Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
Authored By :
Published On :
January 21, 1999
Last Updated :
July 6, 2012
Of Paul's Thorn In The Flesh, God's Grace Is Sufficient, God Keeps Us Humble Through Our Afflictions, My Personal Journey To Heal My Vision, Humbled By My Pride, Presumptuous Faith, Questions We Ask When Our Prayers Go Unanswered, Prayer And Fasting, Frivolous Prayer Requests, Don't Question The Lord, Embrace God's Ways By Faith, God's Unknowable Thoughts, Count Our Blessings And Be Thankful, Just Be Honest With Ourselves, Faith Through The Word, Pray For Each Other's Healing, Faith Is A Two-Way Operation, Our Lack Of Faith Can Limit God, His Strength Is Made Perfect In Weakness, Paradox Of The Apostle Paul's Gift Of Healing, Jesus Could Have Saved Himself In The Garden Of Gethsemane, Ordained To A Ministry Of Afflictions
Returning to my Christian friend, in the message which he sent to me, he asked me if I felt that it was alright for him to use man's wisdom and technology as a means to correct his visual problem. In his message, he used the phrase "the bad eye that God gave me". Let me pose a question to my readers. If you really believe that the Lord has given you a certain affliction in the flesh, is it appropriate to take the time to ask Him why He may have given you the affliction? Please do not misinterpret my words. I am not trying to make anyone feel condemned. When it comes to sin and imperfection, we're all in the same boat, as is made perfectly clear by verses such as the following:
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
Isaiah 64:6, KJV
"If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?"
Psalms 130:3, KJV
"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:"
Malachi 3:2, KJV
"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one . . . But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"
Romans 3:10, 21-23, KJV
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;"
Titus 3:5, KJV
Furthermore, as the Apostle Paul likewise wrote in His Epistle to the brethren at Rome:
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Romans 8:1, KJV
So again, it is only by the Grace and Mercy of God that any of us stand. Furthermore, it is only by that same Grace and Mercy, which is bestowed upon us when we accept the Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that any of us will be permitted to enter God's glorious Kingdom, and walk the golden streets of the Heavenly City, New Jerusalem. Personally, I have no doubt that if such a wonderful Gift is bestowed upon me, my very first reaction will be to cry profusely like a baby, because I will feel so unworthy of such an honor. How about you?
At any rate, the point I wish to make is the following: If a person is truly convinced that God has given him a particular affliction, should he not also accept that the Lord possesses the means to remove the affliction from him if He so desires?
As I explain quite extensively in the series entitled "Death: Final Battle, Final Victory", what we each do in regards to our bodily afflictions is really a matter of personal faith. However, our faith must be aligned with God's Will. As we saw in part one, concerning his "thorn in the flesh", the Apostle Paul wrote "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me." Some Christians speculate that Paul may possibly have been referring to poor eyesight, which may have resulted from his amazing and frightening encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Personally, I am not certain that this theory is correct.
One of the reasons why I embrace this position is because in Acts chapter nine we are informed that the Lord sent Ananias to heal Paul's eyes. We are very specifically told that Paul was blind for three days, and that afterwards he received his sight. Consider the following verses which clarify these points:
"And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink . . . And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized."
Acts 9:8-9, 17-18, KJV
For me personally, to entertain the possibility that Paul still had problems with his eyesight afterwards, suggests that the Lord did not really heal Paul of his blindness. At the very least, it suggests that the Lord did not heal Paul completely. Quite frankly, I am not aware of any incidents in the Bible where the Lord partially healed a person. What kind of glory would the Lord receive from "half-healings"? The mere idea of "half-healings" seems totally contrary to God's Word, which plainly teaches us the following:
"God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?"
