God allows believers to get sick for many reasons and it is interesting to see that out of all the examples of sickness recorded in the New Testament, SIN is rarely the cause. Let’s look at 5 examples.

1) In 1st Corinthians 11:30-32 we read, “For this REASON many are weak and SICK among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” In earlier verses we read of the specific reason why the Lord was chastening His people, “Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is HUNGRY and another is DRUNK.” Some of the Corinthian believers were in a very sad spiritual state, for before eating the Lord’s Supper they were selfishly having a feast where they let some go HUNGRY while others were getting DRUNK. And to add injury to insult THEY WERE NOT JUDGING THEIR SIN so God stepped in and judged them by allowing some to get SICK and some even SLEPT (i.e. died).

2) In John 11:1, 3-4 we read, “Now a certain man was SICK, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha…therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is SICK.’ When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This SICKNESS is not unto death, but FOR THE GLORY OF GOD, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’” In this well-known story Lazarus was sick and he eventually died, but it was not for a sin he had committed, but “for the glory of God.” We know that Jesus came and raised Lazarus from the dead (verses 38-44) and thus “the Son of God was glorified through it.” This miracle served to strengthen Mary and Martha’s faith (verses 20-27) and “many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him” (verse 45).

3) In John 9:1-3 we read, “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was BLIND from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, WHO SINNED, this man or his parents, THAT HE WAS BORN BLIND?’ Jesus answer, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but THE WORKS OF GOD SHOULD BE REVEALED IN HIM.’” Here is another example of one who is afflicted but not for any sin that was committed but so the “works of God should be revealed in him.” Like our last example, Jesus healed this man of his blindness (see verses 6-7) and it REVEALED THE MIGHTY WORKS OF GOD and brought glory to Him. This “physical sickness and healing” also led to this man being “healed spiritually of his malady of sin” (see verses 35-38).

4) In 2nd Corinthians 12:7 we read, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for THIS REASON, TO KEEP ME FROM EXALTING MYSELF, there was given me A THORN IN THE FLESH, a messenger of Satan to torment me—TO KEEP ME FROM EXALTING MYSELF” (NASB). The Apostle Paul had been taken to heaven and given “visions and revelations of the Lord” (verses 1-4). This could have led to Paul being PROUD AND EXALTING HIMSELF, but to keep Paul humble God allowed Satan to afflict him with “a thorn in the flesh.” We don’t know for sure what this affliction was but God would use it TO PREVENT SIN in His servant. It is very likely that God often uses sickness for this reason.

5) In Philippians 2:25-27 we read, “Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that HE WAS SICK. for indeed her was SICK ALMOST UNTO DEATH; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” Why was he sick? We have the answer in verse 30, “Because for THE WORK OF CHRIST HE CAME CLOSE TO DEATH.” In other words, Epaphroditus had committed no sin but he was sick “for the work of Christ!” He had travelled hundreds of miles from Philippi to Rome to minister to Paul in prison and it was during his tireless and faithful service to the Lord that he had fallen sick. We learn a valuable lesson here, for not only had he not sinned, but he was (in love for the Lord and His servant Paul), willing to hazard his life and yet God still allowed him to become sick. Surely God used his sickness to draw out the hearts of Paul and the Philippians who prayed for his healing and “God had mercy on him” and this served to relieve Paul and the Philippians of their sorrow (verses 27-28).

In closing, it is highly instructive to meditate on these examples and to see the many and varied reasons God has when He allows His people to become sick. There is a tendency on our part (when we see a brother or a sister sick) to judge them and conclude “they must have committed a sin and God is judging them.” This was the mistake of Job’s “three friends” who came down hard on Job by accusing him of some secret sin that led to God afflicting him. But as we have seen there are OTHER REASONS besides sin that moves God to either directly or indirectly cause sickness in the life of His dear people.  (423.1)  (DO)