What Does the Bible Say About Sickness Being a Result of Sin?

You’ve been sick before – I guarantee it. You might be sick right now. I’m sure your loved ones have had their share of sickness as well. You probably have loved ones who have suffered or passed away from sicknesses and disease, or there might be someone you love who is currently sick. But what does the Bible say about sickness? More specifically, what does the Bible say about sickness being a result of sin? Let’s found out.

First, let us define sickness. For the purposes of this post, we will use the word sickness in a general and broad sense to describe any state or instance of being ill. Sickness can mean being in the state or condition of illness. That could be having a cold, the Flu, cancer, HIV/AIDS, or anything else that is abnormal for a healthy human being. But sickness can also mean instances of sudden ailments such as having a stroke, a heart attack, or anything other event that would not be normal for a healthy human being. Sickness is real and both Scripture and experience confirm this. I state that because there is a “Christian” group which has existed for many years who believe and teach that sickness is not real, but an illusion. The proponents and adherents of Christian Science believe such, and that belief is demonstrably false and destructive.¹

Second, in a sense, all sickness is a result of sin. The question concerns whether or not sickness can be a result of sin, and in a sense, all sickness is a result of sin. That is, all sickness is a result of sin’s effect. The reason for the existence of pain, sorrow, ailments, sickness and even death is because of the effect of sin on the universe. When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, the world became cursed and corrupted. Therefore, anytime you have sickness (of any kind), it is because we live in a fallen and corrupted world which is awaiting its renewal (Romans 8:19-21). One day the world will be made new and there won’t be any sickness at all (Rev. 21:4; 22:3), but as long as we live in a world cursed and corrupted by sin, there will be sickness. Most of the sickness we experience is merely a result of sin’s curse, because our bodies are fallen. Sickness occurs most often not because God is punishing or disciplining us, but because of the condition and world in which we live.

Third, some sickness is the direct result of sin. It is a possibility that sickness comes as a result of having committed sin. Unfortunately, there are some old fashioned fundamentalists who believe that every time you get sick is because you’ve sinned against the Lord, but the Scripture simply doesn’t teach this. It does teach that sometimes sickness can be a result of sin in our lives. Sickness can be the result of committed sin in three ways: 1) Sickness can be the following consequence of committed sin, 2) sickness can be the way God disciplines you when sin is committed, or 3) sickness can be what God uses as a means of judgment. Let’s talk about each of these individually.

  1. Sickness can be the consequence of having committed sin. By this I mean that some people get sick as a consequence of their actions. It doesn’t necessarily mean the Lord is punishing or disciplining them, it’s just reality taking place. Someone who gets blackout drunk cannot expect to be healthy and well the next morning! Or if you constantly eat junk food you’re not going to be healthy. If you don’t take care of your body, you will succumb to sickness more often. Sometimes sickness is merely eating the fruit of your deeds. Fruit is a result of what is sown, and what kind of fruit you eat depends on what deeds you have sown. When you commit certain sins which will inevitably affect your health, you are the reason why sickness was brought upon you.
  2. Sickness can be the discipline of the Lord. Sickness is one of the most severe forms of God’s discipline of His children. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will get our attention. We have an example of this in Paul’s instructions about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. The Corinthians were misunderstanding and abusing the Lord’s Supper, namely, observing it in an “unworthy manner” (v. 27). Because they wouldn’t stop doing so, Paul says, “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (v. 30). God disciplined the believers there through weakness, illness, and even death. Another example of this is found in Psalm 6, where David prays a prayer of repentance. Apparently, he had committed sin. He doesn’t say specifically what it was, but it was obvious he was suffering from it. And one of the ways he was suffering was physically. He expresses in the psalm symptoms of an illness, which he appears to say is the Lord’s discipline. In v. 1 he acknowledges that God is disciplining him, and he notes that his “bones are greatly troubled” (v. 2), and that he is “weary” and “weak” (vv. 6-7). Although he doesn’t specifically say that he was physically ill, he certainly was not physically well. As a form of discipline, God allowed for him to experience great pain and it was probably some form of illness. Clearly, God can use sickness as a severe form of discipline upon His children. For determining whether or not your sickness is God’s discipline, look to see if you have unrepentant sin in your life or a pattern of serious sin. The reason I say that is because sickness is usually one of the most severe forms of God’s discipline. If He’s already tried to get your attention through other means and you still haven’t repented, He may resort to a more severe method of discipline – sickness.
  3. Sickness can be the means of the judgment of God. Finally, sometimes sickness can be the way God executes judgment upon an individual or individuals. Let me clarify at this point: the words judgment and discipline are not the same. Judgment refers to God’s punishment of sinners, discipline refers to God’s fatherly discipline of His children. And sometimes God will use sickness as manifestation of His judgment on the nonbeliever. There are several examples of this in the Bible. One example is in Exodus, where God caused a plague of “festering boils” to come upon the Egyptians in an effort to free His people from slavery (Exodus 9:9). Granted, boils aren’t an illness like a cold or the Flu, but they are in the category of physical ailments like illness. Another example is in Daniel, where God smote king Nebuchadnezzar with mental illness, changing his mind into “the mind of an animal” (Daniel 4:16). The king completely lost his mind and began acting like an animal (v. 33). When God deems it necessary, He will use sickness and other physical ailments as means of judgment.

