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Practical Thoughts on Faith, Healing, and Medicine

11.24.14 | Healing | Health | Doctors | Medicine | by Dr. Austin Lingerfelt

Practical Thoughts on Faith, Healing, and Medicine

    There is nothing wrong with doing what we can do in the natural WHILE believing for God to do the supernatural.

    Some Practical Thoughts On Faith, Healing, and Medicine

    This is my practical, pastoral advice based on everything I've seen and learned during 33 years of growing up in the church and ministry. I’ve seen God do amazing miracles, sometimes instantly, sometimes over time.  I’ve seen dramatic healings take place, sometimes instantly, sometimes over time.  I’ve seen people fight the fight of faith only using faith and their confidence in God’s Word.  I’ve seen others combine faith with natural, human resources to wage the battle. And sadly, I’ve seen people operate with foolishness or presumption, instead of faith.  And the results of the latter can be disastrous and can result in unnecessary or premature death.

    We live in a sinful, fallen world.  What God made was good, but when Adam and Eve sinned, the curse entered into the world.  The result was sin, sickness, death, and poverty.  There are many causes for sickness.  Of course, one cause is sin.  For instance, a sexually immoral lifestyle has physical repercussions. Paul tells us clearly that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)!  But some sickness is also the result of this fallen world we live in.  More than ever before, we are aware that some challenges are simply caused by the food and water we drink and by the environments in which we live.  As a pastor, I have been grieved in the past when busybody Christians inferred to other Christians facing serious health issues (like cancer) that they were sick because of some sin they had committed.  A relative of mine faced a tumor simply because of a shot he had received as a child.  That shot caused tumors in something like .00001% out of every person who received that shot and he was one of them.  It had nothing to do with sin.  It was simply the result of a shot.

    Here is my perspective on medicine: there's nothing wrong with doing what we can do in the natural WHILE believing for God to do the supernatural. 

    Oral Roberts once said, "I respect doctors, and one reason is that they have grasped this eternal truth and are against sickness and for health. Consciously or unconsciously, they have a pretty good theology of healing. Sometimes I wish we Christians had such a good theology of healing. Then we might be less inclined to argue about whether it's God's will to heal or not."

    Oral Roberts had a powerful healing ministry in the 20th century, and he was mightily used by God to heal the sick in His generation.  Roberts also believed that doctors and medicine were important.  And that is one reason why he founded the City of Faith in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

    I've met Christians who believe in healing but who are completely opposed to doctors or medicine.  As Fred Price teaches, there is a difference between faith, foolishness, and presumption.  One of the New Testament authors was a physician named Luke.  And he was a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul.  Just think of that—Paul traveled with a personal physician!

    I do believe we should look for opportunities to exercise our faith on small things. I do that regularly with myself and my own health but I never force that on anyone else, especially not a child.

    When it comes to our children, we should lay hands on them and pray the prayer of faith. Simultaneously, we should do everything we can do in the natural for them. That is not anti-faith. It is taking advantage of all the resources God has blessed us with. We were born into the time we live in for a reason, and we should take advantage of the good resources available to us.

    Jessica and I take our girls to the pediatrician for regular checkups, they are vaccinated (spaced out schedule but no flu shots or HPV vaccination), and when they face any symptoms we believe God while doing all that we can do in the natural to help them. For instance, it's important with a child to make sure that any chest congestion is dealt with quickly and that they don't have ear infections. I've heard of parents not getting care for a child and then symptoms worsening and becoming serious. That's simply unnecessary!  

    Just recently, Sophie had a cough and some congestion.  Yes, I prayed over her.  We also gave her some honey, herbal tea, and some cough medicine for her chest.  As a parent, my heart’s desire was both to see her feel better as quickly as possible and to also ensure she got a good night’s sleep.  Not getting a good night’s sleep would only make her recovery more difficult. When we fought the fight of faith for Michaela for over a year and a half believing God that she was healed of any skin or food allergies, we also did what we could do in the natural.  We didn’t foolishly or presumptuously feed her something that could cause an issue during that time. We wisely avoided things that we knew might cause an issue.  We did what we could do in the natural while believing God for the supernatural.  Just this weekend she ate cheese pizza two days in a row. That was a huge miracle for us!  But for a year and a half as we fought the fight of faith, we bided our time waiting, while exercising the wisdom God has given us.  Operating with wisdom and common sense is not antithetical to faith.  And we will still proceed with and exercise wisdom in regards to Michaela.  There is a difference between faith and foolishness or presumption.  

