Sometimes, we link the words sickness and suffering together as one and the same. But the original language in the Bible describes an important nuance between these two words. Suffering is an emotional malady, while sickness is a physical one.
And today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll helps us delineate between the two. And more importantly, he shows us how to seek God for relief. So, are you suffering?
Are you sick? Well, James Chapter 5 provides a proper protocol for getting help. Chuck titled today's message, When God Heals Body and Soul. God reserves the right to heal or not as he sees fit.
It's his prerogative. Being the sovereign God of our lives, he is the one who has all voting rights on our health. If he's pleased to bring us back from illness, we come back from illness. If he's pleased for us to die, we die.
It is not his desire or his will that everyone be healed. When we are suffering, verse 13 begins, the word is kukopatheo, a long Greek word that translates into English suffering. It's a broad word. It means some type of misfortune. Stay with me. Normally, it's not used of a physical illness, but it's used of emotional or mental or spiritual struggles.
It is a reference to inner turmoil. Let's see what the Scriptures answer is. Are any of you suffering?
You should pray. Period. End of sentence.
Here's the second. When we're cheerful, it gets even more simple, doesn't it? This is the one who is not anxious, not suffering some kind of hardship or trial or affliction, not going through some lengthy endurance of a trial. This is a person who is who is on top of it, we say.
So what do you do? The Greek word is psaletto, starts with a P and starts with an and includes an S. P-S-A-L-E-T-T-O, psaletto. It means to play on a stringed instrument.
Obviously, not everyone plays a stringed instrument. So the thought is really in a broader sense, it's a picture of being filled with praises. The kind of praise that comes over you when you hear magnificent music. The kind of joy that accompanies being around one who plays beautifully on an instrument.
There's something within us that is exuberantly excited when we are cheerful. And James says, let it out. Let it out.
Even though the world is crying and in great need, you may be having a fabulous day. Let it out. Let there be praise. Let there be songs. Let there be singing. Now, the third category is much more complicated.
That's why he spends longer developing it. Look for yourself. Are any of you sick? Sick.
Astheno, A-S-T-H-E-N-O, astheno. Interesting word, it means to be weak, without strength, needed, could even include bedridden. It doesn't often refer to physical illness as much as a weariness, a fatigue that leads to such. There are other words that go deeper into physical illness, but this is a serious illness of some kind.
What do you do? If you're going to think biblically, let's let the Bible give us instruction on what to do. We'll make this just as clear as we can. First, the sick person takes the initiative.
You notice? You should call for the elders of the church. Now, we've got a sickness and we call for the elders and what do they do? Well, they have a responsibility.
And by the way, let me add this. There were not that many medical physicians available in the first century, certainly among the persecuted believers who were the recipients of James' letter. Elders often served in the role of spiritual leaders and, if you will, medical practitioners.
I pause as you picture that in your mind. Not so much nowadays, but in those days, they would be like a practitioner that would help you with your sickness. And so, not surprisingly, they would come with that which would help you with your illness, namely oil.
You see? Call for the elders. They will pray over you, anointing you with oil. Literally, it reads that the elders come and pray over you, having anointed you or rubbed in the oil. So the rubbing of the oil precedes the praying. Got it? If you think biblically, which we want to do, first comes good medical treatment, reliable, carefully thought through as you are able to get that help.
Make sure that you have done that. And now we're going to pray. And please observe that the results are left with the Lord.
The elders are there to pray and, in this case, to help provide the medication, the applying of the oils. The third foundational fact, sometimes there's a direct relationship between personal sins and sickness. Not always, but sometimes. So that's James point. If, he says, doesn't say there is sin, he says, if there is sin.
See it? If you have committed any sins, you'll be forgiven. And the implication is you'll be healed because the connection in this case is sinfulness has been a part of the condition of your life, of the sickness. So he says openly in verse 16, confess your sins to each other, praying for each other. Why? You may be healed. And when we hold back, we resist this because it's sort of our business.
