The first of a series of articles on the Good News of Christianity.
Do you have a wish list? You can now log onto some internet sites and create a wish list of things you’d like, then your friends and relatives can log into your wish list and choose a present for you from the list. That way, for Christmas and birthdays you always get what you want and there’s none of that awful putting of presents to one side, because actually, you didn’t want them.
But it all sounds a bit clinical. I suppose there’s some element of surprise, in that you wouldn’t know who’d bought you what, but you’d have a pretty good idea of what was coming. Personally, I like surprises. With surprises you have to take the risk that as you open the parcel your face might drop, because you hate what’s inside. But often there are wonderful surprises which you might never have thought of yourself. If people only use your wish list, their gifts to you are limited by your ideas and you never get the broadness of other people’s ideas – even though that broadness is something of a risk!
As people get older, their wish lists seem to diminish in length. This may be because over the years, they already have everything they want. Or it may be because other things begin to take priority. At ten years old there’s a list as long as your arm, fuelled by advertising on television. But by ninety years old, perhaps the advertising has less effect.
And most people by the time they’ve reached their thirties or forties, have experienced the pain of life. Some experience the pain of life much earlier.
Pain and suffering tend to change our priorities and sadly, the older we get the more pain and suffering we encounter. So as we get older, wish lists inevitably change. For many people, health and happiness come top of their list, and wealth might come in there somewhere because many people think wealth brings health and happiness.
Does Christianity have anything at all to say about health? Can being a Christian make you healthy? Does God heal Christians from all their illnesses, or are illnesses God’s punishment for sin?
The good news is that Christianity is based on health. When he was on this earth, Jesus was renowned as a healer and we’re told that “As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them” (Luke 4:40.) Luke’s gospel especially is full of incidents where Jesus healed the sick, so it was clearly God’s will that people should be fit and healthy.
There’s no reason to suppose that God’s will for us has changed. Illnesses are definitely not God’s punishment for sin, although they might sometimes be the inevitable result of abusing our bodies. But God still wants us to be fit and healthy and has given us various tools to help this happen.
God has given us self-healing bodies, so that we get better from most illnesses. But God hasn’t given us bodies that never wear out, so eventually our bodies die in order that when the time is right we can be freed and go on to a new kind of life in a different dimension.
God has enabled some men and women to be particularly proficient as healers, and so many branches of the medical profession have grown and flourished, dealing with many different aspects of illness. God has enabled other men and women to be scientists and has given us a huge variety of plants and herbs with healing properties, which scientists can turn into healing drugs and medicines.
But there’s more than that. It’s long been known that body, mind and spirit are inextricably linked, so that anything weighing on the mind or the spirit will affect the body. Jesus knew this, so when a paralysed man who had a whole load of guilt on his conscience was brought to him, Jesus first said to him, “Your sins are forgiven,” then healed him (Luke 5:20-25).
None of us need to suffer guilt, because our sins are forgiven too. Whatever we may or may not have done, we can have a clear conscience before God. We simply need to be open and honest with God, to confess our sins without pretence and to receive and accept his forgiveness for them. This is good news, because it leads to health.
There’s even more. Christians are promised a “peace which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). This is a deep peace which fills the heart and soul. It doesn’t mean that we never again have any worry or that all our anxieties are instantly removed, but it does mean that underlying all our problems and difficulties there is the conviction that God will never let us down or let us go. Whatever happens in life, we are firmly held in his loving hands.
Of course, the closer we grow to God the more we experience this peace. And the greater our inner peace, the healthier our lives. Medical science has already proved that positive thought and good health go hand in hand, and that churchgoers are statistically healthier than other people.
None of this means that Christians never get ill. There are all sorts of causes for illness in our world, from pollution to inappropriate food to viruses to accidents to defective genes and a host of other causes, as well as illnesses of unknown cause. So Christianity doesn’t mean that Christians will never get ill. But it does mean that as Christians we are likely to recover our health in the quickest possible time.
Does God individually heal people through prayer? It’s difficult to believe that God will refuse to heal some unfortunate person simply because no-one thought to pray for that person. It’s also difficult to believe that God randomly chooses who to heal, especially when we see sick children die.
Perhaps, like God’s forgiveness and God’s love, God’s healing is all around us all the time, as though we live within a healing bubble. But we have to take hold of that healing for ourselves. Maybe prayer focuses that healing in a special way upon the person who is prayed for, opening a channel to them so that God’s healing can pour into them - a bit like standing them in God’s spotlight.
God does heal today and God will heal any of us. We are necessary to that healing process, because our prayer focuses God’s healing power upon the person we pray for. This doesn’t mean that if we pray for someone, they won’t die. When the body is no longer capable of sustaining life, that body dies. But we, the real “us”, go on living in a different dimension. For some people, that’s the deepest healing they can receive.
Physical and spiritual health go hand in hand and part of the good news of Christianity is that Christians can enjoy good health. So if health is top of your wish list, give yourself a surprise. Tune into God and receive the good health God wants for you.
Christianity is based on health.
Illnesses are definitely not God’s punishment for sin, although they might sometimes be the inevitable result of abusing our bodies.
God has given us self-healing bodies, so that we get better from most illnesses.
Body, mind and spirit are inextricably linked, so that anything weighing on the mind or the spirit will affect the body.
Our sins are forgiven.
Christians are promised a “peace which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
The greater our inner peace, the healthier our lives. God’s healing is all around us all the time.
Prayer focuses that healing in a special way.
We are necessary to God’s healing process, because it is our prayer which focuses God’s healing power.
When the body is no longer capable of sustaining life, that body dies. But we, the real “us”, go on living in a different dimension.
Good News! Christians can enjoy good health (and this is supported by scientific evidence).