SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Open Hearts Can Receive Christ’s Forgiveness and Healing
Key Verse: [Jesus said], “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” – Mark
Years ago I felt guided by the Spirit to offer a regular service of healing in the church I was serving as pastor. We scheduled it for a week night so that only those truly interested would show up.
To my surprise there was a large turnout. Several people affirmed my decision to hold the service, telling me it was an answer to prayer. My approach was low key. We sang a couple of hymns. I preached on one of the healing miracles of Jesus and invited to the altar those who desired the laying on of hands and prayer for healing.
I asked that each person not offer me details but simply indicate with one word the area of need: physical, emotional, or spiritual. I offered a brief extemporaneous prayer, quietly, for each person. Then I pronounced the benediction and we went to our homes.
We offered the opportunity for people to come “by proxy” for another person. Many people did so, and quickly our list of persons to pray for grew very large. People in other communities heard about our service and asked us to pray for many others.
I learned a lot from this experience. I realized that I was not a “healer” nor could I pray magical prayers that produced healing. God heals; preachers do not heal people. Nevertheless, preachers can pray in faith and ask God to heal the sick. In fact, we should be negligent in our duty if we do not pray for the healing of the sick.
Six months after our first healing service, I learned a most valuable lesson. I should have invited people to share testimonies of healing that had occurred. Had I done so, I would have had more than one person testify to God’s gift of healing.
Jim, for example, finally revealed that he had been healed in our very first service. He had knelt with severe pain in his back, asking for physical healing. Immediately as he and I were praying the pain vanished and he walked away from the altar without pain for the first time in weeks. He made an interesting observation. He had not reported his healing to anyone for fear that the pain would return!
Did everyone we prayed for receive healing? No, of course not. But that did not discourage us from praying. When our son had leukemia, I pleaded with God to heal him, but he did not. I cannot explain why God heals some and not others. However, I continue to pray for the sick. Nearly three years ago our great granddaughter, Zoey, was diagnosed with leukemia. I prayed for her healing and the doctors recently declared her free from this dread disease. Does God use medicine to heal people? Of course he does.
When people are healed, I thank God for his healing. When the sick are not healed in response to prayer, I thank God anyway. Death is a part of life. All of us will die, but sometimes God delays death to teach us many things through illness, our own or that of another. God has purposes that I cannot understand with my finite mind. And God is not answerable to me; I am answerable to him. He has instructed me to pray for the sick. He handles the healing.
My friend Thomas Samford was given 11 months to live when the doctors told him he had cancer. God allowed him to live for 12 more years, transforming him into a godly teacher who reached many people for Christ during his illness. Thomas said, “I thank God for my cancer; it has helped me to know my Savior in a way I never knew him. God gave me a second chance to teach the faith to my children and to share the joy of Christ with many others.”
We know that forgiveness is related to healing. Unresolved guilt, resentment, hatred, alienation from another – any of these spiritual problems can cause sickness, physical as well as emotional. Anyone who has been hurt and is unwilling to forgive the offender is very likely to become sick and in need of healing. I have seen many people find wholeness and health after forgiving someone who had hurt them. An unforgiving spirit can result in physical as well as emotional illness.
The story of the four men who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus offers us a remarkable lesson. God gives us the privilege of assisting him in the process of making people whole. Jesus alone could forgive the man of his sins, but the four nameless men had a part in his healing. Indeed, it was their faith that caused the man to be healed. We do not know much about the man’s faith, though he must have had faith enough to believe Jesus, accept his forgiveness and his healing, and rise up to walk home.
The example of the four men should inspire us to help the many people around us who are “paralyzed” by many things. Some who are helpless simply need a caring friend who will go out of the way to help them decide to bring their problems to Jesus.
We know that God offers healing and forgiveness within the redemptive fellowship. Sometimes people who are “sick” can be forgiven and healed because we insisted on bringing them to a small group or a worship service.
Jesus has the authority to forgive and to heal. He gives us, his followers, authority to invite the sick to come to him, and to pray that he will grant them healing and wholeness. Let us ask him to give faith like that of the four men so that we can have the joy of bringing the sick into the healing presence of the Great Physician.
Write down the name of at least one person you would make an effort to bring to Jesus this week. Pray that he will give you the honor of helping him forgive and heal someone who needs the help he alone can give.
+ + + + (Contact Walter at email@example.com)