He steals our bad habits, addictions and sicknesses.
Time and again in the bible, Jesus identifies himself as one who comes “as a thief” (Revelation 16:15). In such cases, he presents himself as someone who catches unawares the unrighteous in their wickedness. But there is another way by which Jesus comes as a thief. When he does, he surprises not the unrighteous but the righteous.
Jesus comes as a thief to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness in order to take away our iniquities by stealth.
Jesus is the thief who steals our bad habits, addictions and sicknesses. He robs us of them in the dead of night without our being aware of it.
We just wake up one morning to find we do not have the strength to be quarrelsome any more. Or we discover out of the blue that we have lost our passion for pre-marital sex. Or the Lord himself asks us about our chronic asthmatic condition and, suddenly, we realise to our pleasant surprise that it has been months since we had any attacks.
Wrestling with God
As a young believer, I woke up one morning to discover a lump at the centre of my rib-cage. I panicked and quickly went to see a doctor. He gave me a whole set of multi-coloured tablets and informed me he would have to do a culture-test to determine precisely what was inside the lump.
I went home and started taking the tablets. Then I changed my mind and foolishly threw them all away. I reminded myself that Jesus had revealed himself to me as the Great Physician when he healed me miraculously of bullet-wounds. If he healed me then, he would heal me now, I reasoned dogmatically. So I went to the Lord in prayer and asked him to heal me.
In spite of my prayers, the lump in my chest grew even bigger and it became uncomfortable. Whenever I touched it, it was painful. I prayed and prayed and nothing happened. Then one Sunday morning, I decided to really wrestle with God.
Immediately I woke up, I “confronted” the Holy Spirit: “I will not let you go today unless you heal me.” Jesus says the kingdom of God suffers violence, so I decided to take my healing by force (Matthew 11:12). I told the Lord: “I know you are a healer, so I am telling you now. I am going to church this morning and I am not coming back without being healed of this lump in my chest. I just want you to understand that.”
Balm of Gilead
When I arrived in church, the first thing I did was to go down on my knees and talk again to the Lord: “Father, I am here by appointment to receive my healing.” I sat down in expectation, convinced something had to give. When the praise-worship started, I entered into it with alacrity, clapping and singing to the Lord with all my strength.
Suddenly the praise-worship leader, Valentine Obi (now CEO of eTransact), stopped the choir mid-stream. He said: “There is somebody here who is looking to the Lord for healing. The Lord says he is going to heal you today.”
I could not believe my ears. Can you imagine it? My case had become so important to the Lord he stopped the praise-worship of an entire church, just to give me a personal message. I felt very special. When the praise continued, I became even more intense. Suddenly, Valentine stopped the choir a second time. This time he said: “The Lord said if you are the person who is believing God for your healing this morning, come out so I can pray for you.”
I made a dash for the altar and was surprised to find two other people there. “What are they doing here?” I thought; convinced I was the only person the Lord could possibly be referring to. And so Valentine prayed.
After the prayer, I checked the lump in my chest. It was still there and it was still painful. But it no longer mattered. What mattered to me was that the Lord had responded to my insistence that he should heal me in that service. That response was more than enough.
Several days later, the Lord asked me one of those puzzling questions. “Femi,” he said, “what happened to the lump in your chest?”
I really did not understand what he meant by the question, so I decided to take a look at it. When I opened my shirt, I could not find the lump there anymore. You may well ask when and how it disappeared. The truth is I have absolutely no idea.
As usual, Jesus, the thief in the night, had stolen it away.