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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Faith-healers are very emphatic in their contention that sickness is always contrary to the will of God, and that only a lack of faith keeps any person from being immediately healed. These claims, however, fail to take into consideration certain Scripture statements which declare that on various occasions, God Himself has inflicted the disease or the suffering for wise and beneficent purposes, as the following Scriptural references illustrate.
Miriam was smitten with leprosy in order the she and Aaron might be turned from their sinful course (Num. 12:10). The Lord struck the illegitimate son of David because of the sin which had been committed (Sam. 12:15). The Psalmist said, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; That I might learn thy statutes." (Psalm 119:71). When Jesus was asked, "Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" He replied, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." (John 9:2,3). The sickness of Lazarus was "...for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." (John 11:4).
Paul was given "...a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." (II Cor. 12:7) – a physical handicap which we find was intended for a purpose, namely, that his eminence and success beyond that of the other disciples should not fill him with pride and arrogance. Though he earnestly "...besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me," it was not removed. We venture to say that in all the world today there is not a Christian mightier in prayer, more devoted, more Spirit-filled and enlightened than was the Apostle Paul.
If God would not remove this affliction, (though He was besought so earnestly to do so), certainly we should hesitate a bit before censoring the suffering saint of today for a lack of faith which we claim would, if he had it, bring relief to his body. When Paul was told by the Lord that it was better for him to endure this suffering, that the Lord’s grace would be sufficient for him, he answered, "...Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (II Cor. 12:9).
In such cases where God is working out some great and good purpose (which probably is unknown to the person who suffers), no amount of prayer will bring healing. Further, we find Paul leaving Trophimus sick at Miletum (II Tim. 4:20), and in the realm of practical medicine urging Timothy to "...use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmities." (I Tim. 5:23).
Even Christ Himself, we are told, "...learned he obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:8); and in bringing many sons into glory it was God’s purpose also "...to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (Heb. 2:10). The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews tells us, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" (12:6); and again, "...God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." (12:7-8).
Instead of sickness being an evidence of God’s displeasure, it is oftentimes the mark of His favor. The plain fact of the matter is that there is not so much as one verse in all the Bible which states that God wills that His children should be kept from all suffering and affliction.
There are many verses which teach that God chastises His children for their spiritual enlightenment. It often happens that the best saints in the church, those whose spiritual life is truest and deepest, are called upon to endure the greatest pain, while persons of immoral character often have relatively little suffering.
Health is, of course, the general rule for God’s people. In each particular instance, we are to pray for healing until it becomes clear that it is not God’s will to heal the person; and then we are to pray for grace to bear it, that we may be able to say with Jesus in Gethsemane, "Not my will, but thine, be done."
We are to remember further that no affliction can come to the children of God except as it is filtered through the sands of His love, and that it will not continue one moment longer than necessary to serve the wise and good purpose which He has in view. "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." (Rom. 8:28).