Ready When Sickness Comes to Stay                     1 FEB 15

Sickness in the Bible refers to spiritual and physical illness.

We will address spiritual illness first.

2 COR 4:16-17 "Faint" is the same Greek word as in verse 1. For the cause of spreading the Gospel to the lost and the growing new Christians, Paul does not stay knocked down. Paul stayed spiritually healthy in "the inward man." Here is the Key to Spiritual Health: Doing the work to which we are called as Christians: MATT 28:19-20 and COL 1:9-10! Paul did and he was spiritually refreshed each and every day! What a jewel of wisdom from the Bible that few people ever see as they read the Bible.

2 COR 4:18 Isn't Paul's restatement of (MATT 6:21 KJV) "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" great? Keeping our eyes on Jesus and the ministry he has assigned to us will make us and keep us as Overcomers. Life is difficult, but is nothing compared to the glories on New Earth. But we are to live here until this happens for us. We have work that is critical to the futures of others. And it often is not easy and may become extremely difficult and dangerous. But any Christian can live through life because of the knowledge of the Real Gospel and Faith therein.

This is best done by recognizing that Jesus (and the Father) sent the Holy Spirit to represent Him by indwelling every saved person. (John 15:26 RSV) "But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;" (John 16:7 RSV) "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." This Jesus restated from (John 14:26 RSV) "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."

            All our actions are to be based upon (John 15:12 RSV) ""This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." To stay spiritually healthy (or return to health) we must do (John 15:14-18 RSV) "You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another." However, Jesus never said this would be simple or easy. Jesus spoke of physical abuse from the lost in (John 15:18 RSV) ""If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you."

This verse addresses many of the false religions of today: (John 15:23 RSV) "He who hates me hates my Father also." Any who reject Jesus rejects the Only True and Living God.

2 COR 12:7 In verses 1-6 Paul told of his visions and revelations from God. Paul was the "man in Christ." The actions of the Corinthians in 1 Cor 12-14 show how easily the desire for showy gifts can affect people. Paul was not without that possibility. So God gave him a "thorn in the flesh." There is no general agreement as to what this means. But Paul's parallel is "a messenger of Satan." That most likely means the Gnostics. They continually, along with the Judaizers, said Paul was not a real Apostle, so he could not be trusted with the truth. So in this manner Paul was working out the most good for Paul and people Paul would influence. It certainly is not how we would pray for such good, and Paul is with us on this.

2 COR 12:8 Three times Paul prayed "in faith believing" to have the thorn {Greek aorist tense" immediately and finally depart from him. Three times God said No. Three times God answered Paul's prayers with NO! God would not take out the Gnostics, or the pagans, or any other false religion. Why not do so? If God did this, then numerous people would send themselves to Hell with no chance of a witness that might lead to saving faith. The lost must live to give these chances to be saved. Remember (John 3:16 RSV) "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." God loves the world and the Gnostics were part of the world. God wants whosoever to believe. A dead person cannot believe.

2 COR 12:9a As part of his answer, God (meaning here God the Father) said to His child in Christ, you can live with the thorn. Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs, Studying Adult Life and Work Lessons, Jul-Sep 94 pointed out that "said" is perfect tense, hence God's final word on the matter. The Greek is teleo meaning "is perfected." It would take time for Paul to be able to live with and overcome the negative aspects of the thorn. But as Paul grew in Christ, God's grace would make this happen. Naturally Paul had to continue to grow to achieve it.

2 COR 9b-10 Paul did continue to grow, Paul found that God's No gave him more than the Yes he wanted. Verse 10 further supports the premise that his thorn was the Gnostics. Dr. Hobbs also noted that "may rest" translates a verb meaning to pitch a tent. So Paul would continue to have this benefit so long as he moved with God and not seek again his own Yes answer. For Paul, No was a better answer than Yes. Obviously, at first he did not think so. After he learned God’s answer was the best, he agreed with the No. Can we do the same? God does indeed work out the most good for us. So when he says No or Wait, you help ourselves and God by accepting this as being best for us.

Remember, the Abba Father always answers our prayers! But always for the most good for us and those we impact. Thus it may not be the way we see the good, but it is always God’s definition of the good. (Rom 8:28 RSV) "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose."


What of physical sickness?

(Acts 19:11-12 RSV) "And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them." However on other occasions Paul did not have this power (2 Cor. 12:8; Phil. 2:27; 1 Tim. 5:23; 2 Tim. 4:20).