    As a family we have health insurance. Why? It's foolish to put your family in financial jeopardy. When a family member faces a physical challenge, especially something that's serious, your first thought should be getting them the best care possible. Your first thought shouldn't be the potential bill because you've saved money by not having insurance. Insurance for your family is more important than a new or nicer car or other luxuries.  I would rather see my children in good health than have the latest, greatest phone or tablet. Unfortunately, sometimes I've gone to visit people at the hospital and their concern is not getting better or getting good care; their major concern is the potential bill.  I've also known of situations where husbands have put the health of their wife and children at risk simply because they did not have health care.  There are areas of your life where you can—and should—save money.  But you should not take shortcuts when it comes to your family's health care.  Plus, we have insurance for a reason!

    Medicine is good but we also need to be careful with it. Some medicines and drugs are highly addictive and some have horrible side effects.  Case in point—the list of risks for any medicine advertised on television. Some cures can in fact be more harmful for the body than the illness itself. There are many natural remedies etc. and healthy dieting and living is a huge factor. Don't just take a pill when you can make a lifestyle change that will result in far better health. 

    Sickness is part of the curse and is caused by Satan, who steals, kills, and destroys. Doctors, hospitals, and medicine alleviate pain, suffering, and sickness and are a gift from God to do good, not evil. After all many of the best hospitals have in fact been financed by Christians and or Christian organizations. Not every diagnosis is correct, though, and sometimes doctors can be incredibly negative (it's partly the result of the legalistic society we live). When someone receives a negative report, we always encourage people to get another diagnosis, sometimes several. Then you must decide whose report you will believe—the Lord's or a negative report. And you must decide on a course of action, which is a personal decision that should be made with the help of the Holy Spirit in each situation.  Some choose to fight solely with faith.  Some choose to fight the fight of faith while doing what they can do in the natural.  When it comes to life and death fights, here is some practical pastoral advice from my father: “to fight another day, you must first live to fight another day.”

    Jessica and I hadn’t been married long when she received a false, horrible diagnosis from a doctor who wasn’t very good.  After a blood test, her doctor said her prolactin levels were elevated and that she probably had a brain tumor.  She had not received a scan and there was no proof of anything of that nature.  Yet, my new wife came home in tears because of a wrong, serious diagnosis.  Of course, she was fine and just had to stop taking the medicine that same doctor had prescribed, which was causing elevated prolactin levels, amongst other issues.  

    When Jessica was 8 months pregnant with Sophie, she was involved in a horrible, rollover car accident.  She walked away with only a scratch and Sophie was fine.  It was a true miracle!  After Sophie was born, though, we received another wrong diagnosis, this time from a pediatrician.  We had taken Sophie for a regular checkup and the young pediatrician told us that Sophie had a severe form of Craniosynostosis and that her skull bones were not right.  She said her skull wasn’t right, that her head would be severely misshapen, and that we needed to have x-rays done and immediately consider surgery.  My parents—who have lived on the planet longer—told us that was ridiculous and to get another opinion.  We went to see a female pediatrician who was much older and who had more experience.  She examined Sophie and just smiled.  She wouldn’t tell us the other doctor was wrong, but she did tell us we had nothing to worry about.  And of course, we haven’t.  I later called the first pediatrician’s office and asked a nurse what percentage of children that doctor diagnoses every year with Craniosynostosis.  The nurse told me about half!  Yes, about half!  When you look up the stats for Craniosynostosis, you’ll discover it only affects 1 out of every 2,000-2,500 children, yet somehow a pediatrician in Texas diagnoses about half her patients with it.  She had quickly referred us to a hospital and recommended treatment etc.  All of those things cost money.  So I can see how people can be skeptical about the medical industry and pharmaceuticals, but that does not mean that ALL doctors and nurses are this way.  We have to remember that there are wonderful doctors and nurses out there.  In fact, we have some of them as church members.  They are wonderful people who have dedicated their lives to relieving pain and suffering.  One wrong diagnosis does not mean every diagnosis is wrong.  And to fight the fight of faith, you must know your enemy and exactly what you’re fighting.  

    Another time, Jessica discovered a lump.  We had it checked several times and it was a diagnosis we were concerned about.  T.L. Osborn laid hands on her and prayed the prayer of faith in his Tulsa home shortly before he went home to be with the Lord and Jessica was miraculously healed. Another family member with a similar situation chose to believe God while finding one of the best surgeons in the DFW Metroplex to remove a small lump that tested positive for cancer.  Both my wife and her relative are alive today and that’s what matters most!

