Since man’s disobedience, death and disease have been a reality in God’s creation. Cancers, birth defects, AIDS, dementia, blindness, M.S., Alzheimer’s, lepersy to name just a few. Humanity is plagued by all manner of disease. Some of them cause incredible suffering and others are relatively unnoticed, but all have this in common; they work towards death.
At the end of the cosmic struggle between God and His enemies, death is finally thrown in the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:14a ESV “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.”
I Corinthians 15:26 ESV “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
One day, death, disease and the devil will be no more. This is the victory of the cross, that Jesus has overcome death, disease and the devil, through His own suffering and death, as the substitute, and rose from the dead, the first of God’s new creation. A new creation that God started in the resurrection of Jesus and will be complete in new heavens and new earth- a time when death and disease will not plague God’s good creation. What a truly awesome day that will be!
In the mean time, in this age, people suffer and die. Some are healed, but even then, the reality is, we are all going to get old and die. But, thank God, this is not the last word on our existence. God will bodily resurrect those who are in Him unto eternal life and we’ll live with Him forever. What a hope!
I’m a nurse at a local hospital, a part of my local church’s “altar ministry” –where, one of things that we do is, lay hands on the sick and pray for healing, and a friend and family member to people who are suffering from sickness and disease. The subject of death and disease “hits home” for me, as I suspect it does for many of us.
The question I want to tackle here is, “Is disease, God’s tool or God’s enemy?”
Christians seem to be sure that death is God’s enemy, but conversation after conversation, leads me to believe that we’re not convinced that disease, is likewise. The church I grew up in, believed that sickness and disease was part of God’s working in our lives to bring about maturity and spiritual growth for His glory. It was almost like a badge of honor to be sick, because it meant that God was at work in the person’s life to bring them along in God. We still prayed for healing but never with the assurance that it’s always God will that people be healed. How could we be sure that it is always God’s will to be healed, when it was possible that God was causing or allowing the sickness to teach that person?
My kindergarten teacher, Ms. Olive, died of cancer, in her 50s. Awesome lady. I can’t help but think that the world would have been a better place if she had lived a couple more decades.
I’ve heard many stories about how people have grown spiritually during a time when they were sick, or family members seeing Christ-like character come out of person’s life while suffering and being drawn to God because of it. After all, isn’t God working all things together for good? So, as the logic goes, everything that happens (including disease) must be a part of God’s plan to work everything together for His glory. Right?… Wrong.
There is miles of difference between God taking the circumstance of disease in this world and working in those situations to bring the maximum amount of good out of it, and God using disease as a tool to bring about His purposes. There is often some good that comes out of even the worst of diseases, but that, certainly, does not have to mean that God is source of the disease.
So, does God cause some diseases as a tool for His purposes and others have no divine purpose? Are we supposed to try to discern which diseases we ought to contend and pray for healing for and which we are not? When healing doesn’t occur and people die, are we to understand that it was not God’s desire to heal after all? Can we even grieve the loss of a loved one properly, if we think that we (or they) are somehow supposed to be learning a lesson from the disease and death?
The clearest picture I see, is the life and ministry of Jesus. You’ll notice as you read the gospels that Jesus NEVER tells those who come to Him that the disease is God ordained or that God is using it (tool) to teach them something. He heals them and calls THAT the works of God!
In John 9, Jesus is questioned by the disciples about a man that was born blind. They ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus corrects their theology, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Some have interpreted this to mean that God caused this man’s birth defect so that Jesus would come along later and heal him and God would receive glory for it. Or more specifically, the “that” in the phrase “but THAT the works of God might be displayed in him” (my emphasis added) refers to the disciples root question (Why) “was he born blind?” My opinion on this, is that Jesus skips their root question (which he often does) and addresses the relevant issue at hand “that the works of God might be displayed in him” –then he heals him. The “works of God” here is clearly the healing and not the blindness.
(To explain it better than that requires me to dissect the Greek text, but you can do on your own.)
The ministry of Jesus, is meant to clearly reveal the will of God for people. Healing of disease is a major motif in the ministry of Jesus, revealing God’s will to heal every time.
Acts 10:38 ESV How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (my emphasis added)
Disease is directly associated with demonic oppression, and healing with the works of God.
Luke 13:16 ESV Jesus- “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (my emphasis added)
Jesus associates this women’s status as a “daughter of Abraham” with the fact that she ought to be the recipient of healing, and Satan (the enemy of God) with the presence of disease.
Isn’t it an amazing miracle that all of the millions of children of Israel, who left the oppression of Egypt, were whole and there was not an infirmed one among them? What a picture of God’s will for His people. It’s like God was saying, “this is a picture of what my deliverance looks like!”
Death, disease and the devil run counter current to God’s redemptive work in the earth, which is to restore, heal, and ultimately destroy death, disease and the devil. When healing occurs, it points us to the age that God is bringing, in which there will be none of this. In the meantime, I don’t believe that disease is in God’s “tool box” for working of His redemptive purposes. God doesn’t give disease because He doesn’t have it to give. God is not sick and He is not going to die.
James 1:17 ESV “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
There is no storeroom of “gifts” in heaven marked “diseases- use this if they won’t pay attention”
God is re-storing, re-deeming, re-surrecting, re-newing His people and even the whole earth. Let’s contend for the truth that it’s always God’s desire to heal, and that disease is not God’s tool.
Like the book of Job reveals, I’m locating the mysteries of life, in the complexity of creation and not in the will of God for His creation.
Lets talk about it. Comments welcome.