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God’s indeed a good Father–how NAR leaders have twisted a biblical truth

fathers hand with childChristians would agree: God is good. But not every Christian would agree with what that means exactly. For instance, could God, as a good father, ever use a sickness, disease, or other type of suffering to teach his children a lesson?

Most Christians would say yes, that God does sometimes work in the hearts of individuals through human suffering, painful though that truth may be. But many leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) insist that a good human father would never do such a thing and, therefore, neither would God. This teaching is promoted by the influential NAR apostle Bill Johnson, the senior pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, who has written a new book titled God is Good: He’s Better Than You Think. In his popular book When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, Johnson writes this:

Faith lives within the revealed will of God. When I have misconceptions of who He is and what He is like, my faith is restricted by those misconceptions. For example, if I believe that God allows sickness in order to build character, I’ll not have confidence praying in most situations where healing is needed. But, if I believe that sickness is to the body what sin is to the soul, then no disease will intimidate me. Faith is much more free to develop when we truly see the heart of God as good.

The same misconceptions of God affect those who need to have faith for their own miracle. A woman who needed a miracle once told me that she felt God had allowed her sickness for a purpose. I told her that if I treated my children that way I’d be arrested for child abuse. She agreed and eventually allowed me to pray for her. (Chapter 4)

The problem with Johnson’s teachings about God’s goodness and sickness is they don’t square with Scripture. What’s more, they can lead to a shallow faith that is ill-prepared to face health problems and other trials of life that will inevitably come. This will likely lead to increased suffering for ourselves and those around us. Rather than denying the reality that God uses suffering as a tool to shape us, how much wiser it is to recognize His care and goodness in the midst of suffering.

Sickness as a tool in God’s hand

Consider the following people who suffered sickness–and some even death–because God had a specific purpose for their suffering.
  • Job: God allowed Satan to inflict Job with painful sores over his entire body. God allowed this attack on Job’s health to show that Job would remain faithful to God even during terrible suffering. (Job 2:1-8)
  • King David’s child: God afflicted David’s baby with a sickness that resulted in death, even though David fasted and prayer fervently that God would spare the child’s life. God told David, through the prophet Nathan, that the death of the baby was discipline from God for David’s sins of adultery and murder. (Samuel 12:13-23)
  • The author of Psalm 38: The unknown writer of this psalm laments that he is suffering extreme sickness and pain as discipline from God for his sins.
More examples of sickness being used by God for a specific purpose could be provided. But Johnson discounts examples that are found in the Old Testament. Read what he says about them here. So, let’s look at some examples from the New Testament.
  • A man born blind: A grown man suffered blindness many years before Jesus healed him. Jesus explained that the reason God allowed him to suffer from blindness was so that “the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-7)
  • The Apostle Paul: God allowed Paul to suffer from a “thorn in the flesh,” which most commentators believe was some type of chronic health problem. Paul begged God to cure him, but God didn’t because He wanted Paul to learn to rely on His grace. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
  • Members of the church in Corinth: Many people in the first-century church in Corinth were sick, and some even died, because they partook of the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner.” The purpose of the sickness was to discipline those individuals who had dishonored the Lord so they would repent and not have to undergo God’s ultimate judgment.  (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

Again, more examples from the New Testament could be given, and I’d love to see them in the comments below. The point is that God does sometimes allow people to suffer from sickness and disease for specific purposes. Yes, He’s a good father. But He also knows best.

Recommended reading: Preparing to Succeed in Severe Suffering, a blog post by Clay Jones

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Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

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14 Responses to “God’s indeed a good Father–how NAR leaders have twisted a biblical truth”

  1. Michael S Heiser Says:

    good grief (sorry for the pun).

    Maybe he hasn’t run into Rom 5:3; John 11:4; Acts 9:36-43.

    The real problem here is that the people following him are so biblically illiterate on the matter. Movements like this would never become much of anything if believers knew Scripture well.

  2. Julia Says:

    Hi, first of all I appreciate this blog and everyone on it.  I do understand we need to test everything with Scripture.

    I would like to say that it is possible for Christians to believe that sickness is not the will of God and still be orthodox.  There have been many movements within Christian history that believed in, and practiced, healing.

