“A Christian may continue to be sick after he has been born again, but he does not have to. He has been redeemed from sickness. The price has been paid for his healing. Sickness can no long exert dominion over him unless he allows it.” Gloria Copeland
All of the people on our prayer list at church, the ones with cancer and other diseases, are only sick because they want to be. That’s what Gloria Copeland would have us to believe. And the same for the guy in my community who got in a car accident and has been in the nursing home for three decades. Jesus would like to heal these folks but they just don’t want it bad enough.
For teachers like Gloria Copeland and Benny Hinn, Christians aren’t set apart because of the fruit of the Holy Spirit or the light of Jesus Christ shining through them. No, the people of God are set apart because of their wealth and well-being. Under this belief system, paying cash for a new car and getting a clean bill of health from the doctor are the two most effective tools of evangelism.
This kind of false teaching is nothing new. Paul fought against it nearly 2000 years ago.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 (ESV)
But it wasn’t just words for Paul. It was a way of life.
Early in his ministry Paul was beaten and thrown into jail in a place called Philippi. His body was bound. And it was also broken. To apply Gloria Copeland’s theology, Paul allowed this to happen because of his lack of faith.
But while Paul and Silas, his ministry partner, were in jail they demonstrated anything but a lack of faith.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25 (ESV)
God eventually sent an earthquake that released Paul from his cell. But we are mistaken if we believe that Paul knew that this was going to happen. Not long before, Stephen and James were put to death for their devotion to Christ. Paul knew that he could certainly be the next man in line.
But he sang anyway.
He sang because he believed the promise that no matter what happened, Jesus was still in charge. He sang because he knew that, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Christians aren’t set apart by their lack of suffering. We are, however, set apart by how we respond to that suffering. And just like the other prisoners in that jail, people are watching and listening.
Many, many great Christians with strong faith still experience trials. Trials that seem unbearable. Every Sunday morning, I worship with some of them.
Before I get up to preach, we sing songs together. When I look straight ahead, I can see our choir. There are people in our choir who are sick. Others have family members who are hurting. And not one of them knows what will happen tomorrow.
The same is true for all of the people sitting behind me. People suffering through broken relationships. People waiting for test results. People with no idea what the future holds.
My church isn’t full of perfectly healthy people whose only worry is what to do with all of their extra money.
Just like the rest of the world, our bodies suffer.
Just like the rest of the world, our minds wander towards worry.
Just like the rest of the world, we face trials and uncertainty.
But, just like Paul and Silas, we sing anyway.
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Habakkuk 3:17-19 (ESV)