Monday, July 11, 2005

Deliver Us From Evil?

I started reading a book last week entitled, How Can I Ask God for Physical Healing, by David J. Smith. I have only read two chapters so far, and while I do agree wholeheartedly with some of his sentiments, there are others that I am frustrated with.

On page 20 he writes, “A sick body is, therefore, not normal. A sick body is not the perfect expression of God’s presence in your life.”

Yet, John 9:1-3 says, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

The author says that sickness is not the perfect expression of God’s presence, but Scripture says, in the case of the man blind from birth, that his blindness was, “the work of God being displayed.” My opinion is that if God’s handiwork is being seen in my illness, then certainly this equates with God’s presence in my life.

The writer goes on (page 21), “The Lord Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Deliver us from evil.’ My point is this, if you deny that you have a physical need, then you will not engage in a quest for a cure.”

But is the “evil” mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer meant to infer all suffering and tragedy, including physical sickness?

Dan Wallace writes, “Take the adjective ponhrouæ (“evil”) in Matthew 6:13, for example. The King James Version (as well as more than one modern translation) translates this as 'but deliver us from evil.' But the adjective has an article modifying it (tou), indicating that it is to be taken substantivally: “the evil one.”

And there is no little theological difference between the two. The Father does not always keep his children out of danger, disasters, or the ugliness of the world. In short, he does not always deliver us from evil. But he does deliver us from the evil one. The text is not teaching that God will make our life a rose garden, but that he will protect us from the evil one, the devil himself (cf. John 10:28-30; 17:15)."

This concept is backed up elsewhere in Scripture. For example:

Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Peter 1:6, “...though now, for a little while, as is necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…”

1 Peter 2:20-21, “For what credit is it if you when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if you do good and suffer for it, you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you might follow in his steps.”

1 Peter 3:14, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.”

1 Peter 3:17, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

1 Peter 4:12-13: “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

1 Peter 4:16, “ Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”

1 Peter 5:10. “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

James 1:2, 3, 12, “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.”

Matthew 5:45, “…He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

2 Timothy 3:12, “ In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

I am not making a case here that God doesn’t still heal people today.

He does!

Nor am I saying you shouldn’t pray to be delivered from your sicknesses.

You should!

In fact, the book of James exhorts the Church to do so. James 5:14 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Verse 16 continues, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed."

I myself have experienced miraculous healing from the Lord (many times). I have seen so much mercy and kindness from the Lord in my own life that I will be the first one to encourage someone to pray importunately to be healed. And I will be the first one to tell you that God can do it.

But I have also suffered enough to know that sickness should not be credited solely to Satan or God’s punishment for sin. When longsuffering (a Biblical concept) is thrust upon you and in the end it sanctifies you, purifies you, increases your faith, draws you deeper in love with Christ, gives you a humble dependence upon God, deepens your prayer life, allows you to turn your back on the promises of the world, gives you a genuine longing for heaven, and leads others to know Christ as their Savior – then we have no choice but to give God the glory for that work in our lives. Those are things that can only be accomplished by the grace of God and we do the Lord a grave disservice when we credit all of his sanctifying work of grace in our lives to his Archenemy. Give God glory where glory is due. Satan knows more than we do of the gold that comes out of the furnace of suffering.

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