James 5:12-14 plunged us into intriguing waters this past weekend (you can access the entirety of the message at www.capebiblechapel.org). But special attention was paid to verses 13-14 and their dealing with sickness and healing, two oft misunderstood and misused concepts.
Here our eight principles, taken from Scripture, that deal with Scripture and healing:
- All sickness is the result of mankind’s original sin.
When sin entered the world, death entered the world, too. This is clear in Genesis, and along with death came other things: toil, pain, difficulty in child-bearing, relational strife. Sickness is among these consequences of sin. If there had never been sin, there would be no sickness. Likewise, since our future eternal home will be void of sin, it will also be without sickness and the other consequences of sin. No more flu or cancer or lameness or blindness or any other physical maladies. But while on this earth, laden will sin, one can expect to witness and experience sickness.
2. Sickness can be the result of personal sin.
John 5:14 is a proof text for this statement. Jesus had healed a man by the Pool of Bethesda, a man who had been ill for nearly forty years, no less! Later, running into this healed man in the Temple, Jesus says to him: “Behold you have become well, do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you.”
In that simple statement Jesus is displaying that, yes, our personal sin can cause illness.
Another example can be found in I Corinthians 11:30 when Paul addresses the congregants in Corinth who had been getting drunk during communion. Paul explains, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick . . .” For what reason? For the reason of their sinful approach to and action during the Lord’s Supper. Again, sickness was caused by personal sin. A coarse microcosm of this concept is drunkenness and the ill-effects that tend follow it.
A last instance of this principle could be the numerous statements (especially in Proverbs) that speak to honoring one’s parents as a way of attaining a long life. These statements are not promises of longevity, but common sense wisdom that will likely prove beneficial when heeded. Applying this to today’s context, I avoided many an illness by “honoring” my mother and wearing a coat, at her insistence, in the wintertime. By avoiding the sin of disobedience as a youth, I evaded many an illness and physical injury (“Quit driving like a maniac!” was advised a time or two) and hence guaranteed myself a better chance at reaching adulthood in one somewhat healthy piece. When I disregarded my dutiful mother’s instruction, I sometimes got sick or injured, a direct result of my sin.
3. All sickness is not a direct result of personal sin.
This distinction is so important, and its best example can be found in the man of Job. Job was sick, tremendously so. He was covered, from head to toe, in festering, pus-filled boils. The man’s body was a travesty. Yet, before this sickness set in, Job was regarded as a “blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 2:3). The remainder of Job’s story is spent with discussion on why he became ill, and throughout, his “friends” answer that it is a result of sin. If Job would only repent, well, then he’d be healthy like us, they reasoned. This was an absurd, inaccurate stance and God weighs in on it toward the end of the book.
In short, people get sick. Sometimes this is linked to personal sin, but often it is a mere byproduct of living in a groaning, sinful world.
4. Some sickness is a result of Satanic activity.
Again, we can begin with the book of Job and where it says, “Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils . . .” (Job 2:7). Luke 13:16 speaks of a woman whom Satan had “bound for eighteen long years” with some heinous sickness. Even Paul, the great apostle, dealt with a Satan induced condition when he says in his letter to the Corinthians that he has some illness that is a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan . . .” (2 Cor. 12:7).
5. God can and does heal.
God heals and heals enough to have a nickname for it: “Jehovah Repheka” (which translates to: “The Lord, your Healer”). Throughout Scripture His healing hand is seen touching lepers, the blind, the lame, the crippled, and others in times of physical despair. And remember, those are just the canonical accounts. Think of all the times throughout the ages, and even into today’s times, in which God has taken the role of Healer. God has, since the beginning, been a Healer and He continues to heal today and will heal for as long as there is a tomorrow.
6. Healing is not something we can demand of God.
This is similar to “revival.” We cannot demand it, promote it, advertise it, or yell it into being. These things belong to the Lord and they come as He wills it. And while there are verses that deal with God healing (Isaiah 53:5, I Peter 2:24,25, Matthew 13:15), most of them concern, at present, the spiritual healing God has brought in His Son. There is a “now-not yet” entity even in terms of healing that reveals God to heal us now spiritually, but, in most cases, the physical healing will be realized upon receiving our glorified bodies. That is why Romans 8:23 speaks of groaning and of “waiting eagerly for . . . the redemption of our body.” God has healed spiritually and will heal physically, but the timing of this latter healing is ultimately, like all things, his. This whole discussion flows neatly into the next point:
7. It’s not always God’s will to heal.
Many in our world balk at this statement. “What? Why would a loving God not desire to heal His children?” Before answering that, let us consider II Timothy 4:20 which has Paul explaining, “but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.” Why would Paul do such a thing to poor Trophimus, unless, of course, it just wasn’t God’s will to heal Trophimus. I doubt Paul just “wasn’t in the mood” to heal his friend before leaving. Healing, you see, wasn’t Paul’s domain; it was God’s.
In II Corinthians 12:7-9 we get another look into an occasion in which God didn’t see it fit to heal. In that passage, Paul prayed three times that God would remove the “thorn in his flesh” (a presumed sickness, likely of the eyes). God didn’t touch Paul with a miraculous healing or have some pastor come preach the sickness out of Paul. Nope, God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you.” God wanted to be glorified by manifesting His power through Paul’s physical weakness. Healing is never about us, at least in the ultimate sense. So whether it occurs or not in our little lives, it is always present or lacking for a purpose: namely, to glorify God. So therefore it is not our place to demand and require healing from God, but rather to seek His will and accept His sovereignty, even when that sovereignty determines it best for us to suffer physical trials in these earthen vessels.
8. It’s God’s will that we pray for healing.
Paul kept praying for God to heal him. He prayed again and again (and then again for good measure!) and he only ceased praying for healing when God clearly said, “No. My grace is sufficient.” So unless you’ve heard God say that same thing to you, keep asking, seeking, and knocking. Often healings in the Bible came after years and even decades of waiting. Those people, suffering many times from terrible afflictions, likely asked every day all day for their sores and aches and lameness to be removed. But they waited and waited until finally Jesus arrived on the scene. That, in many ways, is what was so miraculous about these occurrences: the fact that no one thought these people capable of being well for the very fact that it had been so long (in some cases all of life) since they had been! We are to pray for healing in a hopeful, faithful fashion and we are to accept God’s will, whatever that is, with joy and thanksgiving.
So there you are. Eight somewhat pithy points to wrestle with regarding healing and sickness. I hope they find you well, but if they don’t, if they find you struggling with sickness for you or a loved one, I hope you look to find answers in the manner James prescribes: a steady dosage of prayer to the Lord, your Healer.