by Richard T. Ritenbaugh
CGG Weekly, March 22, 2002
"Troubles are the tools by which God fashions us for better things."
Henry Ward Beecher
This past week I have literally been sick and tired. I do not know the cause for my illness. It may be the stress that always builds this time of year, enhanced by extra speaking assignments, taxes, and household chores. It may be the result of contracting the same illness that my son John picked up last week from a neighborhood friend. Whatever the source, I have lost a great deal of sleep and shortened my workdays to just a few hours, adding to the stress.
Sickness is part of the human condition. We are biological creatures that run down if we fail to provide our bodies with adequate nutrition, exercise, sleep, and whatever other requirements they may have. In addition, we sometimes do foolish or even sinful things that result in illness or disease. I should not fail to mention that humanity may have degenerated over the last six thousand years, and mankind has certainly not helped himself in terms of air and water pollution, junk food, and toxic chemicals in our surroundings.
Of course, as God's children, we can call upon Him for healing. He is our Healer and promises to keep us from the terrible diseases of this world if we obey Him (Exodus 15:26; see 23:25; Deuteronomy 7:15). He assures us in Psalm 103:3 that He is the One "who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases." During His ministry, Jesus healed everyone who asked "according to [their] faith" (Matthew 9:29). He gave Himself in sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, and it is by His stripes that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; I Peter 2:24). John writes, "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (I John 3:22), showing that our healing is conditional upon obedience and right living.
This is wonderful promise! These days—with all the horrendous diseases like AIDS and the specter of bioterrorism—it is a welcome relief to know that God is the Great Physician and our Father. We can conduct our lives confidently, knowing that we can rely on God's protection.
On the other hand, we should not be foolish, stupid, or careless in these matters. Certainly, we should not put ourselves in harm's way or tempt God to force Him to act in our behalf (Deuteronomy 6:16; see Matthew 4:7). There may be no quicker way to invoke the wrath of Almighty God (Exodus 17:1-7)!
So we should ask ourselves when we are sick and tired and in need of God's healing, "What have I done to bring this on? Have I tempted God with my lifestyle? Has He withheld His protection so that I might get sick and have the opportunity to learn a lesson and repent of a sin?" If we are honest with ourselves, we will find ourselves answering, "Yes" to several or all these questions.
If so—if we have not been treating the temple of God's Holy Spirit properly—if we have been burning the midnight oil or the candle at both ends—if we have been feeding it low-quality fare, skipping meals, or overindulging in sugary or fatty foods—if we have been skipping even moderate exercise, such as taking walks—if we have been carrying too much weight, etc.—then we need to do something about it! That is the essence of repentance: change!
For too long, I feel, members of God's church have not put enough emphasis on this last part of the process. We are happy and eager to take advantage of God's mercy and blessing to be healed, but too often we have not made the necessary changes to show Him that we indeed learned our lesson and wish to please Him by living healthfully from then on.
The process works the same physically as spiritually because it is a universal, eternal law. If we do wrong and seek forgiveness, God by His grace and mercy forgives and leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). But He cannot repent for us! That is our job. He takes us as far as He can along the way, but we must make the changes so that repentance actually occurs. We must, by whatever strength we can muster with God's help, bear down and change.
The next time you get sick and tired, as I was this past week, please think about this principle. It can only make your life and health better.