Photo by Wayne S. Grazio.
A few years after beginning to attend Don Ross Ministries I accepted a job constructing the new Professional Faculties Building the University of Calgary as an apprentice plumber/pipe-fitter. With steel-toed boots, hardhat and a dirty white t-shirt I hoisted 8-foot long, 6-inch cast iron pipe on one shoulder and maneuvered them up three narrow flights of stairs for 8-hours a day. This became a gruelling task for which I only lasted one month. Two months later I experienced an especially rapid onset of degenerative disc disease, where a slight rotation of my torso would produce three loud snaps that came from my lower back. I could feel my vertebrae grinding bone-on-bone and became horrified by the thought of literally becoming disjointed from within. My family physician sent me for an X-ray and told me to return to his office two days later. Then, when he showed me the picture of my spine it clearly displayed that the discs between my L2 and L5 vertebrae had become severely degenerated, appearing like crumbled cookies, which were only half the size of the discs above my L2 vertebra. In my youthful naivety I was convinced that my doctor, along with the medical team behind him, would provide a fast and efficient resolution to my problem. But my doctor explained that my only option would be to have my surrounding vertebrae fused together. He then disclosed that I would no longer have the ability to lead an active life from that point forward. Immensely distressed by the prognosis, I returned to my home to report the bad news to my parents.
A few weeks later while attending the prayer meeting, Don walked past me and said, “Man, do I ever feel God’s presence in here to heal tonight.” With this I gave a brief summery of my predicament and asked him for prayer. At this time in my Christian experience I did not necessarily have faith for healing and was convinced that any kind of encounter with God’s Spirit would have to be manifested as a tangible or spectacular event. Don prayed for me and I felt absolutely nothing, then explained, “Now you just believe God to heal that.” To this I nodded my head in agreement but inwardly knew that God’s Spirit had not come anywhere near me. I distinctly remember waking up the next day at 9 a.m., then stopping an hour later in recollection of the prayer I received the night before. I twisted my back in every direction and it was perfectly fine. Amazed by this, I ran upstairs to explain the miraculous healing to my parents. My mother was thrilled to hear what God had done, but my father became aggravated and returned to the living room to watch the television.
Six-months later I returned to my doctor’s office for a completely different matter. Though eager to what had happened I was also unsure of what my doctor’s reaction might be. While sitting on the examination table I gathered my courage and asked, “Do you remember when I came to see you six months ago?” And then declared, “God healed me!” He obviously did not recall my last appointment as he would have seen hundreds of patients since then. To this my doctor explained that he had also suffered from inflamed discs, which eventually went away over time. So I asked, “How long does it take for your inflamed discs to go away?” to which he replied, “two-weeks.” I then insisted, “Well, this happened overnight!” At that moment my doctor stopped and turned toward me with a pointed finger and said, “Get out of my office and don’t ever come back!” I can appreciate his frustration. Universities began the systematic training of physicians in Italy near 1220, and our Western culture has held staunch resistance toward anything that can’t be explained since the birth of our Scientific Worldview some four hundred years ago. Pinnock explains, “Healing prayer does not imply a negative view of medical science. The powers of healing are at work in the creation. What medicine can learn about God’s healing which is built into creation is all to the good. Skill in medicine is a creational charism. Prayer for healing simply means that we place problems of physical bodies before the Father and ask for help. It is not that we worship health or demand to be free from suffering.” My assertion of this miracle was genuine, and just as much of a mystery to me as to my doctor. Regardless, my intention was not to discredit him in any way.
A similar story to my own may be found in the Book of John, where Jesus healed a man born blind (John 9). At the time of this occurrence people associated illness with ‘darkness’ or ‘evil’ — as somewhat similar to our perspective of marginalized individuals today. The blind man would have been socially ruined because no one would associate with an evil person, spiritually ruined because he was not allowed within the church, and economically ruined because he could not work. While his disciples argued theology, Jesus got down into the mud with the man and restored his sight. The healing took place without any requirement of the man’s faith, as is common with many of the miracles in the Book of John. The event caused disruption in the community, as family and neighbors argued if this was in fact the man who was born blind. Then, when they took him to the Pharisees for validation of the healing, they contested that God would not heal on the Sabbath and threw him out of the synagogue. My experience was very similar in that; my healing was the result of God’s working and had nothing to do with my faith, it caused a disruption my ‘community’, and I was also thrown out of the office of someone given preeminence in our society. Anyone who knows me personally can attest that I have lived a very active lifestyle, which has included competitive volleyball, downhill skiing, snowboarding, and performing daring stunts on my mountain bike. Yet the greatest thing that I believe that I share with the man born blind is the fact that I can now see.
Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, performs miracles of creation today, just the same as he has in the past (Luke 4:16-21). Divine healing is proof of Christ’s continuous sustainment of his creation both now and forevermore (Colossians 1:15-23). We must be careful not to disqualify God’s intervention as a result of our very limited understanding. I now have a greater acceptance of God’s action though healing and miracles, mainly because I have experienced and witnesses so many. Admittedly, this has been a very difficult thing to wrap my head around as I have been raised believing that our experience can only be limited to what we can see with our own eyes. Not the best way to go when God cannot be seen. From what I have observed, healings seem to occur when three components are present; a genuine belief in God’s word, compassion for those who require healing, and a willingness to risk on the first two components. Above all is our relationship and dependency on a most wonderful God. God does not perform like a vending machine; dormant or aloof until we press the right button. Thiselton explains, “The pastoral issue today concerns the expectation of automatic healing, often conditional on faith. Such an expectation of universal healing for all can cause immense distress, doubt, and damage if the healing does not occur.” A key understanding that I now have is that Don was being led by the Spirit of God, and merely acting upon ‘what he saw the Father doing’ (John 5:19-21). God’s power to heal does not come from us but rather from the sovereign King. And our participation in the kingdom of God is based upon our relationship with the King.
Luke 4:14-21 (NIV) 14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”