    That said, I realize there are also some serious questions people have about various movements
    and leaders.

    I would like to put out for thought:  Just because something happens in the world may not mean it is God’s will.  For example, is it God’s will that people be put into concentration camps or that little children die of cancer? 

    I understand there is a serious question here about God’s control.

    I am not saying that God would never use hardship, suffering or even sickness in some cases. I am not God so of course that is up to Him.  I know He told Paul how much he would suffer for His Name. 

    I think we need to look carefully at the entire Bible in context. 

    I believe that sickness or sin is not God’s will.  That does NOT mean we are allowed to blame or judge those who are sick, and it does not mean it is their fault or a lack of faith.

    Jesus healed everyone who came to Him and He is the same today, yesterday and forever.

    Although there has been a lot of controversy and even spiritual and other abuses connected with healing, that does not mean it is not God’s will to heal.

    Also, the fact that healing is believed does not validate the minister or the group.  God heals people because He loves them. 

    Again, thank you for this blog and everyone on it.

    I respect everyone’s beliefs here and I’m just holding this out because there are Christians and  non believers who desperately need healing, and I personally have been healed by God of horrible life threatening disease and taken safely off of medications that normally cause years of suffering.

    I fully understand that we all have concerns and need to be able to discuss them.

    Thank you for letting me share.

  3. Janis Says:

    Wow!  This was a very good piece, well written and spot on.  Holly, you have shown how easily things can be perceived as “right” in the NAR, but are so obviously WRONG.  Keep up the good work and I am glad you are allowing everyone to see who the True God is.  When people are searching for something or someone in their lives, it is so easy to get caught up in the latest teachings and feel good methods.  We have to really keep our eyes and hearts open to what God’s words and promises are and not what false prophets are teaching.  Thank you!

  4. kadri liisa Says:

    Sorry but with that i disagree. Sickness is not God’s will for believers. Since there is no passage in NT we can not take those stories and say God will teach thru sickness. Bible do not say it directly anywhere. 
    Christ carried all sickness to the crosd so that we can be well 1 Pet 2:24. Is 54:4-5 talks about it also. What did Jesus on the earth? He destroyed works of evil Acts 10:38 as evil has com to destroy, steal and kill as John 10:10 says. God has came tht we might have life and life abudancently.

    Concerning those cases. It was persecution not sickness what paul experiences. Job has its own case. But you can not take those experinces and say God will teach thru sickness. No he do not. Holy spirit teach us and lead us into all truth. Joh 16:8-11,13.

  5. G J Says:

    We’re created to thrive in the New Jerusalem… not in this present age.

    Why do I say this?

    Christ said… My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence John 18:36 . 

    Jesus Christ set the example of rejecting the pleasure… well-being… power… the world offered… Matthew 4:1-11.  And, we’re to take up our cross and follow Him… Luke 9:23; 2 Timothy 2:11-13.
     The will of God is to be filled with the Holy Spirit… to be raised to eternal life… Ephesians 5:17-19; John 6:39-41.
     It seems to me the loving Father God will do whatever it takes to fulfill His will… even if it includes suffering—sickness.

  6. Preferring the Narrow Street Says:

    Thank you Holly for addressing this important issue.

    Of course sickness and injury were not part of our experience until after our fall into sin.  God does not like it.  It pains Him to see us suffer.  Healing and wholeness are restored to us in redemption, but our bodies are not fully redeemed yet.  They won’t be until we get our new bodies when Jesus returns and even reunites those who have already died with their glorified bodies.  Even the animals and growing things are groaning until that Day.  Then what rejoicing there will be!!  Take a moment to imagine this!

    Romans 8:18-23  
    “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

    Though it wasn’t what God wanted us to experience, we chose death when we chose not to believe God in the Garden.  So creation (including us) have been subjected to corruption/death.  If this were not so, we humans would go on living on this earth believing that there is nothing wrong.  We would live our selfish lives independent of Him.  If we as Christians would get our fully redeemed bodies at the moment of our salvation, then we would live eternally in our present bodies.  And this is obviously not what happens.  Where, I ask are we ever instructed to “contend for our healing?” (As I have heard NAR people instruct.)  But we ARE instructed to contend for the faith.  And in order to do that we must be strong in the Scriptures.  

