Although we and others have witnessed encouraging results when ministering to the sick in hospitals (see Amazing Adventures of a Hospice Chaplain), we do not teach or encourage the practice of attempting to “empty out a hospital.”
First of all, Jesus himself generally did not go around looking for sick people to heal and then healing them all. For example in John 5 Jesus chose to heal only one invalid man among the likely many others at the pool in Bethesda who were waiting for the water to be stirred. At any times, as in Luke 4:40, he healed all who were brought to him by the people. The important consideration is that these whom he healed were brought to him by the people. He generally did not go around looking for people to heal as would be the case if we went into a hospital. Rather, he generally healed those who came to him or who were brought to him.
However, if the Lord clearly instructs a specific disciple to go to a hospital to minister to the sick, by all means he or she should obey.
In The Elijah Challenge, we are not teaching a formula by which the sick can be healed without fail anytime and anywhere according to our whim.
- God is indeed sovereign, and He might not choose to heal a specific person at a specific time in accordance with His own purposes.
- The context is important. The power and authority over disease and demons Christ gives to his disciples is primarily for the purpose of evangelism, that is, proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost and demonstrating to them that He is in fact the Son of God and the only way to the Father.
- We are not given unlimited power and authority over disease and demons as only Jesus has.
- Some infirm people, for example in a hospital, might not want to be healed by Jesus and would rather prefer to trust in medical science. The Lord generally does not force people to be healed against their will any more than He would force people to be saved.
- Finally, just as the disciples failed to drive out the demon from the epileptic boy in Matthew 17, it is possible for us to fail to minister healing or deliverance effectively. The reason for their failure, in that incident at least, was made clear to them by Jesus when they asked Him why they could not drive it out.
However, we do teach in accordance with Scripture that when we are sharing the gospel of the kingdom of God with the lost—especially to gospel-resistant Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and idol-worshipers who never heard—it is generally His will for the sick among them to be healed as a demonstration of the absolute truth of the gospel to them.
Luke 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
It is moreover imperative to recognize that the power and authority Jesus entrusts to his disciples is clearly not to be identified with the gift of healing as taught in 1 Corinthians 12. The power and authority over diseases and demons was delegated in the gospels well before Pentecost for the specific purpose of preaching the kingdom of God to the lost. By contrast, the gift of healing was made available beginning only at Pentecost for the common good of the body of Christ, and on top of that was not given to every disciple. The power and authority are clearly different from the gift of healing, and not to be conveniently lumped together to be dismissed.
Growing up to become like Jesus and to do what He did
As followers and disciples of Jesus Christ, we should want to mature to become like Him in holiness as well as to do the works that He did (John 14:12). Jesus preached the gospel, healed the sick, cast out demons, and made disciples; and this is what we should learn to do. Jesus of course was the most effective preacher of the gospel ever. We desire to learn to preach the gospel as effectively as He did. But as we are growing in soul-winning effectiveness, we will obviously experience “failures” along the way when the gospel is rejected for some reason.
In the same way, we desire to minister to the sick and demonized as effectively as Jesus did when He exercised power and authority over diseases and demons. But as we grow in the use of this power and authority—just as we can grow in proficiency in evangelism and sharing the gospel—we will experience “failures” along the way when for some reason the sick are not healed or the demonized not delivered.
For these and the other considerations set forth above, we generally do not send people into hospitals expecting to empty them out. Although again, if the Lord specifically directs us to do this, we should obey. In this way a dead woman in Indonesia was raised back to life by trained disciples before a roomful of astonished Muslims who were praying to Allah to receive her spirit into their paradise just before she was to be buried.
God uses us to perform the greatest miracle of all
A sinner accepting Christ and being born-again is the greatest miracle of all. If the Lord can use us to share the gospel to a sinner who repents, we have had a part in the greatest miracle of all. Why can God—for whom nothing is impossible—not use us in the lesser miracles like ministering healing to the sick and demonized (and even raising the dead) as confirmation that Jesus is the only way to the Father to gospel-resistant peoples who never heard?