“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word” (Psalm 119:67).
Is sickness always an attack of the spiritual forces of evil in this world? If we are looking for the root cause of sickness then the answer is a resounding YES. Going all the way back to the encounter between Satan and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into humanity through the willful rebellion of Adam and Eve against the revealed will of God, sickness was now a byproduct of the sinful condition. But now that sickness has entered into this world through the fall, we must decide if it is always an attack on us? Are we to assume, as the faith healers tell us, that God wants us healthy all the way into glory? The answer to this question put into this light is a resounding NO. There would be no way to explain sickness as it presents itself in the New Testament after Jesus ascended into heaven. So, in light of all we read in the New Testament, we must come to the conclusion that sickness is a servant of our Savior.
The life of Paul
Is this not the truth God has put on display in the life of the apostle Paul? Paul had been given a ‘thorn’ and prayed three times that God might take it away. But God did not. Paul’s sickness was his Savior’s servant in keeping the great apostle from becoming conceited through the incredible ministry God had given to him. Whatever this thorn was, which scholars have debated over the centuries, it certainly was not the picture of health in the life of Paul. God could have taken Paul’s thorn away in an instant. God could have kept it from every happening. But He did not. Instead, God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
When we understand this clear teaching of Scripture, we change our perspective on sickness. Instead of first crying out for healing, we look for God’s purpose in it. Yes, it is right to ask for healing and a restoration of our health. We have been commanded by God to come boldly to the throne of grace and present our requests to God. But we must not miss the deeper message that God sent whatever sickness we are dealing with as His servant to draw us closer to Him. Perhaps it was sent because of some sin (1 Corinthians 11:30); or because of Satan (Job 2:7); or some unknown reason (John 9:3). But regardless, ALL SICKNESS becomes a servant in our Savior’s hand. If God allows this sickness to continue in our lives, you can be sure it is for the following two reasons: His glory and our ultimate good.
Insight from Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni Eareckson Tada puts a sharp point on this biblical truth: “I’ve been giving thanks for most of my paralyzed life. Not only giving thanks “in everything” as one part of the Bible tells us, but “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything” as another part commands. Most of us are able to thank God for His grace, comfort and sustaining power in a trial, but we don’t thank Him for the problem, just finding Him in it. But many decades in a wheelchair have taught me to not segregate my Savior from the suffering he allows, as though a broken neck — or in your case, a broken ankle, heart or home – merely ‘happens’ and then God shows up after the fact to wrestle something good out of it. No, the God of the Bible is bigger than that. Much bigger.
“And so is the capacity of your soul. Maybe this wheelchair felt like a horrible tragedy in the beginning, but I give God thanks in my wheelchair . . . I’m grateful for my quadriplegia. It’s a bruising of a blessing. A gift wrapped in black. It’s the shadowy companion that walks with me daily, pulling and pushing me into the arms of my Savior. Your wheelchair, whatever it is, falls well within the overarching decrees of God. Your hardship and heartache come from His wise and kind hand and for that, you can be grateful. In it and for it,” she said.
So, has sickness been testing the outer edges of your health plan lately? Cry out to God for His healing touch for He is the Great Physician. But, please be still long enough and pay close attention to His good, gracious, and loving response. It could be for you just like it was for the apostle Paul that God has a far greater purpose in your life with this sickness than without it. When this is the case, submitting to the servant of sickness for the glory of our Savior is the pathway to blessing. We must remember that we have been bought at a price and we are not our own. God has a right to do with us as He pleases to accomplish His purposes in our lives. If He has ordained sickness as His servant in our lives, may we receive it knowing that His grace is sufficient and His power is being made perfect in our weakness. All glory to our God until we get to the other side of the grave where there will be no more sickness. Until then, may we, like Joni, be grateful both in and for our sickness.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that…Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.