Healing: How should we respond to physical illness?
Let me begin this by asking a simple question. How are you going to die someday? Answer: Unless you are living in the generation when the Rapture takes place, you are going to somehow die of physical causes. And this will happen whether you are ready for it or not. That death could occur soon or many years from now, but it is going to happen sooner or later. None of us have prophetic abilities to know exactly when.
Let me ask you another question. If you come down with something that makes you think you may soon die, are you to pray for God to heal you? That is exactly what many people do, isn’t it? But what do the Scriptures tell us about all this? I know many people would be quite surprised to learn what the Scripture teaching is for us today about all this.
My concern is that you will have a teachable spirit as we walk through this subject-matter together
II Timothy 2:15
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
Again, this sets forth the principle that while all Scripture is for us, it is not all to us or about us. Let me give you a few clear examples of this.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. [Emphasis added]
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. [Emphasis added]
Questions: Do you get whatever you ask for in prayer? Do you even know of anyone else who always gets whatever they ask for in prayer?
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. [Emphasis added]
Another question: Don’t these passages mean what they say?
Then there are the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament for more on this. And here is a good example of that.
24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. [Emphasis added]
Have you ever heard that passage quoted in a prayer meeting? I have! Multiples times! But here’s the question that needs to be asked. Are these promises directed to us today or were they given to Israel alone for another time? It’s either that, or God does not keep His word. Look below at the very next verse in the Isaiah passage. Is context important? It surely is!
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat [food]. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord. [Emphasis added]
Do you see these things happening today? Or could this be for a people of another time? Can we trust God’s promises? We surely can! But has anyone in any generation seen fulfillment of this. Verse twenty-four, yes, in the early portion of the ministry of the apostles to Israel, but verse twenty-five, no! So, what is the explanation for this. Verse twenty-four was fulfilled in the Acts period of history, but verse twenty-five won’t be fulfilled until the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth after His Second Coming. None of these verses are fulfilled in our time, this which is the age of grace, The Dispensation of the Grace of God.
Then if you want an even broader look at the promises God gave Israel, there is more in such places as Psalm 91.
1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler [a skilled bird catcher], and from the noisome pestilence. [Emphasis added]
Please notice that He speaks of deliverance from these things, not just deliverance through them.
Notice verse fifteen of this same passage.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation. [Emphasis added]
Do you suppose anyone has ever tried to “claim” these promises, yet died in a week or less? I don’t have to be a prophet to know it has happened many times.
But, again, were these promises actually given to us in the first place? No, they were not! We do have promises of God that have been given to us, but, concerning this subject, they’re all in the writings of the Apostle Paul. And you will not find any that say or promise what these passages promise. If you don’t believe this, eventually you will learn this from experience. This is because if you live long enough, you will see a lot of people hanging on for dear life to prayer promises that were never directed to us. The end for them proves to be another sad situation.
As I write this, our country has been plagued with the coronavirus for many months. Professing Christians, televangelists and others have been quoting Scripture passages from the Old Testament and the four gospels, but all to no avail. This is a huge example of taking Scripture out of context. Thousands have died while “claiming” promises of God that were never given to them in the first place. I appreciate their sincerity in wanting to “believe the WHOLE Bible,” but sincerity without the right understanding never carried anyone through a math test in school. Either you get it right or you get it wrong. The exact same thing is true with this. Instead of providing truth and understanding, false hope is often given, leading only to despair, disappointment and heartache. Physical health precautions should always be taken, never just assuming and saying, “God will take care of me.”
As serious and deadly as physical illnesses can be to us, nothing compares to spiritual disease, that is, the consequences that can come from sin and the application of false teaching. As a steady, nutritious diet tends to result in a healthy body, the “junk food” that is often consumed does not. The same is true with the “junk food,” even poison of false teaching. It can have a terrible outcome. That is why passages like this next one prove to be so valuable.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. [Emphasis added]
Just remember that consistency pays off. People need a regular diet of the Word of God, not just an occasional snack or less. All too often people only move toward doing the right things when they are faced with hardship. Furthermore, what is often passed off as “healthy food,” whether we’re talking about food for the stomach or food for the soul and the spirit, is often toxic. And remember, just because “the food” tastes good does not mean it is good for you. We must always guard against false teaching. It is only truth that is consistent with what God has provided for our times that will have the desired effect. Although there are things throughout the Bible that can be helpful, it is Paul’s revelation pertaining to this present Dispensation of Grace that is particularly pertinent to us.
