Summary: Two things are inevitable when we are born into this fallen world. We will all get sick in some way, and we will all die. What is God's role in all of this?
Two things are inevitable when we are born into this fallen world. We will all get sick in some way, and we will all die. So it makes sense that we understand how to deal with these certainties according to Scripture.
When the Bible talks about suffering, it is almost never speaking about physical illness or disease, but usually emotional suffering and physical persecution because of our faith. It’s almost like illness and death are of very little concern to Jesus. This makes sense because he could easily heal illness and bring people back to life from death if he wanted to. His concern was much more with the soul.
Do you have any idea how much money and effort is spent trying to cure illness and treat those who are ill? How much we try to prevent and postpone death? The cost of healthcare in Canada was over 10% of our GNP at about 180 billion dollars last year. 30 billion of that is spent on pharmaceuticals, to treat symptoms, not cure illness.
Death rates have dropped in the past 60 years, but much of that has to do with the fact that the general population was younger with the Baby Boomers. Death rates are predicted to start rising again between 2020 and 2050.
I have a feeling Jesus is sitting up there shaking his head. Do you realize how little of that 180 billion could end starvation around the entire world? Most illness goes away by itself, that’s how God made us, and the ones that don’t, that lead to death are in many ways a gift from God if we know we are going to be with Him.
Most of the world hates death because it means less time here on earth. But do you see how this reflects a lack of true spirituality? I know there are lots of great things about being here on earth. But we are not here to just to enjoy the things of the world. In fact we are aliens here
We’re allowed to enjoy life and the things of the world, but our main purpose in being here is to live for God, who gave us this life in the first place. We are not to live for the world, so when God allows a fatal illness to take us, we should really be rejoicing for ourselves and for others who perish in Christ, because we get to go to our real home.
But God doesn’t just want to take us home, he wants us to seek him and demonstrate his power and glory on earth. He made us and the world perfect with no sickness or death, and he promises to return it to that state one day.
Titus 1:2 says “we can have hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began”. We had eternal life on earth before the fall, and we have eternal life now if we want it, but now we must go through an imperfect journey here on earth as part of this eternal life.
So I want to ask 4 Questions this morning, beginning with:
Why does a loving God allow sickness and death?
The ten most common causes of death in first world countries are all lifestyle dependent or effects of our actions on the environment, and to a large extent if we had followed God’s revealed ways from the start, these illnesses would not exist:
Heart disease, Stroke, Lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Diarrhoeal diseases, Tuberculosis, Trachea/bronchus/lung cancers, Malaria, Road traffic accidents. Those are the top ten killers. Notice only one of them is cancer, and that kind of cancer is very environmentally caused.
In third world countries over 60% of people die from starvation and malnutrition related diseases. Completely preventable. How can we blame God for these things that we ourselves are responsible for? Yes he allowed death to come into the world, but he also gave life and promises that if we believe in Him death has no power, and we will live forever without the limits of this temporal body.
Sickness and death are entirely our own fault through disobedience, beginning in the Garden of Eden, and the desire for pleasure and having our own way, rather than following God’s way. Genesis 3:16-24 show how we humans chose to bring pain, hard work, and death into the world, and how we will only return to perfection when God says so.
Then there’s that difficult passage 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 about the Lord’s supper: “Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” What does that mean to discern the body?
The best way to describe the Greek saying here is that we must have full knowledge and acceptance of the difference between us and Christ. We are to see ourselves as we really are in relation to Christ, the Son of God who died for our sin. This refers both to us as individuals, and to the church body. Without this discernment we continue to act in self-centered ways. This is basically what the original sin in the Garden was about. We wanted to be like God rather than discerning and accepting the differences between us.