Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Faith To Be Healed: Part II

The forgiveness of sins and the physical alleviation of suffering, whether in this life or in the next as an eternally perfected and glorified being, are conditioned on faith and together constitute being made “whole,” or being truly healed. The Lord’s words to Enos are indicative of this dual meaning—“Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee…because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen…wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole” (Enos 1:5, 8). Ten lepers were “cleansed” of their sickness through obedience, but only the one who recognized and had faith in the power of his Healer was made whole (Luke 17:12-19). The Greek word here translated as “whole” is sōzō, which indicates its spiritual implications. Sōzō means “to save, rescue, deliver; to heal…to be in right relationship with God, with the implication that the condition before salvation was one of grave danger or distress.” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Greek # 4982, p. 1535. [Kohlenberger and Swanson, 2001, Zondervan Grand Rapids, Michigan]) Clearly the wholeness available through the power of God extends to both physical and spiritual ailments.

James, in teaching this principle, asks, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15). James here clarifies this process of becoming whole, noting that those whose desire and faith to be healed compels them to request the administration of the priesthood will not only receive physical blessings but will be reconciled to God as well.

This power of healing, made possible through Jesus Christ and claimed through our faith, is stronger still. Through that power, not only can we be relieved of sickness and forgiven of sins; we can also have our natures changed and so be made free of the natural man that inclines us to pit our will against God’s. Isaiah testified of Christ, that “with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). In other words, because Christ willingly submitted to the indignities of his mortal torment and was in all things obedient to the will of His Father, He has the power to mold our wills to His, to “take away the stony heart” and give men “a new heart…a heart of flesh,” to change us so that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Ezekiel 36:26; Mosiah 5:2).

Christ became subject to the infirmities and temptations of a mortal body, and, having overcome the power of the devil, is able to free us from his bondage. Wrote Paul, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Because Christ has overcome His flesh, He has obtained the power to subdue the natural man within us. Through His Atonement, He took upon Himself not only the penalties for the sins of all mankind, but also the sins themselves, the natural man that makes us enemies to God. Through the Atonement, Christ not only enabled us to become “at-one” with God; He also became “at-one” with us. He suffered the aggregate agony of the incompleteness of fallen man, and, having overcome all things, has and ever will have the power to make us whole.

Jesus Christ has the power to heal us, quite literally, of everything. He can heal every hurt, every sickness, every heartache, and every sin. The Lord’s healing power can, by our faith, be invoked, “upon a world afflicted with greed and contention, upon families distressed by argument and selfishness, upon individuals burdened with sin and troubles and sorrows.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Healing Power of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 52) Through faith, everything that is incomplete—bodies, souls, relationships, and nations—can be made whole by the very same power, the infinite and eternal power of a God’s atonement. Indeed, the One who created all things, descended below all things and has risen above all things can surely make all things whole (D&C 63:59; 88:6, 41; Ephesians 4:10; Mosiah 5:15).

Of necessity the Lord conditions His healing upon our faith—our trust in the assurance given by the Holy Ghost that His Atonement really does cover everything, and that its power really can make us whole. He asks us to believe on His name, even the name of Jesus Christ, which literally testifies that, “The Anointed One, Jehovah saves.”

From Alma’s interview with the critically ill Zeezrom we learn an important principle—that faith to be healed is not a mere belief that God can or will free one from sickness, but is rather a reliance on the assurance of Christ’s divinity and power. This reliance on and testimony of Christ is what bestows power unto healing. Jacob spoke of the acquisition and basis of this powerful faith, saying, “We search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy” (Jacob 4:6). The spirit of prophecy, the scriptures tell us, is “the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 19:10; Alma 6:8). Jacob continues, describing the power that this testimony bestows: “And having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea” (Jacob 4:6). Jacob makes clear that access to the Lord’s power over nature—in which must be included the health of the body—is available only through an unshakeable faith in Him.

Said Alma to Zeezrom, “If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed” (Alma 15:8). Immediately after his physical recovery, Zeezrom was baptized and thus made whole by the same power and through the same faith that had been the condition of his miraculous cure (Alma 15:12).

So it is in our own lives. Faith to be healed provides a power unto physical healing if it is the Lord’s will that we be healed. As He revealed to Joseph Smith, “it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed” (D&C 42:48, emphasis added). There are, of course, those with exceeding faith who die due to ailments that the Lord has the power to cure. Elder Talmage explained, “Not always are the administrations of the elders followed by immediate healings; the afflicted may be permitted to suffer in body, perhaps for the accomplishment of good purposes, and in the time appointed all must experience bodily death.” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 205 [Deseret Book Company, SLC, Utah, 1984]) But even those who die possessing this great faith are healed, for these are they who do “have…hope of a glorious resurrection” (D&C 42:45). To these the Lord promises that they “shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them” (D&C 42:46).

Joseph Smith was one such man, of whom the Lord proclaimed, “they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil” (3 Nephi 21:10). Although the Lord allowed the Prophet to be murdered by a mob, he was received into heaven and is a “partake[r] of all blessings which were held in reserve for” him (D&C 138:52). One could not ask for a greater healing than, in death, to be taken back into the presence of God and receive of His fullness. Thus comes the Lord’s injunction; “fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).

Likewise, we should not lose faith because of the sometimes inexplicable power of those sicknesses which kill the body. Despite our physical impairments, which may or may not persist throughout this life despite our exceeding faith, the exercise of our faith to be healed will always lead to a spiritual nearness with God, a repair of a repeatedly broken relationship with our Creator, and a newness of life. And if in faith we endure to the end of our course, “a crown of righteousness” awaits us in the eternal rest of the Lord (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

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