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you- ward: [Emphasis added]
Furthermore, physical illnesses are often temporary, but spiritual illness carries right on. It is truth and its application that is its remedy. But recognizing that the Apostle Paul is our apostle is foreign thinking to most believers. There’s so much confusion that could be instantly cleared up if people just understood the meaning of this next simple verse. What is said here concerning Paul is never said about Peter and the other apostles.
13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Emphasis added]
If you are not a Jew, you are a Gentile. Even though there was once a distinction between these spiritually, there is no distinction today. If both are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, they have been united spiritually as one.
I Corinthians 12:12-13
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. [Emphasis added]
Next, we will look at some major misconceptions that are circulating concerning physical illness.
1) Does God use disease to judge the world for sin?
Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 contain God’s warnings to Israel concerning five stages of discipline if they disobey His Covenant of Law. Crop failures, physical illnesses, wars, oppressive enemies, exile from the land, and more are just a few examples of these curses. Ignoring their dispensational context, people take these verses and attempt to apply them to our present Dispensation of Grace. That is totally wrong! We are not Israel, even what some call spiritual Israel. Most of us are Gentiles living in the United States of America. Furthermore, we are not God’s covenant people of Israel. Therefore, the things pertaining to these passages were never addressed to us or to anyone living in our time. Futile attempts are made all the time to apply passages like Isaiah 59 to us.
1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. [Emphasis added]
These verses are not addressed to any nation in existence today. Neither we nor any other nation or people are under a performance-based acceptance system with God today. Israel surely was at one time! But we as individuals are under a grace-based system today.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. [Emphasis added]
Israel was clearly told that if they did certain things, there would be certain outcomes, whether for blessing or cursing. We are not under such a works or performance-based system today. The work of Christ in being judged for the sins of the entire world in His death, burial and resurrection completely changed things for the past, present, and future.
II Corinthians 5:19-21
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
What a clear statement! This is the good news message we have been commissioned to proclaim to the world.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
God certainly is not judging the world for sin today. If He were, you’d certainly see it, much as it will be in the coming time of The Tribulation after The Rapture of the Church of today. Now it is a situation where the whole world has unrestricted access to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace [God’s favor that sinful man does not deserve] and mercy [God’s wrath that sinful man does deserve] are epitomized in the very apostle to whom this dispensation has been entrusted.
I Timothy 1:12-16
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. [Emphasis added]
In ignorance, Paul (known previously as Saul) had been God’s bitterest enemy. He blasphemed against the Holy Spirit [Matthew 12:31-32], resisting the Spirit of God as He spoke through the twelve apostles during the timeframe of early Acts. Paul was the leader of Israel’s resistance to this Jesus of Nazareth and His followers. When Stephen addressed Israel with stern rebuke over their persistent unbelief [Acts 7], they stoned him to death while Paul stood there inciting them on. It was from there that Paul went toward Damascus where he hoped to find more followers of Christ to oppose. However, while in route he was confronted with the Lord Jesus Christ who miraculously appeared to him, asking a simple question.
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? [Emphasis added]
It was on this occasion that the Apostle Paul was saved, becoming the first member of what is called today The Body of Christ.
I Timothy 1:16
16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. [Emphasis added]
What a marvelous demonstration of the grace of God! If a man like Paul, even a blasphemer, can be saved by faith alone in the work of Christ, anyone can be saved.
As long as the Church, the Body of Christ, is on planet Earth, The Dispensation of Grace is operating. So, in answer to our question (Does God use disease to judge the world for sin?), absolutely no divine wrath will be seen on this earth in this dispensation. However, immediately after the Body of Christ is caught up to heaven at the Rapture, prophecy will resume, and the expressions of God’s wrath will follow and intensify leading up to Christ’s return to this earth.
2) Will God protect us from disease?
Even though it is easy to find biblical documentation for divine healing, that must all be related to the principle of rightly dividing the Scriptures. There are many passages in the Bible that have been taken out of context and used to lead people to wrong conclusions about this. Here is one example.
14 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:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. [Emphasis added]
In the first verse of this epistle, we see to whom this was addressed.
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. [Emphasis added]
Isn’t it true that most people pay little if any attention to this first verse, but here again, context means everything! The “twelve tribes” speaks of Israel, not us! This letter is not addressed to us as members of the Body of Christ. Therefore, the promises given here are not ours to claim. Furthermore, there is nothing in Paul’s epistles that promises us we will be free of health problems or that we will have the ability to get them resolved by God through prayer. On the contrary, even the Apostle Paul faced physical hardships.
