Healers, Faith, and the Coronavirus
“And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. ”
— HEBREWS 11:32–38
One of the most interesting points of conversation for people right across the internet in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic has been the various ways in which people have responded to the situation in their context. How are people handling this situation? Some are panic buying and over stocking on toilet paper. Others are taking as many liberties as possible with their work from home situation in order to rest and spend time with family. Some are in frantic anxiety over job and financial security, while others yet are downloading stock market trading apps in an attempt to make some money with the spare cash in their third savings account. As I think about all these different groups of people and how they are responding to this situation, one group that comes to mind is the so-called ‘faith healers.’ The religious leaders who promise healing and recovery due to their gifts of healing. I think about them because I think about those who are going to be directly affected by the coronavirus and in desperate need of healing and financial recovery. I think about them because if there was ever a time to put that miracle working gift to work, it would be now.
As I surveyed their responses to the coronavirus, I noticed that several churches have cancelled their faith healing services (Bethel Church), while others have postponed theirs (Morris Cerullo). This certainly isn’t a good look, but worse than that is exposes the falsity of their promises of healing and recovery to those who ‘have enough faith.’ It shows that taking verses in the bible, like Isaiah 53:5, and applying them to some promised bodily healing as the apex of Christian faith is not consistent with the intentions of God.
However, this raises a question: if the faith healers are wrong, how should we understand faith in the midst of suffering? This question is not only important in directly challenging the so-called ‘faith healers’ of our generation but also important for those Christians who are suffering from the coronavirus and it’s impacts, and who are wondering whether they have ‘enough faith’ or whether they are even Christians.
In Hebrews chapter 11 we are introduced to a long list of biblical characters who are praised for their faith. The writer of Hebrews points of us to these men and women as examples of faith, and I find that in this season there is no better place to turn to in understanding faith in the midst of suffering than to Hebrews 11.
In verses 32 to 40, of Hebrews 11, we move from a list of names with descriptions of their faith in action to just a list of names, and events (without any names). While we may read earlier characters in Hebrews 11 and see why they were included, it is hard to look at verse 32 to 40 and understand the significance of the inclusion of each name and event. While there are probably many ways to view it, one that I have found helpful is to see that from verse 32 to 35 we see those who were triumphant in faith, and from verse 35 to 38 we see those who didn’t move from weakness to strength but suffered apparent defeat. It would appear to be a contrast between victorious and not so victorious faith.
“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
— HEBREWS 11: 39–40
But why include ‘not-so-victorious faith’ in a list of those who are praised for their faith? The answer is in verse 39 and 40. The message is simple in its essence, faith in and of itself is victorious because God has provided something better! This means that the measure of our victory is not the measure of our earthly success or triumph, our physical healings from the coronavirus or ability to protect our financial assets in the midst of a global pandemic. The measure of our victory is the abundant provision of God who gives us something better than anything we could acquire on earth. It shows that a faith that doesn’t require success, is a success.
The figures in Hebrews 11:32–40 weren’t looking to the circumstantial outcomes of this life to verify the promises of God, they were looking to what was and is better! Some saw promises fulfilled in their lifetime, and others did not. Yet they are all included because faith is not tied to the circumstantial outcomes of our life. Faith does not hold God hostage demanding healing but rather knows that God holds all things. The promises of God are beyond what can be received in this mortal existence. Faith is fixed on something better. Something more secure. More certain. Those who were victorious and those who died in affliction all received something better than the fragile, fickle, insecure promises of this life, and, because of that; they all triumphed.
In this season of the COVID-19 global pandemic, we can look to Hebrews 11 and the witnesses of faith for encouragement in better understanding what faith looks like in the midst of suffering. Faith in the midst of suffering understands that whether I am poor or rich, in the hospital due to the coronavirus or safe at home, made redundant by cutbacks at my company or secure in my new promotion, nothing can quench my faith. Faith lives out in view of an ultimate victory to come. Faith is victory over the insurmountable brutalities of life and the tortuous demons of this world “since God had provided something better for us” (Hebrews 11:40).
-originally published at blackberea.com-