There have been many helpful articles published over the last few weeks which have suggested that it is much better to have faith than to have fear. Especially in relation to the threat of the Coronavirus. Most of the articles have included very good reasons for thinking that way. Faith in God means trusting God as a person and trusting in His promises as promises of a truthful person who can fulfil His promises. Particularly it means trusting in Jesus His beloved Son whom He sent into the world to die on a cross so that sinners [all of us] could be forgiven and be graced with eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. I have often taught on the promises of God in answer to prayer, because such promises are based on His love and faithfulness.
It is a bit surprising, even to me, that I should now be suggesting that the best answer to overcoming the fear that the coronavirus presents to all of us, is love. But I do so for two reasons.
The first reason is that I have seen many folk with a possible over-emphasis on faith in their thinking. I once removed a book from our Healing Ministry Centre bookshelf with a title similar to “Have faith in Faith” because I thought the title gave a wrong message. It is never a matter of having faith in faith, whether it is faith in MY faith, or faith in a particular Bible Teacher’s faith, or faith in the faith of OUR ministry or faith in the faith of our particular church. It is ALWAYS a matter of having faith in God Himself. I would often bellow out at seminars, “It is not having GREAT FAITH in God that matters. Rather it is having a mustard seed-sized faith in a GREAT GOD that makes all the difference.” Our faith should not depend on the Quantity Of The Faith we think we possess. Rather it should depend on the QUALITY OF THE PERSON in whom we have faith, the incomparable Lord Jesus.
Having exercised some form of healing ministry since my ordination over 51 years ago [including being Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Sydney for 18 years] I have been involved with many other believers in praying in faith for the healing of the physically, mentally and spiritually ill. Together we have seen some remarkable if not miraculous [suggested by some medical folk] answers to prayer. I have taught that we should aim to develop our faith by soaking ourselves in the word of God, knowing that faith could increase. Paul wrote about faith, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Rom 10:17. He looked forward to His friends in Corinth growing in faith, “We do not boast beyond limit in the labours of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged.“ 2 Cor 10:15. He wanted their faith to grow and he believed it could.
We need to note however, that faith is not a person. I sometimes described faith like this, “Faith is a key that opens the door to the power of the kingdom of God being released into our human situations.” I would illustrate that by taking out my set of keys and holding up one insignificant key and saying “This little key is the master-key to the resources of this whole Cathedral. A small key opens great resources. A mustard seed-sized faith can move mountains. Let’s pray that our faith may grow and grow and grow until it reaches the size ….. of a grain of mustard seed, and then we will really begin to see things happen.” The resources lie in God Himself, not in the faith through which it may be released, sometimes through the most unlikely people.
The Second Reason Is Much More Personal. [And Deeply personal to me!]
I have been thinking recently about this verse, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18. It had impacted me the more I meditated on it. I think I know why.
My late wife Carole had faith in the Lord for the healing of our children from serious health issues in their infancy and childhood.
She had faith for healing for herself for serious thyroid cancer many years ago.
She had faith for healing for breast cancer during 2 operations and many bouts of radiotherapy.
The biggest challenge to her faith came just a few years ago when her GP looked at her recent tests and said, “Carole, you have advanced uterine cancer.” When she didn’t react as he supposed she should, he replied with, “Carole, you might have only two weeks or two months, or two years at the most to live. You could die anytime.” After a few moments she replied, “Doctor, I’m in a win-win situation. If I keep on living, I have a wonderful Christian and church family here to love and support me. If I am to die, I have a lovely Christian family to go to, in heaven.” He was taken aback. Perhaps as an avowed professed atheist, he had never come across someone who had taken such horrible news so peacefully and calmly.
It meant of course that Carole then placed herself in the hands of dedicated, knowledgeable medical specialists for surgery, radiation [with some success] and later, of necessity, chemotherapy. But all the time she had faith to believe she could be healed. Even when the treatments were not bringing the results we had hoped and prayed for.