Notice what Paul tells his companion Timothy to do about his stomach problems.
I Timothy 5:23
23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. [Emphasis added]
We find that at one point Paul was quite concerned about the health of Epaphroditus.
24 But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.
25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.
26 For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. [Emphasis added]
We also find that he nearly lost his friend Trophimus to sickness. He did not simply perform an act of healing to resolve the problem, as he had done often during the earlier phase of his ministry.
II Timothy 4:20
20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. [Emphasis added]
Even though the Apostle Paul had the spiritual gift of healing early in his ministry where he could heal anyone at will, by this time he obviously no longer had that gift. Those gifts that enabled him to perform miraculous healing and the like had been given to him to help people see that his message was of God. But once that had been established, those special abilities were withdrawn from him. Furthermore, by this time, Paul’s ministry to go to the Jews first to provoke Israel to belief had ended [Romans 11:11-14].
Paul himself had numerous physical ailments he had to simply endure. For instance, we find that he had severe eye problems that made it difficult for him to see.
13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. [Emphasis added]
His eyesight was so poor that he had to write in large letters to be able to see it.
11 Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. [Emphasis added]
Then he even mentions other health issues.
II Corinthians 11:27-28
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
II Corinthians 12:7-10
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. [Emphasis added]
Therefore, as to the question of whether or not God will protect us from disease, the answer is that every believer, even mature believers can expect to experience physical suffering from disease and illnesses of various kinds. Therefore, we should work toward taking wise measures to protect ourselves from these things in every way we possibly can.
3) Should we pray that God would stop the spread of disease?
The Bible clearly tells us that suffering of various sorts has been a part of life since man was expelled from the Garden of Eden. Because of man’s choice to sin and rebel against God’s authority, a curse was placed on all nature, including man himself.
16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. [Emphasis added]
Ever since that time, suffering of various kinds, including disease, has been a part of man’s life. For roughly 2,000 years, in one way or another, people have been praying it would go away. Has it? No! It is still here and fluctuating in various ways and to various degrees in every generation. Again, it is a part of the curse that started at the time of Adam and Eve and it’s not going away until God makes it go away at Christ’s Second Coming. At that point, the curse on creation will be lifted and the world will be restored to the pristine glory it enjoyed at the beginning. Until then, man is going to have to deal with suffering in a multitude of ways. Fortunately, because suffering will always be a part of life, God has provided a way by which believers can LEARN to cope with it. One’s knowledge and application of God’s Word provides the means by which to address any and every suffering of life that provides a sense of peace and confidence that nothing else can provide.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. [Emphasis added]
We are by no means immune from suffering because we are believers. But we surely have access, through the knowledge of God’s Word to the means of coping with it.
As we’ve seen in II Corinthians 12:7-10, the Apostle Paul had to deal with severe suffering God refused to remove, even after he’d asked three times for its removal.
The help God has promised and guaranteed is not relief of the suffering itself, but the means by which to cope with it with a wonderful attitude. So, rather than thinking God will always remove our suffering upon our request, let us pray that God would enable us to cope with it by means of the inner power of His Word that He might be glorified.
There is nothing wrong at all with asking God to remove various forms of suffering that come into our lives. But we need to understand that it may be God’s will that He be gloried by the power of His Word in us as we continue in that suffering, just as it was with the Apostle Paul. We can and should always pray that we or others would be relieved of certain ailments, but we have no way of knowing what God sees is best for the given situation. That is why we have passages like this next one we’ll see to help us understand that although the outcome may not be what we desire, it will always be in accordance with the perfect will of God. Whatever the outcome may be, we as believers can rest assured and be caused to rejoice that God is working things out for good. It is knowledge of that principle that should be a great source of comfort to us in times of suffering.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [Emphasis added]
You may still be inclined to ask why God doesn’t just provide the healing as He once did. What you must understand is that God has put that program on hold throughout this period of history known as The Dispensation of Grace. That program in which there will be no physical suffering at all has been delayed [Isaiah 33:24; 35:4-6; Matthew 8:16-17; 9:35; 10:7-8; Mark 16:15-20; et cetera]. This is because the wrath that is to precede Christ’s coming Kingdom on earth has also been delayed, providing us with this time of history in which we and many others have been saved. That’s right, the Kingdom program—including the wrath—has been postponed so that God can dispense grace on the entire world. Our ultimate healing as members of the Body of Christ will come at the Rapture when Christ returns to take us out of this present evil world. We will then receive glorified and resurrected bodies that will never be subject to sin, decay, or death ever again [1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 cf. Romans 8:23-24; Ephesians 4:30].
