Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Date: 17 February 2013

For more sermons and other writings check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

 

Healing at Living Grace

 

On Sunday 30 September 2007, I began a preaching series on healing. It took me until Sunday 16 November 2008 – more than one year – to complete the six-part series and I was relieved. This was the hardest preaching series ever. What was God saying? In my office, I had dozens of books on healing that contradicted each other. One book had a rather dramatic title: “The Healing Epidemic” and the author warned his readers with these words: “ … healing … is being promoted in Christian circles as never before … healing seminars pack the largest conference halls in major cities across the world … We have bared our throats to the devil’s knife … “ (Peter Masters: The Healing Epidemic, London: Wakeman Trust 1988, p12-13).

These words notwithstanding, I carefully – cautiously – anxiously – observed that – in the Bible – Jesus commanded us to heal people and he expected them to be healed (without regular objections). The Bible teaching seemed radical but quite simple – James 5:15: “And 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.”

When the series was finished, I sighed a deep sigh of relief. We had survived another controversy and it was time to move on. Only God had other ideas. One of our members – a father (Greg Storey) with a young family – became sick with pancreatic cancer and I had the pressing conviction that God did not just want sermons on healing but the healing itself. Practise what you preach but I had objections. We had just lost a third of our congregation over the baptism with the Holy Spirit. When was this going to end? How many will leave us now over praying for the healing of cancer? I had serious issues with God, saying to him: “Cancer! God, did it have to be cancer? Could we not have prayed first for a tummy acheThis is what happened:

 

I first asked Greg Storey for his permission to go on this journey of healing which would be public and intense. We prayed for him.

 

From the sermon “Imbalanced Boldness” (1 February 09):

 

[When I preached this sermon, I was nervous again for the first time in years at Living Grace.]

 

We are entering into a season where we will need courage, if we want to go forward. Only two months ago – in November – I finished preaching the six-part sermon series on healing. For more than a year we had been wrestling with what the Bible says about healing – Matthew 8:16-17: “ … [Jesus] healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’” James 5:14-16: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him … and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well … “ Matthew 10:7-8: “ … [Jesus] gave them authority … to heal every disease and sickness … [and he said:] ‘As you go, preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick … ‘“ John 14:12: [Jesus said:] “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these … ” – and – according to the truth of these Bible verses – there were some notable healings among us – even tumors disappeared – Bronte: silenced by autism spoke her first word (joy) – but now we find out that Greg Storey is diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas which has spread into his liver and the question is whether as a church we are ready for the magnitude of his sickness. Would we be so bold as to believe in his healing by the prayer of faith?

I have Greg’s permission to speak openly about his condition and what is involved for us as a church. We need to think this through. How bold do we want to be? There is a part of me that all of a sudden is getting very nervous. Let me explain.

It does not seem to be good pastoral practice to raise expectations of divine healing when the medical opinion – and medical experience – suggests a more dire outcome of the disease. Why risk raising the expectations of Greg and his family – and risk raising the expectations of a church – when hoping for a miracle cancer cure looks so much like setting everyone up for failure. The other day I shared this predicament with some of my colleagues in Toowoomba and I shared my own nervousness and the need for boldness. After the meeting one or two other pastors came up to me and spoke to me with measured words of balanced reasoning. One pastor told me that he also had a church member who had suffered from cancer and that it was such a great witness to the family to watch him die as a Christian and don’t I think that this was also of God? I replied: “Sure. But what about having faith for more? What about having faith for the cancer to be healed?”

Then this same pastor queried me about putting it on people that they may not have enough faith for being healed. I responded by saying: “Put aside for a moment the problem of how people might deal with the challenge. As a theologian you have to admit that the Bible is absolutely clear about the importance of faith and the failure of faith which can frustrate God’s good intentions.” I cannot recall a single instance where God put any pressure on any sick person but the disciples were clearly told – many times – Matthew 17:20: “ … [You couldn’t heal the boy] because you have so little faith … “ Then the community – and as a church we are such a community – the community and its lack of faith is sometimes clearly identified as the problem – Mark 6:5-6: “Jesus could not do any miracles there … And he was amazed at their lack of faith.”