    My 12 year old son said, “Mom, if Christians always got healed then everybody would want to be Christians because they wanted to get healed.”  Flock to the cross for the goodies!

    Galatians 4: 12-15
    “I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.  Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.”

    From this passage it can be observed that God used Paul’s illness to bring the Gospel to the Galatians to begin with!  They received eternal life because of Paul’s illness!!   And then the Galatians had opportunity to be blessed by caring for him.  If anyone has had opportunity to care for and watch a saint suffer in illness will know that they grow deep because of it, if they take their suffering to the Lord.  And we who care for them grow in ways that we would not otherwise as well.  God seems to be much more concerned about our growth in character than our comfort.  I believe that there are many Scriptures which support this concept.

    Philippians 2:25-29
    “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;  because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.  For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.  Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.  Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.”

    There is no discussion about Epaphroditus’s healing being a “right” or a “given”.  No, his healing was a mercy.  His sickness almost made him a martyr, which is an honor.

    If we have not endured suffering in the Lord long enough to discover what good the Lord can bring out of it, or recognize the changes that He can make in us through it, then we have no right to say that God doesn’t have purpose for us in experiencing illness or handicap.

    2nd Cor. 4: 16-18
    “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,  while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

    Our ideas of what “abundant life” means needs to be seriously re-calibrated.

  7. MC Says:

    When I was researching Bill Johnson’s teachings on this subject of sickness, I found the Greek to be extremely helpful.  It was such a blessing to see how scripture comments on this.
    2 Cor 12:7-10 Paul had a thorn in the flesh which he repeatedly asked God to remove. Paul was to rely on God’s grace to be sufficient (not healing)”for God said, My power is perfected in weakness (G769)” and that he will boast about these weaknesses(G769)! Paul says, following his prayer: “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses (G769), with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak(G770), then I am strong.” 
    The greek here for “weakness” and “weak” are astheneia (G769) and astheneo(G770) – the same words to describe physical illnesses, sicknesses, and disease people had that Jesus healed. If Paul is content with physical  illness and sickness, along with other trials and persecutions, it is because he has learned that Christ is strong and Paul wants God’s power to be perfected through it! He uses our weakness- including our illnesses.  Therefore we see scripture directly contradicting what Bill Johnson teaches. 
     

  8. Holly Says:

    I think that’s a good argument, MC.

  9. Bethany Says:

    Several stated above that it isn’t God’s will for believers to have sickness, because Jesus healed all who came to Him in the New Testament.  But His healing back then was for a sign to unbelievers that He was who He claimed to be.  Of course He can and does heal people today, but not everyone.  We’re all going to die of something…either by an accident, an illness or old age.    Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t so we all could be well physically, but for our sins.

  10. Diane Conklin Says:

    Writing about another faith healer regarding the same topic, I always find myself marveling at the lack of logic and sound reasoning these folks are constrained by, leading to the vary misconceptions they build for their faith system to rest upon.  Between Scripture twisting and divorcing oneself from sound reason, one can create any god of one’s choosing.
    Johnson writes, “…if I believe that God allows sickness in order to build character, I’ll not have confidence praying in most situations where healing is needed…A woman who needed a miracle once told me that she felt God had allowed her sickness for a purpose. I told her that if I treated my children that way I’d be arrested for child abuse.”  This faulty, human-based misconception of God, taken to its logical conclusion, would also impugn Him for allowing death by sickness or any other means.  Indeed, even if every sickness were healed, death would still have the final say.  How much more, in Johnson’s reasoning, would God be culpable of child abuse beyond that of mere sickness?
    The following is an excerpt from my article, found at http://www.christianresearchservice.com/becky-dvoraks-misguided-ferocious-faith/:
    When is death literally abolished in the sense that people no longer die because of it? When the end comes and Christ delivers the kingdom to His Father the “last enemy that shall be abolished is death” (1 Corinthians 15:24-26). Until then…we have to live with death no matter our doubts, fears, faith, and declarations or how it comes upon us. It is inevitable in this life “inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Physical death cannot be overcome here and now, creating a niche for faith healers because they come along and cast an illusion for the desperate and needy that death can at least be deferred if you receive healing.