Numbers 23:19, KJV
"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:"
Isaiah 59:1, KJV
It is plain to see then that God is a man of His word, and He always keeps His word, whatever it happens to be. The New Testament informs us that Jesus sent Ananias to heal Paul's eyesight, and that is precisely what Ananias did. Allow me to also point out that Paul's temporary blindness resulted from his direct encounter with the Lord; yet in discussing his affliction, whatever it was, he states that "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me". If Paul's temporary blindness was a result of his encounter with the Lord -- which the Lord later healed through Ananias -- then for Paul to say that his affliction was due to a messenger of Satan, seems totally unrelated to the events which occurred in Acts chapter nine.
Obviously then, Paul's affliction must have been something else. In addition to what Paul states in the previous verse, we are given another indication that it had something to do with some physical weakness, by the following statement that Paul also makes in his second Epistle to the Corinthians:
"For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible."
2 Corinthians 10:10, KJV
While we can debate all day regarding the exact nature of the Apostle Paul's affliction -- or thorn in the flesh -- the key point that I wish to make doesn't really concern what kind of affliction Paul had, but rather how the Lord chose to respond when Paul asked Him three times to remove the affliction from him. What did the Lord tell Paul? He said the following:
". . . My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9a, KJV
In other words, based upon Paul's own words in the previous verses when he twice states "lest I should be exalted above measure", it seems to me that he readily recognized that the the Lord was basically saying to him, "No Paul. I'm sorry; but you need this affliction. You've been a self-righteous Pharisee all of your life, and this is the only way that I can keep you humble, in order that you might remain useful to Me. This way you are forced to rely on My strength, and not on your own". As the Lord also instructed the Prophet Zechariah to tell Zerubbabel in the Old Testament:
". . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts."
Zechariah 4:6b, KJV
In his message to me, my friend's basic concern was whether or not it is alright to use prescription lenses, because, as he stated, they are made by man, whereas our sight is given to us by the Lord. To answer his question, allow me to share another interesting -- and perhaps amusing -- testimony from my own life.
Over four decades ago, when I first dedicated my life to the Lord, I became associated with a religious fellowship which had a center in the northeastern part of the United States of America. This particular organization embraced Divine Healing as one of the tenets of its faith. On a side note, allow me to mention that to this day, I honestly do not recall having ever witnessed a bona fide on-the-spot miracle of healing. I will discuss this subject more at length in a moment.
At any rate, I was a very proud, young lad of eighteen years of age. I had never smoked cigarettes. I never swore. I never drank any kind of alcohol. I also never engaged in sex. As a result, I was very self-righteous, and no doubt viewed myself as being in good standing with the Lord. Lord forgive me for foolishly entertaining such proud thoughts!
One particular day, we had a Bible study regarding the topic of faith and healing. By the time the class was over, I was very inspired, and I had convinced myself that I was full of faith. Thus, without informing my older brothers in the Lord, I promptly went upstairs, I claimed a few verses from God's Word, and I boldly told the Lord that I had the faith to have my vision completely restored. To demonstrate my utter faith in His Word, and because I knew that faith must be backed by actual works, I took off my glasses, and I broke them right in half in front of the Lord.
In other words, I totally burned my bridges, and there was absolutely no turning back. After all, we did not have Crazy Glue back then; and because of the manner in which my glasses had broken, tape would not suffice. Well, needless-to-say, I was not able to see properly for the next month either until a new pair of glasses had been purchased for me! What a very humbling experience that was! It seems that my faith was not what I had assumed it to be. This is what is referred to as presumptuous faith. We presume to have faith for something, when perhaps we really don't. For whatever our reasons, we deceive ourselves and we fool ourselves. We become blinded by our own pride.
In my case, even after I had experienced this embarrassing incident, I still was unable to recognize this truth. Thus, I continued to wonder why my eyes had not been restored to 20/20 vision. What had I missed? What was I doing wrong? Why hadn't the Lord honored my faith? Was I still displeasing Him in some way? Had I been found unworthy of healing? I do not doubt that there are many other Christians similar to myself who have probably asked themselves the very same kind of questions when their particular prayer petition has not been granted to them by the Lord.