Sickness is real and it exists because of sin’s effect on the world. It may or may not be the result of committed sin. Sometimes sickness is circumstantial because of the world we live in. Sometimes it is consequential – the direct result of your actions. Sometimes it is God’s discipline, meant for your repentance. And sometimes it is the means which God chooses to use to execute His judgment.

There are two more important matters I want to note in passing. The first is a pressing question often asked when talking about the subject of sickness: why are some people healed of sickness and others are not? The overarching answer is simply this: it either was or wasn’t the will of God. If God wills something, it will occur. If God doesn’t will something, it will not occur. And whatever God wills will always be for His glory. So, healing may or may not be God’s will for an individual who is sick. Why sometimes it is His will and other times not, we cannot know for sure. It is certainly not because an individual didn’t have enough faith. Some proponents of the health, wealth, and prosperity “gospel,” say that the reason why Christians don’t experience healing is because they didn’t have enough faith – their faith was the reason God didn’t heal them. Such a teaching is man-centered, non-biblical, and false. For believers who are sick, there is great hope even if they don’t receive healing. God uses physical ailments for His glory (see the story of the blind man in John 9), and believers can cling to the promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Those who do not believe cannot hope in that promise, for they are not those who “love God,” and they are not “called according to his purpose.” The second thing worth noting here is the obligation that Christians have to care for those who are sick. Scripture tells us that we should visit the sick (Matthew 25:36) and pray for them (James 5:14). It reveals much about our love for the Lord and for the brethren when we fulfill those responsibilities.

What Does the Bible Say? is a question and answer series which seeks biblical answers to pressing questions.

  1. George Shaw Cook, “The Remedy for Illusion,” Christian Science Sentinel. www.sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/50tfglv60w (accessed June 16, 2018).

26219980_2002699353334045_1898487006197556984_n.jpgBrandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with free Christian resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife, Dakota live there with their dog, Susie.

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Denying God’s Love (Malachi 1:2-5)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky on the 20th day of May 2018, during the evening service. 

Review: Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash

Burnout is a serious problem in Christian ministry. It occurs when you are at the end of your rope—when all of your emotional, physical, and spiritual resources have been used up and you are exhausted. It is a cunning problem too, both because we are often unaware of it until it is too late, and because we usually think we aren’t suspect to it at all. But anyone can experience burnout, especially those serving in ministry. Pastors like myself are keenly aware of this epidemic. We have experienced it in our own lives, and we have painfully witnessed it in the lives of others. Scores of pastors leave their places of ministry every year because of ministry burnout. On the other hand, some pastors get so close to the cliff that they nearly fall, but by God’s grace have been awakened and renewed.

