|God's people are subject to illness just like the rest of mankind.
So what should you do if you become ill?
by James McBride
Few Christian families escape illness - from minor
childhood complaints to the most serious of
life-threatening afflictions. This is nothing new, for God's
people throughout all ages (including Bible times!) have
suffered - and died - from sickness.
When illness strikes, then, what should the Christian do?
This may seem a strange question. For the immediate
reaction - especially of a new Christian - is likely to be:
"It's obvious: take a potion, or go see the quack!" In fact,
generally speaking this is the only weapon in the health
armory of most people. Either suffer (preferably quietly!)
- or seek medical attention.
One of the advantages of being a Christian, however, is
that God has provided us with a unique tool for health
which is available only to those who believe!
A Healing God
God is ever aware of the health needs of His children, and
reveals Himself in the Scriptures as "Jahveh-Ropheka" -
God our Healer. He can and does heal us according to His
will. And He wants us to come to Him in loving trust,
claiming the healing that was purchased for us by Jesus
Christ "by whose stripes you have been healed" (1 Pet
2:24). Moreover, He has all the power that's needed, and
the wisdom, to heal any and every affliction. When we are
healed it is the power of God that does it (Psalm 103:3).
Our healing may result through the divinely in-built
recovery mechanism of our body. It may result from the
forgiveness of the sin that has caused that particular illness
(e.g. envy or addiction or anger or sexual sin). It may result
from the rebuking of evil spirits which, rarely, cause
illness. It may result from a direct miraculous intervention
by our all-powerful Father in Heaven.
How does God do this? Has He a "method"? Or do we
simply get on our knees and ask?
We are left in no doubt! The Scriptures clearly tell us that
God does indeed have a method by which His children
should ordinarily approach Him in our illnesses.
It is described for us in the book of James: "Is any sick
among you? Let him call for the elders of the church and
let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name
of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and
the Lord shall raise him up..." (James 5:14-15).
In practice, it means that the sick person (or the family)
will send for the local church leadership. They will come
and pray with you, and anoint your head with a little olive
oil - symbolic of the power to heal exercised by the Spirit
of God. Such personal contact with the sick person allows
the elders to comfort and counsel and give any practical
help that's needed in the spirit of Psalm 23. (Note that the
general implication of "call for" the elders is that the
illness is so serious that you can't be expected to go to
Cause of Sickness
Much of our illness stems from our own actions and our
lifestyle. If for example, we smoke or use other drugs, or
have inadequate housing, or are not disciplined to
cleanliness, or are over or under-weight or have a deficient
diet - then illness surely lurks around the corner! Hence the
value of wise counsel from an experienced elder. In the
Church of God (UK), of course, the leadership do not
prescribe medical treatment! However, experience enables
us to point the brethren in the direction of sound health
Our bodies are "a temple of the Holy Spirit" (I Cor 6:19)
and as such we ought to "glorify God in your body" (v.20).
It is a trust from God in the same way as the other
resources He gives us! It's important, then, that you assess
your present life-style - diet, exercise, emotional reactions,
drug abuse (e.g. smoking, alcohol, "pot" etc.),
environment, your relationship with and submission to our
Father, etc. - all of which can hinder health and healing.
Indeed, our neglect of known health laws may prevent divine healing!
Is Sin Involved?
Further, not uncommonly our illnesses stem directly from
sin! "Envy is rotteness to the bones" says Solomon, for
example. We therefore cannot expect lasting healing if we
don't stop the sin that's causing the illness! You may be
miraculously healed of osteoporosis (rotteness of the
bones) - but if you are unrepentant of the envy, can't you
expect a recurrence? Notice, too, that seething resentment
towards others is a major factor in disease of the colon.
Indeed such "spiritual" factors have been estimated to be
major factors in 80% or more of illness!
If our spiritual house is disorderly, for example through
resisting some point of God's Law, or failing to be "filled
with the Spirit" (Paul's remedy for anger!), or through
covetousness etc. - then we can bring illness on ourselves.
James went on to say that after anointing "the Lord will
raise him to health, and if he has committed sins he will be
forgiven" (James 5:15). In the context, therefore, of being
anointed for sickness James adds, "so practice confessing
your sins to one another, and praying for one another, that
you may be healed" (v.16). Such an unburdening to the
church leaders - and certainly to others whom you have
sinned against - unblocks God's healing power. Isaiah
warned that our sin can prevent God hearing our prayer
It is therefore an important part of the healing process that
we "call in the elders of the church" when afflicted by
illness or other overwhelming situations. They are in a
position of being able to mobilize the resources an ill
member needs - both material and spiritual.
But what if it's not possible for the elders to visit for the
purpose of anointing?
If distance or other circumstance makes such contact
impossible, the Church follows a practice based on an
incident recorded in Acts 19:12. The elders personally
pray for the sick person and his needs, anointing a small
piece of cloth with olive oil. This is then sent to the sick
who, in prayer, applies it to his or her person asking for
God's healing in Christ. (Or a parent can place it on a sick
child, or other family member, etc.).
There is nothing "magical" about this action or about the
cloth - which should then be disposed of and not re-used.
It is merely a symbol of God's power and willingness to
heal. And an expression of our readiness to submit to Him
in all matters.
God has many times blessed this simple act, this "special
miracle", and you can in this way go boldly and
energetically with perseverance to the throne of grace to
ask for His healing touch (Heb 4:16).
God can and does heal in our day. However, it's an
observed fact that He rarely does for us what we can do
from our own resources. You are urged to take serious
health problems to God (by calling for the church elders or
by requesting an anointed cloth). But at the same time you
should wisely consider the best medical advice available
[Some Christians, however, will refuse the latter option
and want to "leave it to God" to heal if He chooses. If this
is how you feel I urge you to write for a copy of our free
article titled Healing. It is a thorough discussion of the
concept of "divine healing".]
By the way - do remember that the medical profession is
paid to serve you, and encompasses a variety of
competence - and incompetence. It is unwise to have a
blind faith in any man or institution! In serious illness, if
you have the option obtain a "second opinion" before
committing yourself to drastic or potentially dangerous
treatment. And do apply the same judgment to
Acts of Mercy
Let's not hesitate to approach God should we become
seriously ill. But do remember that divine healing is an act
of mercy in response to our child-like faith. Sometimes
God's answer to our prayer for healing may be "no" or
"not yet"! His overall plan is always for our good, and He
may well permit (but not inflict - James 1:13) illness to
further our personal growth. The apostle Paul approached
God "three times" for healing before coming to understand
that - for him on that occasion - the answer was "No"! And
Job was ill for we don't know how long (maybe years)
before being fully restored. He had patience (James 5:11)!
It's my prayer that you may joyously accept whatever may
be the will of our loving and merciful heavenly Father -
who rejoices to hear our prayer and bless His children. As
the aging apostle John wrote: "Beloved, I pray that all may
go well with you and that you may be in health" (3 John
© 2000, The Churches of God Outreach Ministries, www.cgom.org
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