            In the Bible God used both doctors with medicine and miracles to physically heal many people. An example is in (Acts 28:8-9 RSV) "It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery; and Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured." Paul did do a miracle for the father of Publius. But the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were cured. The Greek for cured is a medical term as noted by Dr. W. A. Criswell. The only doctor there was Luke. Only one was healed of their diseases by a miracle. The rest waere healed by Dr. Luke.

            Note (James 5:14 RSV) "Is any among you sick? 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;" God may heal directly, through medicine, or in answer to prayer, as here. The oil is a symbol of the presence of God (cf. Ps. 23:5); it may also have been considered medicinal in James's day (cf. Luke 10:34), though hardly as being effective for all diseases. Prayers of faith are answered not simply because they are prayed in faith but only if they are prayed in the will of God (1 John 5:14). God does not always think it best to heal (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8; 2 Tim. 4:20). Here the healing is dependent on confession of sin.

Some understand the word sick in verse 14 to refer to spiritual, not physical, weakness and the different word translated sick in verse 15 to mean "weary" (these meanings are valid). Thus the discouraged person will be restored to spiritual vigor by the elders' prayer and anointing. So is James addressing spiritual illness or physical illness?

            “Sick” here does mean produced by illness. “Anointing with oil” was both used for ceremonial anointing and as an internal and/or external medicine. The “elders” in those days meant pastors or bishops. However, we are not to take it to mean only these can pray for the sick. As Dr. Hobbs notes on page 77 “It was not oil, but “the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” As for “save”, he wrote “”Heal” is the idea here. In Matthew 9:22 “made whole” is how the same word is translated.” The issue has always been how literal can Christians take these verses. On face value, they seem to declare that a “prayer of faith” will always result in “the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven.” Some churches and Christians practice this in a literal, every time sense. Many loved ones have died of cancer in spite of good Christians praying for their recovery. (Mat 17:20 RSV) "He said to them, "Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you."" From this should we say that whenever a prayed for person does not get well, it is because no Christian who prayed had enough faith? The immediate context is the faith of the elders. So if there is no healing, are we to fire the elders and get ones with more faith? Dr. Hobbs didn’t take a definite position. We can say the text is stating that the prayer of faith will heal and that medical means are to be used as well. God does occasionally directly heal those who are ill. The believer has a right to ask for healing from the Lord, who revealed Himself to His people in Ex. 15:26 as Yahweh-Ropheka (Hebrew meaning: "For I am the Lord who heals you"). God heals and often employs means in the process (cf. Isa. 38:21; Mark 6:12, 13; 1 Tim. 5:23).

God does heal with and without miracles. In fact, if there is miracle healing, God does the healing. It may not be in God's will for miracle healing to occur in a particular case. Believers are instructed to pray for healing, but they are also instructed to seek God's will (1 John 5:14) and are taught by Christ's example to pray, "nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). Note also 2 Cor. 2:7-10, in which Paul earnestly prays for healing that does not occur, and 2 Tim. 4:20, note, in which Paul's valued friend and helper, Trophimus, remains sick at Miletus. Yet Paul did not heal him. Certainly Paul was a man who prayed in faith. Even Paul himself was not healed because of his personal prayers for himself. 2 COR 12:8-9. All prayer must also be in line with John 14:13-14. This means in the will of God. Paul prayer about his thorn was not in God’s will for his work with the lost and the saved. Paul had to work out the thorn problem in another way. Thus when we have a complex issue the Father determines when and how He will respond.

            Once again our lesson title is somewhat misleading. It implies that God will heal when diseases come. This may or may not be the case. God did not heal me of cancer, although I asked for it as did others praying for me. He did provide me access to an excellent medical facility where I got the best of care and the off and on intelligent use of medicine. So God answered my prayers and those of others not in the way we wanted, but in the way of the most good for the situation. At this time the residual cancer I still have is held at bay by my body’s immune system. I have not needed helper medicine for three years and the latest tests still show there is no need. This is certainly the easiest way to handle this residual cancer. But if I had not availed myself of this medical care, or had not taken the medicine after my surgery, I would probably be dead by now. In like manner if I had not worked to keep myself as healthy as I can, I would probably be dead by now.

            God’s readiness is always to work out the most good for us. The method He uses is not always as we seek. It may be painful. As the old hymn says “Trust and obey.” Paul did so with his thorn, and look how it turned out for him. This title also means we are to be ready to help and comfort when spiritual and physical illness comes.


Marvin Ganote, Advanced Bible Study Class, Adult Teacher. Lesson at:  or