Well, time passed, and about three years later I was doing the Lord's Work down in Florida. Once again -- the second time now, mind you -- the desire grew within me to have my eyes healed by the Lord. That time, I think I was a little wiser; because instead of just breaking my glasses as I had done on the previous occasion, I simply chose to not wear them for a while as I waited for the miracle of healing to occur. I think that I may have even fasted for a few days -- drinking only water -- in accordance with verses such as the following:
"In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled."
Daniel 10:2-3, KJV
"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred."
Matthew 4:1-2, KJV
"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."
Matthew 6:16-18, KJV
"Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast."
Matthew 9:14-15, KJV
"Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
Matthew 17:21, KJV
"And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered."
Luke 4:1-2, KJV
"And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting."
Mark 9:29, KJV
"And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink."
Acts 9:8-9, KJV
"And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed."
Acts 14:23, KJV
For a more in-depth look at the practice of fasting, please consider reading the article entitled "The Biblical Practice of Fasting". To continue my narrative, despite my sincerity, and my willingness to follow the Rule Book, as had happened on the previous occasion, no miracle of healing occurred, and my vision was not improved in the least. Again I wondered why God did not seem to hear my supplications. What was I doing wrong? Was I so unworthy? Were my personal sins so grievous? Was I so despicable in His sight? Had the age of miracles passed?
Well, some four years later, I found myself in Mexico; and again the desire grew within me to have my eyes healed by the Lord. That time I really went all out to demonstrate my faith before the Lord. I fasted and prayed for a full week non-stop, while I kept up my regular witnessing activities. All I did was drink water during that period, and nothing else -- not even bread -- as I recall. By the end of that week, not only was I extremely weak, but I was about ready to see my own kind of "heavenly visions" as well.
Similar to the Apostle Paul, that incident was my third and most desperate plea before the Lord to heal my eyes. As you can imagine, He did not do it. That last attempt to restore my eyes to 20/20 vision occurred twenty-five years ago, and I have not made any further attempts since that time. It is obvious to me now that it is apparently not God's Will for this to occur in my life. Aside from all of the questions that I posed a moment ago, the one other possibility which has occurred to me -- and perhaps to you too -- is that the Lord simply does not view my less-than-perfect vision as a major physical problem that requires healing.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this series, there are a lot of people in the world who suffer from health issues that are much worse than my own; so maybe God views my desire to have my eyes restored to 20/20 vision as a frivolous request. Perhaps that is why, despite my endeavors to be healed, the Lord has chosen to ignore my prayers and fasts. While I have offered a number of different possibilities which may or may not explain the situation regarding my eyes, as I mentioned earlier, perhaps the real answer lies in what the Lord told the Apostle Paul when he too desired healing:
". . . My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9a, KJV
Perhaps another lesson that God is trying to teach some of us regarding our afflictions, is that we should not question His ways. Instead, we should embrace them by faith, knowing that He will never allow anything to happen in our lives, unless He knows that it is for our own good. As the Patriarch Job, the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul all inform us, God's ways and thoughts are simply too profound for our limited minds to grasp. To even attempt such a thing, as some modern men of science try to do, is pure folly. As the Apostle Paul also wrote, considering that we are mere vessels of clay, who are we to question our Maker concerning why He has made us thus? Consider the following verses:
"Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number."
Job 9:10, KJV
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9, KJV
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"
Romans 11:33, KJV
"Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?"
Romans 9:20, KJV
In addition to my previous thoughts, it is also possible that through our many trials and afflictions of our weak, mortal flesh, the Lord is simply trying to teach us to be thankful for what we do have. As I mentioned in part one regarding the old Arab proverb, God may be endeavoring to teach us to not complain, and to count our blessings instead. It seems to me that as with the Apostle Paul, we all need to learn to say the following:
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
Philippians 4:11, KJV
Allow me to share another thought. Perhaps it is time that we are all honest with God, with ourselves, and with each other, regarding our faith. Regardless of how humbling it might be for us, sometimes we need to simply admit that we do not have the faith that we should have. In my particular case, while God has blessed me with the Gift to write many Scripture-filled articles which feed and inspire my family in the Lord, in the area of faith and personal healing, it is apparent that I am rather weak. I am no spiritual giant.
