Editor’s Note: Three weeks ago, I was sitting in church when Mike Vonderau (one of our teaching pastors at Bay Presbyterian) was discussing Matthew 8:14-17 in a discussion of Jesus’ power to heal. I was struck by this observation – that generated more comments than anything I’ve posted before on Facebook from church…
“The faith formula for healing…if you have enough faith, you’ll be healed…is absolutely wrong.”
We have lots of followers on this blog who have prayed fervently for healing… for themselves, for their kids, for their spouses or for their friends only to experience God’s silence. I put some questions to Mike that our readers have wrestled with…he was gracious to respond. Click on his picture at the end of the post to watch his entire message.
SG: Why do so many people in the church believe in the “faith formula?”…if you have enough faith, you’ll be healed, and if you aren’t healed, it’s because you don’t have enough faith.
MV: People are attracted to what I call the “faith formula” for a number of reasons, but I’d like to highlight two in particular. First, it plays on our desperation. If the faith formula is true, then healing is right at my finger-tips. Second, it challenges me to dig deeper and to try harder to be my own solution. Ultimately it focuses us on ourselves and not God, telling us that if we just try hard enough we can do it. People love to hear that message because then it appears I am in control of my own destiny and the source of my own salvation. Ironically, the faith formula doesn’t challenge us to trust God, it challenges us to trust ourselves.
SG: We see many, many comments on our blog and Facebook page from folks who have prayed fervently for healing for themselves, or healing for a child or family member only for God to remain silent. As a pastor, how do you help them to maintain their confidence in the goodness of God when silence is His response?
MV: This is a really challenging one. When people are hurting like this its tempting to try to provide a rational explanation when what people really need is someone to walk alongside them through the pain and grief and hear them out. The conclusion I’ve landed on personally when I’ve not experienced the healing that I’ve asked and longed for, is that the Lord has the same words for me that he had for the Apostle Paul some 2,000 years ago: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” I cling to those words.
SG: In your message, you shared that “it’s not the strength of the faith that we have, it’s the strength of the One in whom we have faith.” How should a faithful Christian who has been fervently praying for healing draw comfort from this?
MV: This again points to the fact that the emphasis is not on me and the strength of my faith and the quality of my prayers. The complete emphasis is on God who hears our prayers. It’s tempting to put our faith in faith or to put our faith in prayer because we can control those things to a certain degree. What’s important is to put our faith in God, who we can’t control, and to truly trust him come what may.
SG: In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes… “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” How should a faithful Christian who prays for relief from anxiety or fear but continues to experience distress interpret this passage?
MV: When we struggle with anxiety we need to remember that anxiety is the symptom and not the primary problem. Recurring anxiety is often caused by some deeply rooted thought patterns and beliefs often times related to some sort of emotional wounding. So, while our desire is to be free from anxiety our need is to be healed at a much deeper level and that is usually going to take time. And, in fact, most healing that Christians experience via prayer does not come instantly but gradually over time. But, in the midst of this we can be reassured that God is guarding our hearts and minds.
SG: In your message you talked about the idea that all healing is incomplete this side of heaven. What did you mean by that?
MV: I think this is a really important thought. Even when people receive healing from God, the healing is not complete and final. They’ll get sick again, one way or another, and eventually we all die. So, even though God does miraculous things every one of us we only experience incomplete healing. This has to do with the fact that the kingdom of God is here now but only in part and not in full. But the GOOD NEWS is that one day, when Jesus returns, the kingdom will come in fullness and all of us who trust in Jesus will experience complete and final healing.
Mike Vonderau is an Associate Pastor at Bay Presbyterian Church in Bay Village, Ohio.
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