(The Story of Nick from Joel Olsteen’s, Your Best Life Now, pages 72 & 73)
Our thoughts are very powerful things. They can fill us with a spirit of victory, or defeat. A spirit of hope, or helplessness. A spirit of promise, or pain. They can cause us to quote with great confidence, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Or they can cause us to say, “Why read, why pray, why even bother.”
So right at the start of our time together focusing on the miraculous, healing power of God, I want to probe your thoughts. I want to encourage you to be willing to establish a foundation, a mental base if you will, of five simple truths. Five things that I believe you can take to the bank, and that if you will recognize and establish them in your mind, make them a part of your thought process, you will open the door to a great moving of God in your life.
We start with a familiar story. Lazarus. Anyone remember him? Lazarus was from the town of Bethany. Brother of Mary and Martha. The same Mary who had anointed Jesus feet with perfume, and then whipped his feet with her hair. That Mary. Her brother Lazarus. And he was a very sick man. So Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus of Lazarus illness, and encouraged him to come quickly.
But Jesus had other plans. John 11:4. Look at it with me. So Jesus delays his journey to Bethany, and by the time he arrives there, Lazarus is dead. Of course, there is great pain in the hearts of Mary and Martha, but Jesus uses this event to show God’s power and through the simple spoken word, He calls Lazarus forth from the dead.
Then we come to verse 44. “And he who died came out.” Now get this picture with me. Lazarus has been wrapped in grave clothes, he has been prepared for a proper burial following his death. He has been laid in this tomb for a number of days. And Jesus tells him to come out, and he does. But get this picture with me (read verse 44a).
(Pick a person). . .come up here a second and help me. (Begin wrapping in bed sheets like grave clothes.) Lazarus is stone dead in the tomb. Wrapped in grave clothes. It says that his hands and feet were bound. It says his face was wrapped with a cloth. Oh, he is alive. . .but what kind of life is in store for him. Imagine walking through life looking like this. It might almost be enough to make you want to crawl back in your grave. Until Jesus speaks again. . .”Loose him, and let him go.”
Our thoughts are powerful things, and if you want to experience the healing power of God in your life there is a simple truth you must accept. You must establish it in your thoughts. You must recognize it as a fact. . .and that is that. . .
A. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING ALIVE, AND BEING FREE
(name of person selected). . .is alive. But would you call living like this free? Can’t see where you are going. Can’t maneuver very easily. Feel all bound up and trapped. (unwrap and thank for help) There is a difference between being alive, and being free. It is pretty obvious physically.
But look at the spiritual implications for this story. How often can you find in God’s Word the language that talks of us being dead, buried in our sins, dead in our trespasses. . .but then being raised from the dead to new life through the power of God? That kind of language is all over the gospel. We use it when we baptize people. Buried in your sins, risen to new life in Christ.
But just like with Lazarus, being alive, being forgiven for your sins, being raised for a new life in Christ doesn’t mean that you are free. And you know what? You already knew that. Because everyone of us today can testify to times in our lives when we have sat in a chair, staring out a window, thinking. . .”God, what is wrong with me? If I have been saved by your grace, why do I feel like a prisoner? Why am I still struggling with so many hurts, failures, handicaps, and challenges? Is this really as good as it gets?”
Of course the answer is no. But it starts in our thoughts and beliefs when we accept the truth that there is a difference between being alive, and being free.
Now, I don’t know if you have ever followed the rest of Lazarus’ story. To be honest with you, it wasn’t until recently that I came across these few verses. Never heard anyone preach on them. Never even heard it mentioned in a message on about Lazarus. But it is right there in God’s Word, so there must be something to gain from it.
John 12:9 (read through verse 11). That’s kind of a bummer wouldn’t you say. I mean, first you get sick. Then you die. THAT kind of stinks. Then YOU begin to stink after about 4 days in the tomb. But along comes that voice, raises you from the dead, orders those around you to loose you, and you are off to the showers, ready to begin a new chapter in your life. Things are really going your way wouldn’t you say?
Well, only if you consider having a bounty on your head things going your way. Because that is what Lazarus had. Not just a bounty, but a bounty from the Chief Priests of all people. Talk about turning the tables. One minute you have been raised from the dead, and the next minute you see on CNN that the pope wants you dead.
Truth number two. If you want to experience God’s healing power in our life, if you really want to see God move over the next few weeks and months in your life. . .you better understand truth number two. . .
B. BEING FREE DOES NOT MEAN THE BATTLE IS OVER
Lazarus was free. Better than that, he was alive and free. That beats dead and free any day. But the adventure wasn’t over. In fact, it was just beginning.
Maybe you have an area of your life that in the past you really thought you had been freed from. Maybe you had a miracle happen in your life, and you were 100% confident that the book had been closed on that chapter. Maybe it was a cancer that could no longer be found. Maybe it was a marriage that was restored. Maybe it was a demonic attack on your spirit that had been defeated.
Then it happens. The doctors spot another tumor. The arguments return to the home. The demons start swirling again in your mind. And you begin to question whether God ever worked the original miracle to begin with. You begin to question whether you dare get your hopes up a second time. You begin to question if it is really worth it to go into battle again.
If you build your thought life on a false foundation, the answer will be no. No more praying for healing this time. No more counseling this time. No more applying the blood of Jesus to those demons in your life. With a false foundation of thought, it will be game over. Time to give up.
But when you build your foundation on the truth of God’s Word, you will understand that being free doesn’t mean the battle is over. It doesn’t mean you are some kind of freak who just can’t get it right. It doesn’t mean that you lack the faith to experience true victory. It just means that through Him we are more than conquerors, and He is about to work another miracle.
That is where I want you to start. Understand that being alive doesn’t mean that you are free. And that even if you are free, it doesn’t mean the battles are over. Then you can take those truths and apply the next three to them, and you will truly have hope for a healing.
Luke, chapter 9. Luke 9:37, look at this with me (read through verse 42). In this one story, we see three miracles take place. You might have thought there was just one, but there are three there. And they give us our last three truths that I want you to make permanent in your thought pattern. The first is that. . .
C. HEALING BEGINS WITH SPIRITUAL DELIVERANCE
The first thing Jesus did was rebuke the unclean spirit. And that is where Jesus always starts the healing process, with spiritual deliverance.
Luke 5:20. A paralytic lies before Jesus, having just been lowered through the roof, and Jesus looks at this man clearly in need of physical healing and says, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” Spiritual deliverance.
Luke 7. Jesus comes across a woman who is about to be stoned because she can’t seem to keep straight who she is supposed to be sleeping with. Socially she is an outcast, physically she is looking death in the face, emotionally she has been reduced to a piece of meat for the pleasure of men. And Jesus looks at her and says, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Spiritual deliverance.
When confronted with the need for healing in the face of spiritual bondage, Jesus takes care of first things first, and provides spiritual deliverance to those bound in Satan’s chains.
And this is a frightening truth to me today. There are people in spiritual bondage. Living in sin. Trapped by Satan in a prison of ungodliness. And yet they are more concerned with their physical healing than they are their spiritual deliverance, even though only one of those lasts for eternity. I don’t know if you ever realized this. . .but Lazarus died again. Physical healing is small potatoes compared to being spiritually free to experience the fullness of God.
Just think about it. If I were to offer you a choice between two free gifts. The first was the most beautiful, brand new, 2006 model car you had ever seen. Leather interior, wood grain, your favorite color, CD player, GPS mapping, DVD screens in the backs of the head rests, power everything. . .an incredibly beautiful car. The second was a 2005 Toyota Tercel. Base model. No DVD. No GPS. Just a radio. Manual transmission. Cloth interior. Hand cranked windows and stretch your arm to pull the locks. The only thing powered is the engine.
Two free gifts to pick from. But I told you that if you pick car number one. . .the sweet ride. . .it is yours for 12 months. 12 months. Then I take it back. Yours to use and drive for a year. If you pick car number two. . .it is yours to keep. As long as it runs. In fact, I’ll even put a 20 year, 200,000 mile bumper to bumper deductible free warranty on it. Which would you pick?
Before you answer too quickly. . .truth be told, some of you would pick car number one. Because some of us are not very good at seeing the big picture. There are all kinds of people living in spiritual bondage, because they can’t see the big picture. They think that their truly serious problem is physical. So they take car number one. If I could just feel better. If I could just live pain free. What I wouldn’t give.
Please don’t miss this today. If you want to not just be alive. . .but to really be free. And if you want to be victorious in the continual battles of life that accompany that freedom. Don’t choose the lesser things. Start with the greatest. Make sure you have been delivered spiritually. Make sure you have fully given yourself over to God. Make sure you have surrendered to His Holy Spirit, and are ready to denounce the things of Satan that have so easily ensnared you. Allow God’s healing in your life to begin by being delivered spiritually.
First things first. Jesus said, we gotta get rid of these demons. So he rebuked the unclean spirit. But that was just the first miracle. The next one is a biggie for some of you. Some of you are going to really struggle over the next few weeks to allow this truth to become foundational in your life. You are going to struggle to believe you have the right to expect such miraculous working. . .but it is a Biblical truth that
D. HEALING INCLUDES PHYSICAL HEALING
It’s right there. And it is throughout this book. “Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child. . .”
Look at what this sorry spirit was doing to this boy. He would convulse. He would foam at the mouth like a rabid dog. There would be a physical element to the coming in and going out of this spirit. Almost a Hollywood like depiction of some monster entering, and exiting a human body, and it says that it would literally leave him bruised. It would throw him down.
Imagine that. Just walking along. Cruising through life. Never knowing when you might be overtaken by a demonic spirit and thrown to the ground (throw self to the ground as making this point).
Jesus didn’t just overlook that. He didn’t say, “Okay. The bad guy is gone. This other stuff. Give it a few days, stop by Wal-Mart and get these prescriptions filled, and make an appointment to see me in two weeks.” No, it says He healed the child.
Here I go. Are you ready? I’m going way out on the proverbial limb here. Tight rope walking without a net. Are you watching? Are you listening? There are people in our church family that God desires to physically heal.
Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute. “Pastor is loosing his mind. How does he know? What if it is God’s will that I just stay like this?”
Let me step one step further out on the limb and tell you. . .it’s not. God doesn’t want you to just stay like this. God wants to heal you. But you are going to have to put a foundation block, a pillar of truth in your life that says, believes, and declares that God physically heals people today.
I’m not talking about eating whatever you want, never exercising again, treating the temple of God like some kind of XGames venue. This isn’t a disclaimer to tear down the body God has given you, and then say, “Now He has to fix it.”
But some of you are suffering with physical ailments that you don’t have to suffer with. If you will give it over to God, believe that He loves you and wants the best for you as His child, He will heal you. I’m not just talking about an emotional strength that will enable you to endure. . .I’m talking 100%, genuine, never imagined you could feel this good physical healing.
One more. One more truth from God’s word. One more thought for your mind. I bet you didn’t see this one coming. . .”Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.” Those words are almost an afterthought, but make sure you hear them today. “Gave him back to his father.”
Imagine that moment. Picture the relationship that these two must have had, father and son. A demonically possessed child. Suffering unphathomable swings in emotions, spiritual activity, physical abuse. Do you think they just went out in the back yard and played catch? Do you think they headed out onto the lake for a quiet afternoon of fishing? Do you think they sat on the porch, listening to the chariot races?
Even if they did, just at that moment of father and son bonding. . .just at that moment when all seemed so well in the world. . .just at that moment when it would appear that there could truly be a wonderful father-son relationship, it would start.
The father would glance at his son only to see his eyes roll back in his head. Only to see foam start coming from his mouth. Only to see him start convulsing. Only to hear demonic voices shouting out at him. Only to see the boy begin flailing to the ground. Helplessly be beaten and tossed by the inner spirits that were literally destroying his life.
“Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.” Man. . .what powerful words. Especially to the ears of a father. He gave him back to his father. Not gave him back like he has been gone for a few minutes, and now I’m returning him. Gave him back like, “I know you have wondered where your innocent little boy went. I know you have longed for that little baby that you once held in your arms, so full of hope and promise. I know you have dared not imagine the day when you and your son could once again be father and child. Guess what? I’ve brought him back. Here is your son.”
I believe it is sound Biblical truth, and good solid theology to believe that. . .
E. HEALING IS AVAILABLE FOR RELATIONAL RESTORATION
Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. Brothers and sisters. Husbands and Wives. You name the relationship, I believe God’s healing power is available to provide restoration, regardless of the damage that has been done. Regardless of the years that have passed. Regardless of what Satan might desire to see happen.
There is hope for healing. Do you believe it this morning? Do you believe there is a difference between being alive and being free? Do you understand that being free doesn’t mean that the battle is over? Are you ready to acknowledge that within God’s power resides the necessary authority to bring spiritual deliverance, physical healing, and relational restoration into your life, and the lives of those around you?
Take out the little slip of paper that is inside your worship folder. Take out that piece of paper, and I want you to do something today. Whether or not you have the faith to believe God can really make it happen. Regardless of whether or not you fully buy into everything we have been exploring in this first week of our 40 Days of Prayer. Just imagine for a moment.
Imagine that everything we have seen, read, and all that I have said this morning is truly possible. Just imagine it. If so, what would be the miracle, the miracles you would desire for your life? Maybe you don’t believe in miracles at this point. Maybe you don’t think it can happen. But if you did, what would be the miracle, or the many miracles you would desire for your life?
I want you to write it on that piece of paper. You can put your name on it, or remain anonymous if you so desire. But I want to know how to be praying for our church family. So I am going to take these slips of paper, and I will pray with you, each and every day of our remaining 40 days that God works that miracle. Write them down on your piece of paper.
I’m going to pray for us. We are going to sing a song. And while we sing, bring your paper down, drop it in the container, and let’s begin praying that God will bring His healing power into our midst.