Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
November 23, 1998
Last Updated :
July 6, 2011
Incident With Samaritan Village, Animosity Between Samaritans And Jews Of Judah, God's Patience And Desire For Salvation, Salvation Of Both Body And Spirit, Lazarus Is Raised From The Dead, Jesus Is The Resurrection And The Life, Jesus Heals The Nobleman's Son, Let It Rather Be Healed, Miracle At The Pool Of Bethesda, With God All Things Are Possible, Commit Your Seriously Afflicted Loved Ones To The Lord, God's Will Takes Precedence, David And Bathsheba Commit Adultery, A Matter Of Perspective, God's Sovereignty In All Things, Perspective Of The Sick, Weirdness Of Praying For Someone's Death, Absent From The Body And Present With The Lord, Spiritual Euthanasia, Dying With Dignity, Unbearable Pain, What To Pray For Loved Ones, Miserable, Meaningless Life Without Hope, Fear Of Death
Continuing our discussion from part three, in another example that is found in the Gospel of Luke, when a certain village of the Samaritans refused to accept Jesus and His followers, because it appeared that He was more interested in going to Jerusalem, two of Jesus' Disciples -- James and John -- then questioned whether they should call fire down from the sky in order to destroy them, just as the Prophet Elijah called fire from the sky and destroyed the four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal in the Old Testament. The Lord was not the least bit pleased with their harsh attitude, and He quickly rebuked James and John for their unloving thoughts, as we see by these verses:
"And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village."
Luke 9:51-56, KJV
In case you are wondering why the Samaritans behaved in this manner, as I point out in other articles, it is more than likely because of the strong animosity which existed between the people of northern Israel -- or Samaria -- and the Jews of Judah and Benjamin. The Jews of Judah -- where Jerusalem was located -- in fact viewed the Samaritans as lower class Jews because of their mixed blood, which resulted from the Assyrians and other foreign invaders. It is for this very reason that in the story that is found in John chapter four concerning the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman said the following to Jesus:
"Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."
John 4:9, KJV
To continue, the Lord's response to James and John makes it perfectly clear what kind of an attitude He expects us to have. He said "the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them". As I have pointed out before, God goes to great lengths in order to try to win the rebellious and wayward people of Earth. He knows how tragic, and how horrible, it will be to see them eternally destroyed in the Lake of Fire. Thus, He tries to manifest His love, and even His existence, in as many ways as possible; yet in ways which still require that we exercise our personal faith. The reason He does this, is because He truly loves us, and He wants us to be with Him for eternity. In speaking of God's patience, and His desire for our Salvation, the Apostle Peter writes as follows:
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9, KJV
As we have already seen, throughout the four Gospels we find many clear examples where the Lord's salvation did not just include Salvation of one's spirit, but it also included the salvation of their flesh as well through deliverance from a wide variety of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical afflictions. God's Word always encourages us to pray for the healing of the Lord's children. We never find Jesus praying to His Father to take anyone Home. We never see the Apostles or Disciples praying in this fashion either.
When Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, became very sick, Mary and Martha did not pray for God to take Lazarus Home to be with Him so that their brother would no longer have to suffer; rather, they sent a message to Jesus saying "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." In other words, their expectation was that Jesus would immediately come and heal Lazarus of his affliction. If you are familiar with the story in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, then you will know that while Jesus did eventually go to see Mary and Martha, He waited until several days after Lazarus had died, in order that the Glory of God might be revealed through the wondrous Miracle that He would perform when He raised Lazarus from the dead.
Of course, as we are told in John chapter eleven, the reason why Jesus performed this Miracle was to prove that He indeed has power over both life and death, because He is in fact the Resurrection and the Life, as we see by these verses:
"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?"
John 11:25-26, KJV
In like manner, in John chapter four, when the son of the nobleman from Capernaum became extremely sick, so much so that we are told that he was near the point of death, his father didn't pray that God would take his son Home to be with Him in order to free him of his suffering. Rather, the Bible informs us that the nobleman sought out Jesus; and when he found the Lord, he said to him "Sir, come down ere my child die." Following is the full story:
"So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second Miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee."
