Friday, August 13, 2010

IS SICKNESS FROM GOD?

THE QUESTION IS SOMETIMES ASKED, "Does cancer come from God?" or, "Does God make people sick?" Or, "Is it God's will for us to be sick?" What are the possible answers? Is sickness from God? From Satan? From nature? From men? From food? From environment? From neglect? From foolishness? Or does it have no cause at all? Are illnesses random? Do they occur by mere happenstance? Are they in some human gene? Well, there is little satisfaction in such speculations. They are only a display of vanity.

EVERY "GOOD AND EVERY PERFECT GIFT" does come from God (James 1:17). However, as ordinarily perceived, everything from God is not a "gift." Further, everything that comes from God is not "good," as ordinarily perceived. The Lord "sent fiery serpents" among the Israelites (Num 21:6). God sent "an evil spirit" to Saul (1 Sam 16:14), and "an evil spirit between Abimilech and the men of Shechem" (Judges 9:23). Once he "sent a pestilence upon Israel" that killed seventy thousand men (1 Chron 21:14). Further, those involved in this instances were a covenanted people. Upon others, the "Lord sent thunder and hail: (Ex 9:23). He "sent lions" among some who "feared not the Lord" (2 Kgs 17:25)

PAUL SAID HIS "THORN" was GIVEN to him (2 Cor 12:7). Its intent, he confessed, was to keep him from being "exalted above measure" – that is, exalted by other men who might otherwise be tempted to think of him "above what" they saw him "to be," or that heard him (2 Cor 12:6). That situation was created by the "abundance of the revelations" that he received -- a circumstance few today, or at any other time, could confess.

WHEN JOB WAS GRIEVOUSLY AFFLICTED WITH BOILS, he reasoned, "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10). At that time, he did not know everything about his situation that we know. Yet, it is said of his remark, "In all THIS Job did not sin with his lips."

THE POINT OF SCRIPTURE is not whether or not diseases come from God, but whether or not they can come without being filtered through Him. And, if the latter is true, there is a certain Divine consideration related with them, as well as grace to endure them. They fall into the category of God not allowing us to be tempted above our ability (1 Cor 10:13). In addition, the God who allows them can easily dismiss them if He pleases.

GOD TOLD ISRAEL He had brought diseases upon Egypt, would NOT put them upon Israel if they did what was right in His sight, and was the God who heals them (Exodus 15:26). He also told them He would bring diseases upon them if they refused to keep His laws (Deut 28:60). Through Paul, He also informed the Corinthians some of them were "sick" because of their conduct around the Lord's table (1 Cor 11:30). Additionally, the Lord brought disease upon Gehazi (2 Kings 5:27), Uzziah (2 Chron 26:17-20), and Jehoram (2 Chron 21:18). I must confess I sometimes wish such people could come back and respond to questions like the ones men have posed. What do you imagine THEY would say?

WHEN JESUS HEARD that Lazarus was "sick," He affirmed the condition was not "unto death." That is, death would not be the final result of it. He said the sickness was "for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified through it" (John 11:4). It certainly would not have been good for Martha and Mary to speculate why Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, got sick in the first place.

WHEN CHRIST'S DISCIPLES saw a certain man blind from birth, they assumed the condition was caused by sin, and asked if the sin of the man himself had brought the condition, or the sin of his parents. Jesus rejected both possibilities, affirming the circumstance was in order "that the works of God should be revealed in him" (John 9:2-4).

THUS DISEASE, OR INFIRMITY, IS REPRESENTED AS:• A protecting gift to Paul.• A means of confirming the faith and stability of Job.• A judgment from God.• An occasion through which the Son of God can be glorified.• An occasion through which the works of God can be made known.

ALL OF THIS CONFIRMS the analysis of sickness is not simplistic. There are no candid answers that quickly explain why people are sick. Illness may be a thorn to ensure others are not distracted by legitimate greatness. It may be a test to show heavenly intelligences the power of God's grace. It may be a circumstance through which God will show others how a person can be sustained by faith. It may be a judgment from God. It may be a circumstance through which God will gain special glory, and Jesus as well.

A PERSON WHO IS SERIOUSLY SICK address his situation BEGINNING with God -- like Job did. Asa died of a disease in his feet because he "did not seek the Lord, but physicians" (2 Chron 16:12). Those who are sick must conclude their sickness did not occur independently of some kind of Divine involvement or permission. If they have lived in a sloven manner, it is also quite possible that it is a judgment. They should use the occasion to search their own hearts. They should lay their cause before the Lord first, and then proceed with whatever measures they discern to be necessary.

BUT THEY ARE NOT IN ORDER to philosophize about WHY disease occurs. That is a door that will lead to no good. Unless they receive some special revelation from God, they simply cannot produce a satisfactory explanation for sickness or disease in general. Whatever the cause, sickness cannot alienate a person from God. It cannot push the person beyond the reach of His grace. It does not close the door into His presence. The infirm can make their request, concerning that illness, known to God -- in fact, God invites them to do so (Phil 4:6-7).

– Given O. Blakely

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