4) Are there verses we can claim for protection against disease?
As we have seen, all those verses of Scripture that promise immediate healing are not addressed to us as members of The Body of Christ in this present Dispensation of The Grace of God. In the coming time of The Tribulation, after The Rapture of The Body of Christ, those promises will again come back into play. But until then it does no good at all to claim promises that were not given to us. One of the passages that is so often “claimed” is Psalm 91:1-12. It is surely one of the most misunderstood passages in all the Bible, especially in relation to our subject-matter. But again, the heart of that passage, like many others in the Old Testament writings, has nothing to do with us. So, the answer to the question [#4] is a resounding no.
5) Is II Chronicles 7:14 a promise we can claim?
If you have been reading all that preceded this, you now probably already know the answer to this question. As I hope you will recall, earlier we talked about the importance of always asking three questions when working to understand a passage of Scripture. Is it for us, to us, and about us? But before we answer the questions, let us first look at the passage.
II Chronicles 7:14
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
The first thing you need to know about this passage is that the United States of America is not God’s people. No nation on earth today is God’s people, even Israel which has been scattered and put on the same footing as every other nation. God has concluded ALL to be His enemies but offers reconciliation to all equally. I know this about Israel’s status with God runs contrary to much of what is said today, but please just read this next verse and note what it clearly says. All unbelievers are God’s enemies, not just Gentiles. But God has initiated and accomplished a work of reconciliation for both Jews and Gentiles offering them both His blessing of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
28 As concerning the gospel, they [Israel] are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes. [Emphasis added]
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! [Emphasis added]
These three questions need to be addressed concerning this II Chronicles 7:14 passage.
Question #1: Who is this written for?
There are certainly things we can benefit from by seeing what God promised Israel and how He dealt with them. We can see here the general principle that God is quite willing to forgive, even if He is also willing to punish. Yet He is always gracious to provide a way to His blessing.
Question #2: Who is this written to?
This was addressed to Israel. That is specifically who the “my people” are in the passage. We are definitely God’s people today as members of the Body of Christ, but more importantly we are not Israel, even spiritual Israel. Our eternal future [both Jews and Gentiles in Christ today] is in heaven, not an earthly kingdom as it is for Israel.
Question #3: What is this written about?
This is about Israel, not The Body of Christ. We were completely out of the picture when God made His covenant with Israel. We remained a mystery [a secret] in the mind of God, completely unknown to man. Yet we can learn a lot about the character of God and other things by studying this.
Therefore, contrary to VERY popular opinion, this passage in II Chronicles 7:14 is not a promise to the United States or to us personally. It was addressed to Israel only, as God’s covenant people.
6) Is disease a sign that the end of time is near?
Over fifty years ago when I first started preaching, I had a sermon about the signs leading up to the return of Christ to the earth. That was in a day when I had not yet learned anything about The Rapture. In my mind there was just that one coming, The Second Coming of Christ. Little did I know that even if it was near, it was at least seven years off [Daniel 12:11; Revelation 11:2; 13:5]. At that time, I had learned nothing about The Rapture coming first. Unfortunately, there are many preachers today who may have heard about The Rapture, but do not believe in it. I have met quite a few. Therefore, if they believe in The Second Coming, they are always talking about signs, and many are saying that we are seeing them today. The fact is that while “signs” are given in Scripture, none of them relate to the time before The Rapture, they are all confined to the coming seven-year time of Tribulation that comes after the Rapture and before The Second Coming of Christ. Scripture tells us it’s the Jews who require a sign.
I Corinthians 1:22
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
Isn’t it interesting that these people have been talking about signs for many years, even centuries, but His coming still has not occurred. When the Apostle Paul wrote about the last days of this Dispensation, he did not talk about signs, he talked about sins. The signs discussed that relate to the time of the Tribulation period are such things as earthquakes, pestilences, famines, false prophets, persecution, and the evangelization of the world with The Gospel of The Kingdom [Matthew 24].
As believers and members of the Body of Christ, we are not looking for signs today. We are looking for an intensification of the practice of the sins described in the Apostle Paul’s writings.
II Timothy 3:1-5
1 This know also, that in the last days [the last days of this present Dispensation of the Grace of God] perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
7) Should we pray for wisdom in dealing with disease?
The short answer to this question is yes. And the specific wisdom we should pray for is a clear understanding of what it means to “rightly divide” the Scriptures and relate it to this subject, as we can to many others. As you know, this is something we have already discussed in this article, as well as in others I have written. What you need to know is that the Apostle Paul gives us “the wisdom,” the fundamental principles, we need to live by as we face disease and various illnesses.
