Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Good Health Is Not What's Best For Us

Our prayer life reveals our priorities, what we think as most important. Therefore, what we ask for prayer for ourselves and others shows what we think we need the most. What we pray for others tells us about what we think is best for them.

Recently I've noticed something quite revealing about how we pray for those who are sick or suffering. When the cancer strikes what is it that we primarily pray for those in its grip? Or when that devastating virus knock us out what is it that we ask for prayer for from others? Well, more often than not (in my experience) the answer is that we pray that others will get well soon. We pray that God might grant the doctors skill in operating, that the individual would have time to rest and make a speedy recovery.

Now, please don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should not be praying for these things. There is nothing wrong with prayers such as these. I wholeheartedly believe that God is sovereign over all sickness and is concerned for the good of the afflicted. However, if good health is the only thing that we are praying for those who are sick, then something is wrong. Indeed,even more than this, I want to suggest that if good health is the primary thing we are praying for those who are unwell then something is wrong.

Let me explain. If we are praying only, or primarily for the sick person to get well then this implies that we think that good health is what's best for us. What we pray for ourselves and others reveals what we think we need the most. If a return to health is top of the prayer list, then that is what we think is most important.

However, good health is not what's best for us. In Romans 8:28 Paul says: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." In all things God is working for the good of His people in Christ. Now, all things includes all things! It includes both sickness and health. For the believer, all things have been ordained by God to work for our good.

But what is that good that all things are working for? What is what's best for us? The context shows us. In verse 29 Paul goes on to explain when he says: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."

What is God's ultimate goal for the Christian? It is "to be conformed to the image of his Son". In other words, it is to be made like Jesus. This is what is ultimately what's best for us: to be christlike. This is God's sovereign, unshakeable purpose that he is working for the man or woman who has trusted in Jesus, which He will surely bring this to fulfillment on that day when we shall be like Him when we see Him as He is (1 John3:2). And He is using all things to bring about this purpose (Romans 8:28). Sickness and health, the troubles and the good times are all His servants to bring about this purpose for His people.

This means that when sickness comes, it comes ultimately from God's sovereign hand, and it serves to chisel and to shape the believer to become more and more like the Lord Jesus. So, good health is not necessarily going to be what's best for us. If, in God's infinite wisdom, He sees fit to afflict the believer with sickness, it is because He sees it as what is best to mould the believer into the image of His Son.

Now, this does not mean that we should never pray for those who are unwell, or that we never pray that they return to good health.The rest of the Bible shows that we should be praying for these things (See James 5:13-15). However, what it does do is to transform the way we think about and pray about sickness. It helps us to see that our priority in praying for those who our sick ought not to be: "help them get well quickly". Rather, it ought to be "Father, please, in your sovereign purposes, use this sickness to transform your child more and more into the likeness of your dear Son."