Is it possible to say that healing is connected to the quantity or volume of our faith without questioning God’s character?
The problem is that the Gospels seem to suggest that the Lord values plain faith so much that he responds to it in a way that goes against our instinctive understanding of the Lord’s justice. While we celebrate the Lord’s statement “Your faith has healed you”, surely it can’t be right to say that if someone was not healed then “they didn’t have enough faith”.
But I think if we see that this type of faith is synergistic – i.e. it comes from God but he requires us to put effort into into it too – then we can avoid the problem and still be faithful to the plain meaning of Scripture.
If we do have a part to play then I think the key to that not being “unjust” is to see that our own part in growing in faith is multi-faceted and not entirely down to factors within our control. We might suggest that faith comes through hope inspired by a particular Christian’s testimony, character or ministry. It might come with obedience to God which leads to a realisation that He is faithful. It might come through desperation. It might come through expectancy of God’s faithfulness based on a whole host of other factors: scripture, testimony, general soft-heartedness, intellectual assent and so on. All of these things lead to faith-filled action (prayer, perseverance etc.) I think this understanding of faith matches up with the gospel accounts of healing through faith or lack thereof. I think that leaves us with a healthy view of faith as something akin to an environmental factor (as at Capernaum), and as a personal responsibility, and as a God-given gift. It is something that can arrive suddenly and powerfully by God’s direct intervention, or it can grow with time through experience and discipleship, or it can be inhibited or liberated by the surrounding culture or environment.
In addition to scripture, experience seems to suggest that faith and healing are somehow linked, not quite as tightly as some would like to suggest, but linked nonetheless. It is vital to maintain God’s sovereignty in healing, that in this life he does use our infirmities and suffering to achieve glorious purposes in a way that he will not in the next. It is also important that the emphasis on God’s power does not lead to a self-seeking version of discipleship in which we turn God into a kind of divine butler. However, where we believe that praying once is enough and to pray again questions God’s sovereignty we can produce an environment in which prayer for healing is rare and healing is rare. We also end up with a theology of prayer that is apparently logical but profoundly unbiblical. On the other hand, my own experience suggests that where people expect healing, they pray for healing, often confidently and repeatedly, and people are healed by God. Faith is a complex thing!
Perhaps we should see this type of faith as gift that we can fan into flame through our obedience to the Lord in every area of our lives.
N.B. Sam Storms gave a very good talk at this years Life in the Spirit Conference (http://www.lifeinthespirit.org.uk) on healing and faith from a Reformed & Charismatic perspective. You can listen to it here: http://goo.gl/U0Ika
This post was inspired by an article over at the Theology Matters Blog here: http://whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog/article/more-faith-more-healing