Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sickness, good? Nay

In my separate article, “Sickness and God”, I expounded on my understanding on, whether or not, sickness is from God, and expressed that, the stand to take is this:

“Sickness can be from God {as in, it can be possible}, but ALMOST ALWAYS, sickness is NOT from God.” Or

“Sickness GENERALLY does NOT come from God. If you are sick, and if God does NOT answer you, saying the sickness you are suffering, is from Him, you can take it that it is NOT from Him.”

This being the case, can sickness be good? How come there are Christians attributing goodness to sickness?

Distinction between true and truth!
Was Miriam, Moses’ sister, made leprous by God? Yes, that was true. Does that mean that sickness comes from God? No, to say whether or not, sickness is coming from God is stating a matter of truth; and it is NOT truth that sickness comes from God. God chastises His children is a truth. God chastises with sickness is NOT truth, but God chastises with sickness sometimes, is true. A truth is always true, but a true incident does not make a truth. God is good, is a truth, and it is always true; and because of that, God’s chastisement is good, is a truth, a chastisement by God, with sickness, is good, is also a truth. But sickness is good, is NOT truth.

Look beyond what is used
Is “sickness, as chastisement (from God), is good”, a truth? No! The chastisement is good, but sickness is NOT good! God uses something, NOT good, to bring about good; God uses sickness, something NOT good, to bring about a good.

Romans 8:28 says, in all things, God works them for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. The “all things” here, obviously included good things, neutral things, and bad things as well!

Also, we read in 1 Cor 1:27-29, these:

27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. (1 Cor 1:27-29)

There are many examples of such actions of God in Scripture; God used a piece of wood to make water drinkable in the desert (Ex 15:22-25), a prostitute (she lied) to save Israelite spies in Jericho, a little shepherd boy with a sling to slain a giant, even Satan to inflict Job, etc. Did God use sickness on His children before? Yes (some examples are in the article, “Sickness and God”). Can God use sickness on present day Christians? Yes. Must He use sickness? No.

Well, a piece of wood is neutral, but we did NOT read of God saying prostitution or lie is good, or boy better than man (suggesting we stay as a boy, and NOT grow up) or Satan is good; No, no way. Sickness itself is NOT good, it is bad. We should call a spade, a spade. So, sickness is NOT good, and we say sickness is NOT good. We should NOT go round, saying sickness is NOT bad; chastisement of God is NOT bad; it is good, but NOT sickness! We should be very clear in our mind on this.

Inflict and allow, NOT the same
In the article, “Sickness and God”, the discussion was confined to direct infliction of sickness by God on an individual. Now, if I am overseeing a couple of kids in a room, and I take out a knife and thrust it into the tummy of one of the kids, it means I inflict the kid with a knife. But, if I see a kid taking a knife and wanting to thrust it into the tummy of another kid, and I do NOT stop the former, I am allowing the infliction to take place. Still, I did NOT inflict, the kid did. Now, in the sense that God is omnipresence and omniscient, we can say that He allows everything that goes on, to go on - He is omnipotent, all powerful, if He wants to stop or prevent anything, He can. But we do NOT say God inflicted it or caused it, when He merely did NOT intervene in what was going on.

So, almost always, when someone is sick, it is NOT that God inflicted him with sickness, but it is God allowed it; He did NOT intervene to prevent it or stop it. What is allowed to happen, taken to the broadest dimension, included everything under the sun, so to speak, and therefore, we really cannot say, since it (sickness) happened, it is allowed by God, and since God allowed it, it (sickness) MUST be good, since God is good, is correct. Please, what He does NOT intervene, and so it happens, does NOT mean it is good, be it sickness, accident or calamity, it is NOT necessarily the will of God.

OK, but what if He inflicted it?
First, God is NOT a lunatic (and that is a truth), and so, He does NOT, for no realm or reason, inflict His children. From the article on “Sickness and God”, we know, almost always, sickness if inflicted by God, it was for chastisement, and chastisement is either to reform or punish. Whether it is to reform, or to punish (punish itself, can be argued still further, to reform, or punish, in finality, as in physical death {man’s perspective, no reform possible when one is dead}, or eternal death {God’s perspective, punishment-in-finality – be thrown into the burning fire of Hell}), punishment itself, is NOT good, be it sickness or 13 strokes of the cane. God’s reforming us is good, but sickness is NOT good; 13 strokes of the cane are NOT good, either!

