What promise am I given?

[This article is an edited extract from Scott Blackwell’s forthcoming book from Matthias Media called Healed at last: Separating biblical truth from myth.]

When we bow our heads and bend our knees in prayer to the God of all creation, we participate in an impossibly privileged activity. To be able to meet with the one whom the Old Testament saints feared even to name, let alone look upon (lest they be consumed by his glory and die), should be a cause for great humility and no small amount of trembling. The Christian holds an astonishing status before God. On any day, at any time of the day, we may approach God to speak with him personally. We are to approach him as his own children—without fear and with confidence, but always in an attitude of reverent awe and deep respect.

Very often, however, it seems we forget that it is a privilege to come before our Father God—a privilege that Jesus won for us by his sacrifice on the cross. Too often Christians exhibit a bawdy familiarity that verges on contempt. Our regular presence in the throne room can cause us to develop a tendency towards carelessness and presumption, and our humble caution turns into disrespect. We may begin to make demands instead of bring requests. The more passionate and desperate our prayers are, the greater the temptation is for us to make demands of God. This is why we need to do the hard work of understanding the promises God has made in Scripture, as we shape our prayers around them.

Of all the private prayers we bring in conversation to our Father God, perhaps none are as deep, heartfelt or desperate as our prayers for healing and restoration—whether physical or spiritual—for ourselves and others. We often offer up such prayers in the midst of deep sorrow, grief, frustration or anxiety, and they are usually washed with tears. We bare our naked hearts and deepest desires to God and beg for his intervention to bless, restore and transform. It is our privilege as his children to be able to do this—to come to our loving Father and seek his comfort and aid and to claim the promises he has made available to us.

These privileges, however, do not extend to claiming promises God has not made or to neglecting commands and precepts that he has set in place. We must never forget that God owes us nothing. He is no-one’s debtor. What privileges we have come to us as gifts. They are not a reward; they do not come to us based on our particular merits. They are ours because of his grace alone. When we enter God’s presence, we do so with nothing in our hands and with no claim on him. We are the ones who owe him the debt—not the other way around. We lean only on the holiness and righteousness of his character—that he is the God who makes promises and does not lie.

Peter describes the promises that we have received from God in Christ Jesus as “precious and very great” (2 Pet 1:4a). He goes on to explain the function of these promises:

…so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Pet 1:4b)

The dawning and apprehension of these promises transforms us. We have been forgiven, made clean, and liberated from this world ruled by sin and death. Because of this, we are eligible to participate in the divine character—that is, we have been granted that which through our own power and ability we could never achieve. We have been made holy, righteous and fit for heaven and membership in the family and kingdom of the Creator and Redeemer. In short, we have been profoundly and fundamentally healed. It is a work already completed and a status already won for us by Christ Jesus:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)


But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Phil 3:20-21)

Like all things in the Christian faith, we can only discern this spiritual truth—that our healing has already been secured—through the insight of the Holy Spirit. We comprehend this astonishing reality by faith alone. But the fact that this ultimate healing appears to carry so little weight in the popular Christian church may well indicate that there is another issue we need to address. This lack of emphasis on the redeeming work of Jesus could be a sign that there is a serious lack of authentic, godly spiritual guidance in some of the popular Christian movements that have arisen in recent times.[1] Paul had a very good reason for cautioning Timothy to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (1 Tim 4:16). Paul knew that a laxness in this area leads quickly to error and to a perversion of the message of salvation.

It is impossible to declare too loudly the truth that where a biblical understanding of sin, judgement, salvation and atonement has become blurred or gone missing, there can be no expectation of genuine spiritual guidance or godly insight in doctrine or teaching. In such an environment, error will always flourish. When our Christianity becomes more about self-actualization, personal empowerment, gratification or success as opposed to thanksgiving, righteous obedience, repentance and faithfulness to God, the gospel of salvation that knows only “Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2) has clearly been lost.

It is long past time for us to ask serious questions of churches, theologians and preachers who teach that wealth, prosperity and upward mobility are God-intended blessings for the faithful Christian. We need to cast a critical eye over those who teach and promise that anything but health and long life is a sign of faithlessness. We need to call to account those who claim that the individual believer can exercise complete control over his or her personal environment by faith.[2] Such teachings are, unfortunately, enormously attractive to the 21st-century believer whose experience of life is one of turmoil and uncertainty.

Twenty-five years ago, DR McConnell predicted that such teachings were the greatest threats to Pentecostal and charismatic faith,[3] and he was right. Today these teachings and theologies appear to be the backbone of contemporary Pentecostalism and charismatic faith. Just as alarming is the fact that popular evangelical Christianity appears to take great delight in dressing itself in exactly the same robes. Many have watered down the saving gospel of Christ to little more than a magical formula by which we might satisfy our greed and self-centred needs.

Once again we find ourselves wrapped in the all-pervasive pursuit of individual happiness and success. Here, ‘happiness’ is defined purely along the lines of feelings that communicate pleasure, gladness or gratification—and it is easily recognizable so that the Christian can evaluate his or her spiritual health, as it were. According to this spiritual framework:

  1. God wants you to be happy.
  2. If you aren’t happy, this is an indication that you’re somehow spiritually defective.
  3. The antidote for this situation is to rid yourself of negative thoughts and bad choices, so that you might engage more fully in the life of blessing that Christ has made available.
  4. You know your spiritual health is normal when your life of satisfaction and success (happiness) is back on track and running in the direction you want it to go.

The problem with this paradigm is that the Scriptures seem to be completely uninterested in this definition of blessing (happiness). If happiness is defined anywhere in the Bible, its definition is subtle and implicit, an exhortation to live a life that is rich, full and meaningful—which means loving and obeying God.

In a recent publication, secular psychologist Dr Russ Harris identified four myths about happiness that can lead to serious struggles with contentment and self-understanding.[4] The myths he identifies as dangerous delusions are:

  1. Happiness is the natural state for all human beings.
  2. If you are not happy you are defective.
  3. To create a better life, you must get rid of negative feelings.
  4. You should be able to control what you think and feel.[5]

Now look again at the four points of the spiritual framework that is pervasive in contemporary Pentecostalism and evangelicalism, above. These doctrines of (spiritual) self-actualization are exactly the same as the secular myths Harris identifies. Such things never appear on the lips of Jesus when he describes life this side of the kingdom, and neither are they part of any teaching from the apostles. The truth of life—as it really is—is that happiness is not the common state of humanity. In fact, happiness is a rare commodity, and to conclude otherwise is simply naive. This is the testimony of Scripture, and the secular Dr Harris concurs.[6] The 21st-century Christian church has shamelessly sold its soul to the ‘happiness industry’ as it peddles a gospel in which individuals no longer need to recognize their deep sinfulness or their need for a mighty saviour. This triumphalist materialism/humanism is a bold and horrific perversion of God’s promises of forgiveness, restoration and healing in the kingdom to come.

I find it difficult to view such teaching as anything less than the blasphemy of taking the Lord’s name in vain, for the name of Jesus becomes a tool by which God may be manipulated to get what we want or need. For the tender Christian conscience, this is a blasphemy of breathtaking proportions. When the Lord God spoke to Moses at Sinai, he said:

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” (Exod 20:7)

It’s unlikely that God had in mind the limited way in which we tend to understand this commandment today (the use of ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ in cursing or profanity). The larger intent was to ensure that God’s people never used his name as the Canaanite and Egyptian sorcerers used the names of their gods. When magicians in the Ancient Near East discovered the secret name of a god, this knowledge gave them the ability to control that deity. To imagine that knowing the name of the God of Israel would translate into such power is unthinkable. And yet, it is not too great a leap from this pagan practice to the belief that the Lord God will answer every one of our prayers, no matter how self-serving or materialistic, so long as we offer them up in the name of Jesus. This is exactly the same attitude as those who practised magic in ancient and medieval times.

Christians usually justify this behaviour by quoting Jesus in John 14:14:

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

But, as McConnell rightly notes:

His promise was not unqualified. It requires believers to abide in him and allow his words to abide in them (John 15:7). It requires them to keep his commandments (1 John 3:22). It requires them to pray according to his will (1 John 5:14-15)… believers who use the name of Jesus for their lusts should expect nothing from God.[7]

It seems a strange thing to suggest that there might be a situation or circumstance in which it is wrong or inappropriate to ask God for healing—but, as always, the rightness of asking becomes a matter of heart and motive. It is possible to lust after healing just as it is possible to be overly infatuated with any good thing. Our error arises only when we lose perspective and our deep passions take control. Sin happens when we fail to see things as they really are—that is, when we fail to enjoy a good thing in its right place and instead make it an end in itself. The inevitable result is that we abandon the honour and praise of God to pursue an experience, person or object.[8]

Healing is a good thing, but it remains entirely in God’s hands. We cannot force or demand it and it is not a benefit that we can earn or receive as a reward. Healing is a gift. There is no secret rite that will elicit its appearance, no magic formula that will sway the sovereignty of the giver. God will bless as he sees fit and in accordance with his own counsel and wisdom. Should he choose to bless you with this mercy, receive it with humility, thanksgiving and joyful praise. Should he choose to withhold this mercy, endure with humility, thanksgiving and joyful praise.

Making the ordinary extraordinary

It is no surprise that God answers the prayers of his people, because he does it all the time. Indeed, he promises to do so.[9] God never leaves us to confront the storms of life on our own. When a missionary receives the financial support needed to take the gospel into another land—there is God answering prayer. When a church receives the pastor they have needed—there is God answering prayer. When I get that job I was desperately seeking; when my child returns home safely from a trip away; when the rain falls on drought-stricken lands; when I am reunited with dearly loved friends and family; when I find my long-sought-after life partner; when my cancer goes into unexpected remission—there is God answering the prayers of his people. For the Christian, seeing the answer to a prayer offered up in faith and trust is endlessly wonderful—but, in a sense, it is also the most common of occurrences. Our God answers prayer and delights to grant these mercies.[10] He has promised to be our Father[11] and to listen to the prayers and petitions of his children.[12]

It seems odd, then, that the modern Christian church should make such a fuss over God answering prayers for healing, as though this was somehow extraordinary or unexpected. Because we worship the God who rules over all things, everything from the daily rising of the sun to my next breath is a result of his grace, love and authority—and therefore a cause for praise. In a sense, everything is extraordinary. But not everything is unexpected.

Paul lists healing among the gifts given to the church for the common good, but he does not accentuate it in any way as a particular blessing that stands out amongst the others. No, this tendency to elevate that which God intended to be a hopeful expectation among the saints to the level of something extraordinary is entirely man-made. Suddenly our churches must be filled with anointings, special dispensations, power encounters and second blessings. The believer is endlessly encouraged to expect an experience that is spiritually or physically exceptional. When God answers prayer now, the answer must come with a performance. Everything must be bigger, brighter, better and more spectacular because we are Christians living under the power of God. What utter nonsense. Remember Jesus’ words:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt 6:5-8)

In the days of Elijah the prophet, Baal worship was infinitely more dynamic, entertaining and rewarding than the worship of Yahweh (historically, worshipping fertility gods tends to be like that). But if the encounter between Elijah and the priests of Baal in 1 Kings 18:16-40 tells us anything, it must surely be that the Lord is neither limited nor impressed by geography, numbers, or religious fervour. Elijah’s personal conduct here is important and worth noting. He heals (repairs) the altar, he reminds the people that they are twelve tribes (not ten), and then he prays in accord with the covenant promises of his God. Elijah’s simplicity reflects his theology—he knows the history of his people and he knows the character of his God, and so he knows the appropriate way to act.

I sometimes wonder if the fuss we make reflects our lack of understanding of the God we worship. Are we sliding back into the belief that God can be stirred to action if we create a flurry of religious passion? If so, then surely this is the result of a lack of confidence that God will do what he has promised in the life of the church, at exactly the right moment—the moment of his own choosing. Since when has God’s initiative and activity been dependent upon us and our sincerity, enthusiasm or faithfulness? Here, again, we see that creeping tendency to place ourselves at the centre of our religion where everything depends on how I feel—my response, my commitment, my empowerment. This kind of religious panic accompanies fear and faithlessness, and it manifests itself when there is a lack of trust that the sovereign God is in fact working out his plans and purposes for the benefit of those who love him—just as he has promised to do.[13] This kind of Christianity is profoundly shallow and easily uprooted. At its heart, it is good old-fashioned me-focused works righteousness. I may feel good about my performance and I may well have felt an atmosphere of expectancy in the congregation, but this has little or nothing to do with the God who saves through the gospel of faith in the atoning work of Christ.

Responding to the presence of healing

Despite the concerns we have discussed, the fact remains that healings do manifest themselves in this world from time to time in the lives of believers. As he sees fit, God acts to heal individuals physically in manifestations of awesome grace. It is one thing to argue for a theological and hermeneutical grid through which to interpret the biblical miracles, but what are we to make of the genuine physical healings we hear about and see in the church today? What do they mean and signify? Do they require us to develop a new methodology for interpretation and understanding?

Perhaps the best way to approach this matter is by asking two simple questions. First, why does the ascended Christ continue to miraculously heal people of their physical ailments? And second, how should we respond to such events?

Why does Christ continue to heal?

I begin with the question why simply because there is no doubt that the God of the Bible is the God who reveals himself as the one who has the power to heal—both physically and spiritually—even today. So the question is not if, but rather why. Having established the theological significance of the earthly ministry of the incarnate Christ, including the miracles that accompanied his presence and that of the apostles, the issue now is why such phenomena might continue beyond the apostolic age and into today. What is the purpose of this?

The eminent American theologian BB Warfield saw no evidence that the miraculous continued beyond the age of the apostles.[14] More recently, Jack Deere has concluded exactly the opposite.[15] For my part, the debate revolves entirely around the witness of Scripture in the promises of God. Are there teachings that suggest that miracles of healing would continue beyond the ministries of Christ and the apostles? I think there are, but we need to recognize that the miraculous today functions in a way that is fundamentally different from the way it functioned in the first century.

In the ministries of Christ and the apostles, the miraculous served two great functions. First, it confirmed the validity and authority of the good news that the kingdom of God was at hand. Second, it gave a glimpse of the reality of that coming kingdom to those hearing the message. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, however, has overtaken the first of these functions:

We do not need contemporary miracles to verify the gospel God sealed by raising Jesus from the dead and authenticated by signs and wonders through the apostles (see Rom 15:18-19)…

In other words, Cessationism[16] is right to see the sufficiency of the biblical miracles to confirm the apostolic gospel. They do not need to be repeated to accomplish this purpose.[17]

No further sign of validation and authority is required, because no sign is greater than the resurrection.

It would take a bold person, however, to assert that the purpose of revealing the majesty of the future kingdom has also been entirely accomplished for the people of God and that there is no longer any such need within the church. To hold this position is to unequivocally predict a future in which God will not exercise his sovereignty in unanticipated ways. I, for one, am not so rigid or courageous. After all, God will do as he pleases:

Continuationists[18] are right to see that what God could do in Bible times, he is perfectly able to do today. There is no theological reason—no biblical teaching—that tells us that God will not do today what he did then. The power of God is no less today than then.

Continuationists are right in their openness to the possibility of God acting in extraordinary and powerful ways today.[19]

However, as we have seen, this does not give us the licence to exaggerate events that occur today, claiming their equality with the ministry of Christ or undermining the uniqueness and significance of New Testament times.

The short answer to our question is that Christ appears to continue to enact works of healing for individuals because he chooses to do so. He decides—not because he is invoked by some spiritual incantation or special fervour, but because it is appropriate—to teach the individual how to rightly praise and honour him, and to advance the cause of his kingdom to the glory of God the Father. He heals because it is right for him to do so, and because the need for encouragement within the church of Christ is not yet fulfilled. But it is Christ alone who decides how best to answer the prayers of the saints. A pastor, however greatly anointed, has no power to make this decision. The power and authority lie in Christ’s hands and will alone. This authority does not now, nor has it ever, rested with us.[20]

How then shall we respond?

The Bible gives us a simple and direct answer to this second question: we should respond in joyful praise, heartfelt thanksgiving and sincere prayer.[21] How we express this response to the manifestation of God’s might, mercy, love and grace will, of course, be as varied as the individual believers, circumstances, personalities and needs themselves.

The saints receive the blessings that their God showers upon them with joy, humility and thanksgiving. These responses are never out of place within the Christian community—especially when unanticipated healing comes. In fact, this blessing is one that reminds us of our great dependence on our Creator and our unworthiness to receive anything from his hand. When God answers our prayers, often all that we can do is bow down, cover our faces, and worship the one who rules over all things—for these answers from our sovereign God lead us to acknowledge that we have no right to stand in the company of one so great and powerful, let alone to be the recipients of his love and mercy.

And so our joy and celebrations in the presence of healing are seasoned with genuine doses of humility and deep introspection. When God answers a prayer in an unanticipated way, it seems less than appropriate for the faithful to leap about as though they’ve just won something and been called to the front by Oprah or Ellen DeGeneres. Even joy and celebration should be God-honouring. God’s mercy and faithfulness drove Daniel to his knees in repentance;[22] Job responded to his restoration with self-abased humility;[23] when Jesus healed the woman of her bleeding she fell to her knees in trembling fear;[24] when he had been set free, the man who had once called himself ‘Legion’ could not keep from declaring the wonder and authority of Jesus,[25] much like the man born deaf and mute.[26] This is how the Bible presents the responses of those who have been restored by the mighty hand of the Lord. Consistently, we witness their humility, awe, praise, thanksgiving and repentance.

Christians have long been lampooned for their tendency towards emotional sobriety, and while at points it has been overdone, there is a good and godly reason why believers are never far from donning the garments of humility during times when others might be celebrating unfettered. We cannot divorce any gift of God’s unmerited favour from that great act of healing and deliverance won on our behalf at the cross. Every blessing we have flows from this wonderful and terrible act. All of our victories have been won at the cost of the blood of the Son; all of our blessings flow from his wounds. This truth is deeply engraved on the heart and mind of every Christian person. And so our joy and thanksgiving will always, at some point, return to that place where Christ was despised so that we might know true joy:

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed. (Isa 53:4-5)

All healing begins here, and so all healing will take us back to this place. The faithful delight to return to the cross, even when dressed in tears of joy, for only here are we reminded of who we truly are, of how much we have gained, and of the glorious reality of the God who saves at his own cost.

Responding to the absence of healing

Every instance of trial or difficulty in the Bible is actually an opportunity. Trials are opportunities to exercise confidence and faith in God in the face of crippling circumstances or dire need. Every Christian who undergoes times of turmoil, disappointment or suffering has these opportunities to choose—to trust the God he or she knows in this circumstance, or to run with the reality of experience. Each time we face such a difficulty, we choose whether our theology or our emotions will guide our response.

It sounds simple—but, of course, it is not. Suffering is a heartless brute who does not let up, sometimes not even for a moment. He parades his apparent strength before our eyes with undaunted arrogance, and his torment penetrates our flesh, our bones, our hearts and our souls. Whether it is chronic pain, or the heartbreak of losing a loved one, or the sudden onset of tragedy—it does not matter. This tyrant does all he can to close the walls in around us, block the sun, and shrink our world until it becomes terribly dark and small.

We pray our most desperate prayers when we find ourselves in this dreadful and lonely place. We pray to the God who promises to listen, who has promised to love us, and we wait—hoping against all hope to hear his answer and see his hand deliver us from the darkness that surrounds us. We pray this way because the Scriptures teach us to pray this way. We hold out this hope because the Bible relentlessly encourages us to do so. I know of no teaching or theology that suggests believers ought not to pray such prayers or hold fast to such hopes. This is why we are so bitterly disappointed when the answer we crave does not come. We do believe that the God who sits at the heart of the universe desires the best for us. We do believe that he seeks our blessing, and not our cursing. We do believe that he is kind, and gracious, and lovingly merciful above all else. We experience disappointment because we do believe.

Our world becomes very small when misfortune and suffering enter our sphere, doesn’t it? The reduction in perspective is subtle but relentlessly thorough. I know this is true because I have experienced this creeping paralysis myself, and I have seen it take hold of many friends and loved ones. When these circumstances arise, it becomes crucially important to remind one another again and again that this world is not the whole world. We must remember that this perspective on life is not a complete perspective. We need to realize that this truth is not the truth. Certainly this is a message that is difficult to hear and comprehend in the midst of personal trauma, but it is a message that must not be lost.

In 1992 I went on mission with my theological college to Wollongong University in New South Wales. I was in my third year of training and there were 16 of us in the mission team. Our host church was St John’s in Keiraville, and one of the team members was a second-year student named Richard. Richard and I had been in the same college prayer and chaplaincy group for two years and had become friends. One night during the mission Richard and I sat talking, and he told me of his desire to work at Wollongong University in student ministry with AFES.[27] I confided that I had a great desire to one day become the rector of St John’s, a small church close to the university campus that, it seemed to me, had remarkable potential for kingdom ministry.

Six years later, I was invited to become that church’s rector, and I was delighted at the prospect of working with Richard, who was already well established at Wollongong University. Our friendship remained strong, Richard’s family grew, and my daughter became Richard’s second daughter’s first piano teacher.

In late 2009, Richard’s wife Bronwyn was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was shattering news. Pancreatic cancer is a notoriously difficult illness to treat, with correspondingly low survival rates. Bronwyn was given only six to nine months to live, but by God’s mercy she endured for three more precious years.