Are we bold enough to go there? Do we have the courage – do we dare – to face the truth about how much – or how little – we trust God and how much – or how little – God can achieve through us by faith (cf. Hebrews 11).

It would be so much safer and less people would get upset with Living Grace (and me), if we agreed to be more balanced and reasonable. Why not simply say: “God, we pray for healing but we want your will to be done and not ours”? Isn’t this a good prayer? It seems so submitted to God – and lets us off the hook (lets me off the hook) but it’s not faith. It is unbelief because God has already declared his will and his declared will is to heal – Matthew 8:16-17: “ … [Jesus] healed all the sick … ” James 5:14-16: “ … the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well … “ Matthew 10:7-8: “ … [Jesus] gave them authority … [and said:] ‘ … Heal the sick … ‘“

There was one time when Jesus prayed – Luke 22:42: “Father … not my will, but yours be done … “ but even in this instance, Jesus knew very well what God the Father wanted. It was only that he was anxious about getting arrested and tortured and for that reason he prayed to be spared. Yet, he knew that he was meant to die as the sacrifice for our sins. He knew the plan and had himself announced the meaning of his death only a few hours earlier, saying to his disciples at dinner – Luke 22:20: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you … “ Therefore, when he prayed: “ … not my will, but yours be done … “, then this was not the model prayer for Christians who choose to bypass the radical promises of the Bible. This was not the model prayer for Christians who choose the comfort of praying without the need for boldness: “God, whatever you want.”

Can you see how this kind of talk can get me into trouble – and you? Then, someone always points out that the apostle Paul himself was suffering from a “thorn” in his flesh which could have been some kind of sickness. Therefore – so goes the argument – not every sickness is meant to be healed. However, this is what the Bible says – 2 Corinthians 12:7 – I read what Paul writes about his thorn: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations [Paul had just shared how fourteen years ago he had been taken into heaven] there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.” The thorn was a messenger of Satan – not a direct blessing from God – and was only allowed to remain with Paul (as some sort of blessing in disguise) because it kept him humble: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations … ” Therefore – and this is my take on this – most of us should be quite safe. We are not in the same league of Paul and his surpassingly great revelations and therefore the normal rule of thumb applies to us: Messengers of Satan have no business tormenting Christians. 1 John 3:8: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

Please, don’t think that I have all the answers. I don’t. We must all die and therefore at some point there will be a sickness unto death but in the case of Greg – at the age of fifty-two – this seems to come before his time and with a young family depending on him he needs to live. What I do know – what I am certain of – is that if we had brought Greg to Jesus two thousand years ago when Jesus was walking the earth in human form, then Greg would have been healed. Jesus never said “no” to a single healing request. He would have restored Greg’s body.

Today the problem is that Jesus wants to work through us. When he ascended into heaven, he commissioned us: “You go and preach the kingdom and heal the sick,” which means that now we are the ones praying for Greg – we are the ones laying hands on him – with the consequence that the outcome is not quite the same as if Jesus himself did it. Our healing success rate is not quite the same as the 100% of Jesus.

But – and this is where the need for boldness comes in – we are meant to grow and become better in healing people. We are meant to become like Christ (cf. Galatians 4:10; Galatians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18) which includes a growing measure of holiness, faith and healing power – a closing of the gap between what people received when they came to Jesus and what people receive when they come to us.

How are we feeling about this? Is it time to pack up and join a more balanced church? God said to Joshua: “ … Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people … Be strong and very courageous … Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” God challenged Joshua – and he is challenging us – to do the impossible but the good news is that we are not having to do anything in our own strength. We are only meant to be available so that God can work his power – his might – through us.

God promised Joshua: “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be terrified, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” And God is promising the same to us. He is with you. He is with me. Jesus told the disciples not to attempt anything before they had not received the infilling with the Holy Spirit. He said – Acts 1:4-8: “ … Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised … you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit … you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you ...”