Together we would affirm that God is in control of all things and that nothing was impossible for Him, even healing her cancer. We would pray that God’s will might be done in her life and perhaps on my part, a little naughtily suggesting to the Lord that news of her spectacular divine healing might lead to a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in our city, which would bring glory to His name. I knew of course that He could not be spiritually blackmailed, nor does He ever need any prompting to be loving and compassionate.
Carole launched herself even more deeply into the Lord by obeying to the best of her ability, the Two Great Commandments [to love God with every fibre of her being and to seek to allow God’s love to be poured out through her to neighbours and friends.] She began to read aloud whole passages of the Bible every day and to pray in, the truths that she had read. She also began to phone people the Lord had placed in her heart and mind as she meditated on the Lord, following her Bible readings. People throughout Australia and overseas began to get cheery phone calls from her on a regular basis. Many of the calls which had begun on a very serious note ended with peals of laughter. She maintained a deep sense of love, joy and peace even as the cancer appeared to be increasing, but her faith in the power of God to heal, never diminished.
[A bit more personal.] Just a couple of days before I took Carole on what was to be her last trip in our car from home to Emergency at the Hospital, I was helping her walk towards her favourite chair at the far end of the lounge. Suddenly she stopped, looked up into my face and said with great emotion, “Thank you for loving me. Thank you for caring for me.” The words impacted me greatly. I was undone. I think I replied, “It’s because I love you.” There was something special about that moment. It was like a mutual recognition that the Lord who had brought us together and had been with us throughout our whole marriage would be there with us to the end of our days. It was like a mutual surrender into the depths of His love and a mutual surrender into His purpose for us. All would be well, no matter what the future might hold.
As I thought about that incident that day I realised that we had both come to a growing conviction over the years, that God Himself had brought us together in marriage almost 54 years before, and that we had tried to fulfil to the utmost, the vows we made to each other before Him on that day. When I was asked by the priest on our wedding day, “WILT thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?” I had replied that I would, and I meant it with all my heart. Similarly, Carole had replied with a similar understanding of the deep import of those words as she said, “I will” to the similar set of questions. From that moment on we had committed ourselves to love and care for each other for as long as we both should live.
As we grew closer to the Lord and to each other as our marriage progressed, we realised that God had indeed brought us together and had been with us in the many wonderful and not-so-wonderful experiences we had shared together in ministry. [It was amazing and comforting that so many friends have remarked over the years that we were “made for each other.” We certainly thought so!] If it was a marriage planned in heaven then it should be lived out on earth for His purposes and to His glory. We both continued to enthrone Jesus as Lord, on the throne of our lives and of our marriage. Our preference was that we would be alive to rise hand in hand to meet the Lord in the air when Jesus returns again. Now it seemed as though that was not going to happen unless the Lord worked a mighty miracle [which we still believed He could.]
After 2 difficult nights in hospital in a noisy crowded mixed ward, Carole was admitted to a restful Palliative Care ward in an adjacent town. On the second day there, the specialist doctor came with a group of young doctors. She told Carole their aim was to try to get her home as soon as possible and have Palliative care nurses call on her at home. However, just a week later she came with a different group of young doctors and said, “Carole, you won’t be going home. You will die in a few days.” Carole nodded. They all looked at me. I nodded. Carole and I knew that the Lord would have the final say!
Just two days later Carole was totally unresponsive, just lying curled up and having some difficulty breathing. As I left before it got dark [as she had previously ordered me to] I kissed her and said quietly into her ear, “Carole if you want to go home to Jesus and to your Mum and Dad, I will miss you terribly, but I will be Ok. I love you!” As I left her room, I paused and looked back to see if the Lord had already done a miracle. There was no change. It was about two hours later the phone rang and it was a nurse from the Palliative Care ward. Would the news be miracle or death? She told me that they had attended to Carole and had left the room for a few minutes and when they returned she had passed away peacefully. Our prayers had been answered. But not exactly the way I hoped they would be. The Lord had taken her home, to be with Him. The phrase flashed into my mind, as they told me the news, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.”