Do you ever wonder why we pray?
How many people’s lives are contorted because someone carelessly said, the bad thing that happened to them was the intended will of God (just because it happened, and is equated to God’s intending it)? If we tell a kid of 6 years old, whose his father has just died of a tragic road accident or cancer, that, it is all the will of God, we are going to distort the image of God in the heart of that kid terribly; he probably hates God for a long time, if not, for life!

If your thinking is this, “If a bad thing happened to us, that it happened, it meant God intended it or inflicted it, and so, it MUST be good, for God is good”, why do you pray? You might as well NOT pray, for based on the logic, NOT praying is good, for, purportedly, it is in line with the will of God. It is, by NOT confusing the “bad thing”, whether it is sickness or accident, with the chastisement of God, that, we can lift up any meaningful prayer to God. We thank God IN our hard circumstances, we do NOT thank God FOR our hard circumstances – think about that, there is a difference! (The common rendering of Eph 5:20 as “giving thanks always FOR all things …” is NOT quite the correct rendering, even though I am NOT expounding it here).

Sickness, NOT a gift from God
Suppose you are sick, and let’s say for a moment, your sickness was directly inflicted by God, do you say, “Thank you God, for this sickness; what you give me must be good, so I shall not ‘complain’ about this sickness, but love it, because it is from you.”? No, do NOT confuse sickness or any other bad thing as a gift from God. Scripture said that a gift from God is always good. Sickness is NOT good; it is NOT a gift from God. A gift from God is always something good God gives you without you meriting it (or having worked for it); so how can sickness be a gift, do NOT thank God for the sickness; thank God for chastising you.

For Rev 21:4, many interpret it to say there is no sickness in Heaven, why? It is NOT written in there as such, but by “like association” we believe sickness was included there. What is the “like association” there? In brief, it is the “NOT being good or NOT good”; sickness gives rise to pain, sorrow, crying, even death, these elements were all listed there in the verse.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev 21:4, KJV).

If at all, sickness is inflicted to you by God to reform you, do you think the purpose is so that you settle into the pain, sorrow, and crying all the time? Such an infliction, is the case, only in punishment-in-finality, but we are NOT there yet, we are NOT at the End Time judgment.

If it is not punishment-in-finality, how should we view it?
Sickness as punishment (rather than reformation) was already rare in Old Testament time (there were, you can read from the article, “Sickness and God”, but few); it, in New Testament time, would be even rarer, for New Testament era is the era of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:19). So, if it were to reform you, you are NOT to settle into your pain and sorrow, and thank God for it, rather you are to seek God concerning the reformation; be reformed, and be willing to seek the Lord to heal you. Do NOT settle into your sickness (do NOT acquiesce to sickness), that does NOT glorify God at all (but of course, we are talking about the rare instance of you, if ever, been inflicted by God as chastisement).

Case of sickness NOT from God (which is almost always, the case)
If you are sick, and if you think your sickness is inflicted by God, pray, and ask Him. When that is done sufficiently, and He does NOT answer you that your sickness is from Him, you just take it that it is NOT from Him, and when it is NOT from Him, of course, you can ask Him to intervene, and to remove the sickness from you.

A basis for asking
The redemptive works of Jesus did include (apart from spiritual and works redemptions) a physical redemption or redemption of the body, albeit NOT necessarily both immediately full and effectual (Those desiring understanding in the redemptive works of Jesus, can read my separate article, “The works of redemption by our Lord”).

Even though Jesus had NOT come to do away with the secondary punishments on Man nor to grant eternality to our CURRENT physical body, while He has become the propitiation for sins for all men, He has also demonstratively announced through His workings of signs and wonders and miracles, including healings and deliverances, that God does care about the earthly living of His people, including if they are in afflictions, whether in sicknesses or otherwise.