  11. Nellie Says:

    A. W. Tozer believed suffering was the cross we are to bear.  Western Christianity and many of its believers will have little to do with the refiners fire, suffering, persecution and trials.  They are content where they are and there is no need to press on.  
    The worst thing I can’t stand is the NAR and Word of Faith quoting great prosperous things and reading much of the letters from Paul, who went through many persecutions that make anything we claim as peanuts.  

    Isn’t it strange these healers don’t go to the hospitals?  Many still go to doctors when in dire straits.  Where’s Benny Hinn’s jacket when they need it?

  12. Elaine Says:

    i believe Bill Johnsons teaching to be skewed because of my own personal experiences during 37 years as a Christian (apart from the good reasons given in earlier writers points ) I have received what I would call gifts of empathy through sickness and loss , enjoyed miraculous healing and growing in trust and faith just resting in Gods will and purpose in situations I would have liked to have escaped from but realised I had trust issues in those areas and had to remember I had requested in earlier prayers for greater intimacy and more understanding. So saying as much as we should keep praying and requesting relief for ourselves or others the final say is with Him as we can’t possibly understand the answers or final results as God can. I am somewhat wary of any preachers who promote such seemingly solid certainties which refutes quite clearly the experiences of the early Christian Church and the word of God. All things work for good for those that love Him so whether sick or well, through privations and difficulties the question of the Father is ” What do you want me to learn from this?” If it is deliberate targeting from the enemy then that is another matter but even then I believe that can teach us spiritual warfare.
    Though I have learnt much from personal experience I have found that as one now in her seventies and having witnessed moves of God (and sometimes its excesses ) I come back time and again to learning to listen and pray according to scripture and be very wary of easy fixes and manipulating the word or adding  my conjectures that might be in addition to the Word which is strictly forbidden.

  13. Mark Cox Says:

    I think we can’t see the trees for the leaves here.  The NAR folks believe parts of the WOF doctrines too (We are little gods–Creflo Dollar, Ken Copeland Ken Hagan,) What they fail to realize is that God’s Judgment to Adam was BUILT INTO the admonition of his WORD: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” We know the rest of the story.  What then is death? If we break it down biologically, physiologically, and organically we can ascertain that SICKNESS ultimately takes us down.  No one dies of old age.  Time is irrelevant to the equation.  Some condition, malady, disease, frailty, weakness, or trauma causes our demise 100% of the time.  Let us remember this EQUATION from Brother James “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.  Follow this out.  We all have a sin condition because of our FALLEN nature in a FALLEN earth in a FALLEN creation.  Our DNA is flawed. We lust, we sin, we die.  One other commenter stated that Jesus healed all that came to him–Let’s say for the sake of argument that his point is true.  What happened to those that were healed?  Their DNA wasn’t changed to that of the incarnate Son of God.  They still had a sin nature and they eventually died.  SO, we can surmise that their healing was not universal throughout their entire body, and was therefore a postponement–No one gets out of this life alive. Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  If the NAR folks can heal at will, then they owe it to this creation to run to St. Judes and heal the poor cancer victims there, some scarcely 10 years old.  But they don’t because they can’t.  They are liars.  We are not to love this world, rather to know this:  That our citizenship is in heaven and  the New Jerusalem.  For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

    God Still heals.  Very Very true.  But it in in his time;  If, when, and where HE DECIDES to accomplish it.  We should ASK….absolutely.  We should also realize that God is not obligated to answer the way we want him to in every instance.

    We should want to be in the presence and living space of the one who can heal eternally–for that is precisely what eternal life is.

    Mark

  14. John Says:

    God “Permits” many things that happen on earth. Sin pain, and suffering for example. Else it would be no more.
    The “heart of the king” is in the hand of God.
    And there is no such thing as Chance or luck.

    1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many among you are weak and sick

    I believe the context reflects, the reasons why !

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