Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering
Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering
When it comes to health and healing, and sickness and suffering, there are a lot of questions and a lot of confusion.
This topic hits home for me because I serve as Care Pastor at Crossroads Church. But, more than that, it hits home because it is home. All the time. My wife has various diagnoses all adding up to making her chronically ill.* That is, she’s sick. She’s sick a lot; more or less all the time.
Does God want us to be healthy and happy? Then why is there suffering and sickness? And why are some people healthy and some people sick? Why is my wife sick? Did she do something to deserve it? Did I do something? Do we lack faith?
The answers to these questions are not simplistic. They are complex. And they are mysterious. It’s always good to remember that God as God is not like us. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). That shouldn’t be surprising for us since He’s God, but it is vital that we remember that truth.
So, why sickness and suffering?
Sickness and suffering?
First, we should acknowledge how big and how relevant that question is. People have been asking this question for eons. The Bible gives some very valid and convincing reasons (especially when understand in the context of redemptive history).
The Fall (sin in general, natural evil)
Sickness was introduced into the world as a result of sin (Gen. 3). When God made the world, it was very good (Gen. 1:31). So, sickness is an intruder. Sickness is not welcome and will not always be in the world. But it is certainly here now. Now in the natural course of the fallen world, people get sick and they die, and people die as a result of old age (Gen. 5 [notice the refrain of “and he died”], 48:1, 21).
Individual Sin (specific personal sin, moral evil)
Sometimes sickness is a result of a specific personal sin (1 Cor. 11:28-30). Of course, all sin leads to separation from God and death. But some sins bring especially pungent consequences. Some sins, as 1 Corinthians says, are against our own bodies (1 Cor. 6:18). Some sickness results from disobeying God (Ex. 15:26). It seems king David himself experienced the physical consequences of sin (Ps. 32:3-4; 38:3-5).
From reading the New Testament it seems clear that some sickness is a result of demonic forces. The Gospel of Mark talks about a young boy that has “a spirit that makes him mute” (Mk. 9:17-18 cf. Lk. 11:14). The Gospel of Luke talks about a woman that had a disabling spirit for 18 years (Lk. 13:11). Acts 10:38 tells us that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (cf. Matt. 8:16). Yet, Luke also distinguishes between the casting out of demons and healing (see Lk. 4:40-41) and thus shows that not all sickness is due to demonic forces. When we take into account the points below, it is clear that not all sickness comes from demonic forces.
For God’s Glory
Scripture also explicitly tells us that some sickness is for the glory of God. The most cogent and explicit is the story of the man born blind. Jesus says that the man was not born blind because of sin but instead “so that the works of God would be displayed in him” (Jn. 9:3).
Even the death of Lazarus was for the glory of God, so that Jesus might be glorified through it (Jn. 11:4). And Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” whatever it was, was so that the power of Christ would rest upon him (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
In these examples, sickness was not a result of sin or a lack of faith. Sickness was for the glory of God.
We don’t always know why
At other times we simply do not know for sure what the reason for the sickness is. In Philippians 2:25-30 we see that Epaphroditus, a faithful co-laborer of Paul, was so sick he nearly died. Yet, we are not given a reason for his sickness. And we have no hint at all that it was because of lack of faith or because of a personal sin. And in 2 Timothy 4:20 we see that Trophimus is left in Miletus.
Paul was an apostle, had faith, and had healed others (Acts 19:11-12; 2 Cor. 12:12) and yet that didn’t guarantee that people—even his close and faithful co-workers—would be healed. We know God, by His Spirit, can heal and we can certainly pray that He will. But prayer and even the gift of healing is not a mechanism that we can simply push and guarantee that healing will be the result. God is sovereign over sickness. And for whatever reason, He doesn’t always heal. We don’t always know, as Paul the Apostle didn’t know, why some are healed, and others aren’t. But, just like Paul, we must trust God. He is good. And He has explicitly and repeatedly demonstrated His goodness.
So, sickness is clearly not always a result of sin or a lack of faith.
