GOD’S GRACE FOR OUR ILLNESS
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
INTRO: In May 1983, the “Chicago Tribune” ran a story about a young father from North Manchester, Indiana. His name was David Gilmore. He told about the illness of his fifteen-month-old son, Dustin Graham Gilmore, that began in April 1978.
At first his child came down with flu-like symptoms. The Gilmores took him to their church, and the pastor prayed for him. Members of that church believed that faith alone heals any disease and that to look elsewhere for help (for example, a medical doctor) demonstrates a lack of faith in God.
Gilmore and his wife followed the church’s advice and simply prayed for their son. Over the next weeks they prayed faithfully as his temperature climbed, prayed when they noticed he no longer responded to sounds, and prayed harder when he went blind.
On the morning of May 15, 1978, Dustin Graham Gilmore died. An autopsy revealed the infant died from a form of meningitis that could have been easily treated and cured.
This story brings up the whole question of God’s involvement in illness. Where is God to be found in the experience of physical ailment? What about this issue of healing?
The Christian faith affirms that God is a God of grace. For the believer who has the eyes to see, God offers at least two different kinds of grace when we experience physical sickness. These include healing grace and sustaining grace.
Second in the series on “Illness Through the Eyes of Faith.”
I. HEALING GRACE.
God sometimes responds with healing grace. This was the experience of Epaphroditus as seen in Philippians 2. Epaphroditus was seriously ill but got well. God sometimes offers healing grace for our illness. He does so in at least three ways.
First, healing often comes from the natural defense mechanisms which God created and placed in the human body. God has created our bodies with a marvelous healing system. Many illnesses are naturally healed because of this built-in defense system.
Secondly, God mediates healing grace through human instruments. Doctors, medicine, medical treatments, surgery--all are God’s instruments for healing.
This is consistent with God’s involvement in His creation. God has delegated responsibility to human beings from the beginning. He asked Adam to name the animals, Noah to build an ark, Abraham and Sarah to begin a nation, the prophets to proclaim the word of the Lord, and the disciples to carry on the work of Christ’s church.
When God wants something done, he usually asks people to help. It should not surprise us, then, that when God wants healing to occur, he often uses human instruments.
ILLUS: You have probably heard the old story about the man in the flood. He was sitting on the top of his house as the flood waters rose. A boat came by to pick him up. He said: “Oh, no, I am a Christian. I”m trusting God to take care of me.”
The water continued to rise. Another boat came by to take him to safety. Again he refused, saying God would save him.
Finally the water was about to overtake him. A helicopter came overhead, dropped down a rope, and told him to take hold. “No,” he shouted, “I”m trusting God to save me.”
The helicopter left, the water rose, and the man drowned.When he got to heaven, he complained to God. “I was trusting you, Lord. You let me down. Why didn’t you save me?”God responded: “What do you mean, I let you down? I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”Healing often comes through human instruments.
Not all healing, however, can be explained in natural or medical terms. Sometimes healing occurs which is beyond human understanding. This third kind of healing grace, which we would call supernatural healing, remains a mystery. It comes on rare occasions. Rather than trying to explain it, perhaps the best response is to be grateful to God that healing has occurred.
At other times, however, healing grace does not occur. In spite of our hope, faith, and sincere prayers, some never find healing grace for their sickness. Some have to learn to live with chronic, yet treatable illness. Others have to learn to die with incurable disease. Where is God’s grace then?
II. SUSTAINING GRACE.
This was the experience of the apostle Paul as seen in 2 Corinthians 12. Although we are not sure what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (v. 7) was, he obviously has some sort of physical infirmity. This man of great faith prayed for healing, but healing did not come. Faith, contrary to some contemporary popular theology, does not heal all illness.
Although Paul could not find healing grace, he did find sustaining grace. God’s word to Paul was, “My grace is sufficient for you” (v. 9).
Through the years I have seen many believers experience the grace of God to sustain them through times of illness even though healing did not come. Sustaining grace is God’s gift of courage and faith, his presence and strength, to face difficult days.
Consider someone like Joni Eareckson Toda. As a result of an accident, she is a paraplegic. Many have seen the movie based on her life, called Joni. Although she is a dedicated believer, no healing has come for her.
Yet where healing grace has not come, sustaining grace has. Joni has discovered the sustaining grace of God in a beautiful way. Her faith and vibrant love for life have had a powerful impact on hundreds of thousands of people. Like the apostle Paul, Joni has discovered that God’s grace is indeed sufficient.
We don’t have to look at famous people like Joni Eareckson Toda, however, to find examples of God’s sustaining grace. We don’t need to look any further than the members of our own churches.
As with healing grace, God’s sustaining grace is often mediated through human instruments. These include the encouragement of family, friends, ministers, and other caring persons. Various medical treatments, such as pain-killing medication, can also be God’s agents of sustaining grace.
CONC: Where is God when we face illness? He is intimately involved. Sometimes like Epaphroditus, God gives us healing grace. Sometimes, for reasons beyond our comprehension, healing is not possible. But when healing cannot come, God responds with sustaining grace. Like Paul, God says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you.”