Fear, Faith and Medicine

Where is the line between fear and caution? With the Coronavirus scare and the ramifications of life and death it poses, those in the faith circles must contemplate the tension between holding to a belief in God’s healing power and a desire to seek medical treatment.

Having worked in the medical industry for a few years, I’ve navigated through this topic often with friends. First, let me say that seeking medical help, whether it is a vaccine, medicinal therapy, or psychological treatment, doesn’t indicate a lack of faith. Anyone who advocates this stance is on a slippery slope. Often, pseudo-religious proponents will point to the abuses in the pharmaceutical world to validate an abandonment of modern-day medicine. I’ve also heard the other side. I’ve heard doctors voice objections to the corruption they’ve found among faith healers. Both groups are pointing squarely at the true problem. People are broken. Anyone or any system that is given absolute confidence will prove to abuse those who trust in it.

As Ravi Zacharias once said, “Absolute power, absolutely corrupts.” Trusting a person, a profession, or a place of authority in your life will not remain healthy if you cast aside your ability to think in the relationship. People make mistakes, and their faults will wound you. I’m not saying we should live in suspicion of the medical system or the faith system, but we can’t check our brains at the door.

For example, let’s say it is discovered that eating an apple will give you three days of immunity from the Coronavirus. What would happen? The price of apples would skyrocket as the global demand would increase. Apple companies would profit like never before. Apple pills would hit the shelves like a tidal wave, and every capitalist would know where to invest! Of course, this is a little exaggerated, but not far from the truth in light of the great toilet paper rush of 2020!

Most would have no crisis of faith in eating an apple. However, eating apples out of fear could cause a fault line in your faith. If fear is driving you, you will start stockpiling apples. Your conversations would be around whether the apple diet works, or whether there is a conspiracy of apple farmers against other fruit farmers. All joking aside, your consumption of apples would be fear-driven. The challenge to your faith is that you could subtly shift your heart, from trusting Jesus as your healer to placing an unhealthy trust in apples.

In the same situation, you could go out and buy a few apples and rest in knowing God has given you wisdom. You could apply the knowledge you have every three days by eating an apple. In each scenario, the eating of apples isn’t the issue. You can essentially take the same behavior of Apple eating and make it a doorway for peace or fear to enter your mind. What you believe as you eat is the key.

In regards to the use of drugs to heal one’s body, I’ve had preachers tell me how they avoid them because the root word for “drug” comes from the Greek word “Pharmakeia.” The term indicates the use of “sorcery and witchcraft.” The negative association of this word seems to invoke a superstitious response rather than a rational one. However, the word pharmakeia has multiple meanings based on its use. It can refer to magic, but it very often refers to the practice of medicine or what might be called “healing arts” (see Liddell & Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon). It does not apply to both of these things at the same time. It depends on the context. In the New Testament, the word pharmekeia occurs three times (Gal 5:19-21; Rev 9:21; 18:23). Each time, it is translated as ‘sorcery’ or ‘magic,’ and it is something that is spoken of in negative terms. The translators have chosen this definition because of the context. This does not mean that every possible meaning of the word phramekeia is condemned.

Is medicine condemned in the New Testament? No. Two verses point to a healthy view of the practice of medicine. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Matt 9:12; Mark 2:7; Luke 5:31). Why would He say the sick have need of a physician if medicinal therapy is condemned? In Colossians 4:14, Paul brings greetings from “Luke, the physician.” Why would Luke’s profession as a physician be mentioned if it were viewed as inappropriate or equivalent to sorcery? 

With that being said, what approach is healthy to medicine. First, use your God-given mind. Your health is your responsibility. Don’t hand over the keys of your health to a doctor, a preacher, or a plumber. You should care for yourself within the guidelines of moral and judicial laws. Second, ask questions and educate yourself. In your question asking, ask Holy Spirit what you should do when you are presented with medicinal or natural treatments. Finally, don’t let fear navigate your decisions. As God speaks to you about how to care for your health, or the ones in your care, obey in faith. This means do what God directs you to do and don’t be swayed by the fear-mongering.

Let me close with this story from our home. About three weeks ago, our oldest came down with something. He had a fever. We figured he needed some rest, so we let him stay home from school. I went into his room and prayed for healing over his body. The next day he went to school. Midway through the morning, we got a call from the school nurse saying he was spiking with fever again. We brought him home, and I was a little dismayed. I asked Holy Spirit what we should do. He responded, “Let him rest.” The following day the entire school was dismissed because so many kids were getting sick with the flu. I panicked a little and asked the Lord what we should do. I got the same response. I went into my kid’s room on the third night and prayed for healing. During this time, he took a few Tylenols and did a couple of things to bring down his fever, but we stood in the direction we received. The next morning he was completely healed.

I know many medical conditions extend beyond a three-day fever, and healing isn’t a light matter to address. However, the principles remain the same. You and I must hear God’s voice, whether we are dealing with a fever, or Coronavirus, or cancer. At times the Lord will direct you to go to your family doctor. At times He won’t. Your reliance should be in His guidance and nothing less.

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