The Bible gives answers regarding suffering – most people don’t like them. God gave the greatest example of suffering by not intervening when wicked men killed His Son. He can intervene in our suffering now, but it’s not what it’s about, and often He doesn’t. The point is we should expect suffering in this life – the time of joy is ahead. Most people want/demand the joy now. God told us in Hebrews 11 that people were sawn in two etc – yet not a hair of their head was to perish eternally.
It’s about the next life. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth, blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (future)
Let’s look at what James said about suffering and sickness.
“And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.” James 5:15
When taken on its own, this verse seems to be saying that the prayer of faith will save the sick. So why don’t the sick get healed when we pray in faith?
Let’s look at this verse in its full context – the transience of this life and the importance of how we live.
TRANSIENCE OF THIS LIFE
James 1:10-11 “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withers the grass, and the flower thereof falls, and the grace of the fashion of it perishes: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways”
“For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away” James 4:14
“Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.” James 5:1
Contrasted to the transience of this life is the eternal reward –
“Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.” James 1:12
God is always more concerned with eternal salvation than the here and now of physical comforts.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matt. 5
These blessings are mostly future – not occurring fully until God’s Kingdom comes and Jesus reigns on earth, which the meek inherit.
Let’s look at the context within James 5 of the sick being healed. There is one word for ‘sick’ used in the English translation in James, but in Greek there are two different words.
James 5:13 “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray (no mention of affliction disappearing). Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders (carers) of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil (applying the medicine of the time, not a holy ceremony) in the name of the Lord: (in the name of the Lord meaning – because you are a Christian – same as “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ” Mark 9:41)
There is no mention of healing for this first type of sickness, just advice for caring people to pray and use the medicine of the time.
Then the passage in James continues using the other Greek work for ‘sick’.
15 And/indeed the prayer of faith shall save the sick.”
This is a different word for sick – used only 3 times in the New Testament, and translated in the sense of spiritually weary in the other 2 places –
Heb. 12:3 lest you become weary and discouraged in your minds.
Rev. 2:3 have laboured, and have not fainted .
So the passage in James could read
“INDEED THE PRAYER OF FAITH SHALL SAVE THE SPRITUALLY WEARY and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”
What does confessing your faults have to do with being healed?
IMPORTANCE OF HOW WE LIVE
The same word for ‘healed is also used for spiritual healing –
“By whose stripes you were healed” 1 Peter 2:24
In this sense the word heal means “to free from errors and sins, to bring about (one’s) salvation” – not a healing from an earthly sickness.
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Then follows a section about the prayer of faith
“Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”
Then follows a sections about the spiritually weak –
19 “Brethren, if any of you errs from the truth (meaning spiritually weak or sick), and one convert him;20 Let him know, that he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death”.
This is the real healing, eternal healing, saving a soul from death. God is concerned about our eternal salvation because in this transient age of mortality, like the flower of the grass we will all pass away.
In a similar way people were in despair at the fall of the tower in Siloam which killed eighteen people. Jesus said
“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” Luke 13:4
And again in John 8:24
“You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
It’s terribly sad when an innocent child or any loved one dies or suffers. Yet God gives all who mourn, comfort with the promise of future joy in the Kingdom age. For those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son and commit to following Him – then every tear of sadness will ultimately be wiped away. This life is preparation for the next, no one will escape suffering in one form or another. This is not to say that God won’t heal an illness in this lifetime as He healed Naaman the lepper. Yet if He doesn’t and a loved one still dies – then there is all the more desire to be united with them in the age to come. For those who accept and follow Jesus, their children are also holy –
“But now they are holy” 1 Cor. 7:14
Understanding that there is no escape from the trials of this life and that Jesus is coming soon, the urgency is to tell others, so that they too will be saved for eternity. If God chose to heal all illness in this life then no one who believed in God would be sick, this doesn’t happen. If God chose to heal all illness in this life then why wouldn’t He also make all the hungry be fed? All the bad rulers replaced with good ones? All bad marriages good? Why would God choose one group alone to be healed in this life? God’s message throughout the Bible is to follow His Son and turn to Him now, and be saved for eternity. Turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven will soon be on earth.
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