Perhaps this revelation may come as a surprise to some of you who have known me for a while. After all, I have known the Lord for many years; during which time I have studied, memorized and quoted His Word extensively. Based upon what the Apostle Paul wrote regarding faith in the following verse, one would think that I should be absolutely full of enough faith to move mountains by now, yet I can't, and I don't:
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Romans 10:17, KJV
For a more in-depth look at this topic, you may wish to read such articles as "The Faith of a Little Child" and "Faith and the Shroud of Turin: No Sign Shall Be Given".
Despite my many years of studying God's Word, and even though a number of my dear Christian friends have earnestly prayed for my health, I am none the better for it; at least not in any way that I can discern. Of course, perhaps I would be in a lot worse condition if they were not praying for me! I am certain that the problem is not on their end. Surely God will honor their fervent prayers. After all, they are not asking for something selfishly. Rather, they are obeying God's Word by petitioning for another brother's needs. As the Apostle James writes in his Epistle:
"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."
James 5:14-15, KJV
So why aren't my friends' prayers being answered in regards to my health? One thing we need to realize is that prayer, faith and healing is a two-way operation. No matter how much faith may be possessed by the persons making the petition, the person being prayed for must also possess the faith to receive the blessing. For example, we know that Jesus was not given the Spirit by measure. He was given the Power by His Father to perform many great miracles. Yet notice that we find verses like the following in the New Testament:
"Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you."
Matthew 9:29, KJV
"And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."
Matthew 13:58, KJV
It seems that it is possible then for us to actually limit God -- and the miracles which He chooses to perform -- by our own lack of faith. At least that is how I personally understand the previous two verses. I am also reminded of the following verse that is found in the Gospel of Luke:
". . . Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"
Luke 18:8b, KJV
As far as my personal health is concerned, I do not believe that my lack of healing is a result of doubting God's Word. I believe His Word, and I know that He can heal me if He so chooses. However, I have come to accept that the Lord simply does not wish to heal me of my light afflictions. In other words, perhaps my friends' prayers have not been answered, simply because they are not in accordance with God's perfect Will for my life. As I said earlier, similar to the Apostle Paul, perhaps my very weaknesses serve to glorify God more in my life. To reiterate, the Lord said "my strength is made perfect in weakness."
While this may at first strike some of you as being rather odd, consider the following. We have already seen that Paul suffered some kind of affliction in the flesh. Yet at the same time, we find verses like the following in the Book of Acts:
"And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them."
Acts 19:11-12, KJV
"And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:"
Acts 28:3-9, KJV
What an absolute paradox! Here we have a man -- Paul -- who remained totally unaffected by the poisonous bite of a viper, and who had such a powerful anointing upon his person, that just touching his clothing resulted in people being healed. Yet at the same time, Paul still possessed an affliction in his flesh of which he could not be rid, even though he had asked the Lord to do so on three different occasions. I am likewise reminded of the following verse where Jesus' bitter enemies accused Him of not being able to save Himself as He hung on the Cross:
"Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save."
Mark 15:31, KJV
Obviously, Jesus could very well have saved Himself the agony of the Cross if He had so desired it. After all, as the Lord informed Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane after Peter had drawn his sword, He could have asked His Father for twelve legions of Angels, as we see by the following verses:
"And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?"
Matthew 26:51-54, KJV
Is it possible that some of us are called to a similar type of ministry? In other words, while we are able to help save, feed, encourage and even heal others through the particular work which the Lord has given each of us to do, insofar as our personal well-being is concerned, like Paul, perhaps the Lord prefers to keep us in a state of personal weakness, and suffering from a variety of afflictions, in order to ensure that we will remain humble, and totally dependent upon Him.
Please go to part three for the conclusion of this series.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .