The three power gifts of the Holy Spirit include the Gift of Faith, The Gift of Healing, and the Gift of Working of Miracles. As we noted in the last lesson, the Gift of Faith is given to enable us to have the absolute trust necessary to accomplish those things that are beyond the ordinary. With simple faith we receive salvation. With simple faith we walk in the day-to-day instructions of the Word. With simple faith we give thanks for our food, attend church and participate in Sunday School and worship services. But then, there are those things like healing and working of miracles that go beyond our normal, everyday activities in the Kingdom. When we are called to exercise these gifts to help the Body of Christ, then the Holy Spirit pours out the Gift of Faith to enable us to act in the role of healer or miracle worker.
Remember, when we receive a Gift, it is to operate for the benefit of others (1Cor. 12:25-26). The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the betterment of the Body of Christ: for encouragement, exhortation, and comfort, and to help others outside the Body see the Truth of the Living God. And so it is with the Gift of Healing and the Gift of Working Miracles. I’ve lumped them both together because both of them involve God stepping on and changing the normal order of our physical universe. Healing that could take months occurs in an instant, miracles beyond comprehension occur, lives are eternally changed.
There is a very good story that Paul tells in the last part of Acts that illustrates all three Power Gifts in operation. He is on his way to Rome, under the care of a Centurion, charged with caring for Paul and guarding him against harm. As they travel from port to port on their way to Rome, they end up in a place called Fair Haven, of all names. Then, as Luke writes, Acts 27:9 But as [the season was well advanced, for] much time had been lost and navigation was already dangerous, for the time for the Fast [the Day of Atonement, about the beginning of October] had already gone by, Paul warned and advised them,
Acts 27:10 Saying, Sirs, I perceive [after careful observation] that this voyage will be attended with disaster and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship but of our lives also. Acts 27:11 However, the centurion paid greater attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. Acts 27:12 And as the harbor was not well situated and so unsuitable to winter in, the majority favored the plan of putting to sea again from there, hoping somehow to reach Phoenice, a harbor of Crete facing southwest and northwest, and winter there.
Big mistake, as the Centurion and the other 275 people on board were to discover. They put to sea on a pleasant south wind, but then a powerful nor’easter came roaring in and drove them helplessly before it. A ship with 276 people aboard, in addition to a sizable cargo, is not a small ship. And evidently the storm was not a small storm. They pulled down the sails and ran ropes around the boat to help hold it together. They tied the rudder because it was too difficult for a man to hold. And they ran before the storm. Not for a day or two, but for a couple of weeks, as in 14 days.
The storm was so violent that even the seafarers were in awe of its violence. They couldn’t navigate because they couldn’t see the sun or the moon. Everyone just struggled to stay alive and not get washed overboard. As they went along, they tossed out the cargo, then all the ship’s furniture and any excess fittings that they could find. Paul has been praying and as the narrative then notes, Acts 27:21 Then as they had eaten nothing for a long time, Paul came forward into their midst and said, Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have put to sea from Crete and brought on this disaster and harm and misery and loss. Acts 27:22 But [even] now I beg you to be in good spirits and take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you but only of the ship. Acts 27:23 For this [very] night there stood by my side an angel of the God to Whom I belong and Whom I serve and worship, Acts 27:24 And he said, Do not be frightened, Paul! It is necessary for you to stand before Caesar; and behold, God has given you all those who are sailing with you. Acts 27:25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith (complete confidence) in God that it will be exactly as it was told me; Acts 27:26 But we shall have to be stranded on some island.
Now, let me ask you. If you had been on that ship would you have believed Paul? Remember these were not Christians, well indoctrinated and imbued in the Word. These were pagans. Why should they believe Paul? But they did. They could only have believed him if they completely trusted him and his God. This is most certainly a Gift of Faith operating so powerfully in Paul that his absolute confidence in the Lord reached out to touch the lives of those on the ship.
The sailors dropped a sounding line and sure enough, they were drawing near to land. Some of them tried to slip off the ship on a small boat they had on board. Paul recognized that they are trying to get off the ship and escape, just in case the ship hit the rocks. But Paul knew what they are up to (the Gift of Knowledge). Acts 27:30 And as the sailors were trying to escape [secretly] from the ship and were lowering the small boat into the sea, pretending that they were going to lay out anchors from the bow, Acts 27:31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, Unless these men remain in the ship, you cannot be saved. Acts 27:32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes that held the small boat, and let it fall and drift away.
Again, why would the Roman Centurion and his men believe Paul? They had no real reason to do so, other than the fact that Paul was speaking for the Lord; and his words carried the weight of eternity. So, Paul urged them to eat. He prays and gives them bread, and they all eat and feel encouraged. There was still a portion of the cargo—wheat—on board, and they tossed it over. The ship then went aground on a sand bar off shore, and the violent sea began to break it up. The Roman soldiers decided to kill the prisoners on board, least they escape. But the Centurion, in charge of Paul’s protection, stopped them. Everyone went overboard, clinging to boards and other flotsam as they made their way to shore.
Then, Luke writes Paul as telling, Acts 28:1 AFTER WE were safe on the island, we knew and recognized that it was called Malta. Acts 28:2 And the natives showed us unusual and remarkable kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed and received us all, since it had begun to rain and was cold. Acts 28:3 Now Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and he was laying them on the fire when a viper crawled out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. Acts 28:4 When the natives saw the little animal hanging from his hand, they said to one another, Doubtless this man is a murderer, for though he has been saved from the sea, Justice [the goddess of avenging] has not permitted that he should live. Acts 28:5 Then [Paul simply] shook off the small creature into the fire and suffered no evil effects. Acts 28:6 However, they were waiting, expecting him to swell up or suddenly drop dead; but when they had watched him a long time and saw nothing fatal or harmful come to him, they changed their minds and kept saying over and over that he was a god. Acts 28:7 In the vicinity of that place there were estates belonging to the head man of the island, named Publius, who accepted and welcomed and entertained us with hearty hospitality for three days. Acts 28:8 And it happened that the father of Publius was sick in bed with recurring attacks of fever and dysentery; and Paul went to see him, and after praying and laying his hands on him, he healed him. Acts 28:9 After this had occurred, the other people on the island who had diseases also kept coming and were cured.
In this passage, we see both the Gift of Healing and the Gift of Miracles in operation. Paul goes about the process of healing everyone who comes to him. Note that these were all nonbelievers. The Gift of Healing was given to Paul as a sign and wonder so the people of Malta would clearly understand that God is truly God. Paul did not take credit for the healings. It was made clear that God is the Healer, simply using Paul as His tool in this instance. And then, there’s that viper. Paul simply shakes it off into the fire. Certainly it was a miracle that he didn’t die.
So here, in this passage, we see the Gift of Faith, the Gift of Healings, the Gift of Working Miracles, and the Gift of a Word of Knowledge all operating in Paul. But again, note, they were not just for Paul. They operated through Paul, certainly, but their use was to help others, and thereby bring honor and glory to God through Christ Jesus. Jesus told us that it was good that He would leave because He would then sent us His Holy Spirit (John 16:7). When He sent us His Spirit, it enabled us to carry out his statement in John 14:12, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone steadfastly believes in Me, he will himself be able to do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father (and will then send us His Spirit—GB).
We can do the things that Jesus did because of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, given as the Spirit wills to enable us to do all that God has for us to do. But, we have to be receptive and then act, guided by the Spirit’s direction and power. To do this, we have to stay in touch with God on more than an occasional basis. We have to be in touch in all we do, ever ready to operate in the Gifts so that others will be blessed by God using us to help them.
While the Gifts are given to help others, in a sense, when God provides healing and miracles for us personally, they are also gifts that help the Body and others outside the Body. They help others because our lives then become a living testimony to the Agape that God has for His Creation. When Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. “Jerry” Boykin was fighting in Granada, he was shot in the left side and left arm. His bicep was destroyed, his upper hunerus was shattered into a thousand pieces, and his radial nerve was severely damaged. Jerry is a Christian, and on his long flights back home, he prayed continuously, asking God to heal his arm. In his words, “At some point during those hours in the air, my anxiety melted away, replaced by an absolute assurance that He would.” See Phil. 4:6-7, Col 3:15. When he told his doctors to do what they could, but not to worry because God was going to heal his arm, they told him it was good that he had such a positive attitude; but their skepticism was palpable.
They held out little hope for an arm so badly damaged, but within a couple of weeks, he was wiggling three fingers, then a week later wiggling all his fingers, then making a fist. Still the doctors held out little hope that the bones in his arm would knit, simply because there was so much open space between the bone fragments. But sure enough, another week went by and that too healed. Tests indicated that the nerve to his arm was not operating, but there he was, grasping things with a fully functional left arm, that was healing and returning to normal no matter what the medical community told him. To exercise his bicep, he would grab a stick with his left hand, then use his good right arm to lift his damaged left arm and give it a workout. Sure enough, his muscle strength returned, even to the point of allowing him to do pushups. As a young man he had played guitar in a trio; after the injury his left arm ended up a couple of inches shorter than his right arm, but he has such good motor control in his healed left arm that he is back playing bluegrass.
This event, detailed in his book, Never Surrender (Faith Words, NY.), is a testimony to all who read it, Christian and non-believer alike, of God’s healing powers and His willingness to help His children. In this way, it is an encouragement and a celebration in the joy of the Lord to others in the Body and a call to non-believers to accept the Gospel. Since there are no alarm bells that go off when the Holy Spirit gives us a Gift, and since there is no way of knowing God’s mind in such events, all we need to do is ever be ready to live out the Truth of God’s Word and allow Him to operate in us as He wills. Pray that God will use you mightily, allowing you to operate in the Gifts to be a sign and wonder for Him, and help the Body become stronger and more able to teach, preach, and heal after the manner of our brother, Christ the Risen Lord.