And so it happened for them. And so it happens for us. God is with us – never leaves nor forsakes us – as he fills us and refills us with the Holy Spirit. One incident in the Bible explains how this works in practice. Two Christians – Peter and John – had healed a cripple which became the talking point of the entire city. The authorities asked them – Acts 4:7-13: “ … ‘By what power of what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘ … It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed … Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.’ When they say the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished … “

So far so good but then the authorities commanded them to cease speaking in Jesus’ name and threatened them which chipped away at the disciples’ confidence. The whole church became anxious and nervous. Therefore, this is what they did – Acts 4:24-30: “ … they raised their voices together in prayer to God. They prayed: ‘Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth … You spoke by the Holy Spirit … Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain … in this city [people] … conspired against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

The church prayed. A fearful bunch of Christians – intimidated by threats – and nervous about the consequences of going forward – they cried out to God in prayer. They prayed together. They took courage from meditating on Jesus. They remembered how everyone conspired against him but salvation was won because nothing happened against God’s plan. Then they came straight to the point making this request: “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Then God confirmed his promise never to forsake or leave us – Acts 4:31: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.”

None of us can be pep-talked into boldness ... The boldness which we are to take hold of is not our own but given by God through his Spirit.

In practice this means that we need to pray more. If we – as a church – want to take new territory in 2009 and want to see Greg healed, then we must come together and cry out in desperation the same request as those that have gone before us: “Now, Lord, consider what is before us and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Do you agree with this need for church prayer? Let’s be honest. Let me be honest with you. After wrestling for so long with the Bible and the learned opinions of scholars I am convinced about God’s healing will for Greg – it’s in the book – but somehow at the same time – as much as my heart goes out to Greg and the whole extended family – I struggle to have the faith for his healing. I’m not really confident that God is actually going to do it. I know that I need prayer. I haven’t come through yet. I need our prayer watch – the three hours that we want to pray together as a church ...

 

At the end of the message, we emulated a faith action of the Bible. We did what Joshua and God’s people did with the walls of Jericho. We put Greg in the middle and the whole church walked around him seven times. Then we blew a trumpet and shouted with one voice – as loud as we could and as long as we could. We believed that this action expressed our faith and would let the “walls” of cancer crumble within Greg.

 

We fasted for Greg Storey.

 

Greg Storey’s testimony at Living Grace (Sunday 1 March 09): ... the journey of his healing is now all over Toowoomba and even across the nation(s) ... Last Sunday night, he went to bed “pretty crook” ... He told God that he could not pray ... On Monday night, he felt fairly well and looked forward to Jesus and his word. He prayed at the start that the Holy Spirit would inspire the reading of his word. He felt more satisfied after spending time with his word – it was like a big meal ... He felt like he was in love with Jesus. He could not stop smiling. Just as he went to bed, he said: “Oh sweet Jesus, it is lovely to go to bed with you tonight.” ... The night before sitting in a chair meditating on God ...

I could feel the Spirit moving ... Looked up at the starlit sky ... I told Jesus how much I love him .... heaped as much praise as I could with a whole heart ... Then, I started to tremble – the whole body was shaking ... I was not afraid but God was coming to visit me ... Some time after the trembling stopped, I looked up and the bedroom light was on. Better go and kiss Mandy good-night. She said: “You kissed me good-night one and a half hours ago.” ... Then I was going to have a bath and when I sat in the bath, I put my hand down and started crying like a child. All these repentant words were coming out – never asking and receiving the riches of your glorious inheritance, promises, lack of love, no compassion, no glory, no forgiveness, etc ... I missed out so much over the years ... I am going to search him with all of my heart ...

I finished having my bath ... reading a couple of things in James ... wasted money on the world ... repented of that ... God revealed to me that he had healed my inner man. He forgave me all of my sin. He lifted me. I went to bed and woke up different the next morning ... First the spiritual man, then the physical man ...

 

Greg Storey’s testimony at Living Grace (Sunday 8 March 09): ... I am almost having a continual love affair with Jesus ... Thank you for your fasting and praying for my healing ... I pray for spiritual gifts like prophecy, healings, miracles, tongues and interpretation of tongues, distinguishing of spirits and some gifts are starting ... some visions ... to give him all of the glory ... Anything is possible with God beyond our wildest imagination ...

 

Greg Storey’s Funeral Message (8 September 2009):

 

... In this message I cannot do justice to everything that happened in Greg’s life. However, I can and will focus on the last twenty months which are leaving a legacy for all of us today ... I had just completed a series of six messages on divine healing. It took me one and a half years to preach these six sermons. I was glad when I was able to pack away the books and I thought that I was ready for what would be coming next.

