Read: John 9
“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” Jesus answered, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:2-3, NLT)
Suffering—where does it originate? When someone gets sick, contracts a disease, or is born with a disability, is that the result of personal sin—either theirs or their parents? Has the devil inflicted the suffering upon them? Did God cause it? When we, or the people we love are forced to endure suffering, we get pretty passionate about finding answers to those questions.
What Jesus said was that not all sickness and suffering is the result of a specific sin. However, in a general sense, because we live in a world broken by sin, bad stuff that was not a part of God’s original plan for human beings now happens. And to be sure, the Bible does teach that I can bring some physical suffering on myself. If I do not follow God’s principles, my body will experience the consequence. If I do not eat right, sleep enough and exercise regularly—which is sin, since my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit—then I should not be surprised when my body reacts with an infirmity. If I do not listen when God’s Word says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything” and I worry a lot—which is a sin—if I get an ulcer, then I am to blame. If resentment builds in my spirit—which is a sin, since I am not to allow bitterness to take root and defile me—then the doctors say that what is eating me will not only eat away at my mental health, but it will also take a bite out of my physical health.
So when it comes to suffering and sickness, I need to pay attention to the sin-factor in my life. When sin is at the root, then James says that confession and prayer is the appropriate response to my suffering:
“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:13-16, NLT)
However, not all suffering is the result of sin. Jesus blew that idea out of the water here in John 9 when he talked about the man born blind and clears up the notion that the blindness was the result of neither his nor his parent’s sin. Sometimes God permits suffering in your life simply because He wants to heal you and let it be a testimony to the world. John 11:4 tells the story of Lazarus, who was sick and near death. In that case, Jesus said, “The purpose of his illness is not death, for the glory of God.”
Now God doesn’t heal every sickness; if he did, none of us would ever die and go to heaven. But for sickness that is within the Lord’s will to heal, James 5:14 says that we are to do a couple of things: One, we are take the initiative and summon the spiritual leaders of the church. And, two, we are to have those elders anoint us with oil and pray.
This prayer for healing is to be done “in the name of the Lord.” The “name” represents the Christ’s authority, which is the basis for all healing. When we offer prayer for healing under these conditions and in that manner, James says, “such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well.” (James 5:15, NLT)
God is the healer, not the person praying. Let’s never forget that! In this age of flamboyant faith healers, sometimes you get the idea that it is their ability and spirituality that gets the job done. It is not; God alone deserves the credit.
That brings us back to what Jesus said about suffering and sickness: Sometimes it is not the result of sin. It is simply so that God’s power and glory can be revealed in the restoration!
“‘I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 30:17
What If God Took Over?
If you are suffering from an illness, study James 5:13-18 and follow what it says.