Disease – something that can cause fear, panic, anger, sorrow, hopelessness. Physical and emotional diseases run rampant in our society, yet we keep going. It appears to be just part of the life cycle but should it be? Of course we all know we are going to die of something eventually so we often resign ourselves to this fact and as Christians, believe it is His will when our time comes, however it comes.
This of course is a controversial subject especially amongst Christians, most having concluded certain things about God, healing, disease, pain, and loss, and will argue their “position” to whatever degree necessary to defend what they have come to believe. Most of us have reached these conclusions based on our experiences and our understanding of Scripture; if we have gone through miraculous healings we boast of God’s power and love; if we have received grace to cope with disease, we boast of God’s grace and love; if we have experienced little to no healing in our lives but still love and trust God through it, we boast of His peace, presence, and generous strength to stand.
All people would have to agree it would be great to live in a disease-free world. Of course, Christians know this will happen eventually, since we are assured heaven is our home and we know there is no disease in heaven. Once we make it through and endure to the end we will be free from all corruptive maladies that have tormented the human population. Most Christians rest in the assurance that God will heal us either this side of heaven or by bringing us home. We see it as a win-win situation therefore we just keep going.
This will not be a debate about the different facets of disease and healing, the methods applied to bring forth healing, God’s will on healing, or how faith for healing in Christ pertains to each situation. Usually these discussions only lead to arguments, attacks to the faith of individuals, debates concerning God’s will, or a sharing of experiences rather than the truth of God’s Word. This will not be about promoting or demoting the use of doctors and medicines, or even entering the debate about why people are healed or not healed through traditional or non-traditional medicine, new age practices, alternative medicines, or faith in God alone.
But this is more about the approach we as Christians take in regard to disease and healing with an exhortation to examine our beliefs and determine if we have the faith of God (literal translation of Mark 11:22) or if we have settled into some other system of belief. It is time, especially with current health reform issues, alternative medicine, and the like that each Christian take a serious look at what the Word says, what we believe, what we say, and what we do in the area of disease and good health. Wisdom would say these four should match if we want to see His will done on earth as it is in heaven.
Rather than the usual approach of sharing opinions or an interpretation of Scripture when it comes to disease and healing, let us use a shepherd/sheep analogy since God uses it often in Scripture. In John 10 Jesus declares we are His sheep and also in the Psalms, God communicates the connection between sheep and His people in the form of a metaphor. Psalm 95:7“For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand…” Again in Psalm 100:3 “Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”
Notice it says “We are His people AND the sheep of His pasture.” These words are critical to understanding what God is speaking to our spirits. He actually mixes the sheep/people analogy in Psalm 95 by saying we are people of His pasture instead of sheep of His pasture, and sheep of His hand instead of people of His hand. His purpose in doing so is that we relate as closely to God as sheep relate to their shepherds. They totally trust their shepherd in all things at all times. They hear his voice and they follow. In John 10:27 Jesus declares “My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me.”
You might be asking how the topic of disease and healing relate to acting like sheep. Without going into an all-inclusive study, let us briefly examine disease in sheep then compare it to Christians, as the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Disease and health problems in sheep are usually the result of poor management and nutrition practices of the shepherd. Management includes trimming hooves regularly, checking the mouth and teeth often, making sure intake of food and water are normal, and inspecting the skin and wool to catch early signs of disease, treating it accurately and effectively. This requires knowledge and experience which demands effort on the part of the shepherd. Without great management and feeding practices, no medication will cure the sheep and they die of disease. Strong evidence suggests most all disease is preventable if shepherds keep sheep healthy through good management and nutrition, and is virtually eliminated if they are inspected regularly.
Most sheep diseases come from nutritional imbalance, stress, or parasites. Nutritional diseases are a result of too little or too much consumption of energy, protein, water, vitamins, or minerals. Research indicates if every sheep were to simply get proper nutrition most all disease would be controlled or possibly eliminated. Stress related diseases result from the sheep’s natural resistance being lowered by physical and emotional pressures. Disease occurs when resistance is lowered to the point where the sheep is no longer capable of fighting off germs forcing their way into the body. Any activity which results in getting sheep overly excited or nervous (stressed) can result in them running excessively or neglecting to eat, drink, or rest. This is the recipe for disaster as it lowers their resistance to disease. Just about anything could be considered stressful to some degree so the key is to limit the amount of stress at any one time. Parasitic diseases are caused by small and large organisms which create problems internally (tapeworms and roundworms) and externally (mites, lice, ticks, flies). Parasites cause disease by robbing sheep of nutrition, sucking their blood, or introducing germs through biting. Some parasites bother sheep so much they spend most of their time trying to get rid of the pest, thus do not get proper rest and nutrition, again, lowering their resistance to disease.
It is not difficult to relate each facet of what we just learned about sheep to our lives as God’s children, His sheep. Good management and nutrition is central to our health and prevention of disease just like sheep. We have more than enough information available concerning proper care and nutrition for our bodies. But Christians need to be more aware of good management and nutrition of our spirits because we are in dire need of good preventative measures which will probably aid our physical bodies as well.
Management includes our Shepherd’s pruning (John 15:2), cleaning our mouths (Isaiah 6:7), speech (1 Peter 3:10), and careful examination (1 Corinthians 11:28, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Galatians 6:4). Even our clothing is inspected (Isaiah 61:10) to make sure we are parasite free and wearing the correct garments. (Matthew 22:11, Isaiah 61:3) Our Shepherd has all the knowledge and experience necessary to keep us properly groomed, managed, and healthy. The question is: Do we act like sheep in His hand, the people of His pasture, allowing Him to manage and inspect us carefully, and then perform the necessary treatment to bring healing? Most human diseases are caused by nutritional imbalances, stress, and parasites just like sheep. Whether we are speaking of physical, emotional, or spiritual disease, most can likely be traced back to one or more of these sources.
