Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thank God For Illness

I was planning on doing this message in the future, but it has been on my heart since yesterday.  I alluded to a future post I would make on the nature of sickness and today has become that future.  I hear too many wrong things about sickness and the Christian that I feel it is important to address those errors and prayerfully bring us into a right belief on the nature of illness.  The errors I have heard are that illness is always of the devil, that Jesus has never made anyone sick or that God will never make a Christian experience illness, and that the blood of Jesus covered our illnesses just as much as it covered our sin.  Most of these errors are taught by teachers today like Joseph Prince, but there are many others who came before him and others who will come after him who teach the same lies.  The overriding theme of today is an extension of what we learned yesterday, that message being that sickness is gift from God. 
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:10 NKJV
I know that goes against the very core of the apostate teaching spreading like wildfire through the church today, but it is true.  We are, like Paul, to take pleasure in our infirmities.  I know that makes little sense.  It is hard to take pleasure in a bad cold or the flu.  I know it is unthinkable to take pleasure in such terrible diseases as  cancer.  What else are we going to do, though? Are we going to wallow in our own misery?  Will that make us feel any better?  Nope, in fact, it will make it worse.  Being sick and unhappy is worse than being sick and happy.  No, we must take pleasure in our infirmities.  We must, in a way, enjoy our illnesses.  So how do we do that?  It makes no sense and really seems impossible.  The answer is what we always do when something does not make sense and seems impossible, we go to God. 
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  James 1:2-5 NKJV
I think that illness qualifies as a trial and in that trial we are to rejoice and when we do not know how to rejoice we need to ask God and He will show us how.  In fact, God will not just show us, but God will give us the joy in our trial.  Some teach that these trials are an illusion and if we accept in faith that they do not exist, they will go away.
So what of that teaching? So what of the doctrine that Jesus bore our illnesses on the cross?  I have addressed this issue in a previous post, but I will give a quick argument now.  The doctrine is that Jesus paid for our sins and our illnesses on the cross is stated in Isaiah.  The problem is in how we word things.  We often say that Jesus died "for" our sins.  It would be more accurate to say that Jesus died "because" of our sins.  He died for our salvation.  He died for our freedom from condemnation.  He died for our freedom from being a slave to sin.  Now if we extend that argument to illness, what aspect of illness would Jesus have died for?  Is it like sin where Jesus died because of our illnesses?  If this be so then Jesus paid the death that our illnesses would have caused but not necessarily freedom from illness itself.  What I mean is that the death of Jesus does not mean that there is any earthly consquence to sin.  If we steal, we still go to prison no matter how much God forgives us.  If we get drunk often enough we will still get liver disease.  The penalty paid is for our eternal punishment not for our temporal consquences.   If we apply this same doctrine to illness, it would mean one of several things.  First it would mean that God will not heal the temporal effects of illnesses that are our own faults.  But then where is the line of fault?   You can make the argument that if you do not wash your hands properly, it is your own fault if you get sick.  Furthermore, if the death of Jesus paid your eternal price for sin, what is the eternal price for illness?  We get new bodies in Heaven and so earthly illness has no bearing on eternity.  The other argument is that we are healed today because Jesus paid for our illnesses back then.  If that be so, then how can any Christian ever get sick to even need be healed?  If Jesus died just as much for our illnesses as He did for freedom from condemnation for our sins, then we should never even get sick to begin with.  Think about it, how long does it take for God to forgive you after you sin?  The answer is that the sin was already forgiven when Jesus died on the cross.  There is no lag time as the sin was paid for before you even committed it.  There is no condemnation of those in Christ, not even for a moment.  Let us apply that to sickness now.  Do you see the problem?  If Jesus died for freedom from illness as He did for freedom from condemnation, we should never be ill as Jesus bore that illness before we were even alive to have it.  The very fact that we can get sick to begin with betrays the doctrine that Jesus bore our illnesses at Calvary. 
Now we should pray for illness.  James tells us to pray for the sick brother and that the prayer of faith will heal him.  Now that prayer of faith is a prayer when God gives you the knowledge that your brother or sister will be healed . That prayer is not a measure of our own faith, but that of God when God gives it.  On the other hand, we also have Paul telling Timothy to take some wine for his stomach.  Sometimes God will heal us, sometimes He will not. 
But where does illness come from to begin with?  That is the point I want to make today and before this message becomes too long, I will now address that main issue.  First of all, we learned yesterday that illness can come from Satan.  But what we also know is that Satan can not inflict us with illness unless specifically allowed to do so by God.
