How far may Christ's power be expected to meet our bodily needs? We commonly say that there is no limit to His power to meet our spiritual needs. Is there a limit in our bodily needs? There is, of course, no limit to Christ's power. It seems to be a matter of His willingness, what He thinks it is best or wisest to do for us in this regard. There's such a wide range of bodily ailments. It runs from a nervous headache to organic heart trouble. It may be a crick in your back or a chronic lameness, or anywhere in between. Troubles that come from disturbed nervous conditions are more quickly affected by a changed mental attitude. Functional troubles are reckoned more susceptible to treatment than organic. Indeed organic troubles are usually quite ruled out. A nervous condition may bring on a serious palpitation of your heart. The right touch on the nerves would make the heart's beating all right again. Some troubles are commonly classed as distinctly outside the range of healing, whether some system of mental suggestion, or Christ's own supernatural touch of power. I recall running across a certain man in a Western city. He was well known in Christian circles as a leader in city mission work in New York City. He had made the journey west to get in touch with a Christian teacher of healing. And he told me that he had been healed of a rather serious trouble. But he had been lame for many years. And as we parted he limped away. I looked after him. He was praising Christ for the healing of his body. But it had never occurred to him that this serious chronic lameness might have been healed too, nor apparently to the man who prayed with him. Was he right? Is there a limit in this regard? There is nothing commoner than the use of eye-glasses to help defective or weak eyes. It is common among many who teach healing, the mental sort alone, and the Christ supernatural sort of healing. One listens to eager, joyous voices praising God for the healing touch that has come, perhaps to some remarkably radical extent. But the eye-glasses are there. It seems a bit puzzling. Is there a limit to the power we may expect? There can be no question that the eyes are vitally connected with one's health and vigour. Eye-strain has been responsible for serious nervous troubles, and for many a nervous breakdown. It's an intensely practical question so far as health is concerned. The eyes are affected much by nervous conditions. The use of glasses adapted to certain inaccuracies in the eyes, of course, tends to confirm and harden those inaccuracies. It is being insisted upon in certain eye-specialist circles that a proper nervous relaxation will actually correct practically all eye inaccuracies. And this new teaching is having a wide acceptance and application abroad, as well as here. Our next Talk lays much emphasis on a right mental attitude. A simple childlike trust in Christ affects one's habitual mental attitude. And this in turn has an influence on all bodily conditions quite beyond what we can take in. Sometimes aged persons will have what is spoken of as "second sight." I do not mean now the psychical sense of seeing into the future, and that sort of thing, which is spoken of in this same way. But there is a physical "second sight" referred to. It is not uncommon to find one in the seventies or later who has laid aside eye-glasses entirely, and is able to see and to read easily without their aid. Is it possible that this is simply such a relaxation of the nerves as normalizes the eyes again? Is it possible that the habitual spirit of unquestioning faith in Christ, and so the habitual right attitude of mind, would so affect our bodies, and our nerves as to include our eyes? Beyond this, may we pray expectantly for the healing touch on our eyes? The relation of the question to one's health is clear enough. It is a matter of health, vitally. What should we expect? How much? One's teeth have a still closer relation to health. The remarks about Christians undoubtedly experiencing healing, and yet having faulty eyes, could be repeated about the teeth, as extensively, maybe more. Modern dentistry certainly is having a large field of activity, and ever increasing. That it has gone through many experimental stages, and isn't out of them yet, is of course a common place. And the experimenting is always at human expense of suffering and ill health. Many of the things said about the medical profession, as regards commercialism, the rapid wholesaling process, the blundering personal equation, and the like, could be repeated here. Without question dentistry is a science and art combined, mechanical art and artistic art. And without doubt untold numbers have been distinctly helped. Of course, food affects the teeth very much, the sort of food. This is particularly true of growing children, and of expectant mothers and nursing mothers. The commercialism and the cookery that takes out of the food certain substances needed to build up bones and teeth, make for deficient and defective teeth. So does the unbalanced diet. Such teeth easily break down and give out in the grind of daily use. Of course, obedience to nature's laws here means the proper cleansing and care of the teeth from childhood up. Even with the best that the most skilled conscientious dentist can do, substitute teeth are so much less than the natural that no comparison can be made. The two things are too far apart for comparison. Loss of natural teeth lessens health and vigour and length of life, regardless of the dentist's utmost skill. Does dentistry simply give a maimed man a pair of crutches so he can hobble along somehow, instead of not at all? Is it simply good for those who don't and won't come to Christ for what He has to give? Or is there more? How much may we properly, sanely expect, and not be disappointed?