What came next was that Greg was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. There was so much yellow in his eyes. This was a shock. He was too young. He had a young family. And then the question: How would we handle this as a church? Over the last one and a half years – with God clearly prompting me – I had immersed myself in the Bible promises on healing and how important healing miracles were to the proclamation of the kingdom of God. In the Bible when Jesus or the disciples were preaching, they always healed people and Jesus gave the church this simple instruction – Matthew 10:7-8: “As you go preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick … cleanse those who have leprosy … ” Jesus himself never ever said “no” to a single healing request and he promised – John 14:12: “ … anyone who has faith in me … will do even greater things … ” The Bible was clear and the challenge was not to reduce the standard of the Bible to the level of my own experience but now there was Greg and he had cancer. What were we to do?

Who is getting healed of cancer? Could we not just begin and pray for a few headaches first and stomach pains and the flu? God, did it have to be cancer? Everyone will say that we are crazy – religious nuts – extreme – unbalanced – uncaring. You do not raise the expectations of a man that suffers from cancer because you just set him up for certain failure – an even bigger disappointment – because (as everyone seems to know) the disease of cancer is terminal – this is according to medical science – and Greg was only given another three to six months to live.

Yet, God was so clear: “I made you preach on this and I made you burn for this and now will you not act on my Word?” I was so nervous. I didn’t need any more conflict – with anyone – but this is precisely where God used Greg – a man like him – to give leadership to his church. I talked to Greg – and Mandy – and shared what was on my heart. What did he want to do? He was prepared to have faith and to fight and to have a church rising up behind him. And over the last eight months he was remarkable. There was no wavering. In moments of extreme pain he would tell God to either take him or heal him, but he never wavered in his commitment to believe for healing. There were times when tears would come but no self-pity. There was absolute commitment to press into God – more and more.

For us – Living Grace and maybe also for others here – this was a first for us – to be so public and bold in having faith for healing. I was so anxious but Greg was strong and we needed his strength – especially towards the end. We needed him to say that there was no going back on the promises of God. [You may say that he was in denial but I do not think so. The messages from the doctors were loud and clear and the pain was also speaking a clear message. But there is a contending for the promises of God and he encouraged us – he encouraged me – not to give up. I will never forget him and the way he broke new ground for us.]

The defining moment came when we identified the battle with Greg’s cancer as our “Jericho” – the city where the people of God won their first victory in the Promised Land. This was our first battle in a time of new beginnings and there was this understanding that God made this strategic. On the eighth of February (2009) – again with the permission and encouragement of Greg – the entire church stepped out into some crazy behaviour of faith. Taking our lead from the way Jericho was conquered – at the end of the worship service the men of the congregation came out from their pews and circled the entire seating area of the church – with Greg and Mandy in the middle – seven times – with worship banners in the hand. This took quite some time. Just picture us. Solemn – determined – old and young – acting on the promises of God in a crazy fashion – and then – once the seven rounds were completed – we had a trumpet blast and – like the people of Israel before Jericho – we shouted at the walls of Greg’s cancer. I did not know how the congregation would take to this but the shout was long – long and loud and passionate. And the presence of God was so strong.

And God responded – almost immediately. Three weeks later Greg gave a testimony in church (available on the net: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org). He reaffirmed his whole-hearted support in believing for his healing. Jesus was his only hope. He thanked the church for being a fool for Jesus and having no fear of man when we did our Jericho march and shouted like crazy people. He confirmed that the whole affair had become rather public. He said: “Christians in town know about it.” Greg also shared how much he was touched by the love that was shown to him. When I was listening again to all of his testimonies, this came through so clearly. Greg felt loved by those around him and it meant so much to him.

Then he shared that last Sunday he was crook (stomach pain – lying down like a sick calf). He said to God: “I am pathetic. I don’t feel well enough to read the Bible and pray. Lord, please help me.” He fell asleep. On Monday he looked forward to Jesus and the Word. He prayed for the Holy Spirit to inspire the reading of the Bible which happened because – after this time with God – Greg felt so satisfied. He said that it was like having a big meal. He felt that he was in love with Jesus – a young fresh love. He couldn’t stop smiling. It was so nice to go to bed with Jesus.

