By Michael Gilbert
December 17, 2007
Why, in the age of miraculous healing (Lk. 6:6-11; Acts 3:1-10), did Paul leave his companion and brother in Christ, Trophimus, ill at Miletus? I believe the answer lies in the purpose of miracles. The Hebrews writer declared, “…how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:3-4, KJV). Signs, wonders, divers miracles, and gifts of the Spirit were for the express purpose of confirming that the gospel of Christ was from God, not man. Mark wrote of the apostles of Christ, “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs” (Mk. 16:20, ESV). In regard to the miraculous, Paul wrote that there is a “more excellent way” (I Cor. 12:31). That “more excellent way” being completed revelation (I Cor. 13:8-10). Therefore, since we have the complete, revealed will of God (which, in itself, is proof of its heavenly origins and therefore does not need modern day miracles to prove its origins), miracles have passed away and no longer occur. However, the question sometimes posed to me by Christians is this, “If miracles no longer occur, then how does God heal the sick?” The question itself implies that our God is limited to working through miracles. Simply put, that is not the case. God obviously restores some sick folk back to health today, for the Bible says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…” (Jms. 1:17). If any sick person is brought back to health, give God the credit, for He is ultimately responsible. How, without a miracle, does He accomplish this? God uses at least three things to contribute to the restored health of ill individuals: medicine, mindset, and motivation.
First, God has blessed mankind with the ability to use various amazing medicines that can restore health. We have come a long way since the “oil and wine” of the Bible times (Lk. 10:34). It is not inaccurate or wrong to give God the credit for restored health via medicine, for who gave us the medicine to use?
Second, it seems that science is just learning what the Proverbs writer knew about 3,000 years ago, namely, “A joyful heart is good medicine…” (Prov. 17:22, ESV). We all probably know those who have just “given up” and died because of an illness. Also, we all probably know those who have “kept their spirits up”, battled an often fatal illness, and lived. Who gets the glory? The one who battled and lived, or God who gave the good mindset to the one who battled and lived? Also, has God not given to each person the “will to live”, also called self-preservation? Nobody, (except, perhaps, Job and like-sufferers) wants to just lie down and die. When a firefighter enters a burning house to save the life of another, the firefighter must go against the God-given instinct to save his own life just to enter the life-threatening situation. This “will to live” is often lost in one who is going through trouble such as a major sickness, and as Solomon wrote, “a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Prov. 17:22, ESV). I am thankful that God provides many things in Scripture that help us to maintain a good mindset (cf. Psalm 71).
Finally, some things that motivate those who are ill include faith in God, hope that the illness will not be unto death, and the desire to stay and be with family. Without the proper motivation, the person who is going through severe trials in life will have a more difficult time overcoming them.
God has never limited Himself to miracles as His only means for curing illness. Today, He works providentially through such things as medicine, mindset, and motivation, but sometimes the answer is still “no”. For the Christian who suffers illness and dies, he is in a better place and condition (Lk. 16:22)! For the Christian who gets better, he or she can glorify God on this behalf (James 1:17)!