I think most everyone has heard the phrase “health and wealth gospel.”
In a nutshell, the basic idea of the health and wealth gospel is that God wants us to be wealthy and healthy.
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The downside of that preaching is the condemnation that occurs for those who do not experience wealth or health. And there are many who occupy that camp.
It is an especially American gospel, but it has been picked up by others in foreign lands.
While there is just enough truth in the things that are taught to make it sound legitimate, there is enough leaven in it to know that it should be avoided.
The condemnation I mentioned comes as a result of not measuring up to the promises of this particular gospel.
If you are lacking in either health or wealth, you are often told it is because of your lack of faith.
That is not very encouraging.
There is, though, a scriptural basis for that kind of negative thinking found in the NIV translation.
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
Mat 13:58 NIV
The problem here is that the translators have taken the word “unbelief”—which is how it is translated in every other translation including the KJV—and made it into a lack of faith.
You may ask what is the difference between unbelief and a lack of faith?
A lack of faith is just that—non-existent—there is no faith present.
Unbelief is an active resistance to believing.
Compare how the NIV translates Mk 16:14 with the ESV
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
Mar 16:14 NIV
Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.
Mar 16:14 ESV
Can you see the “refusal to believe?” It is an active resistance.
That is quite different from just a lack of faith—of not having faith.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s consider the concept of a simple lack of faith instead of an active resistance.
What happens for those who have no faith?
In the realm of the health and wealth gospel, if one is healed from a sickness, they are told it is because of the great faith and power of the minister.
If they are not healed, they are told it is because of the sick person’s lack of faith.
However, there is an often overlooked portion of scripture about Jesus’ ministry that we should consider from the Gospel of John.
In these lay a multitude of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
This is the story of the Healing at the Pool of Bethesda.
There are a few things about this story that we should take note of as we consider the faith we need in order to be healed.
First thing is that there was a multitude of sick people in this place.
I have heard many people say that if they could be given the gift of faith, they would go into the hospital and get everybody healed.
However, I would offer that Jesus probably had more faith than all of us put together could ever muster.
Yet He only healed one person out of that multitude.
Not everyone. Not two or three.
Jesus approached that one man and asked him if he wanted to be healed.
What a question!!
Why do people go to the hospital?
To get healed.
Why were so many sick people lying around the pool of Bethesda?
They were hoping to be healed.
And Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed.
But what was the man’s answer?
Jesus asked him a plain question to which a yes or a no would have been the proper response.
But, as is so often the case, the man could not answer such a direct question.
He offered an excuse, a reason why he had not yet been healed.
I experience that on a regular basis.
I will ask a closed ended question for a yes or no response, but instead I get an explanation as to why something is the way it is.
The man said he didn’t have anyone to help him be healed.
What did Jesus do? How did Jesus respond?
He healed the man.
Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
QUESTION—Where was the man’s faith?
Jesus did not ask him if he believed.
He did not ask him if he thought he could be healed.
Jesus simply took the matter into His own hands and healed the man who had no faith.
Jesus supplied what the man was lacking.
He met him where he was and gave him what he needed in order to believe.
The last time I was with you, I told you that God would meet anyone wherever they are with whatever they need.
This is just one more example of that.
We have here an example of someone being healed who had no faith in the Lord or faith to be healed.
He was destitute and only able to live with a negative mentality, but the Lord met his need.
Now, yes, I know this may be construed as an exception to the rule; but it is just that.
It shows that any hard and fast formula for healing is probably not a good idea.
—The Story of Mr. Bloom—
Mr. Bloom was dying of kidney failure when his daughter-in-law asked me to go pray for him.
He hadn’t eaten in a few days, and had not gone upstairs in weeks.
I went out of a sense of duty. I was not operating with any kind of faith other than obedience to the scriptures.
The man was not a believer as far as I knew. I had never met him.
He had never attended the church I pastored.
But, I went to his home, laid my hands on him and prayed that God would heal him.
That night he asked for supper and after he ate, he went upstairs, got cleaned up and went to bed.
He lived for 6 weeks waiting for his kidney transplant, which extended his life for many years after that.
I was supposed to be the great man of faith and power for the hour, but I had none.
God operated in spite of me, in spite of my lack of faith.
So. What’s the point of all this?
Why do we need to know these stories?
What can we learn from them?
We learn that there are no rules that we must follow in order to get something from God.
Too many people believe that if we just do the right things, say the right words, believe the right things, then God is obligated to perform what we desire.
God is not a puppet on a string being made to dance according to the whims of the people.
He is not a genie in a bottle which must be rubbed a certain way.
He is the God of the universe doing all according to His plan and purpose.
We do the best we can with whatever level of faith we have or don’t have.
But, in the end, whether we get what we wanted or not, we should rest our confidence and our faith on Rom. 8:28
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Let us be like the man who came to Jesus and asked that his son be healed of what appeared to be epilepsy.
Jesus told him anything is possible for the one who believes, and the man cried out “I believe! Help me in the areas I don’t believe.”
Let us not be afraid to admit when our faith is weak or non-existent.
May the lord help our unbelief.