The night before – and here I am not completely sure of the sequence of events – but he read Hebrews (in the Bible), went outside, sat on a chair meditating on God, said very little, just enjoyed God, went back inside, finished reading Hebrews, sat meditating on God – the words were being absorbed in his spirit. Felt the Spirit moving. He sat outside again, looked at the stars, started to love and adore God, said to Jesus how much he loved him, heaped as much praise on him as he could with his whole heart – how God put his stars in order perfectly. He began to tremble. The whole body was shaking. He never had an experience like this. He was not afraid. God was visiting him. The bedroom light was on. He thought that he better kiss Mandy good-night but she told him that he had done this already one and a half hours ago.

Greg had a bath, sat in the bath, put his head down and then started crying like a child. Suddenly – he repented (never bothered spending time asking and receiving) and spent time asking for all the riches and glorious inheritance that is made available to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Greg repented of so much – lack of love, no compassion, no mercy, no forgiveness, no time, no healing. The list went on and on. He said to God that he had missed out on so much because of laziness but he would make up for that. He promised to search God with a whole heart. There was weeping before God. Why was I crying like this? God told him: “All the people that are praying. No wonder can I work with you like this.”

After reading a couple of things in James he kept repenting. He had wasted money on the pleasures of the world and went after the world but God spoke to him from the Bible: “If you are a friend of the world, you are an enemy of mine.” Greg repented of that. When he went outside, God revealed to him that he had healed his inner man – his spirit man – which released Greg in giving him all the glory and praise. God was worthy and lifted him. Then – as early as he could – Greg rang me and shared the whole experience with me – and then (more importantly) his family (there is a journal for the family) and the church. At that time he passed on what God had told him: “First the healing of the spiritual man and then the physical man.”

One week later Greg gave us another update and he spoke of an almost continual love-affair which he had with Jesus. He was so hungry to be filled with all the fullness of God and God filled him – to the brim. He asked for all of the spiritual gifts and began receiving some of them. At the same time God had led the congregation into something else that was new to us – fasting. We prayed and also fasted for the healing of Greg. Again – he and the family felt loved.

More good news was coming. The cancerous lesions to the kidneys and livers disappeared. The tumour on the pancreas shrunk by half and then also disappeared. God was on the move and after the healing of the inner man we were now excited about the healing of the physical man.

The good news defied any medical expectations but – in the long run – the good news would turn into bad news and there would be a prolonged downward spiral of much pain, infections, blood poisoning, more pain, a wasting away and then – finally – the end of his life on earth at St Vincent’s hospital.

Last week – seeing him in hospital – with pain – just skin and bones – crushed me. You just feel like crying and I began to have a few issues with God. “Why did he not heal Greg? Why did you take Greg from his young family? Where is the healing of the physical man? God, look at the children. God, you made us step out in believing for his healing. We looked like fools back then and we look like even bigger fools now.” [And by the way only a few weeks ago this worship building was packed for the funeral of Lewis Moss – a sixteen-year-old student of the Christian Outreach College. So many of us had also prayed for his healing and in the very same week of his funeral I was teaching six nights on healing at Toowoomba City Church. How foolish did this look – Christians believing in a healing God and then thousands of prayers remain unanswered in the case of Lewis.] In Greg’s own experience even Christians (his words now) would go strangely quiet when he told them that it was God’s will to heal him. “God, why did you not keep your word?”

For the first few days I could not be comforted. A fellow pastor tried but I told him: “I know all the things to say to let God off the hook but I am not ready.” An important breakthrough for me came (and I pray that sharing from my perspective will also help you) when I talked with Mandy on the night before Greg died. We happened to be on our own in the hospital corridor and Mandy was sharing more of what happened in Greg’s and her life. I began to understand more fully how much God had poured out his love on Greg and Mandy over the last eight months. So much had changed in Greg. The healing of the inner man was something deep and beautiful and life transforming.

Mandy also told me that right from the beginning God revealed to her that Greg would not make it. He would die. At the same time she said that we – the church – I – Greg – had to be obedient to what God was telling us and she kept this to herself. I believed her – that God spoke to her about Greg’s dying and in this way prepared her for this time because God is giving her so much strength right now.