No. We're brothers and sisters in Christ. And this isn't show business. We're not on TV doing this. We're in a hospital room or we're in a bedroom or we're at a sofa in a living room.
We're in a private setting. And there couldn't be greater sincerity and less showmanship. And so let the sin out. Say it.
Openly declare it. Something therapeutic about that. If there has been sin, he will forgive you. So therefore, confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. It's not a prayer to be told to to Joni Erikson because she has sin and therefore she's in a wheelchair. That's an out of context, inappropriate. In some ways, it's insulting.
If anyone has searched her heart, it's Joni Erikson Tada. But when you look at it in context and you think biblically, you realize this has got something to it. Now the elders are not forcing this.
The confession comes from the person who is sick. Let me tell you a quick, true story. Years ago, I was asked to join a small group of elders. I knew most of them, not all.
I knew the one we were going to be praying for only slightly happened to be the wife of a physician, and the physician was one of the elders in our group. Another city, another time. So don't try to trace it. That's not important.
Importance is the story. So we were asked to come to this dear woman who was really sick. She was in a unit at the hospital, which is the ultimate care unit.
ICU. We walked in, we were granted a few minutes, and she looked at us and could hardly blink her eyes. She was almost a gray in color. Looked very sick. She could hardly move her limbs. Her husband's heart just went out to her. And we made it clear we were there because we care. And she was getting good medical attention.
I mean, she was surrounded by the best. And she was dying. So we began to pray. It was a very touching time. Often prayers like that are accompanied by tears, because you feel so helpless and you feel so caring, and you're there in such sincerity, and you want God to move and to bring relief, but you're at a loss to know what his plan is. So you pray. One man prayed, and then another took up where he left off. And I prayed, and then by the time another began to pray, he said, stop, stop, stop right here. Stop.
So we did. She said, as she began to blink, coming a little bit out of that sort of foggy look, she said, I have some things to tell all of you. Out poured a life of years of hidden sin.
Her husband knew none of it. And he's standing there more shocked than anyone, having shared her life over the years. And he reached over to embrace. He said, no, wait. She said, wait, wait, wait.
I'm not through. And in the privacy of that room, she confessed her life. Moral failures, hypocrisy, and on and on she and she became adept at it and continued it until the illness that has taken over somehow took over her body. I don't know how that works. I don't know how that works.
But by God knows how it works is why he addresses it. And it was listen to me. It was as if the color was coming back into her face at the time. She is unloading this.
Burden that she's been living with. She confessed it openly to us. Some of us were virtual strangers.
Very unusual setting. Our hearts went out to her and quite honestly went out to him. We stepped back.
He stepped up. She had finished. And I don't think it was a dry eye in the room. He's sobbing. She's sobbing. And it's my understanding, as we left the room and left them together, within hours, she was released from that ICU unit to another room in the hospital. By the next day, I should say, she's walking the halls of the hospital and within less than a week, she's home. Healthy. Weak, but recovering from her illness. God gave, I understand, full health to this lady.
That's the closest I've ever come to an illustration of what we have in 13 through 16, or really 14 through 16 here. So let me wrap it up with four statements quickly. Confession of sin is healthy. Admit them openly. Now choose the context. Indiscriminate sharing of sin openly in the place where it isn't appropriate is out of line. And if it has to do with someone you've offended, that's the one that needs to hear it.
But the point is you don't hide it. Don't hold it back. If it is healthy and you're thinking biblically, then believe it. Admit this sin without hesitation.
Here's the second. Praying for each other is essential. Practice it often. Praying for yourself, as we see in verse 13. Pray. Pray. Pray regularly. Have it on your prayer when your head hits the pillow at night. Have that prayer when you wake up in the morning. Consistent, fervent prayer accomplishes much. Third, seeking medical attention and assistance is imperative. Obey it. I find it hard to pray for anyone who refuses medical attention.
If God has given specialty, people gifts in specialty areas, and we don't avail ourselves of that, we're losing. I got a staph infection not long ago. It's a frightening thing to get.
