A Biblical Theology of Sickness

At some point in your life you will experience sickness (you might get a cold, the flu, cancer, or the coronavirus). And since sickness is a part of our existence, having a biblical view of it is of great importance. Therefore, in this article I will examine what the Bible teaches about illness. Here are six truths about sickness.

1. Sickness is a consequence of original sin; and in this sense, sickness is a punishment from God for sin.

In Genesis 2:17 God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that he eats of it he shall surely die.  Adam disobeyed God. And the moment he sinned, his body started dying. His body became subject to illness. God punished Adam for his sin. If Adam had not sinned, there would be no death, there would be no sickness.

Hence, the presence of sickness is a sad reminder of the fall of Adam. It is one of the effects of original sin. Sickness exists because sin does. In the new heaven and new earth there will be no more sickness because there will be no more sin (Rev. 21:4).

2. Your sickness may be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a chastisement from the Lord.

In James 5:14–15 the author asks, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Here it is possible that the person is sick because of particular sin in his life.

Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul proclaims, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:27–30). Notice the connection between sickness and sin here. Many members of the Corinthian church are sick because of their sin.

It is therefore possible that God has given you infirmity in order to chastise you (Heb. 12:6). Perhaps it is a consequence of your irresponsible care of your body (e.g., bad diet). Nevertheless, in this context affliction comes to us from God’s loving hand. Affliction is like a rod that God uses to bring back his wandering sheep to the fold.

3. Your sickness may not be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a test from the Lord.

The word “if” in James 5:15 also allows the possibility that the sick person has not committed sins and in this way his sickness is not a result of his personal sin but a test from God. Job is an example of this truth (Job 2:4–7). Sickness became an instrument in God’s hand to mold Job into the person that God wanted him to be. Sickness became a blessing for Job, for it brought him closer to God. The wheelchair- bound Joni Eareckson Tada once declared, “Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”

4. Sickness can be a consequence of the personal sin of another person.

2 Samuel 12:15 tells us that “the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.” David’s child died as a result of David’s sin concerning Bathsheba and Uriah. David committed adultery and murder. At another instance, the nation of Israel suffered a pestilence because David’s sin (2 Sam. 24). It is thus possible that a person or even a nation suffers the consequence of the sins of others.

5. Sickness can neither be a consequence of our personal sin, nor a consequence of the personal sin of another person. In this sense, sickness is simply a demonstration of God’s absolute sovereignty.

Remember the man born blind in John 9:1–3. In that passage the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” No one sinned. God was simply practicing his absolute prerogative to do whatever pleases him. He was simply displaying his sovereignty—to remind us that we do not control our health. He does!

6. Sickness comes to us from God ultimately for His glory and for our good.

In John 11 when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Whatever kind of sickness you have, pray that through it God may be glorified.

While sickness is for God’s glory, it is also for our good. Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh…to keep me from becoming conceited.” In short, God has given Paul “a thorn in the flesh” (whatever it might be) in order to keep him from the sin of pride.

Maybe God has given you a certain kind of illness (like the coronavirus) in order to keep you from pride and teach you to depend more on his grace (2 Cor. 12:9), so that at the end you can sing with the psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Ps. 119:71).

A Biblical Theology of Sickness

Affliction

10 Ways in which this Coronavirus Pandemic Can Be for Our Good

I am a Christian and therefore I want to look at this coronavirus pandemic through the lens of the Bible, particularly of Romans 8:28–29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

This text teaches us that for us, believers in Christ, all things, without exception including the coronavirus, work together for good. Although sometimes in time of great trial we feel what Jacob felt, “all these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36).  But later, once we look back we can say with Joseph, “God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).

So how can this coronavirus be for our good? Let me suggest ten ways in which this virus can be for our good.

1. It can unite us in prayer globally, since the virus is now pandemic. And let us not underestimate what our prayers can do. Revival begins with prayer.

2. It can open a door for us to share the gospel with the unbelievers. With this pandemic, we Christians have a wonderful opportunity to show Christ’s love to others. Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

3. It can wean us from some of our idols in this world such as sports, since this virus has caused cancellations and postponements of sporting events. Sadly, some Christians would rather watch or attend a sporting event on Sunday than worship God.

4. It can compel us to put our confidence in God for healing, since there is no known vaccine yet for this virus. Medicines are gifts from God but sometimes we depend more on these gifts than on the Giver.

5. It can give parents special time to be with their children, since this virus has also caused schools to shut down. Let’s ask help from God that our time with our children will become a blessing rather than a burden. Let’s remember, too, that our children are watching us. Thus, by what we say and do, let’s teach them how to react to a crisis like this in a God-honoring way.

6. It can serve as an occasion for us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). The pace of life in which we live now is so fast that we hardly find time to pause and meditate on God’s Word. Since this virus has brought normal life to a halt, for most of us we have extra time to commune with God and ponder upon heavenly and eternal things.

