In the last year, at Croydon Jubilee church, we have seen a number of healings and answers to prayer, and it’s becoming less of a surprise, but before I tell you about them, I want to set the scene…
I have always been struck by Jesus’ response to the disciples of John the Baptist when they came to ask if He was the promised messiah. He said “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matt 11:4-5). Jesus – the Messiah has come, and with Him, He’s brought the kingdom of God, and all the evidence of its having broken into the earth.
For as long as I’ve been the leader of Croydon Jubilee Church, I’ve longed for more of these ‘signs of the Kingdom’ to be present among us and even as I write this and even after everything we’ve seen, I still have to fight the urge to add one caveat after another and to simply let God speak into that gap between what we see and what we believe God might do among us.
I remember hearing Andrew Wilson’s teaching on ‘Word and Spirit.’ He used two spectrums to illustrate a point, and I found it so helpful. On one spectrum, you had the word at one end and the spirit at the other, and there were different ‘streams’, churches and leaders placed somewhere along with it. He joked that we (Newfrontiers) proudly hold the middle ground where we don’t slip into the potential challenges of emphasising one over the other. I can’t remember if he called us to consider this or if it was a thought of my own, but I was struck by the possible arrogance and the pressure of holding that tension. Moving to the second spectrum he reminded us that the word is not in tension with the spirit at all! He called us instead to consider one end of the spectrum as low word/ low spirit and the other end being high word/ high spirit and that we all are trying to move towards knowing and experiencing more of God among us both by His word and by His Holy Spirit.
We are word and spirit churches, but from my perspective and I can only speak for Croydon Jubilee, we are stronger in the word than we are in the spirit.
I recently joined a gym. I’m nearly 40. I’m overweight and my back gives out occasionally and I want to do something about that. It’s funny to observe how rare it is (at least for young men) to train any muscle group below the waist and so all around me are young men, with legs for arms and pecs for days, but their legs look like they wouldn’t hold them up in a strong wind. I remember the temptation. When I used to train many (many) years ago I wanted the quick gains and particularly the aesthetic ones, but now I’m older I just want my body to work the way it was designed to and so I have a much more balanced training programme.
This could be a picture of us, as Christians. If our upper body represented our journey of growth in the word and our lower body, that of our journey of growth in ‘the things of the spirit’, we want healthy, balanced growth we want to be able to stand up to strong winds, because they do blow occasionally.
This is something we’ve come back to a few times at Jubilee, over the last three years and I’ve called us to truly seek to grow in the things of the spirit as well as well as in His word.
If I’m right that we are stronger in the word than we are in the spirit and if it’s true for more than just Croydon Jubilee, then we need to pay particular attention to the area that is least developed.
I’m not a sociologist, but I used to be a teacher and my observation is that studying the word comes to us more easily than going on a journey of getting to know the Holy Spirit, which is by nature intangible. We’re trained to be able to dissect a text. I remember the skills I learnt studying To Kill a Mocking Bird for my English GCSE and I personally believe that many of us approach the Bible just like that and that’s not a bad thing, but we have to be careful because that does mean that we might find ourselves approaching the Bible without any reliance on the Holy Spirit to ‘lead us into all truth’ (Jn 16:13).
We want to grow in the word and we want to grow in the Spirit and we need both to do both well.
Forgive me. That’s a long introduction to what I really want to tell you about, which is that we’ve seen some encouraging signs of the Holy Spirit at work among us. Not so glamorously, that has included a deepening love for the word, but it has also been evident in a handful of medically verified healings, as well as headaches going and ankles becoming stronger, etc.
I want to tell you about one healing in particular though. One of our congregations had been unwell for a long time. So unwell, that we even had to call an ambulance for them, during a Sunday service, as they experienced complications linked to their ill-health. Every preliminary test, as well as the symptoms that led to the tests, pointed to a high likelihood of bowel cancer.
We had been praying for them as a church for a few weeks already, but on that Sunday morning, we felt it was right to abandon all plans for our time together and to just pray (we just about managed to squeeze our sermon in, finishing late).
During that service, as we prayed, a member of the congregation felt God give them a prophetic word for the person facing a diagnosis of cancer, but they didn’t share it publicly and instead entrusted it to a close friend of the person. It was quite a graphic word and could have been upsetting, so the friend sat on it and continued to pray.
A couple of weeks passed and on the Friday before the definitive test the following day, the individual experienced what I believe was miraculous healing from cancer. It’s pretty graphic, so I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that while they were doing what we all do, that ‘something’ left their body. They turned to see what had happened and in an instant as they looked, ‘it’ disappeared from in front of their eyes.
The following day, in the hospital, the nurses arrived to complete the tests and were amazed to find no sign of cancer at all. They were so sure that they would, that the doctor was already present, ready to immediately explain the implications of the diagnosis, but there was nothing to diagnose.
The following day at church, as they shared what had happened at home on Friday night and then at the hospital on Saturday, the close friend realised that what happened was so close to the prophetic word that they’d held onto that they shared it with them and with all of us. I can’t remember many more joyous moments in a church service, as when we all heard the whole story put together.
Now you might say that there had simply been no cancer present and that this isn’t actually a medically verified healing. We’ve seen a very small handful of medically verified healings. One member was prescribed medicine and had a one in ten thousand adverse reaction to it and suffered what was supposedly permanent damage to their kidneys, but we prayed and their kidney function has been restored to far higher levels than doctors ever expected.
What I love about this particular healing (and I continue to call it that), is the involvement of the whole body in the journey. We all prayed. A member received a prophetic word and faithfully discharged it. A friend weighed it and although they chose not to share it, they held onto it as they and we all continued to pray and the experience the individual had at home, on that Friday night, that so resembled the prophetic word and the subsequent test results are such an encouragement.
I started by saying that we’ve seen a number of healings and answers to prayer in the last year and that it’s becoming less of a surprise. It’s becoming less of a surprise, for the simple reason that we’re asking God to heal more. When we pray and He answers we grow in faith that He answers prayer and we also pray more as a result, but one thing that I think has come of this for us at Croydon Jubilee, which I want to encourage you in, is that we have increased in thanksgiving.
God heals. He heals all the time. We fall over and cut ourselves and these wonderful bodies He’s made heal themselves, we pray and He answers. We also give thanks that one day we will inherit a resurrection body and on that day there will be no more death, sickness, crying, or pain.
Giving thanks is good for us. It feeds our faith to recognise God’s goodness in all things and as we seek to grow in the things of the Spirit (as well as in the things of the word), it does us good to recognise and give thanks for the things He’s doing all around us.
I wish you well in your own journeys and I look forward to giving thanks to 3you, as you see God increasingly at work where you are.