John 4:46-54, KJV
So these are but two clear-cut Scriptural examples where a loved one was sick unto death, and yet, rather than pray that they would be relieved of their suffering and taken Home to Heaven, their families actually sought out Jesus and prayed for the healing of their family members. This is the attitude that we should have today, and it is also what was taught by the First Century Apostles. For example, consider what James wrote in his Epistle:
"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
James 5:14-16, KJV
Even when our Heavenly Father finds it necessary to chastise us as a result of our sins, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews informs us that His ultimate goal is that we should be spiritually healed of our rebellion, and return to Him, as we see by these verses:
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed."
Hebrews 12:11-13, KJV
Please notice that he concludes by saying "but let it rather be healed", just as James writes "that ye may be healed". So it seems rather clear that if we are going to pray for others, then the best thing to pray for is both their spiritual and their physical healing, and not for their deliverance from this life through death. God has His own timetable for each individual person, and we would be rather foolish to tamper with it by praying for death to come to someone. On a related note, I also discuss the controversial topic of committing suicide in the series "Heavens Gate, Suicide And Other Death Cults", for those of you who may be interested in reading it.
Even when people have been sick for many years -- perhaps even for decades -- with no earthly hope for recovery, the Bible still encourages us to pray positive words of faith, and to expect the impossible. We find a number of examples in the New Testament, where despite the odds being against them, God came through in the final hour after a great test of faith, so that He might be glorified.
Everyone -- including the legalistic, self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees -- were aware of the fact that these people had been sick for many years, so there was no way that they could deny the Power of God. They were forced to acknowledge the Power which resided in Jesus Christ, as well as in His Disciples. Earlier we looked at the example of the woman who suffered from an issue of blood for twelve years. In another example of a long-term affliction, in the Gospel of John, we find the following wonderful Miracle that occurred at the Pool of Bethesda:
"Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath."
John 5:2-9, KJV
Imagine the shock and the wonder which must have quickly travelled throughout Jerusalem that day. Here was a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. Literally thousands of people must have known him, and must have seen him laying helplessly by the Pool of Bethesda, while others quickly and selfishly rushed by him in their attempt to be the first one into the pool when the water was stirred. It was a hopeless situation. There was no way that he would ever be healed. He may have laid there waiting for another thirty-eight years; but this was not God's plan.
This miraculous account -- and many others similar to it -- emphasizes a very important lesson from which we can all benefit. This lesson is best expressed in the words of the Angel Gabriel, when he informed young Mary that her cousin Elisabeth was six months pregnant in her old age. This same lesson was also emphasized by Jesus on different occasions. Consider the following verses:
"For with God nothing shall be impossible."
Luke 1:37, KJV
"But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:26, KJV
"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."
Mark 9:23, KJV
"And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible."
Mark 10:27, KJV
"And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt."
Mark 14:36, KJV
Our God is a God of impossibilities. As we have already seen, He delights in coming through when all hope is lost, so that He alone may receive the glory. We need to remember that as long as there is life, there is hope; so we should never give up; whether we are praying for someone's spiritual Salvation, or for the physical salvation of their body through a Miracle of Divine Healing.
As we saw earlier in this series, it is these very Miracles of Healing which serve as powerful manifestations of God's Spirit, and which often lead new people to believe in Jesus Christ. Now, if a certain person is suffering a lot, and if our faith is not what it should be, so that we are not sure if we have the faith to claim Divine Healing, the next best thing would be to simply pray that God's Will will be done, whatever it may happen to be. In other words, simply commit the seriously afflicted to the Lord. If they are suffering unbearably, and/or at a very advanced age, then the Lord may choose to reveal His Compassion and Mercy by taking them to be with Him anyway; and thus give them a complete healing. However, to remove someone from this life is His choice to make, and not ours to make by praying for someone's death.
While we should always hope and pray for the best outcome in any given situation, let me reiterate again that it is wise to temper our personal expectations with the knowledge that ultimately, the Will of God will prevail. This is a key point to remember. God's Will must, and will always, take precedence over our own desires, and even over the desires of the person who is afflicted. As we discussed earlier, God alone is the one who determines who lives and who dies, and not us. This point is made rather clear in the following verses that are found in the fourth chapter of the Epistle of James:
"Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil."