Is there a way to maintain our ministry passion and work fervently without burning out? Or is there a way to recover from a serious burnout? Thankfully, Christopher Ash answers those questions in his book, Zeal Without Burnout. Christopher is himself a pastor who knows exactly the kind of damage that burnout can bring. Through solid theology, raw testimonies, wise counsel, and practical suggestions, Christopher tackles the problem of burnout. He makes us aware of the seriousness of burnout, equips us with tools to prevent it, and may even take some on a drive down the road of recovery.

Summary

The book’s main premise is simple: God is God and we are not. We are merely creatures of the dust and therefore we are fragile, very susceptible to the problem of burnout. And there are certain things that we need, which God does not. Chris says, “We need sleep, but God does not. We need Sabbaths, but God does not. We need friends, but God does not. We need food, but God does not” (p. 41). Preventing burnout starts with a recognition of these things that we need for day-to-day sustenance. Things such as sleep, Sabbaths, friends, and inward renewal are all things which God has given us to serve Him sustainably without fizzing out.

Chris introduces the book by describing his own experiences with burnout, then he makes a distinction between sacrifice and burnout—noting that they are different in nature. In other words, one can make a sustainable sacrifice for the Lord without burning out—burning out is not a sacrifice. Then Chris expounds on the truth of our human nature, that we are made from the dust of the earth, and the next four chapters are implications of that truth. First, Chris talks about how we need sleep and how lack of sleep can contribute to burnout. Second, Chris explains the need for us to take regular days off, or Sabbaths. If we work on Sundays (like pastors do), we need to intentionally plan whole days off for worship, rest, and refreshment. Third, he expounds on the need for us to have friends—friends that will help us share the load and recognize potential burnout in our lives. And finally, he speaks of the need for inward renewal, that we need both time with the Lord and time for leisure activity to refresh ourselves. He is worth quoting at length on this point when he says,

“It is good to develop a healthy self-knowledge about what energizes us—what the Holy Spirit uses to bring us that inward renewal. But these activities will never be enough on their own to bring us true spiritual renewal. Each of us needs our personal devotional times with God: times of Bible reading and prayer, times to be glad to be in Christ, times of thoughtful reflection before the Lord: times to be refreshed. It is not selfish to guard those times, any more than it is selfish for a firefighter to take a break before heading back into the fire. Indeed, if we do not give space for renewal, there will soon be nothing left of us to give” (p. 77).

The final portion of the book concerns a warning to stay away from self-centered motivation, an encouraging note to depend on the Lord for our labors, and an exhortation to delight in God’s grace and not in our performance. The conclusion of the book is perhaps the most practical part of the work—there, Chris suggests four simple and wise practices for preventing or overcoming burnout. There is one more chapter at the end of the book, which serves as sort of a footnote to the book—it’s a concise psycho-spiritual analysis of burnout. It helps with defining exactly what it is and it lists some of the warning signs that burnout may be approaching.

Conclusion

I give the book five stars because it is a biblical, concise, and real treatment of the issue of burnout. Also, you can’t go wrong with the length of this book. You could easily read through the entire book in less than a week – the book is mercifully short. That’s a good thing because the principles in this book need to be learned and implemented immediately. Finally, the book is very relevant. The book is filled with testimonies and real-life experiences. Testimonies impact you in a very unique way, and this book is replete with testimonies of individuals who have experienced and recovered from burnout.

It was like sitting down with a doctor—a doctor who’s had the disease before and is most qualified to treat it in others. I have begun to implement the principles of this book into my personal life and ministry so that I can remain zealous in my service without burning out. And I would highly recommend that all Christians read the book so that they can have a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice without burnout.

You can purchase Zeal Without Burnout on Amazon in these formats: Kindle, hardcover, and audio CD.

Let Him Be Accursed! (Gal. 1:8-9)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky on the 7th day of January 2018, during the evening service: