THE WORD-FAITH MOVEMENT
WOLVES IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING
By: Victor T. Stephens
"For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts 20:29-31)
Confession and Health (Continued)
Contrary to the claims of Word-Faith proponents, sickness is not always counter to the will of God. Romans 8:28 tells us that God can bring about good from any situation. James 4:15 and 1 John 5:14 say:
"If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:15)
"If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." (1 John 5:14)
Take note that these verses say "If it is the Lord's will" and "according to His will." While the Bible clearly says that we should pray according to God's will, Word-Faith false teacher Benny Hinn says,
"Never, ever, ever go to the Lord and say, 'If it be thy will.' Don't allow such faith-destroying words to be spoken from your mouth." (Benny Hinn, "Rise and Be Healed, Page 47)
Counter to the false and delusional claims of Benny Hinn, believers should understand that answers to their prayers are contingent upon God's will and His judgment of what is in their best interest. There are occasions when it is not God’s will to heal us because infirmities serve other purposes in our lives. Sometimes we realize the purposes; at other times we may never know the reasons. We simply have to trust God's sovereign wisdom and love; and be assured that He is working out His purpose in our lives. With our finite minds there are many things which are beyond our understanding.
The prophet Habakkuk complained to God on account he did not understand how the Lord would allow the nation Israel to be taken captive by an enemy nation. Habakkuk 1:2-4 says:
"How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, 'Violence!' but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted." (Hab. 1:2-4)
Except that God concretely discloses His purpose, Paul said:
"His ways are past finding out." (Rom. 11:33)
On account God is infinite in power, we should be aware that His wisdom far exceeds our finite minds. King David stated:
"Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit." (Psalm 147:5)
God has allowed some people who had an abundance of faith and whom He has used mightily to be afflicted with sickness. In some instances they were not healed without explanation. For example, Elisha the prophet: He became sick and died. Second Kings 13:14 says:
"Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. 'My father! My father!' he cried. 'The chariots and horsemen of Israel!' " (2 Kings 13:14)
On the other hand, numerous people reflect back on times of sickness or other trials that prompted them to develop a closer relationship with God. They developed a deeper level of faith, and learned how to truly value life. There are those who were unsaved, and God allowed sickness to bring them to a personal relationship with Christ. As I was watching the nightly news, a United States soldier who had been based in Afghanistan testified that the experience of partially losing one of his legs caused him to surrender his life to the Lord.
One willfully misguided Word-Faith advocate made the following comment:
"If you believe that God made you sick or wants you sick, then to see a doctor or take medication would be a sin because a person would be trying to escape God's will for them."
When praying for physical healing, we are not aware if it is God’s will to provide healing outright. Perhaps God may allow sickness for a brief time; or perhaps God may allow sickness to linger for an extended period of time. Perhaps God may allow sickness to remain for a lifetime. We just don't know. On account that God also works through the hands of doctors, we should indeed seek medical attention and allow God's will to be done. Luke himself was a physician (Col. 4:14). Thus, the notion that seeking medical care is sin lies in nonsensicality; and has no basis in Scripture.
Now ... the burning question for what purpose God allows suffering is in a direct way connected to the question for what purpose God allows sickness, taken into consideration that suffering emanates from sickness. The Word of God presents a numbers of plausible reasons for why suffering is allowed in our lives. Consider the following passages:
"… because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined --- and everyone undergoes discipline --- then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Heb. 12:6-11)
"The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees. Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees." (Psalm 119:64-68)
"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith --- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6-7)
"For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil." (1 Peter 3:17)
"So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." (1 Peter 4:19)
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
"See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand." (Deut. 32:39)
"The Lord said to him, 'Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’” (Ex. 4:11)
"For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal." (Job 5:18)
"That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world." (1 Cor. 11:30-32)
Concerning the thorn in his flesh, Paul says:
"to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." (2 Cor. 12:7)
Paul asked the Lord three times to remove the thorn; but God declined to remove it. And Paul goes on to say:
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Cor. 12:9)
Paul's thorn served as a blessing which was designed to prevent him from becoming conceited from all the revelations that God bestowed upon him.
According to Scripture, we should be able to clearly see that there are times when God will punish and allow sickness (and other trials) for the greater good.
Word-Faith teachers fail to acknowledge these biblical facts as well as conveniently disregard or misrepresent scriptures which clearly indicate that some of God's most devoted saints ... while often experiencing dramatic miracles ... also endured physical illnesses or physical complications. Some cases in point are:
Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, "My son." And he answered him, "Here I am." (Gen. 27:1)
Now it came to pass after these things that Joseph was told, "Indeed your father is sick"; and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. (Gen. 48:1)
"Now King David was old, advanced in years; and they put covers on him, but he could not get warm." (1 Kings 1:1)
"I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, For You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities, And have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a wide place. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away." (Psalm 31:7-10)
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2 Cor. 12:7-9)
"You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus." (Gal. 4:13-15)
"No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities." (1 Tim. 5:23)
"Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick." (2 Tim. 4:20)
These passages plainly illustrate that the Isaac, Jacob, David, Paul, Timothy, and Trophimus suffered from physical ailments. Isaac and Jacob had problems with their eyes. King David had problems with his body temperature, suffered depression, suffered physical weakness, and had bone ailments.
While Paul's condition is not explicit, we do know from the text that it was some type of physical disorder ... most likely a speech impediment (1 Cor. 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 10:10; 11:6). He prayed three times and asked God to remove this obstruction, but it didn't happen.
Word-Faith advocates have proposed that Paul's thorn was in reference to an evil spirit who was using people to persecute and prevent him from spreading revelatory knowledge. This belief is based upon their interpretations of Numbers 33:55, Judges 2:3, and Joshua 23:13. Although the word "thorn" is used in these verses, it is not in the same context in which Paul is speaking. While there is no doubt that Paul endured much persecution, he was not exclusive. Jesus and all the apostles were persecuted. So it bears asking, where in Scripture does it mention that Jesus and the apostles had "thorns" and "messengers of Satan"? Relative to the other apostles, Paul's infirmity was an issue unique to himself. Therefore, the notion that Paul's thorn represents an evil spirit who was bringing persecution from his opponents has no basis from Scripture. Furthermore, Paul says the purpose of the thorn was to keep him from becoming conceited. The text does not imply that an evil spirit was sent to prevent Paul from spreading revelations from God.
Now ... in reference to Timothy, it is apparent that he suffered from a stomach ailment as well as other recurrent infirmities. As a result, Paul encouraged Timothy to use a little wine for medicinal purposes. Why didn't Paul just heal Timothy from his stomach problems and other health issues? Apparently Paul knew it would be presumptuous to believe that it was God's will to heal in every situation.
Paul did not heal Trophimus. He left him sick. Why would he do this if he had the power to heal anyone on every occasion? Surely, Paul and Trophimus had faith for healing. But God chose not to heal; and Paul left Trophimus sick in Miletus.
It is clear from Scripture that these godly men were not healed of their afflictions. Neither Paul, Timothy, nor any other saint ever had the idea that complete physical healing was a present guarantee before or after the atonement. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16:
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."
(2 Cor. 4:16)
Some supporters of Word-Faith theology say, "Well ... what about all the evidence I've witnessed? Have you ever attended a healing service and seen people healed for yourself? I have."
Firstly, we should be prepared to look beyond the glitter and euphoria; and bear in mind that Satan can also perform signs and wonders. Just because someone appears to receive healing does not necessarily guarantee that it was from God.
"For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." (Matt. 24:24)
"The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie." (2 Thess. 2:9)
"For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." (Rom. 16:18)
With Satan and his well-spoken ministers on the prowl, we should not be so gullible to accept every claim or miracle performed in the name of Jesus. Evil spirits ecstatically answer with their own "miracles" in order to deceive and entice well-meaning people into further deviations and delusions.
Secondly, why don't Word-Faith healers take leave from the affable environment of programmed conferences in amphitheaters and regularly visit public hospitals and physical rehabilitation centers? If it is God's will that every believer experience divine physical healing as alleged by Word-Faith teachers, would not such visitations bring God glory? Their refusal to leave their personally controlled environments and heal in public localities like hospitals jostles at the core of their credibility.
Any references to miraculous healing that occur outside the drafted Word-Faith conventions are generally in outlying areas of the world where verification is difficult. Some Word-Faith advocates pretend to have documented evidence of numerous miraculous healings, but when pressed to disclose such "evidence", they fail to do so. Instead, they brand those who question their claims as lacking faith. While faith is vitally important, it is not God's will that we automatically and deliberately believe every postulation or story that is rumored. There is a distinction between having faith in God and having faith in unverified stories of men. Let's remember that Satan and his ministers are serial liars and deceivers. And they are very cunning in disseminating their lies.
Now ... thirdly, while there are many sincere believers who are caught up in unbiblical and counterfeit healing services, God does nevertheless, perform healings and miracles today by His mercy. Thus, some people are healed by God in spite of, not because of these false healing services (Matthew 5:45). That fact alone, however, doesn't suggest guaranteed divine healing is for everyone and/or that Christians have been authorized the same healing power as that of Jesus and the apostles. If that were the case, every Christian with a disease, sickness, or injury would be healed. The implication is EVERY CHRISTIAN, not just a minority of reports from people who frequent "healing services"; or a minority of unsubstantiated reports of miraculous healings that took place in remote parts of the world.
Next, just as there are reports of people who were healed at "healing services", there are also reports of those who were not healed. And it is very disheartening to hear of the guilt, sadness, and depression that are experienced by numerous physically and mentally handicapped persons who have attended large "healing services" who were not healed. Some of these people donated their entire financial resources in hope of receiving divine healing. Sadly, these individuals were deceived into believing that it was a guarantee that they would be healed as long as they had enough faith. On account that they failed to receive the healing that was expected, they left disillusioned and emotionally depressed.
The fact is, however, these people were mislead and exploited by smooth talking false teachers. Word-Faith teachers are unable to account for the universal presence of sickness and disease. Therefore, when healings fail to materialize, these false teachers find it advantageous to shift the blame to the people who claim to be not healed rather than repenting of their erroneous doctrines. Their typical excuses usually surround lack of faith, unrepentant sin, or failing to tithe.
Unlike many Word-Faith teachers, Jesus never requested a tithe or any amount of money from the people he healed. If we follow the money, we will discover that monetary and material greed are the major driving influences behind the unrepentant false doctrines of Word-Faith theology.
Now ... in spite of the clear evidence that refutes guaranteed divine physical healing, consider the following heartless diatribe from Word-Faith false teacher Fred Price:
"How can you glorify God in your body when it doesn't function right? How can you glorify God? How can He get the glory when your body doesn't even work? And the Bible says your body is the temple. He lives, the Holy Spirit lives in your body. What makes you think the Holy Ghost wants to live inside of a body where He can't see out through the windows and He can't hear with the ears? What makes you think the Holy Spirit wants to live inside of a physical body where the limbs and the organs and the cells do not function right? You don't want to live in a house with a leaky roof. You don't want to live in a house where the toilets are running over on the floor. You don't want to live in a run-down, broken-down house where the electricity doesn't work and the wires are hanging out of the wall. You'll get it fixed because you say this house can't function rightly unless everything is functioning as it was designed to function. How do you think, then, that God can get the glory out of your body when your body is the temple where God lives and what makes you think He wants to live in a temple where He can't see out of the eyes, and He can't walk with the feet, and He can't move with the hands? Because the only hands He has in the earth realm are the hands that are in the body. The only eyes that He has that are in the earth realm are the eyes that are in the body. If He can't see out of them then God's gonna be limited. He's not going to be helped."
(Fred Price, "Is God Glorified Through Sickness”, Tape #FP605)
It is very alarming that Fred Price and other ministers of Satan are promoting the lie that divine healing is guaranteed today. Moreover, it is an injustice to Christ that they suggest that believers who do not experience physical healing are lacking faith. Such unbiblical, guilt-producing implications illustrate contempt against God and touch the scale of insensitivity to the highest degree. Envision how a handicapped or terminally ill person ... someone who needs our love the most, would react when told that he cannot glorify God; and their condition is their fault due to a lack of faith. The proportion of the psychological and spiritual mutilation that this brand of false doctrine can perpetrate is tremendous. This type of teaching does not come from God, but from Satan's ministers ... the gods of lies, cruelty and all kinds of corruption.
In summation to this segment: If we read the entire Word of God in proper context, we will see that miracles are sustained in today's church age under the sovereign choice of God. We will find examples in Scripture where God divinely healed those who were physically sick. Some who were healed had faith, some were healed by obedience, and some were healed by God's mercy. However, we will also find examples in Scripture where God did not heal those who suffered physical infirmities. Sometimes sickness is a punishment from God. Sometimes God uses sickness for a well-meaning purpose. Primarily, sickness and disease occur on account that we live in sinful mortal bodies.
Finally, it is inappropriate to allege that God always physically heals or that God never physically heals today. There is not one universal established condition that solely supports either point of view at this current time. The perspective that we are completely healed will have to pause until the resurrection and glorification (Rom. 8:22-25; 1 Cor. 15:42-43, 51-54; Phil. 3:20-21; Rev. 21:4). In the interim, as long as we live in a physical body, we are prone to sickness and disease. However, as Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 4:16:
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."
(2 Cor. 4:16)
God's purpose for believers in this age of grace is not mainly to eradicate sickness and disease, but to purify Christians of the remnants of sin. While physical healing is very important in the lives of believers ... from God's perspective ... it does not carrying as much weight as spiritual transformation. In their present state of infirmities, Christians are to hold fast to the Lord as their only hope.
"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." (1 Peter 1:8)
Even though Christians today have not seen Jesus with their physical eyes, we still love and believe in Him regardless of our present state of health. In the words of William Lincoln:
"People talk a lot about love, but the true test of love to God and Christ is that in the trial it says 'I would not lose the favor and smile of God, so would rather suffer than grieve Him.' Love will be content with a crust and the smile of God, rather than a better position and the popularity of the world without it. Such tests must come to all the true children of God; they winnow the chaff from the wheat. The gold comes out from the fire tried, and purified from its dross."
(William Lincoln, "Lectures on the First and Second Epistles of Peter, Page 21)