What should we do when we’re sick?
Look at James 5:13-18. Notice first that before it talks about healing it talks about patience in suffering (v. 7-11). So, even in the context of asking for healing, there is an expectation of suffering.
Next, notice that whatever situation we are in, good or bad, we are always to go to the LORD in it, with praise or lament (v. 13). Then we see what we are to do if we’re sick. First, we need to realize our need. That is what leads to the calling of the elders. So, humility is necessary. When we are sick, we should realize our need.
Second, we are to realize that our need is not just physical, but spiritual. That is why we call for the “elders of the church.” And that is why we ask for prayer. Prayer is a supernatural beseeching of God; it’s going to God as Father and asking for help.
Third, I think the “anointing” with oil could have at a least a twofold significance. In the Old Testament the king would be anointed with oil and that symbolized the Spirit’s presence and blessing. Oil was also used for medicinal purposes (Mk. 6:13) or used as shorthand for medicine as we see when the Good Samaritan took care of the wounded man (Luke 10:34). Therefore, in anointing with oil we are calling on the Spirit to work and we are also confirming the goodness of medicine and imploring God to make it effective to heal.
Fourth, sickness uniquely reveals that we are but dust, that we soon pass away and are no more (Ps. 39). Yet, the “prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (v. 15), even if it is on the last day that he is raised up (Jn. 6:39-40, 44, 54). I don’t believe this passage means that just because the elders prayed over someone, and they had faith, they will be healed. But I do believe the prayer of faith saves. I believe this because that’s what the Bible teaches elsewhere (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 1:9). Also, as we have said, some sins uniquely lead to sickness. If someone commits one of those sins, they too can be forgiven (v. 15), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be healed.
But, fifth, we do have a strong encouragement to confess our sins and pray for one another that we may be healed (v. 16). We know from elsewhere that sin can hinder our prayer (1 Pet. 3:7). It is the prayer of a righteous person that has great power (James 5:16). Just because people are not always healed when we pray does not at all mean they cannot be healed when we pray. James 5:17-18 goes to great lengths to tell us that Elijah was a normal enough guy and yet God moved mightily through his prayers.
So, when we’re sick, we must realize our utter need; we certainly cannot heal ourselves. We should realize the nature of our need as well as who it is we need help from: supernatural help from God. And we should realize that medicine although good, is no good apart from God’s intervening grace. So, even in our use of medicine we must be reliant and thankful to the Lord. If we have unconfessed sin we should confess and repent, knowing that sin can lead to sickness. Lastly, we should pray in faith knowing that God can and does heal.
We should seek the Lord and medical help
I believe that it’s important that we seek the Lord and medical help. We must remember that every good gift comes from the Father (James 1:17). And so, we should receive our Father’s good gifts with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4).
Yet, it is vital that we not just seek out medical help and not seek the help of God. He’s God! He holds every molecule together. It would be utterly foolish to seek out the help from a person who has limited knowledge on a limited number of things, and not seek out God—the All-Knowing-One.
As great as Asa king of Judah was, this was one of his main sins. Second Chronicles 16:12 tells us that “Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.” That’s sad. And that’s foolish.
We should not follow Asa’s example. Rather, we should follow what I propose is the biblical example. We should seek the Lord and we should seek out the good physicians He has graciously provided. Paul even tells Timothy to make use of wine for help with a stomach problem (1 Tim. 5:23).
Does God promise health and healing?
Yes and no
In the story of Scripture, the story of Christ’s cosmic rescue, it starts out and the world is flawless, there’s no suffering or sin. But then the cosmic problem comes in. There’s a tear in time, a warp in the world, a curse in the cosmos. And it’s all because of sin.
Yet, the story of Scripture is the story of Jesus—God in flesh—coming to fix the broken world. The story starts in the Garden with God, and it ends in the Garden with God. It starts with no pain, suffering, sin, or sickness, and it ends that way.
Revelations 21 tells us of the glorious reality of God the Father wiping ever tear from all of His children’s faces. We, however, are not at that place in this true cosmic story.
