Health is an issue of great interest in our times, which is ironic when you think that we have never exercised so little, eaten so much and so poorly, and drunk so much alcohol as in recent times. Hence health and healing are so important to us all.
One of the most fascinating parts of papers and magazines are the latest updates on health matters. In the last few weeks the papers have told us:
- Full-cream milk is a good anti-cancer food.
- Laughter is extremely healthy.
- Drinking lots of tea is a plus.
- Aspartame, as found in NutraSweet, may have a link with tumours, a claim the manufacturers have strongly denied.
- Margarine is out and butter is in for anti-cancer reasons. Except butter is out for cholesterol reasons.
Add to this, some advocates of limited believability will tell us that drinking a little vinegar, playing around with a few crystals and inhaling the right scents will do the trick. The new age is also the odd age. However healing is of great interest nevertheless.
Recently, Time Magazine had a cover story on healing. What was bizarre was its failure to acknowledge that for nearly 2000 years the Christian Church has led the way in the interest of healing and wholeness. The needs of the body, the soul, the emotions and the mind have always been our concern, and yet so much of the writing focused on new-age alternative exercises.
Jesus once said to those critical of him spending too much time with the sick, the sinning and the poor, that it is the sick who have need of a physician, not the well. And so healing and wholeness have been central to biblical Christianity from the beginning.
There have been hundreds of research papers written on the relationship between religion and health. One study showed that following heart surgery people who lacked a religious faith had 3 times the death rate of believing people. Another followed blood pressure for 30 years and that church-goers had lower blood pressure than non-attendees, even when adjusted to account for less smoking and risk factors. Other studies have shown that men and women who attend church regularly have half the risk of dying from heart disease, again allowing for smoking and socio-economic factors. Another study amongst 4000 elderly folk showed that those who attended religious services were less depressed and physically healthier than their opposites. There are many other studies cited with the same kind of results.
So worshipping and believing is not only doing something for your soul, but also for your body and health. One study on prayer is most extraordinary. In 1988 Randolph Byrd at San Francisco General Hospital took 393 patients in the coronary care unit and randomly assigned half of them to be prayed for by so called ‘born again’ Christians. The patients were not told of any of this. Those who were prayed for were 3 times less likely to develop complications and 5 times less likely to need antibiotics, as those who were not prayed for. This is research conducted by scientists and presented in papers to the rest of the scientific community for analysis. It’s not some hometown Bible study group swapping a few tall stories.
What it all says is that science is confirming what Christians have always know; that the life of faith, when lived and practiced enthusiastically and committedly, has positive effects on us in many ways, often beyond recognition.
It is good for you to be reading this. In a sense we do not need any special healing services, as worship and faith are healing in themselves. We worship of course, not for what we can get out of it but because God is worthy of all praise and thanksgiving. This of course is an interesting departure from the scientific community’s enlightenment scepticism towards matters of faith.
The 19th Century philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach said, ‘All theology is just anthropology in disguise’; in other words all talk about God is really just talk about people. Man explained away faith in scientific terms, a process known as reductionism. Freud explained religious interest as a father complex, sociologists like Durkheim explained it as simply wishful thinking based upon an ideal society, and so on. Suddenly science is having the humility to say, ‘Look, there is more to this than what our scepticism has ever allowed. These people of faith do have something that cannot be simply reduced to other terms.’
The Greek word for saved is closely related to the word for healing. To be saved is to be healed – in one’s soul, heart, and mind. Yes, Jesus also brings healing in ways far beyond the obvious ones. He heals people of inferiority; who cannot accept that they don’t have the gifts of others. We can’t play the keyboard like others, but that’s okay, the Lord can live with that and so can we. He heals women who have thought of themselves as inferior to men, to see that we are all equals in Jesus Christ. He heals men who feel inferior to other men, teenagers who think they are worth less than their more attractive peers, He heals people emotionally, because he listens to the cries of their hearts. Its pain, its repentance. He heals abused people who have been scarred by violence and invasiveness.He heals adults who were sexually abused as children; He frees us by helping us to forgive those who stalked us and takes the sting out of the memories. He heals those who have made big mistakes in their lives; who live lives of regret over past decisions and errors. Of past relationships. He says through Paul we are to press on. Paul persecuted the church, AND therefore Jesus. He was not fit to be called an apostle but by the grace of God he was. He heals us of living our lives comparing ourselves to those we think are better, smarter, richer, more popular, more spiritual or more gifted than us. He helps us to see that He does not want us to be clones of others but to be the unique persons He has made us. He heals the weak self-esteem that dreads unpopularity, the vulnerable person who dreads not getting the approval of others, who must always be liked and accepted. He heals us of the lack of courage which causes us to be silent when we should speak, and of the lack of wisdom we have when we speak when we should be silent. He heals the self-centred person who expects the lives of others to always revolve around their own needs and their desires.
All this healing and more, come through Jesus and His cross. For above all, He heals the unbelief in our heart . This hurts him through our denying him his rightful place there; our lives, our values and our time. He heals through the cross. Maybe you have known a great healing in your life and praise God for it, but maybe you need to know a further encounter with healing from the living God in this healing community of God’s people. Those in need are welcome in the Body of Christ.
I was at an event the other night with about 100 people present – food, drink, laughter, good times. In the corner was a woman who had experienced a brain-stem stroke, disabled and in a wheelchair. There around her were gathered members of the healing community we call The Church. Some provided her with drinks, others made sure she was sitting up okay, others made sure she was not too cold, or hot, that her nose and throat were okay. It was the healing community at work, blessing the needy. Let this community bless you. Let us pray for you. Don’t be embarrassed. We all have needs, and the divine physician wants to heal us.
By George Robert Iles