Sickness and death are all around us in the world. However, it was not so in the beginning. When God created the world, there was no disease nor death. After the creation of man, the LORD proclaimed that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). God then made a covenant with man in Genesis 2:16-17. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

However, Adam broke the covenant of works when he ate of the forbid-den fruit. Being the federal head, Adam plunged the whole of mankind into sin. Thus, sickness and death came into the world. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Sickness, corruption and death in this world is therefore a consequence of the fall of man. So long as we are in this world, we will be subjected to sickness. When we fall sick, it is a reminder of the frailty of man, and how the whole of man-kind is plunged in sin. Every one of us is conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5). Therefore, in some sense, every sickness is punitive in nature because of the sin that so weighs upon mankind due to man’s fall from his estate.

The Scriptures also testify that the Lord may afflict us with sickness in order to discipline and chastise us. A good example of this is 1 Corinthians 11:30, where Paul declares that the Lord afflicted some of the Corinthian Christians with sickness because of the abuse of the Lord’s Supper. “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” The purpose of such afflictions is to cause us to repent of our sins and walk in righteousness before the Lord again. Thus, the Psalmist testifies in Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” Similarly, he proclaims in Psalm 119:71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”

On the other hand, there may be cases where the sickness is not directed against any particular sin of the individual, but is permitted for the higher purpose of God. In John 9:3, Jesus said, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” This is not to say that there is no relation between sin and sickness, but that the blindness of the boy was not directed as a punishment of the sins of the parents or the boy. Rather, it was given for God’s higher purpose. In this case, it provided an opportunity for Jesus to perform a miracle to demonstrate that He is the Light of the World. Therefore, we must not be quick to accuse any sick person of sin. Similarly, Job’s afflictions were not due to any wrong he had done, but was specially permitted by the Lord to demonstrate His sovereignty. Lastly, Paul was given a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7). If we take this thorn in the flesh to refer to some illness, its purpose then was to keep the Apostle Paul humble, lest he should exalt himself before measure.

In any case, every sickness is an opportunity for us to examine our lives to see if we have indeed been walking rightly before the Lord. If the sickness is of the Lord’s chastisement, we should confess and renounce all sin, asking the Lord to direct us to do His will. We ought not to despise the Lord’s discipline, “for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:5-6). If however, the Lord had allowed a sickness to come for His higher purpose, let us give glory to His name and rest in His care. He is our Divine Physician who heals all our diseases (Psalm 103:3). The final healing will be that when he presents the believer with a glorified body. Every sickness is thus a reminder of how this body is but a tabernacle which we must soon put off. (c.f. 2 Cor 5:1-4; 2 Peter 1:13-14) This world is not our home. Let us then focus on things above and not on things of this world. Make the health and strength which the Lord has given you count for Christ.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew

Thought of the Week:
“What men believe determines what they do and where they stand.” (Dr. Carl McIntire)