Yes, that will happen—no suffering, sin, sickness, sadness, or death. But we are not there yet.
Yes, the LORD both forgives iniquities and heals our diseases (Psalms 103:3-5), but that doesn’t mean that the effects will be fully felt at the same time. For instance, the LORD has not yet brought “justice for all the oppressed” (v. 6). But that will happen. Jesus will bring complete justice. Jesus will satisfy His people with good thingsand He will renew our youth (v. 5). But not yet.
We are forgiven and welcomed into the Kingdom in and through Jesus Christ and yet we are not yet in the full realization of the Kingdom. It is true that Jesus has “took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matt. 8:16-17; Is. 53:4). And our main illness and disease is that of sin and in taking that on Himself He enables access to the New Creation in which there is no illness or disease.
As Sam Storms has said, “To whatever degree we experience healing in this life, it is the fruit of Christ’s atoning death.” It is by Jesus that we receive the undeserved grace of God, and God taking our illnesses and diseases is certainly undeserved. “But it doesn’t necessarily follow that where there is atonement there is immediate healing.”
That’s a biblical and verifiable reality. Paul, Epaphroditus, Trophimus, and many other faithful Christian brothers and sisters have had their sins bore by Jesus and thus been accounted righteous (Is. 53) and yet died with various sicknesses. Therefore, Jesus’ atoning and propitiatory death does not equal healing in this life.
There’s also another real sense in which “yes, God wants us to be healthy and happy.” That’s part of why God gives His good commands, so that it may go well with us (Deut. 4:40; 5:29, 33; Eph. 6:3). Yet, following God’s commands does not in any way guarantee that things will go well with us from an earthly perspective. Just look at Jesus’ 12 disciples…
Does God promise health and healing? No. Not in this life. However, because of the love of God in Christ Jesus we know that in spite of sickness we have a surpassing hope. We know that all things will actually work together for good (Romans 8:28, in context).
“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 4:17-5:4).
God does not promise health in healing in this life. In fact, persecution and plague are very likely to await us. That’s what Jesus repeatedly said (see The New Testament on Suffering). Yet, we are “waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). This place is not our home. And our current bodies are not our final bodies (1 Cor. 15:35-49).
As you can see, a simplistic answer to the question of sickness and healing will not suffice. Yet, God gives the answer. And the answer is Jesus Christ the Lord. But the answer may be “yes” now, and it may be “no” now, but for all who trust Jesus it’s a “yes” later. Healing will happen. Suffering will cease. But that doesn’t mean it will happen now.
*Lyme disease, POTS, EDS. And as of this writing, she has COIVD-19 which is not good to mix in with all of her other health issues.
The Chasm of Being a Latino Christian
Why am I Latino?
There have been many moments in my life where I have wondered, “Lord, why am I Latino?” Maybe it is not a common question, but for me, it made the difference in me understanding the core of who I am and who I should be. I have wondered. I have waited and sought answers from people, books, and reflected—hoping and yearning, to understand why. Being Mexican, coming to faith in a Chinese heritage church, pastoring at a majority white church, I have always felt different. Different simply because I did not always look the same as my brothers and sisters around me, and I felt like something was missing.
People often talk about how culture often influences being able to feel at home in a church, but in my case with my ethnic heritage, I have been able to look past those things and have found a home in the unknown and new. Going from big city to rural, I have remained open to all in which God has called me to. And I have found comfort in the new and have become more aware of how my upbringing allows me to minister to the body of Christ in ways that only I can, and that is a blessing.
Without trying to sound proud, I am grateful and humbled that Jesus would choose a sinner like me, broken and in the process, to serve Him and His people in this capacity despite whatever my upbringing might have been. But I still desire to understand why.
In my seeking, I was meeting with one of my professors and he pointed me to Mañana by Justo Gonzalez. The book examines different beliefs in theology through the lens of the life and history of Latin America and the Latinos that inhabit it. I had not met many Latino Protestant Christians and I was looking to see if there were any authors who could provide insight into my question. Surprisingly, I was drawn to tears by this statement made about Latinos converting to Protestantism: “It is often a traumatic break that brings about much suffering.” I had no idea how true this statement was for me. From the very moment of conversion, I have felt something like this.
I had to tear myself from the customs of my family that had persisted through generations. Having been brought up Catholic I had to remove myself from things like the veneration of Mary, praying to the saints, praying the rosary, and attending mass. These things and more, had more stock in my life than I had realized because in rejecting those things I no longer was able to share that part of life with my family.
This is where the chasm formed between the culture in which I grew up in and the road I walk as a believer. I separated myself from the things that go against Christ’s sacrifice for me and that would pull me away from Him and in the process, it tore me from the generations of traditions of my heritage. I never knew how to navigate that and am still in the process of figuring those things out. However, in the intersection of culture and Christianity, I have found Christ’s redemption of it. Christ is the author and perfecter of all the happenings that led to the point of my conversion and beyond. All the events that transpired before even my birth were somehow to bring God glory in the renewed life I would one day have. I’m grateful and I’m privileged to think that I have the honor of being the first Christian in my family. And I look forward to continuing this journey and refining the idea of what it means to be Latino in light of Jesus Christ.
I know that the seeking does not end here. Nor does it simply end in the reflection of a single blog post. It will probably take an entire lifetime of hardship, unpacking baggage, pressing into the uncomfortable to understand how my ethnicity will influence my life. I rest assured, however, knowing I have the hope that Christ will see me through all of it, even if I do not get to the bottom of why I am Latino. Only the Lord knows.
*Photo by Tiago Aguiar
Songs for the Suffering
Here’s a list of songs that my family has found helpful and comforting as we’ve faced various forms of suffering:
It Is Well
Be Still My Soul
He Will Hold Me Fast
Lead Me To The Rock
I Will Never Leave You Alone
If you’re interested here’s my thoughts on singing songs of ministries that you disagree with.
*Photo by James Barr
Hinduism & New Age Spirituality on Suffering
Hinduism & New Age Spirituality on Suffering
What does Hinduism say about suffering?
The most prominent of the six schools of Hindu philosophy is Vedanta Hinduism. It teaches that suffering comes from ignorance (maya). This view teaches that we can be freed from suffering when we recognize our oneness with the Divine. This form of Hinduism thus says since all is divine, there is truly no sin and no suffering. Salvation is thus through knowledge, the knowledge that one is actually God.
It is important to realize that Hinduism “does not technically name one religion but is a broad term that includes the various religious beliefs and practices of India. Hinduism has no founder and no single authoritative text.” But, “all Hindus share some core beliefs, including the eternality of the cosmos, reincarnation, karma, the caste system, affirmation of Vedic scriptures, and liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth as the ultimate goal of life.”
A second view of suffering from Hinduism is that our suffering comes from a previous life in which wrong was done. As the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler say in The Art of Happiness, “In the Buddhist and Hindu models… suffering is a result of our own negative past actions and is seen as a catalyst for seeking spiritual liberation”
We, in this life, are thus paying for the wrongs we did in our previous lives. All suffering thus has its antecedent sin, somewhere. We may not understand it but all suffering is thus just. This is the doctrine of karma: people get what’s coming to them.
A few questions come to mind. What acts of compassion to alleviate the suffering of others do you expect from Hinduism that does not believe in the reality of suffering? Also, as we have seen, Hinduism teaches Karma, people get the suffering that they deserve in this life. Does that lead to compassion for those who are suffering? Sadly, often it does not.
Think of the caste system. If someone was born into poverty that’s what they must deserve. If someone gets sick and dies that’s what they must deserve. Hinduism holds that humans “are directly responsible for the suffering (physical, mental, spiritual, existential, and so on) that they are experiencing.”
That’s very briefly what Hinduism says about suffering.
The Bible as we will see teaches that we are not divine, we are not God; we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Ignorance is a problem but it is not the problem.
