Important Questions Answered
About Suffering and Sickness
As the Church considers the place of affliction and sickness in the plan of God with a view to learning about Divine healing, three questions in particular arise based on James 5:13-15
The first question deals with affliction, or suffering, as a separate category from sickness.
Question. “Who will be afflicted, or suffer?”
Answer. Affliction or suffering is the portion of every Christian. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12) There is Scriptural confirmation for this concept. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Paul wrote, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:” (2 Tim. 2:12)
When a Christian is afflicted, or suffers for righteousness sake, they are to pray, sing songs, rejoice, and give thanks to the Lord, as Peter and the other apostles did. “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Acts 5:41) To be afflicted, to suffer for one’s faith is not pleasant, or easy to endure.
Nevertheless, it is what God has appointed, and so is to be endured with faith and patience. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” (James 1:12)
In contrast to suffering, or being afflicted, there is sickness that involves diseases.
Question. “Who will become sick, and why?”
Answer. The Biblical answer is multifaceted. People become sick for a variety of reasons.
First, every form of sickness can be traced back to the Fall. “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)
Second, some forms of sickness can be traced to a particular sin. There is the sin of taking communion in an inappropriate way. “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” (1 Cor. 11:30)
It is important for a person who wants to be healed to confess any sin which may have caused their sickness, and then forsake it lest a worse sickness is experienced. Jesus warned the healed invalid saying, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14)
When a person becomes sick, they have a holy responsibility to search their conscience and discern if their sickness is directly related to sin. Sometimes it is, other times it is not. When sickness can be traced to sin, that specific sin must be confessed and forsaken. Then, appropriate the means of grace God has provided for healing. “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” (James 5:15)
A third inquiry now arises.
Question. “What is the prayer of faith that shall save, or deliver the sick?”
Answer. The prayer of faith is a prayer seeking help from God for those who are sick. The prayer of faith is asking God for healing, and then believing that healing will take place according to God’s Divine decree.
It is not easy to pray the prayer of faith, because often there is no faith when a person prays. Prayer is a ritual but there is no heart felt reality to it. Repeating the Lord’s Prayer as a congregational ritual may offer one example. People recite the Lord’s Prayer, but they have no desire to see that the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven. They have no intention of obeying the Lord. And they certainly have no intention of forgiving others with the same magnanimous grace God has forgiven them. The prayer of faith stands in contrast to a ritual prayer.
The prayer of faith is a positive prayer, for there is confident assurance that what we expect is going to happen, even if we cannot yet see it. The prayer of faith stands on the sure foundation of the Word of God. The promise of God is that the sick shall be saved, or delivered from the penalty, pain, and pollution of sin. Faith does not allow any doubt. “Therefore I say unto you, whatever things you desire, when ye pray, believe that you receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:24) “But let him ask in faith, not doubting. For he that doubts is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. And let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (James 1:6-7)
Here then is a great promise for God’s people who are sick. There is hope for Divine healing, based upon gospel terms:
Call for the Elders.
Do not presume they know everything.
Allow an anointing with oil in the name of the Lord.
Confess all known sins.
Receive God’s forgiveness.
Hear the prayer of faith, “That relief from pain may be granted; that the mind may be calm and submissive; that the medicines employed may be blessed to a restoration to health; that past sins may be forgiven; that he who is sick may be sanctified by his trials; that he may be restored to health, or prepared for his “last change” – all these are subjects of prayer which we feel to be appropriate in such a case, and every sick man should avail himself of the aid of those who “have an interest at the throne of grace,” that they may be obtained.” (Albert Barnes)