March 8, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Root of our Skeptism”

Mark 1:21-34 (ESV)

And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. 29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

A great number of evangelical, Bible-believing Christians don’t truly believe that God performs miraculous healings today.  These views are largely shaped by the negative publicity of healing ministries and their leaders, who make a fortune on the misfortune of others.  Investigations show little documented evidence of the names and illnesses that they have healed, and some even use actors to fake healings.  These ministries seem to be a far cry from the way Jesus healed in the Gospels, and appear to be driven more by money than faith.

In the midst of these kinds of lies and deceptive practices, I see why it is so easy for thoughtful Christians to dismiss any account of miraculous healing or to doubt the power of prayer.  However, the one institution that should be an expert on healing has long been embroiled in debates about whether or not faith and prayer has real efficacy in healing their patients. The medical school establishment here in the United States, which is among the best in the world, has long seen the connection between spirituality and healing.  Obviously, there is a great amount of debate here and the studies are inconclusive, but in the 2003 November edition of Newsweek magazine, it was reported that—at the time—nearly half of all medical schools offered a class called “Spirituality and Medicine.” Ten years prior, the number of schools that offered this type of class was only three.

It seems that a great number of doctors and those who are experts in medicine cannot readily dismiss the unexplainable connection between faith and healing.  Newsweek magazine—along with many other reputable publications—have had some interesting articles from a secular standpoint on the power of God to heal.  (The one cited in this blog can be found in the 2003 Newsweek entitled “Faith and Healing.”) In fact, while doing some research, I was surprised to find that there was an archive of actual documented cases of miraculous healing in the library at the UC San Diego School of Medicine.  These patients had terminal diseases, such as inoperable cancer, but for reasons unknown to the doctors all symptoms of the disease were healed.    Clearly, there seems to be some opposing arguments against the notion that God does not heal miraculously today.  It is a sad day when the secular world seems to have greater faith than some parts of the church, and it is a challenge for us to develop a proper understanding of the biblical ministry of healing.

Prayer: Lord, give us the faith to believe that You are our Healer.  Though You may not heal us completely in this lifetime, we know that at the resurrection, we will be made whole and complete.  In the meantime, as we struggle with pain and the impermanence of our earthly bodies, help us to resist the lies of the enemy that You cannot heal us today.  Just as You walked through the crowds and healed all their disease, we trust that healing is in Your hands.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Joshua 24


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18(ESV): But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What does it mean to have treasures in jars of clay?
  2. Why should we not lose heart in the midst of suffering and persecution?
  3. What is the purpose of our temporary afflictions?

Notes:

  1. The treasure that every believer holds in their heart is the knowledge of the glory of God. However, that treasure is held in our fragile, breakable, and temporary earthly bodies—this is a striking contrast of something so valuable and priceless being held in something so ordinary.  Therefore, what gives us worth is the treasure that is held in these earthen vessels; and our power comes from God and not from ourselves.
  2. Because of the light of Christ that is renewing us day by day. Though our outer bodies might show signs of aging and begin to waste away, our inner self is being transformed from one glory to another through the work of the Holy Spirit.  This is why growing spiritually is so vitally important for the believer; it reminds us that though our flesh might be destroyed, yet with our eyes we will one day see God.
  3. Our temporary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond compare. The suffering that we go through in this life shapes our character, increase our faith, and grow our dependence of God.  These things, however, are merely preparations for an incomparable glory that God will bestow to us when we see Him face to face.  On that day, we will be made like Christ—in all His perfection and glory!

Evening Reflection

Are you living in light of eternity and with an eternal perspective?  Perhaps you are going through some difficult times with your health, the unexpected passing of a loved one, or some tragedy in your family.  May the power of Christ’s resurrection fill your heart with hope, and provide you with the strength to overcome your current situation!

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