The Bible teaches the decisiveness of this life, we had no other life in the past. What we do matters more than we can know. It does not just affect the next life where we get a retry. It affects eternity. So, the way people live and how they treat people has a lot of significance.
Also, from a Christian perspective, there is judgment. People will get what they deserve, we can be assured of that, but it’s not through Karma. It’s through Jesus, the good and just Judge (Rev. 22:12).
Lastly, Christianity places huge importance on compassion (Col. 3:12-13). Jesus came and suffered for us to ultimately alleviate our suffering even when we didn’t deserve it. Therefore, Christians are to be compassionate and even sacrificial.
What does New Age Spirituality about suffering?
First, what is New Age Spirituality? It is a mix of Buddhism and Hinduism and personal feelings. It is kind of the “mix n’ match” of religions.
It’s basically impossible to distill down what New Age Spirituality says about suffering because you’d probably get a different answer from each adherent to the many forms of New Age Spirituality. I hope here, however, to give a general perspective.
It seems suffering in this view is a result of not being awakened to our inner power. We need to relinquish negativity so that “the universe’s healing power might flow unimpeded.” If someone is in your life that you’re having trouble with, then the solution is to cut them off. They are not helping your inner calm so they need to go. New Age Spirituality seems to teach that the solution to suffering is to focus on yourself.
New Age Spirituality seems very self and inward-focused. Of course, they say they are very inclusive and accepting of everyone. So, New Age Spirituality is also very pluralistic. ‘You have your truth and I have my truth. And that’s fine.” That’s what proponents of this view would likely say.
Primarily, though, suffering is something to be avoided. What is messy and unlikable is to be avoided. New Age Spirituality in that sense seems to be an escapist mentality. In contrast, “the Christian path of obedience, sacrifice, and suffering can seem foolish, even masochistic.”
Suffering exists for various reasons, but Christianity teaches that it is primarily a result of sin. Sin is not really a category for the New Age Spiritualists. Christianity also differs in that it says suffering is not always to be avoided.
Jesus waded into our suffering to provide salvation. And Jesus very often calls us to also take up our crosses. And love people. Even when it is difficult. Even when it means sacrificial suffering. Christians believe that they cannot agree with everyone (for example, Jesus is the only way to God) but they are to love and sacrifice for anyone—even when they disagree with that person and caring for them requires sacrifice (think of the Good Samaritan).
 E. Stanley Jones, Christ and Human Suffering [New York: The Abingdon Press, 1937], 58.
 Tawa J. Anderson, W. Michael Clark, and David K. Naugle, An Introduction to Christian Worldview: Pursuing God’s Perspective in a Pluralistic World [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017], 269.
 The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, The Art of Happiness, 200.
 Jones, Christ and Human Suffering, 51.
 Some would take this to mean that we should not relieve the sufferings of others because it really is not helping them. They are getting their just desserts for their wrongdoing. If we relieve them in one way they will just suffer in another.
 Jones says, “There is a deep and abiding truth in the law of Karma. We do reap what we sow” (Jones, Christ and Human Suffering 54). See Galatians 6:8. However, the doctrine of karma is wrong although God does justly mete out justice.
 Scott J Fitzpatrick, Ian H Kerridge, Christopher F C Jordens, Laurie Zoloth, Christopher Tollefsen, Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Michael P Jensen, Abdulaziz Sachedina, Deepak Sarma, “Religious perspectives on human suffering: Implications for medicine and bioethics” in Journal of Religion and Health 2016; 55:159–173.
 The Bible says that it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgment (Heb. 9:27).
 See also “Is the world enchanted?”
 Nicole Watt, “A Reiki Master’s Redemption,” 95 in Christianity Today.
 Watt, “A Reiki Master’s Redemption,” 95 in Christianity Today.
*Photo by Min An
Suffering? What does Buddhism say about it?
Suffering? What does Buddhism say say about it? Why does it happen and what hope is there in the midst of it? How should we respond to the reality of suffering?
Why does suffering happen?
Why does suffering happen? What hope do we have in the midst of suffering? And what do the major views of the world say about these questions?