7. It can bring us face to face with the reality of death, as this virus continues to claim lives around the globe. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Are you ready to die?

8. It can be a wakeup call to us from God to repent of our sin. Usually a pestilence is a sign of God’s judgment. For instance, in 2 Samuel 24 God punished His covenant people because of David’s sin and God’s punishment came to them in a form of pestilence that claimed 70,000 lives.

9. It can point us to Christ’s Second Coming. In a sense, we should not be surprised to see more events like this pandemic as Jesus Himself says regarding the last days, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:10–11). Unfortunately, people prepare for the coming of the coronavirus, but give little thought to Christ’s Second Coming.

10. It is certain that God will only use this pandemic as an instrument in His hand to conform us more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. So the coronavirus is not designed to drive us away from God but to draw us closer to Him. It is in this sense that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory.

Therefore, fellow Christians, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).

COVID-19 Pandemic

Affliction

Michigan is now under a State of Emergency because of Coronavirus

I live in Michigan and yesterday our Governor Gretchen Whitmer confirmed the first cases of coronavirus (we have two cases as of now: one in Oakland county and one in Wayne county).

And “to harness our resources across state government to slow the spread of the virus,” Governor Whitmer has put Michigan under a state of emergency. She said, “We’re taking every step that we can to mitigate the virus spread and keep Michiganders safe. I’ve signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in order to maximize our efforts and assist local governments and officials to slow the spread. It’s crucial that Michiganders continue to take preventative measures.”

Although I’m a Christian, I confess my fear, especially as I have four small children (seven years old and under). But as David confesses, too, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in [God]” (Psalm 56:3).

I know I should not worry, yet I admit my tendency to worry. Oh, but why worry, when I can pray! Paul says, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5–7).

Because this coronavirus is new, we have many uncertainties such as when the vaccine for this virus will be available and if this virus will be seasonal like the flu. Yet, in the midst of all these uncertainties, we can trust our sovereign God. We know for sure that nothing happens without a purpose and that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for the glory of God. As Romans 8:28–29 declares, “And we know that for those who love God all things [without exception, including this virus] work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”

With this passage in mind, we can be certain that God will only use this coronavirus as an instrument in His hand to conform His people more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. It is in this sense that this virus is for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory. Let’s trust God even if sometimes we don’t always understand how all things (including this virus) could be for our good. As one song says,

“All things work for our good/ Though sometimes we don’t see/ How they could/ Struggles that break our hearts in two/ Sometimes blind us to the truth./ God is too wise to be mistaken/ God is too good to be unkind/ So when you don’t understand/ When don’t see His plan/ When you can’t trace His hand/ Trust His Heart.”

So let’s not panic but pray. It is during a crisis such as this that God causes mankind to pause, to stop and remember that He is in control and that we are but dust. And as Kevin DeYoung reminds us, “Our biggest concern in life is not sickness, it is sin. By all means, let’s do all we can to limit the spread of physical disease. But our precautions against vice should be even more than our precautions against a virus.”

coronavirus

image source: wxyz.com (Detroit)

Affliction Uncategorized

How Can I Consider It All Joy When I Meet Trials?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)Every-trial-of-suffering-is-an-opportunity-to-grow-in-the-faith.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, James is commanding his brothers and sisters in Christ to consider it all joy whenever they face trials. You might ask, “How can I obey that command?” Well, in order to obey that command, you need to be convinced by the following three basic truths:

  1. God is the one who ultimately gives you trials. God is absolutely sovereign. He is in control of everything. Nothing happens to you without His perception, permission, and purpose. Are you convinced of this reality that whatever trials you have today came from God himself?
  1. God gives you trials in order to test your faith: “the testing of your faith” (v. 3). God does not test us arbitrarily. He tests us with a purpose. His purpose is to examine the genuineness of our faith.
  1. The testing of your faith is eventually for your good: “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (v. 3). God tests your faith in order to purify it. He uses sufferings to sanctify you—to conform you to the image of his Son Jesus Christ.

Now, unless you are persuaded by these three fundamental truths, you cannot indeed consider it pure joy whenever you face trials.  You cannot sing with Horatio Spafford, “It is well with my soul.” Perhaps you are familiar with the story behind this hymn. In 1871 Spafford lost his only son. Then two years later, he lost all of his four daughters. His four daughters drowned in a shipwreck. Only his wife survived. Yet, listen to his hymn:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Or, according to the original manuscript, it is not to say, but to know. Hence, “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know. It is well, it is well, with my soul.” This emphasis on knowledge echoes what James writes in verse 3: “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” We need to know, not just say, that God is ultimately the one who sends trials to our lives, that he is giving us trials in order to examine our faith, and that at the end all the testing of our faith is for our good. Verse 2 of Spafford’s hymn continues:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

Here the hymn writer makes the gospel of Christ as his supreme source of comfort. Let’s admit that singing this hymn in the midst of a great trial is difficult. How can you ever sing, “It is well with my soul,” when you lost all your children? How can you pray, “May the name of the Lord be praised,” when your doctor comes to you and says, “I’m sorry. You only have a few months to live”? In and of ourselves, we cannot. But with God’s help, we can. That’s why James adds, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.”

