One of my friends in Jamaica died after a prolonged illness. Knowing how her entire family suffered because of her illness, I am tempted to ask why she was sick for so long. Why didn’t the Lord heal her? Why should those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ suffer such pain? Some Christian friends tell me that such suffering is unnecessary, and that we need only to claim the healing that belongs to us as children of God. Let me quote from an article they gave me: “The full good news is that Jesus has already accomplished your healing on the cross, when He went in your place and died for your sins and made available your healing, wholeness, deliverance, freedom, victory – your every need. We need only to learn how to receive it by faith as we received our eternal salvation by faith. It is available and due to us if we believe in and receive Jesus’ atonement for our sins on the cross.”
Doesn’t this sound attractive and reasonable? After all, since God is all-powerful can He not deliver us from all our sufferings? And since He is all-loving will He not do so? Didn’t Jesus die to deliver us from all sickness and poverty?
Another friend of mine believed this wholeheartedly. When she developed a serious case of cancer, she simply claimed her healing. She was convinced that God must heal her or He’d be unfaithful – but He didn’t! At that point, serious doubts filled her mind; she began to ask, “Can God really be trusted?”
Many are struggling with these same important questions. They touch the very essence of God’s character – His faithfulness, power, love and will. Does the Bible really teach that we need never be troubled, sick or poor? Should we view God as a vast cosmic vending machine who must deliver the goods (healing, deliverance, safety, freedom, prosperity, etc.) whenever we put in the right “faith” coins, demanding of Him our rights?
Just as people turn away from an unreliable vending machine, disillusioned multitudes have turned away from God because their only knowledge of Him was based on this unworthy idea. The highways and byways of the Christian profession are strewn with the sad wrecks of those who have turned away from the true and living God because of such false claims.
Of course, the Lord could heal every sick person if He purposed to do so. Scripture teaches that He is infinite in power, but He is not limited by our feeble understanding of Him nor even by our capacity to draw upon His power. He acts according to His plan for what is best for each one of us, and ultimately for His own glory. Therefore He does not give the same measure of physical well-being and deliverance to each of us, nor does He give these things according to our obedience and faith.
Acts 12 gives no evidence that Peter had more faith than James. Yet God allowed James to be killed and Peter to be miraculously delivered from prison. Paul was a man full of faith, yet his life was riddled with sufferings of every kind (2 Cor. 11:23-30). Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit but was violently murdered by an enraged mob (Acts 7:54-59).
The full and free salvation we receive when we believe the gospel doesn’t promise freedom from sickness, disease, depression and poverty. True, we can draw upon God’s grace when we are in these difficult circumstances, and we will always find His grace more than enough for us (2 Cor. 12:9). But we still live in a groaning creation which suffers from the effects of sin.
Our full deliverance from suffering and death awaits the coming of Christ. Then He’ll transform our lowly bodies and make them like His own glorious body, and we’ll no longer be a part of this groaning creation as “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Th. 4:16; Phil. 3:21; Rom. 8:22; 1 Cor. 15:54). Until then, we need help to live for God in the midst of suffering.
Paul said: “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” But he also said: “Do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (Acts 14:22; 2 Cor. 4:16).
By Grant Steidl
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org