From that night I gave up being offended with God. I did not understand what was going on but the goodness of God is not dependent on my level of understanding. He had loved Greg and loves him still. Greg had talked about and experienced a continuous love-affair with Jesus. Right to the end he was filled with hope and a certain knowledge of God who was his friend and Saviour. I gave up doubting the goodness of God. God who did not spare his Son but gave him for us all on the cross, he would never disappoint us.

Then – slowly – I could see that God did a lasting work here. 1. (And this is probably closest to Greg’s heart and so important today.) God made Greg finish well and thus allowed him to leave a rich legacy for his children. God healed Greg’s inner man – also for his sons and daughters. There is an inheritance of faith and glory which you – David & Karen, Jess & Lachlan, Chloe, Alana, Cassandra, Robertson and William – can step into. God made your dad show you the way and he wants to be reunited with you one day in heaven – so that you can be as happy as he is right now.

2. God used Greg to lead our church into believing for the healing of cancer. God set the bar high – the word “cancer” strikes fear into any healing ministry – but Greg never wavered in his commitment to have complete faith in God. There was no self-pity, no regrets, no wishing that we had kept quiet, no embarrassment in the end and therefore we may have lost this round with the disease but we will keep going – we will keep aiming high – all the while growing in spiritual authority, faith and the power of holiness. We will keep closing the gap between what people received when they came to Jesus and what people will receive when they come to us.

Earlier in the year I also read the biography of Rees Howells – which our leadership board is reading at the moment – and even last Friday – independent from this – another church member drew my attention to his stepping out in faith for a consumptive woman. She also died but then God revealed why: “’It was after that the Holy Ghost revealed why it had been necessary to take this case – that no flesh should glory in his presence. In a great position like this, God would not be free to use it through a person who had not first ‘died’ to it. It is death first and then resurrection. As the first-born and the first-fruits were to be given back to the Lord, so the first case of healing, the first-fruits of this intercession, belonged to the Lord and had to go to the altar” (Norman Grubb: Rees Howells Intercessor, Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press 1952, p84-85). God is testing us – humbling us – building perseverance into us – so that we would operate in healing to his glory – and not ours.

3. Greg died but we pray for a ten-fold return of blessings for his passing. At the hospital I mentioned to Mandy – and I don’t know why this went through my head – that the missionary Reinhard Bonnke was kept out of Nigeria for ten years. After ten years of banishment from this country he was allowed back in and then he prayed: “Devil, you kept me out of Nigeria for ten years and I demand an interest payment for every year that I was kept out – a tenfold return of blessings.” God listened and the first meeting in Nigeria broke all previous attendance records. 1,7 million people came. 1,1 million people filled out commitment cards to Jesus Christ. Our prayer is now that the same ten-fold increase of blessings – for his family – (for the church) – will come out of Greg’s obedience and sacrifice. May there be financial provisions. May the business sell for a good price. May the family prosper in every respect.

I close with the Bible reading which Greg chose two days before he died – for his last celebration of Holy Communion – Romans 8:18-21: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

In the end Greg knew that he would die but he would be more than okay. I repeat one Bible verse – what Greg knew in his heart: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Greg is in glory now. He is continuing his love-affair with Jesus (who died for him on the cross) – with no pain – and so much joy ...

 

I also remember how I publicly shared the failure of Greg’s healing with the Toowoomba Christian Leaders’ Network (with many guest pastors from inter-state being present) ...

 

The response of Living Grace surprised me. No one accused me of leading the church into failure. No one shrunk back from the commission to heal the sick. Greg died but we could see enough of God in the journey to keep praying for the sick and believing in their healing. Ever since that time – whenever we pray – some (not all) get healed. We had broken new ground. We endured the disappointment – had our faith tested by fire – but persevered. Our faith for healing was now going deep.

For me, another key development – a breakthrough – was what happened on a ministry trip to Fiji:

 

From the Fiji Ministry Report (23-30 August 2010):

... On Sunday the church was full in the morning and I preached on healing by compassion. As we entered the church I saw what looked like a blind man (black sun-glasses, cane) and considered praying for him later on.

