Sickness and Death
“Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence… Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday… With long life will I satisfy him, and show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:3, 5-6, 16)
“They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (Psalm 92:14).
This objection is often made to the words of the apostle James, “The prayer of faith shall save the sick” [James 5:15]:
“If we have the promise of being always healed in answer to prayer, how can it be possible to die?” And some add: “How can a sick person know whether God, who fixes the time of our life, has not decided that we shall die by such a sickness? In such a case, would not prayer be useless, and would it not be a sin to ask for healing?
Before replying, we would remark that this objection touches not such as believe in Jesus as the Healer of the sick, but the Word of God itself, and the promise so clearly declared in the epistle of James and elsewhere. We are not at liberty to change or to limit the promises of God whenever they present some difficulty to us; neither can we insist that they shall be clearly explained to us before we can bring ourselves to believe what they state. It is for us to begin by receiving them without resistance; then only can the Spirit of God find us in the state of mind in which we can be taught and enlightened.
Furthermore, we would remark that in considering a divine truth which has been for a long time neglected in the Church, it can hardly be understood at the outset. It is only little by little that its importance and bearing are discerned. In measure as it revives, after it has been accepted by faith, the Holy Spirit will accompany it with new light. Let us remember that it is by the unbelief of the Church that divine healing has left her. It is not on the answers of such or such a one that faith in Bible truths should be made to depend. “There ariseth light in the darkness” (Psalm 112:4) for the “upright” who are ready to submit themselves to the Word of God.
1. To the first objection it is easy to reply. Scripture fixes seventy or eighty years as the ordinary measure of human life.
Psalm 90 10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
The believer who receives Jesus as the Healer of the sick will rest satisfied then with the declaration of the Word of God. He will feel at liberty to expect a life of seventy years, but not longer. Besides, the man of faith places himself under the direction of the Spirit, which will enable him to discern the will of God if something should prevent his attaining the age of seventy. Every rule has its exceptions, in the things of heaven as in the things of earth. Of this, therefore, we are sure according to the Word of God, whether by the words of Jesus or by those of James, that our heavenly Father wills, as a rule, to see His children in good health that they may labor in His service.
For the same reason He wills to set them free from sickness as soon as they have made confession of sin and prayed with faith for their healing. For the believer who has walked with his Savior, strong with the strength which proceeds from divine healing, and whose body is consequently under the influence of the Holy Spirit, it is not necessary that when his time comes to die, he should die of sickness. To fall asleep in Jesus Christ, such is the death of the believer when the end of his life is come. For him death is only sleep after fatigue, the entering into rest. The promise, “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6: 3), is addressed to us who live under the New Covenant. The more the believer has learned to see in the Savior Him who “took our infirmities” (Matthew 8:17) the more he has the liberty to claim the literal fulfillment of the promises: “With long life will I satisfy him” (Psalm 91:16); “They shall bring forth fruit in old age, they shall be fat and flourishing” (Psalm 92:14).
2. The same text applies to the second objection. The sick one sees in God’s Word that it is His will to heal His children after the confession of their sins, and in answer to the prayer of faith. It does not follow that they shall be exempt from other trials; but as for sickness, they are healed of it because it attacks the body, which is become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. The sick one should then desire healing that the power of God may be made manifest in him, and that he may serve Him in accomplishing His will. In this he clings to the revealed will of God, and for that which is not revealed he knows that God will make known His mind to His servants who walk with Him. We would insist here that faith is not a logical reasoning which ought in some way to oblige God to act according to His promises. It is rather the confiding attitude of the child who honors his Father, who counts upon His love to see Him fulfilling His promises, and who knows that He is faithful to communicate to the body as well as to the soul the new strength which flows from the redemption, until the moment of departure is come.