Here’s the point of James. God is our teacher and we are in his classroom. God wants us to learn. Part of learning is testing. That test comes to us in various forms. Some tests are easy; some are extremely difficult. Perhaps this past week, as you were driving, one of your tires deflated. That was a trial! However, that was easy to fix. But, what if your physician informs you that you have cancer? Or, what if you are told that you will lose your house or your job? These tests are very difficult to take. That’s why, James declares, “If any of you lacks wisdom [to deal with your trial], let him ask God” (v. 5).

Note, however, that when James states, “If any of you lacks wisdom,” he is not suggesting that some of his readers are wise enough to take their tests without God’s wisdom! By this expression, James is exhorting his audience in a pastoral way. He is giving them the opportunity to examine themselves in order for them to realize their great need of God’s wisdom in the hour of trial.

Perhaps you are in a difficult situation right now and you do not know what to do, why don’t you ask wisdom from God to help you.

Affliction Suffering

Six Truths about Sickness

You will experience sickness at some point in your life. You might have a bad cold, fever, incurable disease, chronic ailment, or terminal illness like cancer. And since sickness is a part of our existence, understanding it properly is of great importance. Therefore, in this post we will examine what the Bible teaches about illness.A-mother-with-a-sick-chil-001

1. Sickness is a consequence of original sin; and in this sense, sickness is a punishment from God for sin.

In Genesis 2:17 God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that he eats of it he shall surely die. Adam disobeyed God. And the moment he sinned, his body started dying. His body became subject to illness. God punished Adam for his sin. If Adam had not sinned, there would be no death, there would be no sickness.

Hence the presence of sickness shows the reality of sin in this world. Sickness exists because sin does. In the new heaven and new earth there will be no sickness because there will be no sin (Rev. 21:4). Sickness is a sad reminder of the fall of Adam, our federal representative. It is one of the effects of original sin.

 

2. Your sickness may be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a chastisement from the Lord.

In James 5:14-15 the author asks, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Here it is possible that the person is sick because of particular sin in his life. Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul proclaims,

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (1 Cor. 11:27-30).

Notice the connection between sickness and sin here. Many members of the Corinthian church are sick because of their sin regarding the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.

It is therefore possible that God has given you infirmity in order to chastise you (Heb. 12:6). Perhaps it is a consequence of your irresponsible care of your body (e.g. bad diet). Nevertheless, in this context, affliction comes to us from the loving hand of God. Affliction is like a rod that God uses to bring back his wandering sheep to the fold.

 

3. Your sickness may not be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a test from the Lord.

The word “if” in James 5:15 also allows the possibility that the sick person has not committed sins and in this way his sickness is not a result of his personal sin. Job is an excellent example of this truth (Job 2:4-7).

Sickness became an instrument in the hand of God to mold Job into the person that God wanted him to be. Sickness became a blessing for Job, for it brought him closer to God. The wheelchair- bound Joni Eareckson Tada once declared, “Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”

 

4. Sickness can be a consequence of the personal sin of another person.

2 Samuel 12:15 tells us that “the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.” David’s child died as a result of his sin concerning Bathsheba and Uriah. David committed adultery and murder. It is thus possible for a child to suffer the consequence of his parents’ sins. It is possible that your child is sick because of your sin.

 

5. Sickness can neither be a consequence of our personal sin, nor a consequence of the personal sin of another person. In this sense, sickness is simply a demonstration of God’s absolute sovereignty.  

Remember the man born blind in John 9:1-3. In that passage the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” No one sinned. God is simply practicing his absolute prerogative to do whatever pleases him. And his purpose in doing this is to display His sovereignty—to remind us that we do not control our health. He does!

 

6. Sickness comes to us from God ultimately for His glory and for our good.

In John 11 when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Whatever kind of sickness you have, pray that through it God may be glorified.

While sickness is for God’s glory, it is also for our good. Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh…to keep me from becoming conceited.” In short, God has given Paul “a thorn in the flesh” in order to keep him from the sin of pride.

Maybe God has given you that illness that you have in order to keep you from pride. And God may not heal you in order that you may learn more to depend on his grace (2 Cor. 12:9). Once you have learned the lesson, you can sing with the psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

 

Note: This post is based on my sermon entitled “Theology of Sickness.”

Affliction Death Sanctification Sickness Suffering

What Is Good About Affliction?

The psalmist says in Psalm 119:71, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” What is good about affliction? I address this question in my sermon titled “Good To Be Afflicted” (Psalm 119:65-72). John Bunyan (1628–1688), author of the famous book The Pilgrim’s Progress, once said, “In times of affliction we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God.”

Here’s an excerpt from that message:

 

 

Affliction Sermon Video