My message contained Bible references on Jesus healing the blind and many testimonies [Healing stories by Heidi Baker.] Therefore, after the message I first invited those to come forward that had problems with their eyesight. [At first spotting what liked a blind man, I felt set up by God and fought him over the healing prayers. I did not want to do it. At home, I try anything but overseas I am feeling more self-conscious. I had never seen a blind person being healed.] About ten came forward. I did not feel any special power but I laid hands on every person and touched their eyes. Adam supported me. Then, I asked those that had experienced any improvement to raise their hands. I did not allow myself to dwell on the fact that so far I had no positive experience of eyesight being healed. I did not allow myself to dwell on the fact that if no one raised their hands, I would not exactly gain the confidence of anyone.

I asked the question and to my surprise at least five hands immediately went up. The first man said that his left eye was blind but he could now see. I struggled to process this information. He spoke in a quiet voice and was rather calm. I double-checked with the translator whether the information was correct. I then asked him to cover up his right eye, walked back a few meters and performed an eye test by asking him how many fingers I was holding up. He could see. The blind eye was healed and the congregation clapped and cheered. Jesus is so good.

A few more people said that they could now see “brighter”. I do not know what their medical condition was but another old woman came forward and shared that her vision was always blurry but now she could read her Bible. Hallelujah. All praise to Jesus.

There were more healings. One woman shared how heat went through the swelling in her foot when I prayed for her and now she was healed.

We have been pursuing this kind of ministry for so long and now it finally seems to be breaking. This is so exciting. The standard of our experience is coming closer to the standard of the Bible.

This was such a good morning but I also learned a few lessons and received encouragement for Living Grace. When the healings happened, the whole atmosphere in church did not feel any different from a normal worship service at home and I myself did not experience any special awareness of God’s healing presence. I would not even have known that the healings happened if I had not asked the question whether anyone was feeling better. (You can be so close to a miracle and still miss it and still be unchanged by it.)

Furthermore, the healings came so easily. There were no long prayers. There was no labouring in prayer. God wants to heal the blind even among us.

 

Back home at Living Grace, I announced via email that I wanted to pray for the healing of eye-sight on the first Sunday of my return (5 September 2010). When I called people forward, I remember that some were running forward. There was so much faith and expectation. Bernie snapped her glasses and Sharon’s mum was healed so that she no longer needed her glasses.

 

The latest advancement in our healing ministry came only four months ago at the Jesus Tent of the Supernatural in Queens Park:

 

Report on the Jesus Tent of the Supernatural, Toowoomba (24-28 October 2012): ... On the Sunday night – after the opening worship bracket – I saw a man in a wheel-chair on the side of the platform. (He had suffered a stroke.) I felt prompted to pray for him which changed all my plans. Walking towards him – I asked: “Did you come for healing?” He answered: “Yes.” I said: “If you have the courage to come for healing, I have the courage to pray for you.” The whole tent was behind the healing prayer and – with loud cheers – we encouraged the man (Trevor) to get up from his wheel-chair and attempt to walk in faith. He did but was not healed.

At the end of the meeting, we prayed for him again and again and he attempted again and again to walk – one lap after another – until exhaustion. All the time, we were exercising faith, rejoicing, taking pictures and recording video footage, praising God but he was not healed. I wondered what was going on but – even at the time – had a sense that God was very pleased. We were not becoming despondent. We were not backing off but kept believing his promises and did what he called us to do. [We were being set up for another breakthrough.]

[On the Thursday morning, a local minister from the Uniting Church expressed interest in what happened at the tent outreach (even though he was not familiar with such workings of the Spirit’s power) and then encouraged me by saying that – at one time – the Evangelist Arthur Blessitt prayed for a blind person in Africa. This person was also not healed but the next one.] On the Thursday after the tent meetings, I traced Trevor and paid him a visit. He and his fiancι gave their lives to God and were saved. On the Saturday, he began to walk and, on Sunday, Trevor came to church without a wheel-chair and no crutches. He was still limping but he could put weight on his leg – (while before it was simply shaking uncontrollably) – and even ran a few steps. Hallelujah!

 

[Show video of Trevor’s walking attempts before and now.]

 

I think that Trevor’s healing points to another confirmation of the prophetic word which has come to us on Friday 25 January 2013:

 

Adrian Saal had previously talked to me about the Bible passage of Numbers 21:16-20 (a few weeks ago). God had been telling him to live on the church property to dig a well. Many wells have been dug in this city, nation and our church by decree (“sceptres”), faith statements and proclamations. Now was the time for the water to spring up and for us to sing to the well.