FULL redemption of the body, although, will NOT manifest in this earthly life, we can still ask for God to bless our body and heal our sicknesses. Although God has NOT made any UNCONDITIONAL promises, ensuring our good health and long life, we can still ask God to heal us and grant us long life, as we live out the redemption that He is doing in our lives; only perhaps, we should ask ourselves what we are doing with our lives and bodies, which are no longer ours (1 Cor 6:19-20).

Sickness, glorifying God? No
This is clear to me:

1. We do NOT glorify God, when a sickness is NOT from Him, and we say it is.

2. We do NOT glorify God, when we thank Him for any sickness (whether from Him or NOT).

3. We do NOT glorify God, when we settle into the sickness if indeed (rare) He inflicted the sickness.

4. Any infliction of sickness on us (unless we are God’s enemy), does NOT glorify God; His healing of us, after our reformation, does, when we are a testimony to His healing.

5. That we are sick does NOT glorify God, but His healing of us does, when we are a testimony to His healing.

It is a misconception to regard sickness as bringing glory to God (unless the afflicted is God’s enemy!). People misinterpret such Scripture passages like John 9:1-3 – Jesus healed man, blind from birth, and John 11:3-4 – Lazarus’ sickness.

Firstly, nowhere in these NT passages on sickness and healing, was there mentioned God inflicted the sicknesses to the individuals, at best, the sicknesses were allowed to happen in the individuals; at best, the sicknesses provided the opportunities for God to glorify Himself. God is good, and therefore, CANNOT be a sadist. Secondly, since the sicknesses were NOT inflicted by God directly, what credit or glory could there be had, for God, in they being sick or remain in sickness? None. Rather, it is their healings by the power of God that brought glory to God, when they became testimonies of God’s divine healing (Luke 5:24-26, Luke 13:12-17, Luke 18:35-43, Acts 4:21-22).

Perseverance in sickness, doesn’t that glorify God?
What about perseverance in sickness; does it NOT glorify God? Sure, perseverance, longsuffering or patience is a fruit of the Spirit which we are to bear, and that is a good thing, and does glorify God, but it is the perseverance that glorified God, NOT sickness. As a fruit, perseverance is to be developed over a believer’s experiences of all sorts, including trials, crises, hunger, and persecutions, etc. It is how the believer carries himself and handles things in all such circumstances of life that determine whether or NOT he glorifies the Lord; it is NOT any of those circumstances themselves glorifying God. For example, persecutions of Christians, is NOT good, it does NOT glorify God when wicked men chopped off the hands and legs of Christians. Do stricken poverty and hunger glorify God? Of course, not. Just as we do NOT welcome persecutions, and the rest, we do NOT welcome sicknesses; we should want to come out of persecutions, and likewise, sicknesses. If we can function still in our persecutions or sicknesses, imagine how much more we can move towards works redemption, the Lord is working in us, when persecutions and sicknesses are lifted. A relevant question to ask ourselves is, “Will we do more, when we are no more afflicted?”

[Added 31 May 2011: There is a valid point that persecution and sickness are to be handled differently. Still I do not think it is right to tell people to welcome persecution, but if it does befall you, you have to face it with a different attitude to that of facing sickness. Very briefly, for sickness, the Apostle James' call reflected the attitude:

14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; (James 5:14-15a)

For sufferings for Christ or the Gospel, we are to persevere and rejoice:

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4:12-14)

Other scriptures on sufferrings from persecution, saying of the same attitude, included Col 1:24 (of Paul's suffering for the Gospel),Matt 5:11-13 (of believers, because of Christ), Rom 5:3-4 (produces perseverance, character and hope).]

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Sure, God, IN all things, including bad ones, works them for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose, but we do NOT thank God FOR the bad things, we thank Him for working them for our good. We thank God IN all things, we do NOT thank God FOR all things, for NOT all things are gifts of God! {Over and above all things, be thankful always, to God the Father, in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ (Eph 5:20) – this is the proper rendering for this verse}.

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