Nutritional supplements are probably one of the greatest consumer needs of the 21st century. Because of demanding and hectic lifestyles along with mass production and preservation of food we do not eat properly therefore many people supplement their diets in an attempt to give our bodies what they need to keep performing. But more importantly, what are we eating spiritually? Luke 4:4 “But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'” Are we living by His Word? And are we eating meat or are we satisfied with milk? (Hebrews 5:12-14)
Go out knocking on doors in your neighborhood and ask people if they have a church home. Then ask those who do what they like about their church. You will soon discover we live in a society of milk-fed and maintained Christians. I have yet to hear one person say what they like is that the Word of God is being brought to challenge and transform their lives, or that they are being led into a dynamic living relationship with Jesus. Most everyone likes their church because of the people, daycare, music, programs for children, or some other facet of what the church offers. Milk is good for awhile but there comes a time we need solid food; and we need to eat daily. We need to read, study, and meditate on His Word every day. Luke 11:3 “Give us day by day our daily bread.” Daily bread refers to what we need “today” physically AND spiritually. Acts 2:46 “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple.” The early church met daily to hear His Word, to encourage one another, and to live in one accord. If we want to be healthy and disease free, we need to eat well, hear His voice today, and do what He says, just as sheep hear their shepherd’s voice and follow. Psalm 95:7-9 “…Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, When your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work.” Can we continue to live in an excessive state of spiritual nutritional starvation and still avoid disease?
Stress creates worry and anxiety which is obviously a major contributor to all forms of disease in American culture. Just about any activity can cause stress, so a key thought for Christians is to minimize the amount of activity as well as stress inducing activities in order to make sure we get our rest in the Lord. After all, what does God say about stress? Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” And again in Matthew 6:4 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Can we hear our Shepherd’s voice? He says “Do not worry” so can we continue to rationalize the worry and anxieties we experience today as a result of stress and still hear and follow? Can we “just keep going” and be healthy?
Parasitic disease affects people physically just like sheep but is even more damaging to us spiritually, internally and externally. Jesus speaks extensively about cleaning the inside of our bodies so we can be clean on the outside in Matthew 23:25-28. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Then in Isaiah 1:16-17 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
Parasitic disease is obvious as we do not put away our evil doings like hatred, gossip, bitterness, hypocrisy, extortion, self-indulgence, and un-forgiveness. They act as worms slithering through our inner beings, multiplying, wearing us down, feeding on us, making us spiritually sicker and killing us from the inside out. We may be able to disguise it for awhile looking great on the outside and unclean and dead on the inside, but eventually we will need to deal with our hypocrisy. Jesus died and rose again so that we do not need to reside with these parasites. All we need to do is hear Him and obey. When we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and forgives our sin. We must do the same. Beloved, our unwillingness to forgive others only leads to deadly parasitic disease.
In Matthew 18 Jesus tells a parable about the forgiveness a king grants his servant and the unwillingness of that same servant to forgive the debt of a fellow servant. Verses 34 & 35 reveal what happens to us if we, like this servant are unwilling to forgive someone. “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” We are delivered to the torturers (parasites) which eat away at our very soul, making us cold, hard, and unreceptive to love and forgiveness. Another word in the original language for “torturers” is “tormentors”. This is literally something or someone assigned to torment another. Is un-forgiveness worth being tortured and tormented? Not even close!
We also have the external parasites; things that suck our blood, introduce germs and diseases through biting, and even steal our nutrition. Ticks, mites, mosquitoes, flies are just a few of these that attack our natural bodies. We get them by being in certain areas where they are more prone to “hang out”. We cannot avoid them entirely so we must take every precaution to avoid being bit or being used as a host. The best thing is to have others near who can help defend against flying insects and then carefully and meticulously inspect us for ticks to avoid major disease.
Spiritually, we also have external parasites; we can simply label it “sin”. As we live, move, and breathe there is sin (parasites) everywhere we turn. We cannot avoid its presence. In fact, Genesis 4:7 says “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Knowing this truth, we must allow ourselves to be carefully inspected to make sure no sin bites us, sucks life out of us, nor do we want to become its’ host. In the Gospel’s, Jesus shares a truth about inspection in regards to sin. Matthew 7:5 says “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Most people use this verse to tell other people not to judge them for their sin. However, it should be read to mean, “Get rid of your own parasites, your own sin, then you will see the sin in your brother’s life and can readily help him by removing it.” We should welcome inspection and removal of sin by those we know in Christ who are not hypocrites but are living in righteousness themselves. Jeremiah 17:10 reveals to us who ultimately searches us; “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” God has no problem with careful inspection, nor should we!
It is to our advantage to remove sin and have it removed because it is like a consuming parasite. Some sin causes us to spend most of our time trying to get rid of it and we lose out on much needed rest and intake of spiritual food. We have been given simple truths in order to stay healthy and parasite free. 1 Peter 4:7 “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” And when we are diseased we have more truths to apply. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
Exodus 15:26 wraps it up quite nicely “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.”
My prayer is that we have examined our beliefs and determined we have the faith of God! I pray we know what the Word says, what we believe, what we say, and what we do in the area of disease and good health and that we like sheep will NOT be led astray because TODAY we hear His voice and we embrace our shepherd, knowing we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.