There are a bunch of different forms of suffering. Suffering because of the actions of others, because of our own choices, from loneliness, from financial distress, from the death of a loved one. Statistics say there have been millions of deaths worldwide from COVID-19 alone. Suffering is sadly part of our world.
But, why? And did it have to be this way? Does it have to be this way?
In the upcoming posts we’re going to briefly look at what Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age Spirituality, Islam, Naturalism, and Christianity say about suffering.
What does Buddhism say about suffering?
Buddha said, “Existence and suffering are one.” And Buddha explains, through the four noble truths, that suffering is a result of desire. Therefore, Buddhism says, the solution, the way to end suffering, is for us to end desire. To get to our resting place then, to get to Nirvana, where we no longer suffer, we must cut the root of all desire.
Issa, an eighteenth-century poet from Japan, went to a Buddhist Zen Master for help. He was grieving. He tragically lost his wife and all five of his children. In Issa’s distress and grief he went to the Zen Master. The Zen Master said: “Remember the world is dew.” That was the solution that was given, “Remember the world is dew.”
Dew is fleeting. “The sun rises and the dew is gone. So too is suffering and death in this world of illusion, so the mistake is to become to engaged. Remember the world is dew. Be more detached, and transcend the engagement of mourning that prolongs the grief.”
The answer given, then, is basically, “Be more detached. Care less.” After Issa received his consolation he composed one of his most famous poems:
I appreciate something E. Stanley Jones said:
“Buddha was right in diagnosing our difficulty as ‘desire.’ It is the desires of men reaching out to this thing and that thing that return to them disillusioned, pained, suffering. We seem to be infinite beings trying to find satisfaction with finite things. The result—suffering! Yes, Buddha was right in finding the root of our difficulty to be in desire, but he was wrong in the remedy. He would try to get rid of all desire, when the fact is that there is no possible way to get rid of one desire except to replace it by a higher desire.”
What’s the Christian View?
The Bible actually agrees that we have desire and that it is strong. For example, Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that we have eternity in our hearts. Therefore, the Bible as well as Augustine and Aquinas say we have great desire but they also say our desire can be met, but only by God Himself.
So, let’s think through the implications of the Buddhist view of suffering. The Buddhist view leaves people wanting to leave earthly existence altogether and arrive at the passionless state of Nirvana; that is the true solution from the Buddhist approach.
One of the problems with this kind of belief is that it does away with the significance of good and evil. And thus it also does away with rescue. C.S. Lewis said it this way: “Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, ‘If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also is God.’ The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned nonsense.’”
The Christian view of suffering looks at suffering as much more multidimensional. From a Christian perspective, there are many reasons for suffering:
- sin and wrong desire
- war and human conflicts
- living in a fallen and cursed world in which there are physical calamities such as hurricanes and pandemics
- health issues and physical infirmities
- economic distress
- humans sinning against other humans in various ways
- the abuse of secular and religious authorities and even at the hands of parents within the family structure
- Suffering, for the Christian, can also happen as result of living for Jesus the Lord
For the Christian, the solution is much different too. The solution is not leaving earthly existence, the solution is Jesus coming to earth. And Him always having the right desire and doing the right thing and suffering in the place of humans.
 Of course, in the space we have, we cannot come close to an exhaustive account of each view. Instead, we’ll look at what I believe is a fair representation.
 This is what the four noble truths say: (1) Suffering is an innate characteristic of existence with each rebirth and (2) the cause of that suffering is desire. (3) We can therefore end all suffering by ending all desire. And (4) we can end all desire by following the eightfold path.
 Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk, 126.
 E. Stanley Jones, Christ and Human Suffering (New York: The Abingdon Press, 1937), 49-50.
 As Psalm 16:11 says, “In the LORD’s presence there is fullness of joy. At His right hand our pleasures forever more.”
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
See Apologetics at the Cross.
*Photo by JD Mason
How is being hated by the world motivating?
“You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).
Wow. What an encouraging word. Not!
