The numbers worldwide continue to rise: 181,377 cases, 7119 deaths, 78,085 recoveries. Worldwide reactions are dramatic: airline flights cancelled, large numbers of quarantined populations, countries with closed borders, bans on gatherings over 250 people, schools closed, colleges reverting to online classes, sports leagues cancelled, plummeting stock markets etc. Behold a pandemic! The cause of this chaos is a virus named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes is called “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).
Mark 10:47,48—When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out, “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!” Many people told him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”
I am motivated by this story for many reasons. First, Bartimaeus, the blind beggar mentioned above, was a man of faith. He had heard about Jesus and, when he realized the Son of God was close, he took action and cried out for mercy. Just because someone struggles or is disabled does not mean that person is necessarily deficient in faith.
General Vladimir Sukhomlinov was the Russian Minister of War from 1909-1915. He was a cavalry officer and a war hero during Russia’s war with Turkey in the 1870s. Unfortunately, Sukhomlinov decided that he knew everything that there was to know about warfare. His decorations, record and position bolstered his self-importance despite the fact that Russia lost territory and huge numbers of dead and wounded to the Japanese from 1904-1905.
She was a wealthy woman of the best kind— thoughtful and generous. She noticed a man of God in need and she fed him. As he often frequented her town, she talked her husband into building a home addition so the man would have his own room furnished to meet his needs. Grateful for her kindness, the godly man asked her what he could do for her. She declined his offer. So he asked his helper what could be done for her. He noticed that her husband was old and she had no children. So he called her to his room and as she stood in the doorway told her she would have a son the following spring. She asked him not to lie to her, but sure enough she gave birth to a boy. Years later the woman’s son became ill and died. His mother immediately traveled to Mount Carmel where she found Elisha, fell on the ground and grabbed his feet.
John 5:15—The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Never underestimate the need for approval. A man is sick for 38 years. Jesus sees him and knows his situation. He asks him if he would like to get well. Instead of answering “Yes!,” the man shares a pool of woes. You can read about it in John 5:1-7.
Occasionally I meet Christians who profess that believers should never get sick. In their view, illness stems from either sin, or natural causes unarrested by weak faith. You may have experienced sickness or prolonged disease and had someone imply your inability to get well was due to your lack of faith or unconfessed sin. Well let’s see what the New Testament has to say about this subject.
In 1931, a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit took place in Rwanda. Believers in several nations prayed for God to transform Rwandan lives. Consequently, men and women became deeply convicted of their wrongdoing and in true repentance humbled themselves confessing their sins. Those who had wronged others apologized and made restitution. At the center of Rwandan revival, new believers were called Abaka, which meant “those on fire.” As A.C. Stanley Smith wrote in his book, Road to Revival, joy constantly reflected in the faces of these believers and everywhere they went they modeled powerful testimony.
I received an email that tore my gut in two. A friend from seminary wrote to those on his mailing list. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He was back in his home city with his children, no longer in the Asian country where God led him and his wife to minister. Their work was vital in a place restricted and fraught with danger. He knew what it meant to serve God through opposition. But he never expected his wife to fall in love with someone she met on the internet. She left her family—devastated. As if confused and heartbroken was not bad enough, his mission organization requested his resignation. Now what does he do? Who can he trust? His children struggle mightily to adjust to a new culture. They wrestle with the reality their mother is living in immorality. He wonders what more could go wrong.
Acts 4 is a phenomenal chapter in the Bible. Basically it contains the account of Peter and John appearing before the Jewish council of religious leaders to explain by whose power they acted to heal a man lame for over 40 years! Most of the people in Jerusalem had heard about the miracle and the members of the council were amazed at the boldness and eloquence of two fishermen who had been with Jesus. After a day of deliberations the council commanded the apostles never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Of course Peter and John refused to abide by their terms so the rulers threatened them but because of their fear of starting a riot, let the two men go. Peter and John reported to the church what happened and they went into a time of prayer that was so dynamic the Holy Spirit shook the place!
Acts 2:12,13--They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “What could this be?” But some sneered and said, “They’re full of new wine!”
When Nancy was thirteen years old she was diagnosed with a disease in her heart, osteoporosis, and the verdict that she would never bear children. She and her mother bargained with God. They would pray wherever they were every day for two months at six a.m. and six p.m. if He would heal her. At home they had no food and life was miserable. One day several Costa Ricans came to her Nicaraguan church. While the visiting pastor spoke with Nancy’s mom, his wife spoke with Nancy. On a Friday afternoon she told her that she would receive everything back in double for her faithfulness. On Monday when the doctors examined her, she was completely healed. Though He did not have too, God in His mercy, blessed the young girl.
My son, Bryan and I were driving down a steep road when we encountered a peculiar sign. It said, “Caution—Hill Obscures View”. Well duh! We laughed at the great wisdom displayed! Maybe it’s the way my brain works, but that set me to thinking about signs and miracles. Does it seem like people are unimpressed with the obvious and bore easily today in an age where technology renders the sufficient obsolete?
April 28this a milestone in the York household. My oldest son Bryan celebrates his 16thbirthday. Bryan was diagnosed with a brain-stem tumor on February 14, 1991. His doctor told us he had zero chance of survival; his tumor was a ticking time bomb. At the age of three Bryan endured 72 radiation treatments that shrunk his tumor, damaged his hearing, impaired his mobility, and degraded his ability to process information. In June of that same year, a group of young-married couples gathered with Kathleen, Bryan, and me to weep, pray for him, and worship in song our awesome God. The Holy Spirit descended into our midst and healed our son. He also profoundly taught me the power and hope that comes from worship.
Cerro de Pasco sits over 14,000 feet in elevation in the central Andes of Peru. It is a bleak place. Besides the lack of trees and barren terrain, the atmosphere around this mining town is oppressive. In the community where the engineers reside, a blue signboard welcomes the spirit recognized as lord of the mines. Pastor Marco, Felipe and two other young men of the church we visited, walked us around the central plaza one evening. They pointed out the many bars and discussed the rampant problems of alcoholism, adultery, prostitution, incest, animal sacrifices and demon-worship. They discussed the pride among the inhabitants—a “machoism” that scorns outsiders and keeps the many different churches from coming together as a united body.
June 17, 2001, Father’s Day—a day I’ll not forget. Barbie left a message on our answering machine. Dad fell off a cliff. He broke his neck, knocked his two front teeth out and was listed in serious condition in Providence Hospital, Anchorage.
Billy’s dad kissed his wife goodbye and walked out into the cool dark of early morning to go hunting. As he backed up he felt the vehicle go over a mysterious bump in his driveway. Concerned, he stopped opened the door and went back to examine the object. His two-year old son lay under the vehicle. He’d just run over his head.
They rushed Billy to the hospital, his skull badly cracked in three places. The doctor sent the stricken parents home and told them to come back the next day.
Matthew 8:2,3--Right away a man with a serious skin disease came up and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Reaching out His hand He touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean.” Immediately his disease was healed.
I’ve read the passage in Mark countless times and I have to admit, I’ve always glossed over his action as both understandable and “no big deal.” In truth, I’m like him—I can think of times when God has brought His word to mind and I liked my idea better. I’m reminded again of how important obedience is. What God says I need to do. “Then a man with a serious skin disease came to Him and, on his knees, begged Him: ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean’” (Mark 1:40). Jesus was filled with compassion and touched the leper—healing him. Then He did a curious thing. He strongly warned the man not to tell anyone but to go and show himself to a priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded regarding cleansing. Jesus told him this would be a testimony to them (the priests and fellow Jews).