The Need the Measure of Power
It becomes of intense interest to turn back and note the extent of Christ's healing in the Gospel days. The list of healings there has a few acute cases, but most of them are the absolutely incurable incorrigibles. A man blind from birth is included, with the possibility that the eyeballs were not fully matured or developed. One summary actually says that the maimed were made whole. There is only one meaning when that word "maimed" is used, whether the Greek or English word is examined. And that is, that a limb or arm or foot, or some other part, that had been lost was replaced by a new one. That would be distinctly creative power at work. But the meaning of the language used is quite beyond question. And then the last word in extremes is said in the raising of the dead, even Lazarus dead four days. And the same sort of thing is repeated in the Acts. The beggar man in Jerusalem at the gate of the temple had been lame from birth. Now he leaps up, and walks. There's an abundance of strength, where there had been none at all. The Lystra man had never walked. And, even here, there are the two dead raised. There's Dorcas near the beginning of the Acts, and there is the Troas young man toward the end, when some might think of the extent of power as possibly waning. There can be no question about how far healing was actually experienced in these early days. The need was the measure of the power. The seriousness of the case didn't affect the power available. There were degrees of disability. But there were no degrees in the power at Christ's command, and in response to the disciples' Spirit-led actions. The power was always abundant, not scanty. The power was sufficient for the worst case. But what about now? How far may healing be expected to-day? Up to the limit of real need? It seems like a very difficult question, at first flush, unless indeed it is answered at once by some with a positive negative. Yet, there's an answer. And it is an answer that really answers. It is not a piously rhetorical evasion.
There are two parts to the answer. The first is this: ask Christ. You can come into the simple touch with Him where you can ask, and He will answer your question, and answer it fully. That's an enormous advantage, to get actually in touch with the Christ that has all power, and has used it in this way. Recall, if you will, what was said in our last Talk about getting into touch with Christ. Ask Christ. He has the power to. That is clear. He did have the love to when He was down here. That's clear, too. He thought it the wise thing to loosen out His power through His followers in those early sample Church days. Ask Christ about your own need, whatever it may be. He is there at your side. He is intensely interested. He will answer your question. Each one of us is a door. We are Christ's door, or we may be. We are His door into the whole circle where we live. He wants to get through us to them. His dealings with us are an acted-out plea to them. Through these He talks to them. The freer hand He can have with us the more He can touch them through us. We should eagerly yet patiently get into the sort of touch where He can give all He wants to. That means all we need. Perhaps you're in that school we are to talk about soon. You need to learn a thing or two, maybe. The thing we're needing may be withheld because there's something we're needing more. We may not know about that other need. It may mean a radical face-about to know about that other thing, and more radical yet to be willing to get it, with all it involves. Maybe you've got a term in school before you can get all you're needing. But then you can make it a very short term, if you will. And, and, the Devil may be hindering. There is no bit of teaching more bitterly hated, and more stubbornly fought against, than this of bodily healing by Christ's supernatural touch. Those who are in a place of leadership, or who have the personal gift of leadership, are yet more bitterly opposed than those otherwise placed or gifted. One has to insist through bitter opposition often. The thing is to be clear of the Holy Spirit's leading, and then insist on having all He has for you. Ask Christ your question. And remember, as you ask, about His first will for us. It includes whatever is included in this: full bodily health and vigour, to His glory. That's the first half of the answer.
God's Giving: Our Taking
The second part goes a little deeper in. It is this: Christ's giving is dependent on our taking. You can't give into a tight shut fist. Christ can't. There's a striking little word on Christ's lips in that Betrayal Night Talk (John 15:16). He and the inner group are walking under the full moon, past the Herod temple with its beautiful brass grapevine. Christ says, "Ye did not choose me, but I chose you." They did choose Him as a Saviour. He chose them for the bit of service they were to do. "And appointed you," He goes on, "that ye should go and bear fruit." The fruit was the life, what they really were in themselves. All service roots down in the life. "And that your fruit shall abide." Not green, gnarly fruit, but full-grown, luscious, juicy fruit. He means us to live a life matured and ripened in its spiritual experiences. "That whatsoever ye shall ask." Note that: prayer, like service, grows out of the life. The life in touch prays, and can pray, and can pray the prayer that loosens out Christ 's power to the full. "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He may give it you." The striking word is that word "may." It is not shall this time, but may. Every other time the word used in this connection is shall, this time it is may. "Shall" means His willingness to do, His purpose. "May" means our co-operation with Him. "Shall" is His side, "may" is ours. Our asking makes it possible for God to give. We give Him the open channel. God needs an open hand, and that means an open life. Christ's giving is always dependent on our taking. And we are such beggarly takers. No human hand has ever yet reached up to take as much as Christ's pierced hand is reaching down to give. For the taking must be on a level with the giving. It means that touch where we want what He wants. He leads us. We follow. We talk much about God's sovereignty, without understanding much about just what it means. We don't talk so much about man's sovereignty. Practically, God's sovereignty means that ultimately, through the tangled-up network of human wills, God's love-plan for things down here will work fully out. Yet it will be without infringing on any man's free choice and action. Man's sovereignty, as planned by God, means that everything we have and get and do is through our own choice. God's sovereignty waits on man's sovereignty, His purposes on our glad co-operation. And some day these two will run side by side. And man's sovereignty will be deliberately merged in God's. His love will win our choice. But, just now, the bit to emphasize is this: in actual life the biggest thing is man's taking. We may have, out of Christ's down-stretched hand, all we can take, and then all we, actually will take, and do take. It's a three-sided transaction. Christ reaches down to give all we need, without any limit or restriction. We reach up and take out of His hand. The Devil reaches over to keep us from taking out of Christ's hand. He tries to keep our hands, Christ's hand and mine, out of touch, if possible. He befogs the air so we don't see straight in our reaching. He tries to teeter our reaching hands, this way and that, or to make them not reach up far enough so as to touch. He does his best to tire us, to wear us out, so we'll quit the reaching. When he slips here he starts in afresh over there.