And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause." So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life."  Job 2:2-6 NKJV
Yes, Satan did inflict illness upon Job but Satan was only allowed to do so when God gave him specific permission and even them limited what he can do.  Is Satan to "blame" for what happened to Job?  I suppose if we are looking for blame, we can blame Satan.  It was Satan's idea and Satan who did it.  But I think asking for blame is the wrong heart to ask in.  We are becoming like Job's friends and instead of looking for the greater message from God, we are looking for who is to blame.  Job is not a book about Satan hurting Job, but a book about God sharing with us the wonderful message of getting through trials.  What Job went through by Satan's hand was a gift from God for Job's benefit. So while the illness was of Satan, it was allowed by God.  God is the one who made the choice to allow it. 
But our illnesses are not always from Satan.  God has used illness for judgment and chastisement many times in the Bible. To say that Jesus never made anyone sick is ignorant.  First of all, it denies that we have one God.  If our God is one then just as the Father made someone sick, Jesus did as well.  Can the Father and Son act out of compliance with one another?  The only argument you can possibly make is to say that when Jesus was in His earthly ministry, he never made anyone sick that we know of.  Even since that time, Jesus put Jezebel on a bed of suffering and blinded Paul temporarily.  I am not saying that God roams the earth looking to strike people will illness, but God has done it in the past and God will in the future (see Revelation).   Now perhaps you are saying that God would not send illness upon one of His children.  Well we have already seen through Paul and Job that God will at least allow illness to affect our lives, it is not a broad leap to assume that God will inflict us Himself.  In fact, Scripture supports that idea.
For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:29-32 NKJV
Wait a minute, we are forgiven our sins yet God still chastens us?  I have even heard it taught that God will not punish us at all for sin even on earth because that would be like that sin being paid for twice.  That position is not sustainable in Scripture.  In fact, God tells us that His chastening is an important part of our relationship with Him. 
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;  For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:5-11 NKJV
And there you see, even our chastening, which can be in the form of sickness, is a gift from God.  It is not punishment for the sake of punishment as some would teach.  It is not punishing a sin a second time after Jesus paid for it on the cross as some would teach.  Chastisement is for our benefit to yield the fruit of righteousness.  In other words, our chastening is not punitive but corrective.  It is to make us better.  Just as a loving parent punishes a child to correct bad behavior so God chastens us.  Just as a responsible parent chastens a child for unsafe or unhealthy behavior so God chastens us.  Our chastening is never pleasant as we endure it, but it always ends up better in the end after it is done.  We need to not shy from our chastening but praise God that He loves us enough to chasten us. 
And, finally, sometime sickness is the effect of our own behavior.  Jesus did not die so I can eat McDonald's everyday.  If I eat McDonald's every day, I am more than likely going to have heart disease.  Jesus did not die so I can get drunk every day.  If I drink heavily everyday, I am more than likely going to have liver disease.  We need to look at our own selves for many of the sicknesses we face.  If we do not wash our hands or practice good hygiene, we will get sick more often. If we do not brush our teeth, we will get cavities.  If we do not take proper nutrition, our systems will be weak and we will be more susceptible to illness.  If we do not maintain a healthy weight, we have a good chance of developing Diabetes.  That is just a fact of life of these mortal and temporary bodies that God has given us for our time on earth.  We need to be good stewards of what God has given us.  We can not trash our bodies then ask God why we have gotten sick.  The amazing thing about God, though, is that God will even give us the grace to get through these illnesses as well.  He may even heal us.  He definitely still loves us and despite us trashing the gift He has given us for our time on earth, He still forgives us.  If you are ill of your own making, thank God even for that because in the end we will be more reliant upon God and that is the best place to be.  Remember, God works all things together for good, even our mistakes. 
And so I hope that today we have a good picture of the nature of illness.  Whether it be of Satan with permission of God, whether it be by the hand of God Himself, or whether it be by our own irresponsibility, they should all be seen as gifts from God.  If the illness is from Satan with permission of God, it means God allowed it for a greater purpose in our lives and in the lives of others.  If the illness is directly from God, it means that God loves us as a father and is trying to do an amazing work inside us.  If it be by our own irresponsibility, it means that when we repent of our mistreatment of our bodies we will begin to see God use even the mistakes we made as instruments for His glory.   So, in the end, we should not rebuke Satan for our illnesses but praise God for allowing them. 
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV

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