You will be hated by a ton of people. But, if you can take it long enough, if you endure until you die… Well… Well, then you’ll be saved!
How is that good news? Isn’t it too late for good news at that point? How is this verse at all motivating?
Being hated by all and enduring that hatred makes no sense. At least, it makes no sense if you don’t believe in who Jesus is or what He says. If, however, you experience the truth of who He is you are positioned to endure the reality of what He says. You are positioned to practice sacrificial love as He did and so many of His followers have.
We who have seen Jesus’ blooded limbs outstretched for us on the tree are in a position to take a similar posture. We know “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (v. 24). We know the Lord of the universe took up His cross and we must too (v. 38).
We know singleminded devotion is not only required, it is right. It is in line with the grain of the universe. To be suffering for the Savior is to be in rebellion against a rebellious world. To be hated by the world is, in a sense, is to be Frodo and Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia; it is to be on the right side. The dark side, with the contemptuous orcs, are wrong.
The world’s very fury is a sign of victory. As the world hated Him so must the world hate us. And as we are hated as He was, so we are His. And so share His victory. So, the more we look like the victims of this world, the more we are the victors.
Thus, it actually is good news that those who endure to the end will be saved. Because the reverse is also true: those who don’t endure, will not be saved. So, we don’t have to fear (v. 26). We do “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Instead, we “fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (v. 28).
If we know—truly know—who Jesus is, we will acknowledge. If we love Him, we will live for Him. If we delight in Him, we will die for Him. If we don’t, we won’t. But it’s important that we do. Jesus Himself says: “everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven” (v. 32–33).
Our endurance of hatred and a thousand hostilities is just what it means to be in the cosmic fight that we are in. No, it is not a fight we fight with fists and fury but with love. But a fight it still is. And it demands endurance. The endurance of Frodo and Sam on their mission to Mordor and the sometimes awkward encouragement of Leia and Luke.
So, endure. Fight to the finish. We’re in a real battle that is bigger than guns. There’s not always a happy ending. And there’s no reset. We’re in reality. And the stakes are high.
*Image by Gordon Johnson
In the shelter of the Most High
Sunday morning in church we were looking at Luke chapter one and my attention was drawn to verse 35. The angel said to Mary, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”1
This phrase brings us to Psalm 91 verse 1: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. “
If we go on and read the entire Psalm. We have some serious food for thought regarding the present situation we are in regarding COVID.
“For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease” (v. 3).
“Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness” (v. 6).
“No plague will come near your home” (v. 10).
“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me” (v. 14).
There are many other promises in this powerful Psalm but the one regarding disease and plague stands out. These promises are contingent on sheltering in the shadow of the Almighty.
So does this mean no true believers in the Almighty will get COVID? We know this is not true. Many believers have contracted COVID and been healed—100% recovery rate. Some recovered on this planet in this time and space and others are now experiencing the ultimate recovery and healing—instant healing—in eternity. In thinking of a friend with COVID, he will be healed; it is a confirmed fact, one way or the other he will be healed. The Almighty has said so—Psalm 91 ends with the final and ultimate shelter: “and give them my salvation”.
So what does it mean to shelter in the shadow of the Almighty? To me sheltering in the shadow of the Almighty means being always conscious of God’s presence and “shadow” around me. He is always there and by faith, I see His shadow. He has said, “I will never live you nor forsake you.”
Isaiah put it this way, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God in the eternal Rock” (Is. 26:3-4).
To abide in the shadow of the Almighty means to have our heart, minds, and faith fixed, fastened securely to the promises of the Almighty. Not fixed ultimately on medical science, our insurance policy, the government, our diet and health regiment, a vaccine, but fixed on the Almighty.
My prayer for all of us this season will be that we are sheltering under the Almighty—not mainly sheltering in place but under the shadow of the Almighty.
1 Using the New Living Translation for all of this.
The New Testament on Suffering
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).
“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22 cf. 24:9, 13; John 15:18-21; Mark 13:13; Rev. 2:10; Heb. 3:6).Read More…