The Limit of Our Consent
There's a remarkable bit from Paul's pen that fits in here. It says that all power needed by any one (in touch with Christ) is already within himself. It is a matter of letting this power that is within actually meet the need. The need you feel so keenly and the power to meet that need, are close neighbours. You have both. It 's a matter of the two getting together. The passage is in the little letter to the Ephesian church, where Paul had that two-years' remarkable healing ministry. It becomes the more striking because the particular thing being talked about in this letter is this: the power of God at our disposal to meet our need. There's a threefold standard or measure of that power, the raising of Christ when He was dead (Ephesians 1:18-22), the making of a new man inside one dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-10), and the changing bitterest enemies into dearest friends (Ephesians 2:11-22). Pretty high standard of power that could do such things! Paul says we may expect that power, which is now within us, to meet any need for us today up to that measure or limit. That covers what we are talking about just now, and more. The striking bit comes at the end of chapter three (Ephesians 3:16-20). In simple language here is what Paul is saying, in part. The Holy Spirit is power. He in Himself is all the power of God. He is now inside each of us. He comes in through the opened door of our faith. He reproduces Christ's own character in us, so far as we let Him have sway. The big thing He does is to fill our hearts with that tender, strong passion, the love of Christ. This comes to include every other needed trait of character. Then Paul sums up all in this: "Unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us--." That is to say, He is able to do, not simply what we ask, but what we are thinking about that we wish He would do. Then Paul piles things up in a rare way. He is able to do above that, then abundantly above that, then exceeding abundantly above that. That is a tremendous climax. And the one outstanding characteristic of this power is love. It is a power of love. He can and He will. Love controls the power. That surely answers our question. And then the measure or the limit or the extent, up to which we may expect this power is put in these words, "according to the power that worketh in us." That means up to the measure of that power working in us. Of course, the power itself is without any limit. But the Holy Spirit always works with our consent. He does only as much as we let Him do. Everything He does is as we are willing. So the limit of the working is th~ limit of our consent. He'll do all we let Him. As we let Him work in us all He wants to, He works for us all we need. If we let Him work character in us (Christ's character), He's free to work bodily healing for us. We let Him work out His fruit in us, love, joy, peace, yes, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faithfulness, self-mastery. Then He is free to work out for us the healing our bodies need, and our circumstances, too. Fruit-growing is a gradual thing, seed-sowing, pruning, sun and rain, dew and air, spraying for hurtful insects, then bud and blossom, the beginning of the fruit, and its gradual growth up to juicy, luscious, full-sized fruit. It's a gradual thing. All growth is. One must be patient and steady, very steady. But sometimes it is surprisingly quick when it is the fruit the Holy Spirit bears in the soil of our character.
Nine Things About Taking
How far may we expect Christ 's healing? The answer is this: we may have all we can take. And then all we do take. But please notice a few simple yet radical things about the taking. They've been spoken of partly before in another connection. The taking must be in Christ's Name, pleading His blood. The Devil yields only to whom he must. And he must to Christ. The taking must be by one in actual touch of heart with Christ. The Devil laughs at any one else. The taking must be in the utmost humility. Our sins cost Christ so much suffering, and this that we take has been bought for us with His blood. The taking must be definite. The Devil yields only what he must. The taking must be persistent. The Devil yields only when he must. And he's a sly, deceitful, toughened fighter by strategy as well as by ugly force. The taking must be as the Holy Spirit guides. The touchstone of all prayer is the Holy Spirit's guidance. He puts the prayer to be prayed into one's heart. No mere asking for something because of someone else 's experience will do. That experience may be blessed. But there must be one's own direct leading, over the open Book, on the bent knee. The taking must be with the life. No mere church membership, and activity and giving, and the like, will do. No simple taking of the sacred bread and the holy cup will answer here. These may all be very blessed. But the taking must be with the very life. And it is so. One finds that it is only the life actually lived for Christ, by His grace, that can reach up and take to the full what His blood has redeemed. And, then, will you keenly mark, that you take only as much as you can take. The power to take varies with various persons, and even at various times with the same person. It all depends on one 's personal touch with Christ. And you take only as much as you actually do take. As a rule, the conception of how much you may take varies. It varies with circumstances and with one's mood. The Spirit's leading is the decisive thing. But, but, it is Christ's first will that we shall be made strong and well in our bodies up to the limit of our need. And He is by your side now eagerly waiting to give. Giving won't make Him any poorer, only gladder.... How far may Christ's healing be expected? We may have all we can take, as His Spirit guides our taking.