It can lead quickly to very, very serious illness. And I'm so seldom sick and I'm such a terrible patient that my family was all hoping I would really recover soon. And seriously now, I need certain medications. And if I didn't get those medications, that illness would travel and I may not be standing here today.
Staph infection is no joke. But when I expect people to pray for me, they expect me to do what's medically responsible. And I'm weary of people who say we are people of faith, so we do not need people who are serving as medical practitioners. Stop. Stop.
Think about that before you jump to that conclusion. Fourth, when healing comes from God, claim it and give him praise. And how marvelous that is when it happens. I repeat, God reserves the right to heal or not as he sees fit. We leave it with him.
We leave it with him. I return to the words of Joni. I certainly need strength right now, she writes at the end of the book.
I quoted earlier from an introduction of the book. She says, I certainly need strength right now. Last week I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Will my quadriplegic body be able to endure one more assault? I have so many questions, but this I know for certain, my hope comes from God. He alone is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress. I will not be shaken. I am genuinely at peace with this new challenge.
I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task. The Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. May I add, and she's a model of it. And by the way, God has given her recovery from that and we're all rejoicing.
The last test proved very encouraging. In the process of working through illness, you change. Our daughter has a ministry at Insight for Living called Reframing. God reframes your life as a result of your going through periods of great suffering or loss or disability, hardship, tragedy. In the process, he may not take the tragedy away, but he changes you. He changes you.
A.W. Tozer put it the best. It's doubtful God can use anyone greatly till he has hurt him deeply. So the answer is not always relief from it. The answer is often, what do I learn through it?
How can I cooperate with his plan to become the person this situation forces me to become? Deep question. Bow with me, would you please? You've listened so carefully. I'm grateful.
Just close your eyes right there. Are you absolutely certain that you know Christ? Are you absolutely certain that you've come to the cross with the sin of your life and you've laid it before him, claiming his forgiveness and receiving his gift of eternal life?
The greatest of all healing is the healing of an eternal soul through faith in the Savior. If you're not certain of that, that's job one. That's the response you need to this message. So God help you to come to that place right now. If we need to help you get there, that's why we exist. And by the way, we will never judge you because you come with a dark area of your life that's shameful and heartbreaking and tragic. You're valuable to God just as you are. Your soul is eternal. Christ died for you.
Trust him. Thank you, Father, in advance for what you will do with this message in the days ahead. Help us to think biblically, truly to think theologically, to cut through all the pizazz of a lot of opinions and a lot of misinformation so that we're not afraid to let the Scriptures speak and we stand squarely upon these verses, these and others. We pray that you will use this message directly in a number of lives. For the glory of Christ, I pray this in the name of the Savior, I ask.
Everyone said, Amen. This concludes message number three in Chuck Swindoll's brand new 12-part series called Clinging to Hope. To learn more about this ministry, we invite you to visit us online at insightworld.org. Well, Insight for Living is pleased to offer Chuck's brand new book with the same title as this series. All 12 chapters describe volatile moments in life when our only choice is to cling to hope. For instance, there's a chapter on clinging to hope when heartbreak rocks our world, a chapter on clinging to hope when doors slam shut and another one on clinging to hope when calamity crashes in. This brand new book from Chuck Swindoll belongs in your collection.
It'll be an encouragement to you and to someone you love who needs a boost of inspiration too. Again, Chuck's brand new book is called Clinging to Hope. To purchase a copy right now, go to insight.org slash hope or call us.
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You'll find all the details at insight.org. Treat yourself to a vacation you'll never forget on the Insight for Living Ministries cruise to the great frontier with Chuck Swindoll. Honestly, I had no idea that a cruise to Alaska could be so much fun. And without a doubt, the stunning views took my breath away. God's artistic genius is on full display in Alaska. In fact, I guarantee this, you'll come home refreshed and filled with awe for his majestic creation. Yeah, at one point our ship was getting chased by dolphins.
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The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll explains what to do when unexpected tests rattle our world. That's tomorrow on Insight for Living. The preceding message, When God Heals Body and Soul, was copyrighted in 2019 and 2022 and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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