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In 1990, seven of our members made a significant decision to enrol in an Australian university in order to make ourselves more effective in obeying the command of Jesus to "heal the sick". At the time we discussed the risk that such a decision involved. We were essentially putting our minds into the hands of the secular academic system for several years. Such an experiment could easily result in a loss of faith, and a subtle conversion to the values of a godless academic world.

We discovered almost immediately that there was nothing subtle at all about much of the Australian education regimen. Lecturers demanded extremely long hours and strict adherence to prescribed guidelines. But there were other pressures which were more subtle... pressures which came through friendships formed on campus, through adulation heaped on successful students, through constant ridicule of Christian "superstitions", etc. As a result, five of those students left our fellowship, and they all appear to have forsaken earlier plans to use their technical skills in India or in some other Third World country.

We found that these students had difficulty even before they left us with our rather gentle emphasis on prayer and miracles as part of the healing ministry. It became increasingly more difficult to get them to incorporate such an emphasis into the daily routine of the clinic that we started at Vision 2000, in India.

We still believe that education is a good thing; but we believe it must include at least as much emphasis on the teachings of Jesus and their relevance to all aspects of life, as what it does on analgesics, antibiotics, and surgery. If we had it to do over, we would not encourage higher education if it could not be obtained under those conditions.

The story of the Tower of Babel teaches that man's pitiful achievements often give him the impression that he has become equal with God; and that is when God has to "confound" him in one way or another, in order to make it clear just how pitiful we really are by comparison to the Creator of the universe.

Even the story of the Garden of Eden is confusing to us today, with our great respect for science and learning; for in the Garden the forbidden fruit grows on the "Tree of Knowledge." Knowledge is sacred in today's scientific world; and yet knowledge of any sort can separate people from God, if it is not seen for the foolishness that it is in comparison to God's greater wisdom. (I Corinthians 1:25)

Our own healing ministry is little more than a "gimmick" by comparison to the overriding importance of leading people to eternal life. Shocking as it may sound, when healing becomes an end in itself, it becomes a tool of the devil. The reason we say this is because we have noticed that God is not so interested in whether we live or die as he is in whether or not we have faith in him. He is also more interested in teaching us important spiritual truths and attitudes than he is in our physical comfort. If we lose sight of these eternal perspectives, it leads to error in other areas, not least of which is the belief that godless doctors, interested only (or primarily) in making money, who just happen to save lives in the process, are doing a great service for God, and that they should be recognised for their greatness.

Healing, we believe, is just one way to express our love for people who are basically "carnal" (i.e. obsessed with the needs and desires of their flesh). But we too become carnal if we preach healing as an end in itself.

We are only on this planet for a short time as part of an eternal experiment to teach us faith in God. All the healings in the world will not take away the fact that we are all going to die. When we do, God won't look at how many times we were healed, but he'll look at our faith... or our lack of it.

The training that some of our members had in nursing, medicine, and science would have helped them to more effectively communicate the love of God to people who are suffering. But because they did not direct the glory to a God who was bigger than life, the end result of their "ministries" is most likely to be a destruction of faith in God and a replacement faith in themselves or in medicine. This is as bad as the health and wealth obsession of the charismatics. Our message is not health and wealth; it is eternal life. And it can only come by being willing to forsake everything else (including life itself) in order to take up our cross and follow Jesus in faith.

We look at charismatics who pray for healing, but refuse to take medicine, and we pity their ignorance and superstition. Most of them are hoping that God will reward their willingness to forego medicine by healing them miraculously; but experience indicates that, apart from natural, gradual recovery, miraculous healing is the exception rather than the rule in the lives of these people. They are drawn into "claiming" healings that never really happened, and because of this, there is a quiet desperation as they each struggle to find the key that will unlock the power of God in their lives. How sad!

But the fundamental problem is the same one that seems to have affected our nursing and medical students: The focus was all on healing rather than on faith.

Real faith may be found in the heart of a person who says, "God, I'm not sure if you want me to take medicine, so just to be safe, I won't take it, and I'll suffer or even die if that is what you want." The patient may die, and on the hospital's cure chart they would be listed as a failure. But when it comes to the true healing of the spirit that Jesus was advocating, they may be the only true successes. For real faith is total submission to the will of God.

Of course there are also those who resign themselves to God's will, who are healed miraculously (or who recover gradually). There are probably many others who pray a similar prayer, in resignation to God's will, and then hear God say, "Use the medicine. That's what I provided it for." We would count both groups as spiritual successes.

What a shame that blind faith in medicine stops some from considering the possibility that death may be God's treatment of choice; and what a shame that others are not even open to hearing God prescribe medical treatment. Some who refuse medicine die in faith; but far more die in religious pride, trying to tempt God into doing a miracle so that they can look good to their religious friends.

True faith will be open to whatever God chooses. It may lead us to forsake medicine at times, in favour of a higher (i.e. eternal) form of healing for which only Jesus himself can receive the glory . This is something that the academics find difficult to fathom, because it goes beyond their preoccupation with the biological model. Nevertheless, it is the model which we must offer and which the world most needs.

(See also Heal the Sick.)

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