Understanding the Spiritual Anatomy of the Sick
WISDOM AND SUCCESSFUL LIVING – Life Lessons from Hard Times – Studies in James
Both in the Bible generally, and in this epistle of James, there are three categories of illness, sickness and hard times. These are as follows:
1. Illness or Intended for Spiritual Growth and Learning. Within the providence of God, all saints are selected for certain schedules of hard times, suffering, sickness, and illness through no fault of their own. Quite the opposite. They are from the hand of a good God who intends our spiritual growth and without which we will not grow! No one can avoid these spiritual tests. James 1, 2-5, Job.
2. Illness that is Resolved by the Prayer of the Saints / Church. Other illnesses are more temporary in nature. They are for a season and are lifted through the intercession and prayer of the leadership and saints of the church. These occur through no fault of their own, and they are spiritual in that lessons of life still occur. James 5:14-15.
3. Illness that Results from Sin. This third category of illness is consistent throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, physical affliction, leprosy, is often evidenced as a judgment from God for sin. In the New Testament, illness and death occurred for sins ranging from lying to God (Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira) to a malady of acts called “the flesh.”
If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:15b-16.
- Two Sources for Spiritual Health and Recovery. Since no one is perfect, and all of us stumble and sin, it is not possible to know for sure whether illness is traceable to sin. Note in this text and if they have sinned. Physical and spiritual restoration can come through the requested intercession of church leadership or in the confession of sins to each other. Simply put, prayer can provide recovery of illness if it is a consequence of sin. Note that this is specific to a sick saint, and not a general instruction of public confession of all sin.
- Two Levels of Recovery. If someone is ill or sick because of sin, they are in need of forgiveness, and they will be forgiven (1 John 1:9-10), and they may be healed.
- How to Pray Effectively for this Spiritual Healing. Each individual knows best what is in his and her life that could be causing discipline from God that has resulted in sickness. Here is the point: If a sick person has reason to believe that God’s hand of discipline is upon him or her, he should be prepared to acknowledge his failures openly so as to clear the party for effective prayer. For sickness that results from sin, this is remedy available to the saints.
This actually is a great text, when you let it say what it says and not add assumptions, conditions or promises that are not there. Prayer can work wonders, including physical and spiritual restoration of the saints! I have only been in two Matthew 18 church discipline settings as a church leader. And while the mechanics of Matthew 18 are somewhat different – this is a more narrow issue than this general admonishment toward illness and sin – it was a powerful and effective resolution to bringing saints back to restoration with God and man through the church intercession.
No better example of prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective than Elijah, which is next week. God’s best to you during the events and endings of this crazy year.
– John Moore