Nabeel spent the last several years as a Christian apologist, and I've enjoyed listening to him and Wood. I find their testimonies astonishing, full of the grace of God. Both Wood's and Nabeel's stories are amazing in their own right, setting aside the fact that these two men were good friends. Not only college roommates, Wood baptised Nabeel upon his confession of faith.
In August a year ago, Nabeel informed viewers and readers that he had stomach cancer and needed to step away from pursuing his doctorate and the work he was doing with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Over the course of his treatment, he provided regular vlog updates through his YouTube channel. I often watched these updates and prayed with him as he led his audience in prayer at the end.
Nabeel prayed for a miracle. He prayed to be healed. And guess what? God healed him! He delivered Nabeel into a healing far greater than he could have asked or imagined. Sickness and death will never touch Nabeel again. This man who once worshiped a false god had turned from idolatry to worship the one true and living God! That itself was miraculous. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25). Nabeel is alive forever with Him in glory. Praise be to the Lord!
Yesterday, several websites, including that Serial of Saint Stalking Sneaky Squid Spirit Silliness known as Charisma Magazine, published an article by Dr. Michael Brown entitled Why Do Some Believers Like Nabeel Qureshi Die of Cancer? Before considering Dr. Brown's answer, Scripture tells us plainly why people die of cancer -- it's because of sin. Because of Nabeel's sin? Sure. And because of your sin and because of my sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
Your body will suffer from disease, decay, and death. We live in a fallen world subjected to futility by God who cursed creation because of mankind's sinful rebellion against Him (Genesis 3:17, Romans 8:20). Even people who have faith in Jesus get sick. Sometimes sickness is a judgment on a person because of unrepentant sin (1 Corinthians 11:29-30, James 5:16), sometimes it's just the natural course in a fallen world, and sometimes it's God's will for a person to get sick.
Paul got sick while he was traveling through Galatia, so he stopped to preach the gospel, people got saved, and God was glorified (Galatians 4:13-14). A man was born blind not because he or his parents sinned, "but that the works of God might be displayed in him," and then Jesus healed him (John 9:3). God put His own Son to death, for our sake and for His glory (Acts 4:28, Romans 8:32).
If you live long enough to die of a ripe old age, it will not be easy. You will feel death coming on you long before it happens. You might even find yourself wishing to die. We still inhabit sinful flesh in a fallen world, and we will feel the effects of the curse as long as we live in these broken bodies. But we have hope knowing that followers of Christ have been promised a kingdom where Jesus will wipe away every tear, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain ever again, for the former things will have passed away (Revelation 21:4).
Only Christians will receive this kingdom and are even now His kingdom people -- those who have repented of their sin, their record of debt has been nailed to the cross and paid for by the blood of Jesus, they've been justified before God by His free grace as a gift, and their dead spirits have been raised to new life in Christ. We have peace with God that surpasses human understanding, for the sacrifice of Jesus has satisfied the wrath of God burning against all the unrighteousness of man.
Those who are in Christ Jesus will never have to experience the wages of sin again after their body has died (or, Lord willing, upon Christ's return). If you know Jesus and He knows you, this life is the only hell you will ever know. Sickness by comparison is nothing. You might be sick for a few years, but you have all eternity to experience an imperishable, glorified body, in which sickness and death and even sorrow and grief will be no more! (Philippians 3:21)
However, if you do not know Jesus, this life is the only heaven you will ever know. When you die, death and suffering will not end. You will suffer for your sins forever. You would take cancer for all eternity over eternity in hell. So repent, and ask Christ to heal you of the disease in your body -- the disease called sin, the most deadly sickness a person has. If you ask Him, He will heal you. He won't make your life easier, but He will make your eternity glorious.
Isaiah 53:5 says, "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." By Christ's shed blood on the cross your sick spirit has been healed and made brand new. Here's Romans 6:23 again, but this time the whole verse: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
But that's not the way Dr. Brown approached the question of why Nabeel died. As an apologist for charismaticism, believing that miraculous healings are regular and ongoing occurrences, Dr. Brown felt it necessary to have to respond to why people like Nabeel don't get healed of their cancer, and his answer wasn't helpful: "As for our brother Nabeel (or, another loved one you lost to sickness), God alone can tell us why he (or that loved one) was not healed."
Here's the question Dr. Brown attempted to answer, presented a different way: If Nabeel and thousands of others were praying for Nabeel's stomach cancer to be healed, why didn't it work? Jesus said, "Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do," a verse that Dr. Brown referenced in his article. So why did Nabeel still die?
Jesus did heal Nabeel! He is healed forever in glory! Sadly, most charismatics are not satisfied with this answer. They insist that God does mean for His children to be healed of their physical diseases right here in this life. Said Dr. Brown:
"What was my conclusion after these years of intensive study and prayer? I concluded that healing was God's ideal will for His obedient children, and that rather than praying, 'Lord, if it be Your will to heal,' we should pray with the expectation that it was His will, sometimes even rebuking the sickness at its root."Respectfully, I would suggest he study some more. Jesus Himself prayed, "Lord, not my will, but your will" (Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42). He taught us to pray that way (Matthew 6:10). James rebuked believers for not saying, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that" (James 4:15), and said, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions" (James 4:3).
The Bible gives absolutely no promise whatsoever that you will be healed of your disease in this lifetime. None. It is utterly foolish to say we should not pray, "Lord, if it be Your will to heal." We are not magicians that we can utter some magic words and magically heal people of their diseases, no matter what any name-it-and-claim-it teacher will tell you.
Jesus and His apostles performed miracles to affirm they were from God, and the words that they said were God's words (Acts 2:22). I would present to you that when Jesus said, "Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do," He didn't mean what Dr. Brown thinks He meant. Did the people Jesus healed still get sick and die? Eventually, yes. You are not promised healing in this life. You are promised healing in the next life, if you believe in Jesus.
Now, does that mean we shouldn't pray for healing? No, I pray for healing all the time. I cast all my cares on Him for He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). John prayed for Gaius, "Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul" (3 John 1:2). I don't want to be sick. I pray for health in my body. My kids and I pray for health in our family and in our church. I've entered into the homes of my church members, laid hands on them, anointed them with oil, and prayed for them to be healed. I do believe God still heals. Read that: God heals. We don't heal anyone.
In John 5, we read about a man by the pool of Bethesda. There were actually many invalids there. They believed the pool had healing powers. But Jesus approached this one man in particular, and He said, "Do you want to be healed?" The man said, "Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the waters are stirred up. And when I try to get in the pool, someone goes in front of me." Jesus said, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." And the man was healed.
The man had no idea who Jesus was, and again, there were dozens of people by the pool. Jesus healed just this one man, and his faith had nothing to do with the success of this miracle! It is God who heals, and He does it His way in His timing for His reasons. Often when Jesus healed, people believed in Him for the wrong reason (John 2:23-25). God save me if I think the reason God didn't answer my prayer my way was because I said, "Lord, if it be Your will to heal."
I have a sciatic nerve that likes to act up every once in a while, and there's simply no telling when it's going to happen. I can still remember the first day I felt it. I woke up one morning in immense pain and never had that pain before in my life. I walked around limping for 3 weeks, and probably should have used a cane. Whenever my nerve acts up, the pain is so debilitating, I can neither walk nor sit. I can't drive anywhere. I can only stand or lie down. I pray for God to take it away. Sometimes He does quickly and sometimes He doesn't.
Do you know what that pain does for my faith? It makes me pray longer prayers and long for heaven even more. It makes me want to get out of here! I don't want to be on this earth anymore. I don't want this body. I want to be with my Lord forever in glory. Likewise, whenever someone I love gets sick or dies, it makes me long for Christ to put an end to all of this. I have never longed for His deliverance as much as when I experience pain or hurt in my body.
Heaven was hardly mentioned in Dr. Brown's article. A call to repentance wasn't given at all. When Jesus was told about some Galileans who were murdered while they sacrificed in the temple, His response was "Repent, or you will likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). Exactly what hope was Dr. Brown expecting to give his readers when his message was basically, "Most people won't be physically healed, and hardly anyone is ever healed of something major like stomach cancer, even by modern medicine, but pray as though they will be healed anyway, regardless of God's will"?
Now, there was one paragraph I particularly appreciated. He said:
"You might say, 'Obviously, people who die of sickness don't have enough faith.' But that would also mean that the many people who prayed for Nabeel, including some used powerfully in healing, lacked faith, too. And if you have so much faith, why didn't you successfully pray for his healing?"Yeah, looking at you, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Ken and Gloria Copeland, Todd White, and Bethel Church! Where was all the naming it and claiming it for Nabeel?
Dear Christian, you may not have been healed of your diseases, but as a follower of Jesus, you have been healed of your sin. A day will come when your body will reflect the healing that has happened in your soul. The Bible says death is an enemy, and we serve a Christ who has conquered that enemy. All who believe in Him will receive a resurrection like His (Romans 6:5).
In the meantime, we will continue to feel the effects of this fallen world while we are in it. Nabeel Qureshi is in glory with His Lord, but he has left behind a wife and daughter who are crushed by the loss of their husband and father. They need our prayers. Let us continue to show the love of Christ to one another, all the while praying, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"