Question: Decisions about illness
Answer: You cannot look at the gospels without seeing that, besides preaching the gospel, a huge part of Jesus’ ministry was spent on healing. He healed many types of diseases, and sicknesses. He healed the broken hearted, cast out demons, and raised the dead. Jesus’ ministry was one of reversing the damage Satan was doing to people’s lives. “The Spirit of The LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Recently in our church there was a lady who went into the hospital. She had even flat lined at one point. The family called for the elders of the church and others to pray, as it says in James. When we went to the room and saw her, for all intents and purposes she looked like she was dying. Among other things, her kidneys had stopped functioning and she was hooked up to several machines, and in a coma. When we prayed, there was no sign of improvement, but we all left blessed knowing we had done what God had commanded us to do for our sister in Christ.
The next morning we got a call from the church that there had been definite signs of improvement. She began to mend, with improvements each day as many prayed. Then the family said the kidneys had begun to function again. You can image our joy when a short time later she walked into the church under her own strength. How we praise the Lord for His healing power!
I believe it does not always take place instantly because God wants us to trust Him. But Scripture is very clear as to what our part is: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him (her) pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him (her) sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him (her) call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him (her), anointing him (her) with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him (her) up. And if he (she) has committed sins, he (she) will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-15)
Sickness does not always come as a result of sin, notice it says “if” they have sinned. So all sickness is not because of our sins, but a lot of sickness is just a result of disease and sickness in the world, as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin. “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:1-3) Some sickness is allowed in this world to show how God has power over it.
Then again there are verses that make it clear that some people’s disease or sicknesses are caused by their own personal sin. “But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.'” (John 5:13-14) There may be other things that cause sickness such as smoking, taking drugs or drinking alcohol, having poor eating habits, etc.
Even so, our part is to pray for people and not to judge the reason for their sickness, which is a personal matter between them and the Lord. My father lost a hand in a backhoe accident. It was put back on by microsurgery and he has some use of the hand, but he says the worst part was when someone said, “You must have really sinned bad in order for this to happen to you.” This sort of judgment is wrong, only God knows why things happen to people. You only need to read the book of Job to know that bad things happen to good people!
If however, we do know of something in our spirit that may be causing problems in our life or body we are to confess this. “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)
It is clear that healing is still for today because of the above verse, but also because of what Jesus said to his disciples before He went back to heaven. “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)
Now there may be specific questions about when should we stop praying for healing and let the person go to heaven. This happened to us recently also, my wife was guardian of her aunt who was in her seventies. She was dying of cancer and bed ridden. I had the men at our men’s prayer breakfast pray that the Lord’s will be done in her life. That afternoon we got a call that she had passed away. She is totally healed now, and I’m sure she is running around heaven having a great time!
I was visiting another time with a lady that was in her forties, as I remember it. She had a sister that had passed away on the operating table while they were doing open heart surgery. This other sister had taken up smoking and ended up getting lung cancer. I don’t know for sure if the cancer was as a result of the smoking. It may have been, but she had given up smoking and gotten right with the Lord. Then she was faced with a similar operation to that of her sister’s, but this Christian lady decided that she didn’t want to go through with the operation. I visited with her several times as a pastor who was concerned for her well being. She assured me that everything was right between her and the Lord, and that she was ready to go if the Lord called her. She died shortly after that, and I rejoiced that she was with the Lord in heaven. However, others when they heard that she had passed away said, “Oh, if only she had had more faith, this would not have happened.” Friends, this is judging, God knows what is best in each life, and it is not for us to judge.
Nothing is too hard for the Lord, but sometimes He does allow us to stay in an unhealed condition. Look at the testimony of Joni Eareckson Tada on our web links; she has the site Joni and Friends. She became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. She prayed earnestly for healing, but God answered a different way. You can go to her web site and hear her testimony. She is not healed physically, but you couldn’t find a more healed Christian spiritually. She has led multitudes to the Lord through her testimony, not of healing, but of the power of the Lord during sickness.
Paul was not healed after praying for many others. “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) So there is a balance here, God is sovereign and He may say yes, no, or often we pray in faith and wait for the answer.
On the other hand, Jesus is the same as He was when He was here. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 12:8) If He healed in the past, He still does today. This is why there are gifts of healing referred to in Scripture: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:4) “.to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit. ” (1 Corinthians 12:9). So God wants us to use our gifts of healing. We need to go where the needs are and pray for people trusting God to do the healing. How can you go wrong when He has commanded us to pray for the sick?
God also uses doctors, you may remember that St. Luke was a physician. “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.” (Colossians 4:14) We need to look to God for guidance because there are false healers out there, and those who want your money. A good rule of thumb is if they ask for money to pray for healing, they are not of God.
“And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.
Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” (Acts 8:18-23) These verses are specifically speaking of the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit, but these verses could apply to someone wanting money for praying for people to be healed. Nowhere in Scripture did the true disciples of Christ ask for money for praying for anyone. If you get on the internet you will see many false healers who want your money, know that they are not of God.
We need wisdom when dealing with the sick, and God will give us this wisdom for every given situation if we will ask Him for it. “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. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)
Then too, we need to talk about euthanasia. This is something that is law in Oregon State already and Washington State wants to go that same route. God gave life and He is the only one who should take it. When my wife was pregnant with our third child the doctor wanted to know if we wanted to keep the child or not, my wife told him that God put that child there and if He didn’t want it there He could take it away. Then we looked for another doctor who believed in life.
It is inevitable that we will die physically if Christ doesn’t come back first, but we are not to take our own life or the life of another who is ill. That does not mean that we have to leave them on life support indefinitely. You need to look at quality of life. You don’t want to take them off too soon because they may improve, or leave them on too long. You might think of it like, what did people do before we had all the machines to keep us alive? They gave the people food and water as long as they could take these, and then the person passed away when it was God’s timing. The tricky part is how long should they stay on life support. Only God can give you the answer for this, but I do know that we are not supposed to do anything like what they call “mercy killings.” The name itself should tell you something.
Now don’t think that I am insensitive to a person who is suffering. If you get the impression that we have gone through this with people who are passing away, you are right. Marlene and I have faced this several times in our own lives with close relatives. Some faced cancer or heart conditions, etc. These are not easy decisions to make, and again God can give you the wisdom you need at the time you need it. “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5)
It seems that the last days of our lives can be a testimony to the Lord if we put Him first even in these difficult times. “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3) The important thing is to know that all is right between us and God before that times come. “Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7)
I have seen people go through great suffering and still be victorious, this does not mean that every single day or all the time they were in good spirits, but over all they were. There is a special peace the Lord gives those who know Him as personal Savior. Don’t let a person slip away without first asking them how they stand with the Lord, you will not forgive yourself afterward if you don’t ask. It is so much easier for a pastor to hold the funeral when they know the individual was a believer. Well it is hard to know exactly what you were asking, but I hope this helps.
Remember this life is very short in comparison with eternity and the sufferings we go through here are allowed by the Lord for a reason. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Someone has said that life is like a tapestry; on one side are all these short threads that don’t seem to go anywhere or have any rhyme or reason, but when you turn the tapestry over you see the beautiful picture. Here on this earth we see only the backside of the tapestry, when we get to heaven God will show us the other side of life and why things had to happen the way they did. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
In Christian love,
Gary and Marlene Panell