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Clearly in Jesus' thinking the spiritual reality that the healing pointed to-forgiveness of sins and the progressive revelation of Christ's messiahship-was more important than the physical miracle itself. John Wimber, Power Healing
I needed to be healed. I did not have cancer, diabetes or even a toothache. My ears, nose, hands and feet all worked fine; yet I was broken. I needed to be fixed deep inside, in a place no doctor could touch.
I tell my story not to glamorize the sin in which I once excelled but to open the window to my past to show how God heals, beginning with the most important part. Physical healing is great-thank God He does it-but the inner work, of which the cornerstone is salvation, is greater than any bodily healing, as the late Vineyard Ministries International leader John Wimber correctly points out. Let's keep this in mind as we begin our journey into the great mystery of God's healing touch and as we learn how to pray for the sick.
My Story: From Zen to Jesus
I really thought I had it all together. The year was 1973, and I was 17. I was popular, had a good-looking girlfriend and money-I was making more than $2,000 a month selling drugs (that went a long way back then!). The hippie movement was alive and well, and I was a part of it. Parties and hedonism were my passions. One high would lead to another. For a while, it was a blast; yet something was missing. I tried to quiet myself, but there was something gnawing at me on the inside. I didn't recognize the stirring as God's trying to reach my heart, but I had a hunch it had something to do with religion. Christianity was not a possibility; I dismissed it out-of-hand, because it was the faith of my parents and a mainstay in the so-called establishment (this was not long after pop philosopher Abby Hoffman had advised all youth to never trust anyone over 30). I was the epitome of this maxim, and I refused to conform to society's norms. Therefore, when it came to religion, I turned to Zen Buddhism. Although I didn't study the Eastern religion in depth and only recall attending two meetings, I was given my mantra and chanted incessantly for nine months. Of course, I continued to party and sell drugs, too. As I played out this internal tug-of-war to fill the vacuum within me, questions remained unanswered-in fact, they loomed larger than ever.
Running from God
At the time I did not recognize the voice of God calling me. I did, however, know how to raise my own voice, and I knew how to flee. One day, after my father and I had a heated verbal fight, I ran away from home. Not having any place in particular to go, I made my way to Northampton, Massachusetts, to see my older sister, a freshman at Smith College. Being a "good" sibling, she took me in and invited me to a fraternity party. I felt right at home with a small cluster of college students who were drinking alcohol and smoking pot. From my jacket pocket, I pulled out a one-pound bag of marijuana and shared it with the nearest hippie. For some reason, we started talking about religion. I explained how I was into Zen. Another student, who was also getting high, overheard us and opined, "Hey, Zen is not the answer. Jesus is the answer. Jesus loves you, man, and I love you!" I immediately felt uncomfortable. I didn't mind his telling me that Jesus loved me, but when he declared that he loved me, I honestly thought he was a homosexual and that he was coming on to me. I got up and left the party. As I walked away, the words "Jesus loves you" rang in my ears.
Crying Out for Help Eventually I returned home to Rockville, Maryland, a town outside of Washington, D.C. My friends heard that I was back, so they invited me to a party. We drank beer, smoked pot and blasted rock-and-roll music. After about an hour, I grew tired of the party. I went into an adjacent bedroom, where I sat cross-legged on a bed and started to chant my Zen mantra. In the midst of my ritual, I realized that I had gotten absolutely nothing out of nine months of chanting. I was so disgusted that I stopped chanting the mantra on the spot.
"God!" I cried aloud in my anguish and frustration. "I don't even know if You exist. But if You do exist and what my parents told me is true, that Jesus died for my sins and that-if there is a heaven and a hell-You are the way to heaven, I want to know the truth. I don't want to go hell; I want to go to heaven! After all, if You're God and You're all powerful, can't You reveal Yourself to me?" As soon as I said those words, the presence of God came on me. Of course, at the time I didn't know what was happening. Looking back, though, I realize that it was the Holy Spirit's manifest presence. Something like scales fell from my eyes (see Acts 9:18), and I was stunned to realize that Jesus Christ was the answer I had been seeking all of my life. I thought to myself, All this time the answer for humanity was right in front of me-revealed by my parents' beliefs-and I was looking for the answer in drugs, sex and Zen. God's presence and the revelation that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life affected me so greatly that I started to weep. I literally felt His love. What amazed me was that I knew I was a rebel and a very selfish person, yet He still revealed Himself to me. Even though I didn't fully understand everything about God, let alone exactly what had transpired, in my heart I promised, If this is the kind of God You are, then I'm in. I will follow You no matter what. After regaining some composure, I returned to the other room where the party was still blasting away. I blurted out to my friends, "Hey, man, I found what we're all looking for! I found the truth. I found Jesus!" They became very quiet and concerned. They thought I had taken one toke too many or was completely flipped out on drugs. In reality, it was just the opposite. The presence of God had sobered me up; I had never felt more clearheaded. "Ché, you'll be okay in the morning," my best friend Jon offered. "Why don't you go and sleep it off?" I knew sleep was not what I needed, so I told Jon and all of my friends that I was going to stop doing drugs and follow Jesus instead. Everyone in the room laughed-I probably would have been guffawing, too, if one of our other friends had found Jesus first. It seemed like an oxymoron to equate Ché with no drugs. I had been their drug supplier! One of my friends predicted that I would get high the next day. He was wrong-it took two days. I was addicted. There was a tug-of-war going on: I wanted to follow God, but I was addicted. I was soaring on chemicals, but deep inside I wanted to follow Christ-the Holy Spirit had already started to work in my heart. In fact, for three days I couldn't stop weeping. Off and on, the same revelation and presence of God would hit me, and I would break down and sob uncontrollably. I did not understand spiritual warfare at that time; all I knew was that there was a battle converging around me.
Making the Right Move
It took two weeks for me to fully give up drugs. It also took a dramatic encounter. My friend Jon had somehow come up with enough money to buy four tickets to see Deep Purple perform at the Baltimore Civic Center (Deep Purple was one of the hottest bands in 1973 and sang the hit song "Smoke on the Water"). Because we got the tickets at the last minute, our seats were in the back. During the performance of the warm-up band, we worked our way up to the front of the auditorium to the best seats in the house. We found four spots three rows from the stage. During the intermission, my friends walked around the auditorium, but I stayed behind to save the seats. As I sat alone, I found myself thinking about what had happened two weeks earlier when I had asked God to reveal Himself to me. I knew that Jesus was the truth, but I was having a hard time giving up drugs. In fact, both the night before and during the concert, my friends and I got high. In my pocket was a bong (pot-smoking pipe) I had smuggled in! Right there at the Deep Purple concert, I began to bargain: "God, is it okay for me to get high as long as I stay off the hard drugs and don't sell the stuff?" It was easy for me to conclude in my own mind that since God is a God of love, He really didn't mind my smoking pot or drinking alcohol as long as I didn't hurt anyone else. I was starting to feel smug about my newfangled theology when two complete strangers sat down in my friends' seats. I leaned over to tell them that the spots were taken, but the one closest to me spoke first: "I know what you are thinking about. You think that you can do your own thing and still follow God, but you are still far from Him. You have to show Him that you are really serious about following Him."
With those words, they both got up and walked away. To this day, I have no idea who the two strangers were. I don't know if they were angels or if they were two Christian teenagers whom God sent to me. (If they were Christians, then what they did is called prophetic evangelism, the use of gifts such as prophecy or words of knowledge to evangelize.) It really doesn't matter if they were flesh-and-blood or angelic beings, they hand-delivered a message to me. Stunned and convicted that their words were from God, I cried out loud, "Okay, God. What do You want me to do?" A gentle, soft voice spoke inwardly. To this day, when I close my eyes, I can still hear God's reply: "I want you to throw away your drugs and never take them again. Leave this concert and follow Me." I took these words to mean do it now!. From my pocket I pulled out an ounce of marijuana and some quaaludes. I also grabbed my bong. Without fanfare, I simply dropped the drugs and paraphernalia, letting the stuff crash to the floor. Then, without even waiting for my friends to return, I walked out of the civic center. That night was the last time I ever took illegal drugs. Since then, I have not even been tempted. I have been supernaturally delivered! My friends could see the change. Word spread throughout my high school that Ché had become a Jesus freak. This was the beginning of my spiritual healing-the healing I did not know I needed. I had accepted Jesus as my Savior (see John 3:3), and then God repaired the brokenness inside me. The emptiness that I had tried to fill with drugs, sex, popularity and even Zen, He filled with joy, hope, peace, promise and so much more.
Jesus' Story: From Salvation to Healing
When God heals a person's body (whether ours or someone else's), quite naturally we tend to become excited. Sometimes we jump up and down and loudly praise God for what He has done. I do that! Given our human tendency toward what is sensational, this is understandable. Sometimes, however, in the wonder of the moment, we lose focus and elevate physical healing over salvation. The truth is that without salvation, the heahngs I have received over the years to fix my body would not be worth much. On the other hand, with salvation, such healings show me that God cares about making every part of us whole: mind, spirit and body. Francis MacNutt puts it well:
This is precisely how Jesus conceived his mission: the time of the Messiah would be a time of healing, of liberation, of salvation. Because the Hebrews did not think of human beings as being divided into body and soul, but as whole persons, when they spoke of salvation they thought not only of saving souls but of healing persons. And our person includes our body, our feelings, and our spirits.
Virtually every person who embraces healing as a major part of his or her ministry-from Kathryn Kuhlman to Oral Roberts, from John Wimber to Benny Hinn, from myself to other local pastors-will agree on the absolute priority of salvation. Our styles and some minor theological points may differ, but for each of us, salvation is of utmost importance. Do not worry. I am not downplaying physical healing at all-just placing everything in its proper order, which is one of the keys to seeing more healing, both spiritual and physical, occur in our midst.
Your Story: From Emptiness to Wholeness
I hope everyone who reads this book but doesn't yet know Jesus will pause right now and consider my story. Jesus loves you, and He came to Earth for the purpose of dying on the cross for you and for everyone else in this world. He took the punishment for all of our sins-yours and mine (see John 3:16). You may be running from God, seeking answers in all the wrong places, as I was. You may have sinned as much as I did-or more. Perhaps you hesitate to embrace the religion of your parents or to follow the beliefs of Christians in our culture. Perhaps you have been hurt by a spiritual leader, or maybe you do not understand everything about God. But because God really is who He says He is, none of these are obstacles for Him. I have been there. I have asked the questions. And I have seen God respond so wonderfully and powerfully to me and to thousands of others. Ask Jesus to be the Lord, or boss, of your life. Surrender all that you are and all that you have to Him; and by God's grace, you will become a follower of Jesus, too. Listen for His still, small voice. He may not send you two messengers as He did for me; He may just use this book. This can be the beginning of your healing journey. True healing begins with your spirit's being healed by the Great Physician, Jesus. To ask Jesus to be your Lord, you can pray the following prayer or one of your own. Either way, Jesus will come into your life. Go ahead and allow Him to heal your heart right now.
Jesus, thank You for Your love. Thank You that You died for my sins. I repent of my sins. Jesus, I believe that You died for me and rose again. Jesus, I love You and give You my life. I ask that You come into my life and take control of my life. I receive You as my Lord and Savior. From this point on, I will love You, follow You, obey You and trust You. In Jesus' name, amen.
If I dare believe, I can be healed. Smith Wigglesworth, Ever Increasing Faith
In my first year as a Christian I did not know much about healing. If I had a bad headache, I never thought to ask God to take it away-I just toughed it out or reached for some aspirin.
Excerpted from HOW TO PRAY FOR HEALING by Ché Ahn Copyright © 2004 by Ché Ahn. Excerpted by permission.
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