First, we are to pray! We are told that we can and should make all our requests known to God in prayer concerning anything and everything that concerns us. As we will see, this should include prayers for wisdom.
Second, we are not to worry! Instead, we are to pray about our concerns.
6 Be careful for nothing [stop worrying about anything]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]
But please notice the contrast between this and the promises given by the twelve apostles and to Israel.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. [Emphasis added]
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. [Emphasis added]
Do you see the difference? In the promises given to Israel, all, whatsoever, and any thing will be provided upon their request. That is not at all what was promised anywhere in Paul’s teaching, all of which is directed to us today. What we must realize is that nowhere in Paul’s thirteen epistles are such promises given. You may ask what difference that makes. It makes a difference because it is Paul who is our apostle today, and anything that conflicts with his teaching is not directed to us in this present Dispensation of Grace. Therefore, the promises given in the Bible by people like Matthew, John, and James are not directed to us because they conflict with the teachings of the Apostle Paul.
Third, we are to realize that through prayer God will provide us with peace of mind regarding anything that concerns us. We are promised “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” It is that promise that is ours to claim regarding everything that ever concerns us.
Please let me remind you that you will not find a believer anywhere today on the face of the earth who gets “all, whatsoever, and any thing” they ask in prayer. It simply doesn’t happen! There was a time, for a short time, when it did! So, you may ask what happened that changed it. The answer is that because Israel rejected her Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, God interrupted that program that was in place at that time and brought in something entirely new through the Apostle Paul. And it is the program that was given to him that is in effect today.
Fourth, we are to believe that God will ultimately work it all out for our good.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
How wonderful it is to know that we are in good hands! God is fully aware of our situation in every way. While we should do everything we know to do to confront our problem, we should at the same time trust in Him for the outcome, knowing He will somehow work it all out for our good.
Fifth, we are to resolve to be serious and diligent students of God’s Word. The key to gaining the most important wisdom for life regarding this question, as well as so many others, comes to us through our study of the Word of God, the things written in Scripture.
II Timothy 2:15
15 Study [be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
It is in this manner that God imparts His wisdom to us today. And, as I often say, that takes dedication to the study of God’s Word and the avoidance of the distractions that can keep that from happening. Where there is a genuine desire for God’s wisdom, there will be the follow-through commitment in the study of God’s Word on a consistent basis. But just asking for wisdom of any kind through prayer alone never provides it. That is not at all the way God’s wisdom is provided for us in our time. Praying that God would lead us so that we can be positioned to learn is one thing, but the learning process itself is quite another. There are those who are around great teachers of God’s Word but because of their lack of initiative, having a somewhat indifferent attitude, they learn very little.
Sixth, we should follow Paul’s lead in praying for others. Aside from praying simply for physical healing, we need to pray that they also might have an opportunity to learn, become enlightened, and have wisdom.
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; [Emphasis added]
Seventh, we are to know that by following God’s way in these things, we will please Him and live a fruitful life, steadily increasing in our knowledge of Him.
10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; [Emphasis added]
The key to following the will of God is through learning and accepting the Word of God. Being ignorant of His Word is the sure way to a spiritually sick life.
In a similar way, living a healthy life physically demands knowledge and application of those things that would produce a healthy body. We are not just to assume that God will somehow take care of us despite any foolishness on our part. The way to learning how to address disease and sickness is through the study of medical science and/or a holistic option approach, making the appropriate applications. There, too, it takes commitment to the task. It takes dedication. Only then can there be significant progress in addressing disease and other medical issues. To be healthy physically and spiritually, there are no shortcuts. You normally can’t just take “a pill” and suddenly become healthy. You also can’t take in a few “devotional” or inspirational studies and become spiritually healthy and mature. Both take a lot of learning and application over an extended period of time. Neither one comes to pass quickly and by prayer alone. In either case, just praying for the desired outcome is not going to bring about the desired result. But please don’t take that to mean that I’m belittling the prayer factor. It definitely is a factor, and an important one! We all need to pray that God will honor our efforts to work at being healthy physically and spiritually. Those prayers, combined with doing the necessary work on our part, can produce fabulous results, making us physically and spiritually strong and healthy. This then will equip us in both areas. Most important of all, it equips us to be of great service to our Lord in representing Him. As it is with a lot of things, we need to pray like all this depends on God while we act like it all depends on us. Only then will we have the right balance in addressing disease and other forms of suffering.