Why have I bothered to write all this and in such a personal way? It is probably good therapy for me to do so. But there is a far more important reason. When Carole and I first became involved with some people involved in healing, they said that if people had enough faith they could be healed of anything. Some of them explained that there were 2 main reasons why people didn’t get healed. One was because they didn’t have enough faith. The second was because there must have been some secret sin in their lives. I thought they were playing at being God and lacked humility and compassion. Life is much more complicated than that, and so are people. Only God knows the answer to why some are not healed, and when their death will take place. His word teaches in Psalm 139, “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. “Ps 139:16-17. God alone knows the number of days we will live. Of course, throughout my ministry, I taught that our faith could and should grow. Of course I taught that we must let God reveal to us every sin in our lives so that we might confess them, receive His forgiveness and thus become more open to His healing power. But faith is not a person. Jesus is! Our trust is meant to be in Him and not in the amount of faith we imagine we possess.
So as we face any threat in life and there are many, I believe we are meant to be encouraging everyone to enter into a love relationship with Jesus and not just to have more faith. As Neil Anderson wrote in one of his daily devotions about a young man who was having trouble with his faith, “This young man was trying to live by faith in faith. But faith itself is not a valid object. The only valid object for faith is God and the revelation we have of Him in His Word. Faith is the operating principle of life. The only difference between Christian and non-Christian faith is the object. God must be the object of our faith.” [NOTE 1]
St Paul had described love in strikingly beautiful language in 1 Corinthians 13. He also stressed the primacy of love in the same passage when he wrote in these verses, 1Cor 13:2 “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” and 1Cor 13:13 “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
In this article, I am not trying to hold up my beloved Carole as some hero of extraordinary faith or the exemplar of the most deeply committed love. I am saying that she is another example [albeit my closest and dearest example] of those who totally commit themselves to Jesus in a love relationship and trust Him with their whole future, come what may! It is certainly true that in spite of the faith she had in Him, to bring answers to her prayers, she continued to trust Him, even when it appeared as though her prayers were being answered in a different way to what we expected. There was never any fear [or any other negative emotion] on her part as her condition deteriorated. Natural apprehension sometimes, but always a secure love relationship with the Lord whose love she had experienced over many years and whom she sought to love with her whole being, even unto death. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1jn 4:18. What motivates those who love God and who love and trust Jesus His Son? John gives us the answer in the very next verse, “We love because he first loved us.” 1 Jn 4:19. Responding to love with love!
Still feeling fearful? Of the Coronavirus? Of many things? Wondering if you could ever build up enough faith to get you through difficult and threatening times? Why not try the better way of entering into a deep relationship of love with the Lord Jesus Himself and learn to experience the peace of God that does pass human understanding, even in the face of present and future threats?
Here is a suggested prayer you might like to pray to enter into that relationship of love.
“Dear Lord, I confess that I have sinned against You in my thought life, and in what I have said and done during my life. I haven’t loved You with all my heart. I haven’t loved my neighbours as myself as You commanded me to do. In Your love and mercy, please forgive me of all my sins. I invite You to come into my heart and life to be my Saviour from sin and to be the Lord and Master of every part of my life.
Please heal the past, strengthen me for the present and equip me for the future by filling me with Your Holy Spirit. By Your grace, enable me to the person You want me to be, doing and saying the things You want me to do and say, and praying the prayers You want me to pray. I long to experience Your kingdom love and power being poured into my life, and also being expressed through me, to a needy, fearful world. Please accept the love of my heart as I offer myself completely to You in Jesus’ name. AMEN!”
NOTE 1. From the reading for March 31 in “Daily in Christ.”
Blog No.349 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 3rd April 2020