HEALING AND EVANGELISM
More than twenty-five years ago, a desperate mother in Europe took her critically ill son to a Christian service where he could be prayed for. The boy was miraculously healed. In gratefulness, the mother sought to learn more about the Christian relationship with God that was responsible for her son's health. The mother and son were Gypsies.
As a result of this one healing, a tremendous revival/renewal broke out among the entire Gypsy population in Europe. Before too many years, the renewal entered the United States and has been going strong here in North Texas.
I wrote a story about what God was doing among area Gypsies for the Garland News in September, 1991 and published another story in the Dallas Morning News the following year.
In 1988 there were about half a dozen Gypsy members of Praise Temple Assembly of God in Garland. They asked the pastor, Mike Townsend if he would mind having a service just for them so they could invite their families. Since then, out of an estimated 500 who lived in the area, the band of Gypsy worshipers had grown to about 100 by 1991. They were hungry for the Word of God. Pastor Townsend told me that when he would pray for them, they'd line up in a long line, even the little children. At the time I wrote my stories, he'd baptized about 50 people and had seen lives remarkably changed.
I interviewed one Gypsy named David Marks who was an "elder" for the Gypsy congregation. He told me, "Every day since I've been a Christian, there is not a night when I don't get a call from people wanting me to come read the scripture to them, tell them about salvation, repentance, baptism, communion. When they hear through the scriptures of the Bible, about the power of God, they want to be baptized right then."
All this has happened from one healing miracle in Europe years ago! And this is a group of people with many who do not understand some of the words in our English Bible. (There is no Romani Bible translation.) The traditional Gypsy religion that has been passed down to them by their ancestors is a mixture of Catholicism, tradition, and superstition.)
Marks told me, "We figured our ancestors wouldn't mislead us. Then we found out that maybe they didn't do it purposely, but now the truth is being preached. If you're hungry for the Lord, He will provide what you need."
The ongoing story of the Gypsy people is a classic example of the place of healing in evangelism. Is this something we can pray for or expect God to do? Is it scriptural to approach healing from an evangelistic standpoint - or - approach evangelism from a healing standpoint?
Look at the following stories:
Obviously, from these passages we can see that Jesus, by example and command, linked healing and deliverance with evangelism. In every instance, even if healing was done without a crowd around, it did not take place in isolation and we can see that the result of a healing was always people either praising God, giving glory to God, or it resulted in antagonism against God, the person healed, or the person through whom the healing came. (The pray-er)
Consider the story of Lazarus John 11:49-53 12:10-11 The non-believers not only made plans to kill Jesus, they wanted to kill Lazarus too!
OK so what do you do with the two times Jesus rebuked the people about wanting miracles when He called the people a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks for a sign, and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah? Luke 11:20, Matthew 12:39, Matthew 16:4.
In context, scripture very carefully shows that both times Jesus is asked for a sign, it is just after having performed a miracle. One request came immediately after Jesus had healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. The other request was right after He'd miraculously fed 4,000. Both requests were asked by the Pharisees - people who were not sincerely seeking God or truth. So taken in context, is it obvious that
Jesus was not rebuking the desire for signs per sae, He was rebuking the demand for signs from an evil and unbelieving heart.
This is the only conclusion we can come to in light of all His other teachings, His example, His commands, and the story of what God did in the first century.
"But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me." John 10:25
"If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works; that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." John 14:11
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation...and these signs will accompany those who have believed; in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."...And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. Mark 16:15,17,18,20
After the church was formed in the book of Acts, the church encountered its first form of persecution. Instead of cowering behind closed doors or abandoning the faith, the Christians gathered together and prayed. Verse 24 of Acts 4 makes a point of letting us know that they lifted their voice to God with one accord. Since they were so united in prayer, what did they pray for and what did they expect?
"And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence, while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy holy Servant Jesus." Mark 4:29,30
And what did they get?
"And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul...and with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all." Acts 4:31,32,33
"And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people...And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number; to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets, and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on any one of them." Acts 5:12,14,15
They had not prayed with an evil desire. The result was an outpouring of signs and wonders. Later, the apostle Paul tells us to desire earnestly spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 14:1) Healing is one of the spiritual gifts. Jack Deere, in his book, "Surprised by the Power of the Spirit" sums it up the best:
"The kingdom of God means the rule of God. God rules over our spirits and our bodies and over those forces of evil that can wound both our spirits and our bodies. Whatever Satan can wound, Christ can heal. Miracles and the kingdom of God are inseparably linked." (p. 226)
Now, there are all kinds of groups out "there" that are experiencing miraculous things. And not all of them are fake. They are very real. What do we do about them? Avoid praying and believing for miracles because we don't want to be linked to the counterfeit? No! We need to remember that miracles do not validate the scriptures; the Scriptures validate miracles.
Scripturally, miracles from God always have something to do with building up the kingdom of God and with God's glory.
So what does all this have to do with us,? How does all this affect us? In my mind, it all boils down to one question. How full of miracles is my life? We need to ask ourselves, when was the last time I either experienced a miracle of healing or was used by God to be a channel for healing? I look at the scriptures and see that, if I personally am not living a life full of these kinds of miracles, I need to give serious attention to why it's not happening.
“The Christian faith affects people in proportion to their conviction of its truth. Yet many who claim to be Christians give so little time and attention to cultivating their faith that they live unaffected lives. They feel virtually nothing about what they believe. It is inattention that dissipates their feelings. For no one can look at Christianity's truths, being fully persuaded of their truth, and not feel deeply in response.” Lectures on Revival by Charles G. Finney, p. 94
“Healing is a great avenue for evangelism. Let us not neglect the evangelistic element of our healing ministry. Healing Insights from the Scriptures by Ian MacPherson, Sharing Magazine, p. 18, Feb. 1996