In April 2013, after countless surgeries and hospital admissions, this gentle, generous and godly wife and mother of four left her husband and children to go home and receive the reward for her faith. Through trial and suffering that most of us dare not imagine, Richard’s family prayed that recovery, healing and restoration might come to Bronwyn. They prayed for God’s mercy and grace and invited their wide network of Christian brothers and sisters to do the same. Yet above all, in every letter and communication to us, they prayed for strength to submit to the sovereign will of the Father, ever giving praise and thanks to him. Physical healing did not come; it seemed God’s answer was ‘no’. But there was a remarkable healing of another kind.

In June 2012, Bronwyn wrote an article for the Equal But Different journal in which she expressed a breathtaking faith:

Why has God given me cancer? Maybe it is to make me repent of my wrongs and turn to Jesus—it has certainly done this. Maybe it is to make me talk more to my friends and family about Jesus—it has certainly done this. Maybe it is for reasons way beyond my understanding—it is certainly at least this. All I know is that God has given me this gift of cancer to use for his glory. We pray daily for the cancer to miraculously go away. But if God chooses to say no, we can trust him nonetheless.

It is still hard to really grasp that I am only here for a very little while. But as the Bible teaches:


“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” (1 Pet 1:24)[28]

This is how the saints of God respond when physical healing does not come. They trust in his all-encompassing sovereignty and fix their eyes on the glorious Saviour. They seek to bring him glory regardless of their situation or circumstance. They rely on his trustworthy promises, made so clear and firm by the cross and the empty tomb. They go to meet him with shining eyes, with heads held high, and with hearts full of praise and thanksgiving.

I sat with almost 1200 Christian brothers and sisters in the Wollongong University Hall at Bronwyn’s memorial service and I was in awe as Richard stood before us. He wept for his wife and preached the gospel that promises new birth, unshakable hope and an imperishable inheritance. When we stood to sing the last hymn—‘In Christ Alone’—I could do nothing but cry tears of grief and joy for my sister in Christ who now stood in the presence of her Creator and Redeemer—taking her place among that great cloud of witnesses and testifying to the endless trustworthiness of the God who makes promises and does not lie.

[1] According to DR McConnell, this evidence is damning in regard to the Word of Faith movement, which continues to exercise a huge influence on Pentecostal practice—despite being thoroughly discredited theologically (see DR McConnell, A Different Gospel, Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, Peabody, Mass., 1995).

[2] ibid., p. 15.

[3] ibid., p. 14.

[4] R Harris, The Happiness Trap, Exisle Publishing, Wollombi, 2007.

[5] ibid., pp. 20-23.

[6] ibid., pp. 11-15. This truth has profound implications for popular psychology, which has made an industry out of the pursuit of personal happiness (an industry that the church has embraced wholeheartedly).

[7] McConnell, A Different Gospel, p. 161.

[8] I am grateful to Andrew Cameron for his distillation of insights on this matter in his chapter ‘Augustine on Lust’ in Still Deadly: Ancient Cures for the 7 Sins (ed. A Cameron and B Rosner, Aquila Press, Sydney, 2007, pp. 33-49).

[9] Isa 65:24

[10] Ps 31:19, 107:9; Matt 6:6-8, 7:11

[11] Ps 103:13; 2 Cor 6:18

[12] Matt 6:6

[13] Rom 8:28

[14] BB Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles: A Defense of Divine Miracles against Pagan, Medieval, and Modern Marvels, The Trinity Foundation, Unicoi, TN, 2007 [1918], pp. 18-19.

[15] J Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1993, p. 54.

[16] Cessationists are those who hold the position that miracles ceased after the age of the apostles.

[17] J Woodhouse, ‘Where have all the miracles gone?’, The Briefing, no. 379, April 2010, p. 14.

[18] Continuationists are those who hold the position that miracles continue to persist, unchanged, from the age of the apostles into the present day.

[19] Woodhouse, ‘Where have all the miracles gone?’, p. 16.

[20] Job 1:21

[21] Exod 15:2; Deut 10:21; 1 Chr 16:8-9, 25; Ps 13:6, 28:7, 52:9, 103:2; Isa 63:7; 2 Cor 1:11; Heb 3:7-9, 13; Jas 5:13

[22] Dan 9:4-6

[23] Job 40:4-5

[24] Mark 5:33

[25] Luke 8:39

[26] Mark 7:36

[27] Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students.

[28] B Chin, ‘I Thank God for the Gift of Cancer!’, Equal But Different, June 2012, available online (viewed 10 March 2014): http://www.afes.org.au/article/thank-god-gift-cancer

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