At the Prayer Watch on Friday 25 January 2013, Adrian talked again about the well that was springing up. Before the Prayer Watch, I chatted with Vicki Meagher who told me that a well was springing up underneath their hairdressing shop at the Hooper Centre. For a year, she wanted to get out of this shop but the lease was expensive and could not be broken. Now – most improbably – there is so much water (and mould) coming into the shop from underneath the floor (the earth) because a well is finding its way up.

On the night of the Prayer Watch, we took this as another sign that Numbers 21:16-20 was right!

Numbers 21:16-20: From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the Lord said to Moses, “Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well! All of you sing to it – the well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people sank – the nobles with sceptres and staffs.”

And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah, from Mattanah to Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth, and from Bamoth, in the valley that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah which looks down on the wasteland.

 

We have “dug a well with sceptres” which means that – over the years – we have been believing God for healings according to his promises. (Exercising the keys/sceptre to the kingdom), we have declared and decreed his healing promises in our worship and prayer times. We have built up our faith, desired spiritual gifts of healing, have grown in our authority, sought intimacy with God, survived disappointments, prayed and fasted, etc. Now – with another Jesus Tent of the Supernatural approaching – we expect that the well is beginning to flow in greater measure. Why could we not have a healing revival? We sing to the well by faith. This morning – spring up, O well. Jesus commanded us to heal people in his name and he will do it. We will see healings more and more.

However, before we pray for the sick this morning, I remind us of the foundation of the Christian faith. This is going to be on the topic. The Bible explains that “Jesus came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He came (from heaven – became a human person) because we are lost. Are you lost? Are you losing out on anything? You may not think so but have you simply become used to the bad news of human life? Have you learned to accept that we all get sick and – after a while – we all die? You stop growing in your twenties and – from the on – face a steady decline of your strength and health until you catch the final disease (e.g.: cancer or pneumonia) which ends in your death. According to the Bible – death is a curse which was never part of God’s original design of life.

Jesus came to save you from this curse. Jesus came to heal us from the core sickness in our bodies that leads to death. (The Bible word for “save” also means “to heal” and we need healing to overcome the breakdown of our bodies.) I read to you one Bible verse which explains what Jesus has done for you:

 

1 Peter 2:24: He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed. He did this so that we might live in righteousness, having nothing to do with sin. By his wounds you were healed.

 

 When Jesus died on a cross, the curse on our bodies was put on him so that healing would come upon us – a new life with God which would outlast the bodies we have now, lead to a resurrection and eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This is the good news of salvation. Those who put their faith in Jesus – his wounds for our healing on the cross – they are being saved. Believe him. Come to him.

At its deepest level – salvation is about healing – healing from death, healing from a broken relationship with God, healing of our emotions (a restoration of hope, love and joy). Therefore – it is not surprising – Jesus – in his work here on earth – foreshadowed our eternal healing by healing people from whatever was afflicting their bodies already now. He never seemed to preach about God without healing people at the same time:

 

Matthew 4:23-25: Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among people … people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them …

 

Matthew 12:15: … Jesus … healed all their sick.

 

Luke 4:16-44: … [Jesus said:] The Spirit of the Lord is on me … to preach good news to the poor … and recovery of sight for the blind … On the Sabbath he began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority … people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them … (cf. Luke 6:17-19; Acts 10:38).

 

Luke 9:11: … He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

 

Then, Jesus commissioned us to do the same – preach the kingdom of God (the core message of eternal salvation) but do so healing people of their diseases already now:

 

Matthew 10:7-8: As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.

 

[Luke 9:1-2: Jesus … sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. / Mark 6:12-13: The disciples of Jesus went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. / Acts 5:12-16: … bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. / Acts 8:4-8: … Philip proclaimed the Christ … With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed … / Acts 28:7-10: … When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured …]

 

Apparently, what Jesus achieved on the cross – the removal of the curse in our bodies – promised healing already now:

 

Matthew 8:16-17: 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 infirmities and bore our diseases.”

 

Our basic assignment as Christians is spelled out in the foundational prayer that Jesus taught us:

 

Matthew 5:9-10: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Jesus has already done much for us but he will do more. Amen.