James 4:13-16, KJV
You will notice that the Apostle James writes "If the Lord will, we shall live". That is the kind of attitude we should have. This is how we should likewise pray for our sick loved ones; that is, that God's Will will be done.
In the Old Testament we discover that King David had the same attitude and recognized God's Sovereignty in all things. Many of you are no doubt familiar with the story of how King David lusted after beautiful Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. In the eleventh chapter of the second Book of Samuel, we discover that King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. Upon learning that she was with child by him, and unable to cover his sin by having Uriah lay with her, David purposely ordered Uriah to be sent to the front lines of the battle against the Ammonites, where he would be killed, which he indeed was. David then took Bathsheba to be one of his wives.
After Bathsheba gave birth to their first child, God revealed David's sins of adultery and murder to the Prophet Nathan who then rebuked David. Part of the Lord's judgment against David was that the child became very sick. In the following scene, we find the Lord rebuking David through the Prophet Nathan:
"Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him."
2 Samuel 12:14-24, KJV
Notice King David's attitude. He said in part "Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast?". As I stated earlier, what David is basically saying here is that while there is life, there is still hope; so we should keep on praying as we honestly don't know what the Will of the Lord may be. David knew that Nathan had prophesied that the child would die, yet he never lost faith; he just kept on praying for God's Mercy, and hoping for a Miracle of healing, just in case the Lord decided to change His mind; which in this case He did not. In the end, David accepted the child's death as God's Sovereign Will, and His judgment against him as a result of his sins.
This is another key point that we all need to recognize. In other words, what we may consider to be a good outcome to our prayers from a human perspective, and what God may consider to be a good outcome from a Divine Perspective, may be two very different things. God knows the future while we do not. He knows what lies ahead for each one of His children; and based upon what He knows, He may determine that one outcome is better than another. That is why I stated that we need to temper our personal expectations, and make certain that we recognize God's Sovereignty in all things.
Suppose, for example, that you are praying for someone who is gravely ill. In agreement with the Scriptures, you're praying for this person's recovery. However, rather than get better, they grow progressively worse, and eventually die. Does this mean that God didn't hear your prayers? Does the fact that the person died mean that you simply didn't have enough faith for a Miracle of Divine Healing? Should the person's death be viewed as a bad outcome? The answer to all of these questions may be "no". Perhaps God simply knew something regarding that situation which you didn't know, and He determined that it was better to take that person Home. So here again we see God's Sovereign Will in action.
If you still doubt that praying for life, rather than for death, is the proper attitude that we Christians should have regarding our sick loved ones, then let's look at this issue from another perspective; that is, from the viewpoint of the sick or elderly person. What I am about to share with you may cause you to pause and think.
Imagine for a moment that you are an elderly person who is sick and dying. You realize that your time may be drawing near, but maybe, in spite of your deteriorating condition, you're just not quite ready to go yet. Maybe there are still some things you need to say to a few people; or perhaps you get a sudden burst of will to continue living. That being the case, consider how you would personally feel if in your heart you are praying "Lord, please don't take me Home yet; I am not quite ready to leave this life yet"; while your well-meaning family or church is praying "Lord, please take this person Home to be with You. Please deliver them from all of their pain and suffering. It would be better for them".
I honestly don't know anyone who would be encouraged to know that other people -- their loved ones and friends no less -- are actually praying for their death; do you? Just thinking about this kind of situation strikes me as being quite weird. While it is indeed true that the Apostle Paul wrote that "to to be absent from the body" is "to be present with the Lord" -- please refer to 2 Corinthians 5:8 -- nevertheless, that still doesn't justify any Christian praying for the death of their loved one, so that they can escape from their pain. In a sense, to do so would be committing "spiritual euthanasia", which is nowhere to be found in the Bible.
At the same time, we can reverse the above situation. Let us again assume that you are the elderly sick person.
You have finally decided that you have had enough. You cannot endure any more pain and suffering. It is a total nightmare to even be alive. Your poor aching body is continually being subjected to all kinds of injections by concerned nurses who are desperately striving to keep you alive so the hospital won't be sued for malpractice. You have an array of IV's and other tubes going into various parts of your body which make you quite uncomfortable. Half of the time you must wear an oxygen mask just to stay alive. You continually float in and out of consciousness. Your temperature rises and falls, and you experience hot spells and then chills. You can hardly keep anything in your sick stomach because of the nausea you experience due to chemotherapy. It is humiliating that you can't use the restroom on your own. And having to wear the hospital gown is a total embarrassment to say the least.
