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Vol. XVIII No. 26
28 March 2021

ILLNESS AND DEATH, WHY? (I)

Rev Nguyen Gia Hien

Have you ever wondered why human beings have to suffer illness and death? No one can escape illness and death. You may wonder: If God our Creator is almighty, all-knowing, wise, good and loving, why then does He allow human beings to suffer from illness and death, not to mention poverty, famine, crimes, natural disasters, pandemic, wars, and so forth?

Know that it is not God’s fault because He is not only almighty and loving, but also holy and righteous. God’s Word says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom 5:12). God’s Word confirms that it is because “all have sinned” and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).

The almighty, wise and loving God did not create human beings like robots without a will, a soul, a heart, a mind, and a feeling! God created human beings after His likeness with a will, a living soul, a heart, a mind and a feeling, so they are accountable for what they have chosen to do. Sadly, the first human couple, Adam and Eve, did not obey God, but listened to Satan, and sinned against God. They were cursed, and their children inherited that curse.

Yet, God is gracious to grant human beings intelligence to invent medicines, vaccines, machines etc to promote health and prolong life. Mankind is so sinful and we live in a sin-cursed world full of ungodliness, unrighteousness, injustice, corruption, wickedness etc. God is holy and righteous and He never condones sins. As Judge, He punishes the ungodly, and chastises His children. We cannot blame God but ourselves for all the troubles, sorrows, illnesses and death we face in this world. On the contrary, we should be grateful to God for He is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9).

Reasons and Causes

There are so many reasons and causes leading to illness and death. Doctors may give us several reasons like congenital diseases, genetic inheritance, unhealthy lifestyles with unhealthy food, alcohol, tobacco or drugs, lack of physical exercise and personal hygiene, a disorder in the digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular, or nervous system, a contagious or infectious disease caused by bacteria or viruses, polluted environments, contact with harmful chemicals or materials, stress, depression, and so on. We are now only talking about the reasons or causes of illness and death that God allows to happen to humans.

1. God judging the wicked: God used Moses to cause boils to break out on the Egyptians and their king because they did not fear God nor obey His Word (Exod 9:11). God struck the Philistines with emerods because they took the ark of the Lord (1 Sam 5:9). The angel of the Lord struck king Herod Agrippa the first, and he was eaten of worms because he did not give God the glory (Acts 12:23). God struck Elymas the sorcerer with blindness because he sought to turn away the deputy from the faith (Acts 13:11). Today, God still uses illness and diseases to judge the wicked.

2. God chastising His children: God warns His people about illness if they fail to keep His Word, “The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it. The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish” (Deut 28:21–22). Paul wrote to the brethren in Corinth to remind them of God’s chastisement for their lack of reverence when they partook of the Lord’s Supper, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep… But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor 11:30–32). God still uses illness and diseases to chastise His children today.

3. God manifesting His work and glory: It is up to God’s will when He wants to manifest His work and glory through healing the sick, “Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). The Lord is still the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). The Lord Himself is still almighty to heal the sick today for His glory according to His will, and we ought to submit ourselves to His perfect will.

4. God permitting Satan to afflict His children with illness to refine and purify them: God allowed Job to be afflicted by Satan. Job said God has allowed this for a purpose, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 2:4–8; 23:10). God still uses illness to refine and sanctify His children and servants today so that they may be more like the Lord Jesus Christ in humility, holiness and obedience.

5. God keeping His children and servants humble and dependent on Him: Paul had a thorn in his flesh, and he had prayed to the Lord to take it away from him three times, but the Lord wanted to keep Paul humble, so He did not heal Paul, but said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9). God still uses illness to keep His children and servant humble and reliant on Him today.

6. God using illness to redirect some back to Him and His salvation: Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians over there, and suddenly the Lord appeared to him, and His glory blinded Saul. However, the Lord turned Saul around and called Saul to serve Him, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:17). God used the illness and death of the mother and the daughter of the late Rev Timothy Tow to redirect his life to serve the Lord in submission instead of going to London to pursue worldly values. We thank God for saving some in their last minutes due to their illness in bed! God still uses illness to direct His children as well as to bring some to His salvation today.

7. God wanting to bring His children and servants home to be with Him: God used the prophet Elisha to perform several miracles including raising a dead man to life (2 Kgs 4:32–37) and healing a leprous captain from Syria (2 Kings 5). However, God also used illness to take Elisha home, “Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died” (2 Kgs 13:14). Sometimes God takes His children home to spare them from the impending troubles in the world, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come” (Isa 57:1). We should give thanks to God for His goodness and mercy!

HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE?
Bro Sim Tiong Peng

About 30 or 40 years ago, there was a heavy book popular among Christians called How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer. The author was a Christian philosopher, theologian and apologist. His tome was about how the western world should view its civilisation, history, culture and life through the lens of the Bible. It was written to counter the humanistic postmodern thinking and trends of the day. At the moment, we are in turbulent times, we are living in the last days. It is the time of the Four Horsemen of Revelation 5, and the same question can be asked, “how should we then live?” (Ezek 33:10).

While Matthew 24 describes the sequence of events of the last days, the last part of Matthew 24 and Matthew 25 by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ tells us how to go through it in a series of parables. Why are parables given? Jesus says in Matthew 13:11, “it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

2 Timothy 4:1–5 neatly encapsulates what we should do in these perilous times: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach theword; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

One characteristic of the last days is the great falling away or apostasy of Christianity. Matthew 24:24 says that it is possible for Christians to be deceived if they are not careful. The first injunction is thus to preach the gospel. One has to exhort, even rebuke with all longsuffering and doctrine. This is not an easy thing to do these days because people tend to turn their ears away from the truth.

The second injunction is to watch and pray. There is a need to watch ourselves and others and be aware of what is going on in the world. The headline news of the day can be understood in the light of Psalm 2. Pray to understand the signs of the times. Pray for help from the Lord to depart from sin and do His work while it is day.

The third injunction is to endure afflictions. There is a need to persevere in tribulation (1 Thess 3:3–4) and persecution (Matt 24:21). Those who endure to the end shall be saved (Matt 24:13). This is the meaning of the parable of the ten virgins—only five had oil to last to the end. How do we manage that? Look to Jesus who endured the cross to save us (Heb 12:2).

Lastly, let us do the work of an evangelist. God desires all to be saved and none to perish. He wants us to reach the unsaved with the gospel. The sheep that have strayed from the fold should be brought back as well.

[Knowing that we are living in the last days and the Lord is coming back soon, let us give of our sons and daughters to serve the Lord full-time. Offer your best to Him! JK]

Today is Palm Sunday

John 12:12–13, “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

The 5 remaining royal palms at FEBC were cut down last Tuesday for safety. It reminds us of our Saviour King—the Lord Jesus—who was cut off on Good Friday for our salvation.

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