medicine when it comes to treating older people with dementia.

It doesn’t stop there. If you google “Laughter is the best medicine”, you’ll come up with over 5 million results many of which (and no I haven’t read them all) show the positive impact of real laughter on our health and well being. We all know from firsthand experience how much better we feel after a good belly laugh.

What we know to be scientifically true today the Bible spoke of 3,000 years ago when King Solomon wrote, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

This principle was recorded powerfully in the 1984 book and movie, “Anatomy of an illness” – the famous story recounting Norman Cousins’ partnership with his doctors in overcoming a crippling and supposedly irreversible degenerative spinal disease. When he was in pain he would watch Marx Brothers comedy movies. He says, “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anaesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”

Medical science has proven that those with a happy attitude to life:

  • Think more clearly
  • Work more effectively
  • Enjoy their leisure time
  • Get on better with others
  • Are generally healthier
  • Have an enhanced memory, and
  • Their sense organs perform to their maximum efficiency.

Joy releases endorphins into the blood stream. These “natural drugs” are more powerful than morphine. They give a natural high, reduce pain, relieve tension and aid in the healing process.

It’s been estimated that at least two-thirds of those who visit doctors do so because of stress-related symptoms. In fact stress and other psychosomatic problems (worry, fear, depression etc) are at the root of about 90% of all sickness.

With this in mind it is a timely reminder that laughter truly is the best medicine.

Why not plan a good belly-laugh session today.

One of the things that I’ve done to help in the recovery process is to list all the things I am grateful for – to find the good rather than focus on the trauma; to live in victory rather than live as a victim.  Here’s the list I wrote:

I am grateful that this happened to me, rather than to Christie – or one of our children.

I am grateful that it happened at home – rather than in another country.

I am grateful for Christie’s quick thinking in getting me into a cold shower – this stopped the burns from being even worse!

I am grateful for our eldest daughter, Gigi, for staying with me straight after the accident, and being so strong and caring.

I am grateful for being able to get straight into The Alfred hospital where treatment for burns is second to none.

I am grateful that the emergency department at The Alfred was unusually quiet that night so I could get the treatment and attention I needed.

I am grateful for the advances in medicine made possible by the dedication and sacrifice of researchers and doctors exemplified in the medical staff at The Alfred.  And for the care and compassion of those nurses that see their role as a vocation and truly do an amazing job!

I am grateful for all the cards, SMSs, emails and Facebook messages from God’s people around the world.

I am particularly grateful for all the prayer, especially the prayer meeting at Bayside Church when about 200 people gathered together.

I am grateful for the prayers of God’s people around Australia and around the world – people from the USA, UK and Ireland, Germany, South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Italy, Malaysia, Uganda, Japan … and many other nations told me they were praying for me.

I am grateful for God’s presence even in the midst of pain, anxiety and trauma.  To know the peace of God that passes our understanding.

I am grateful that I didn’t need any skin grafts (this is extremely unusual for burns sustained from a hot water bottle).

I am grateful that my heavenly Father – who knitted me together in my mother’s womb – didn’t throw away his knitting needles!  He’s doing a wonderful job of healing and restoration.

I am grateful for the amazing meals ministry at Bayside Church.  A big thanks to everyone who has blessed us with delicious food – and also for all the chocolate, much of which has been eaten!

I am grateful for all the other very practical help that we have received from so many people.

I am grateful to my amazing wife Christie for her loving care to me, our children and to the people of Bayside Church.

I am grateful for the incredible board, pastoral team, staff, leaders and congregation of Bayside Church.  Your love and care have been overwhelming.  The way this church has risen up in unity is inspirational.  Nothing can stop the growth of God’s kingdom!

I am grateful for the conversations I’ve been able to have with others about having faith in God.

I am grateful to be able to warn others about the dangers of hot water bottles.  I pray that my warning will prevent others from being burned – or worse!

I am grateful to Ps Phil Pringle, for his prayers, friendship, care and ministry.  For Ps Gordon Moore who flew down from Brisbane to see me – and for the whole C3 Church movement.  It’s so good to belong to a supportive and caring worldwide family of believers.

I am grateful for other ministry friends and colleagues – too numerous to mention – for their support, prayers, love and encouragement through this time.
I am grateful “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  That “the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Developing an attitude of gratitude has been a therapeutic exercise for me and has brought great encouragement to others.  The Bible instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  You don’t need to wait for an accident to learn thankfulness.  Why not plan to take some time out this week, find a quiet place and write down all the things you’re grateful for?  It’ll bless you – and those around you.

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