So you have had it. You finally say, "Lord, I honestly can't take this anymore. I am really tired of this life. My body is just too sick and old, and I can't endure any more pain and suffering. Please Lord, have mercy on me. Please deliver me from all of this misery."
While you are praying for God's deliverance from your current misery, unbeknownst to you, your well-meaning family has had you declared mentally incompetent. They have decided that you have lost your mind, and that you really don't know what you are asking for when you tell the doctors to disconnect all of the tubes, and to turn off all of the machines. Your plea to die with dignity is ignored. Due to their own selfish desires to keep your old bag of flesh alive for a while longer, simply because they cannot bear the pain to see you go, your family has taken away your right to die as you wish. Against your wishes, and maybe even against God's Will, they are praying, "Lord, please help grandma. Please help her to get better. Please don't take her from us yet, Lord."
As you can no doubt see, knowing how to pray for someone who is experiencing a lot of pain, and facing life-threatening circumstances is not always an easy task. We find ourselves caught in a situation where three factors must be considered. First there is God's Will. Then there is the will of the sick person. Finally, there are our own desires for our loved one. So how do we react? What do we do? How should we pray? While I have never been in that kind of a situation, where a loved one is in prolonged, extreme pain, I do know that it's a very difficult position to be in. I was told a number of years ago that when my grandmother was in severe pain just prior to her death, my uncle suffered considerably, being as he spent the most time at her bedside and thus witnessed her ongoing agony.
So to reiterate my earlier position, the best advice that I can personally offer to anyone who happens to find themself in that kind of a difficult situation is the following: If you honestly don't know what to pray, or how to pray for a particular loved one, then the best thing to do is to simply pray that God's Will will be done, whatever it may happen to be. Just pray a generic prayer such as "Lord, I really don't know what Your Will is for this person, but I commit their life into Your Hands to do with as You best see fit." Just acknowledge the Lord, recognize His Sovereignty over life and death, and then be at peace about it. In the Old Testament, we find such verses as the following:
"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV
"Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
Psalms 37:5, KJV
While we Christians have faith and hope in the Resurrection of the Dead, and look forward to an Afterlife in the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father and His Son once we leave our vessels of the flesh behind, sadly, in the world today, there are still many people who are as we once were; that is, without hope. Not only do they have very little hope in this current life, but even worse, they have absolutely no hope or belief in an Afterlife. Personally, I don't know how they can bear to live that way. Such an existence would be meaningless, as well as miserable and depressing. The Apostle Paul understood this human tragedy quite well, which is apparently why he wrote verses such as the following:
"That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:"
Ephesians 2:12, KJV
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."
1 Thessalonians 4:13, KJV
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."
1 Corinthians 15:19, KJV
It truly saddens me to know that there are so many hopeless, miserable, unsaved people living in the world today. But what I consider even more tragic is the fact that quite a few of these people are this way by their own proud choice. As I explain in such articles as "Dracula: Fighting Fear With The Word, Faith And Love", and "The Royal Law: Thou Shalt Love", perhaps one of the greatest fears in the world of unsaved people, is the fear of death. Some people live their entire lives in fear and torment, wondering how they are going to die, when they are going to die, where they are going to die, and what will happen to them after they die. They also worry about the pain and suffering which may accompany their death.
As the years pass by, and they grow older and their bodies begin to break down, these fears take an even stronger hold on them. If only they would realize that much of their fear could easily be avoided, if they would just stop and accept God's Gift of Love into their lives, and allow the Lord to turn their lives around. People who suffer from these fears could be completely delivered from them in a moment, if they would only accept the Son of God who has already overcome both fear and death by confronting them face to face on the Cross. Sadly, in their own pride and arrogance, many people simply refuse to do this. In their own folly and rebellion, they prefer to live their meaningless existences which are full of hopelessness, misery and despair, rather than come to the marvellous Light of Jesus Christ.
Please go to part five for the conclusion of this series.
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