    Recently, my father-in-law faced the fight of his life. For many years, he had periodic stomach pain, and despite yearly checkups by a general physician, he had not been correctly diagnosed. He in fact had a severe colon infection that we did not know about. He went to the emergency room with severe stomach pain and the doctors were unsure of what the problem was. They just thought it was a blockage. For the kind of surgery my father-in-law ended up needing, a specialist was required and it was the kind of specialist that hospital did not have on call. Somehow, someway (I believe by the prompting of the Holy Spirit), my mother-in-law found a specialist online with really good reviews. I sensed in my spirit that we needed to get her to the hospital asap. I told her to call immediately, and somehow, someway God made a way for that specialist to come, even though she was headed out of town on vacation. After the surgery was finished, we were told that if the surgery had not been done my father-in-law would have died. We were told the infection was so serious that in fact he was about 12 hours from death. Because it involved his colon and was a major surgery, the recovery was a fight from beginning to end. His recovery took 34 days: 19 in ICU, 4 days in a regular hospital room, and 11 days in inpatient rehab. Every step of the way it was a fight of faith. My father-in-law was in a medically induced coma for recovery. For several days, he was artificially paralyzed. Both my father and I were concerned about the amount of drugs being pumped into his body because of all their potential side affects. Because my father-in-law had aspirated when the hospital first checked his colon, he was also fighting pneumonia and a fever. So, there were days when fighting doubt was as real as it has ever been for me. The fight of faith and choosing to walk by faith was a daily battle for my wife and mother-in-law. Every day, we all had to choose whose report we would believe. My father-in-law was also on a breathing machine. There came a point when the doctors said a tracheotomy would have to be done. Of course, we didn’t want that. And that was the turning point. We ALL decided by faith that it would not happen and that it would not be necessary. And within hours of a tracheotomy needing to be done, the breathing tube was removed. It was a miracle, a major step forward in his recovery! A nurse in the church who works in ICU in a local trauma hospital told me that she has seen many patients in this same, exact situation die. She told me it is a miracle my father-in-law is alive. But here is what I want you to see—we believed God’s Word, prayed, and fought the fight of faith every day as a family WHILE also doing everything we could do in the natural. My father-in-law was in intense pain. Yes, we prayed but my mother-in-law also took him to the emergency room. We prayed and hoped for the best, yet there came a point when we knew surgery was needed. It was a life and death situation. And in that moment, my wife and mother-in-law followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to have the surgery done. And then throughout the tough recovery, we prayed, fasted, and stood on the Word of God while also fighting with every tool available.

    You must also remember that because of the fall, death itself is apart of life.  It is appointed unto man once to die (Hebrews 9:27).  And if the Lord tarries, we will all die at some point.  The only believers who will not die are those who will be raptured.  Beginning with Adam, men lived for hundreds of years.  The Bible tells us that Methuselah lived for 969 years! Imagine living that long! By Noah's time, though, there was great wickedness on the earth and so at that point, God limited man's days to 120 years (Genesis 6:3).  That means that there is a God-given limit for how long we can expect to live.  Psalm 90:10 then tells us, "The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away." So if we live the way we should and take care of our bodies, then we can expect—and believe for—a life span of 70-80 years.  And if we live that long, we should be happy, thankful, and appreciative of having been able to enjoy a long life.  I've sometimes counseled people after the death of a loved one, who were grieving for a family member who passed away in their 70s or 80s.  And their children were grieving like some horrible thing happened, asking why God permitted their family member to die.  If you are a believer and live to 70 or 80, then you should thank God and REJOICE!  And if we know the person was a believer, then we should REJOICE!  Life has not ended for them; true life—eternal life—has only just begun!  And we must remind ourselves that our bodies do wear out.  That is precisely why there is a life span.  And the truth of the matter is this—some people don't take care of their bodies.  God can heal some people—even multiple times—but the truth is that they will die earlier than they should because they don't take care of their bodies.  Some people abuse their bodies with drugs, alcohol or other substances.  Some people abuse their bodies by never exercising and by overeating.  We should not be surprised then when the bodies of some people wear out EARLY.  That is not God's fault and God is not to blame! We are responsible! We are to be good stewards of every area of our lives, including with our bodies and our physical health.

    I fully believe we should take advantage of medicine, science and modern technology. In fact, I think it's foolish not to. 

    So we believe God in faith while also utilizing the resources God has given us. God has put everything in the earth for our benefit!

    If you choose to take a certain route, that is wonderful but don't force that on anyone else, especially your children. It is wrong to jeopardize a child's health and life. People claim the latter is a faith issue but, sadly, I believe it is often a money issue. I've seen men make awful, selfish choices when it came to a wife or child's health care that they would never make about their own health or body. Don't have a "save a buck" mentality when it comes to your family's care. If you wouldn’t use some quackish solution with your own health, then why do that to a child or a husband or wife?

    We live by faith but not foolishness or presumption. God gave us common sense for a reason. Wisdom is available to us and we can pursue it. 

    The right path is one of balance. Sickness is not of God. So, we fight it using every tool and resource available, including our faith.