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Drugs or prayer?

Sometime ago there was a news story told about “extremely religious” parents who allowed their 11-year-old daughter to die of a treatable form of diabetes by seeking healing through prayer instead of seeking medical treatment.

This is obviously a tragedy for that family, who are left with grief and remorse.

In this day, should Christians always seek medical treatment or just pray or do both?

Is it appropriate for Christians to take medicine? Does taking medicine show a lack of faith in God’s ability to heal? Are some medicines not supposed to be taken by Christians? Are Christians who avoid medicine doing the right thing?

Before you switch to another page, this will not be a sermon, but an attempt to address an issue that is real and no doubt causes feelings of guilt.

In my practice I have seen persons professing Christianity struggle with embarrassment when they are prescribed medicine. In fact Chuck Swindoll observed: “When we need the assistance of trained people, such as a mechanic or a plumber, we have no hesitation in calling them, so why should we have a different attitude to doctors?

“Then there are those who have no hesitation in calling a doctor, but would feel they had let the Lord down if they consulted a psychologist.”

Some Christians believe that Christians should not visit doctors, but rely solely upon prayer for healing (A minority thank goodness). They claim (falsely) that all healings in the Bible were strictly the result of prayer.

It is true that the gospels contain many examples of Jesus (and even the apostles) healing the sick and lame. However, the healings of Jesus were given as a sign of the legitimacy of His claim of Messiahship, since the Old Testament said that the Messiah would heal the blind and the deaf.

Despite claims to the contrary, there were physicians at the time the New Testament was written. Luke, one of the writers of the Gospels was a physician.

Jesus seemed to know that doctors could heal people, since He said: “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” This gave legitimacy to medicine as a healing art. Jesus also quoted from the proverb, “Physician, heal yourself!,” indicating that physicians of the time were healing people.

The Greek word for “physician” is derived from the root verb iaomai, which mean “to cure” or “heal,” indicating that a physician’s job in the first century was to heal people.

Some Christians go to the complete opposite extreme, claiming that the healing gifts died with the apostles. Neither extreme position seems correct, since it seems likely that God does heal some people to demonstrate His love and power.

However, in addition to His miraculous healing power, God has called some people to be doctors to minister healing to others.

Christianity is supposed to be a belief system based on the trusting of God to positively influence ones earthly existence. There are scriptures deposited in the Christian Bible that defend this world view.

Therefore it would seem logical, that if one is to adopt such a world view, then whatever tool or person God uses to affect a situation, one has to adopt an attitude of surrender and trust, otherwise known as faith. Please note that the term blind faith was not used, as faith is based on fact, and not assumptions.

If the fact is that antibiotics destroy bacteria, then if you are prescribed such, taking the prescription cannot suggest that one has no faith in God to heal. It should suggest that God will use what He likes concerning what is beneficial for you.

A person who is lethargic could be downright lazy, or he/she could have a medical condition such as an iron deficiency. Only an expert can with certainty tell the difference between a lazy child and a sick child. Suppose you get it wrong and believe that someone low in iron is simply bone lazy, when in reality they are trying their utmost and are deeply concerned about their low performance.

Quoting Bible verses at them, telling them to get motivated and stop being lazy, would not only be unhelpful, the effect would be cruel. They need iron, not a verbal whipping or a prayer session.

I have, after working a 12 hour shift, gone to a series of nightly church services and stayed awake long enough to hear the visiting evangelist declare that the Lord told them that someone was always sleeping in the night service and needed prayer. Using my God given common sense I was able to determine that I really needed to be home after such long stints at work.

Consider a person who is depressed. It could be that they simply need a change of attitude. Or it could be that, like a person low in iron, his condition is not a product of his thinking, but due to a chemical imbalance in the body that makes him feel as if a dark cloud fogs his life.

Only an expert can accurately discern between someone who simply needs to lift their game and someone with a medical condition. Just as the average person would be a fool to take out a hammer and think he can use it to fix his computer, so it would be foolish to think we could fix something as complex as the human brain by casting out demons.

Urging a person with medically induced depression to be positive is no more helpful than urging a person with an iron deficiency to get motivated. The physical deficiency needs to be addressed. And if you refuse to do this and remain under par, aren’t you in danger of testing God? Antidepressants should restore a person’s health, correcting chemical imbalances in the body, just like taking an iron supplement. Because antidepressant treatment is individual unfortunately, there can be side effects for some individuals to some treatments.

I saw an instructive piece on the net, whilst researching this article and I ask your forbearance as I reproduce it. It was taken from a article titled The use of Medicine and Doctors, written by Grantley Morris.

Pastor Mark Deckard e-mailed me in response to this webpage and raised some interesting points. He said how he has met Christians who reject the medical profession but end up putting their faith in people who are into alternative medicine and happen to be Christian. It is no more spiritual to put one’s faith in supposedly “natural cures” than in proven medical ones.

People are free to do this, of course, but let’s not think it any more “Christian” than using traditional medicine, unless in a particular, rare instance someone received clear, divine guidance to do so.

I dare not try to put Almighty God in a box by thinking it impossible for Him to lead someone to disregard currently accepted medical wisdom. After all, the Lord of universe knows a bit more than any doctor. Nevertheless, if we feel led to reject medical advice, I think it right to urge extreme caution and ensure we are truly hearing from God and not being swayed by someone with his/her own agenda, or influenced by our own fears/prejudices.

Mark’s comments are interesting because he is a firm believer in the supernatural. In fact, he told me he has written a book titled, Speak To The Sky: Unleashing Christ’s Authority Over Destructive Weather and believes in the power of God to save entire nations from deadly storms that are headed their way.

In his e-mail he wrote:

As a pastor, I have prayed for a lot of sick folks and seen many miracles, but also seen medical science work a lot as well.

One woman had cancer and decided she would be healed by God, but sought out a Christian alternative medicine therapist. Traditional medicine was a racket, in her view. I felt a growing concern that she was playing a dangerous game with the devil — the one he tried to get Jesus to play. It goes like this: “Let’s see how much faith you really have. Jump off this cliff.”

I quickly realised that she did not want my caution or counsel. She just wanted my support and agreement. To suggest otherwise was offensive to her.

Her cancer grew worse. But she kept paying for the quack treatments and relying on nutritional regimens to chase her cancer out, while claiming that God was going to miraculously heal her and she would show those chemo/radiation fanatics (cancer experts) that their treatment was worse than the disease.

She eventually moved about an hour away to be close to her ducktor (quack, quack). Months later her husband showed up on my doorstep needing counsel. He told me how he had supported his wife and believed her way.

Then he confided that they were absolutely broke from this alternative treatment expense that no insurance company would touch. In the meantime, the cancer was invading her entire body.

A traditional cancer doctor had told them they were stupid for going on like this. “What should we do?” he asked.

I said: “Go and do what the doctors tell you to do.”

So, a year after her initial diagnosis, they submitted to the chemo and radiation. Sometime later the word came to me by a mutual friend that she was in complete remission and was totally healed. Two weeks later she was dead. She had simply told everyone a false report in desperate faith. She had let the cancer run for so long all treatments were a dim hope of effect.

I am a total believer in God’s promise of divine healing. But I am also a total believer in the gift of medical science. The two are not in competition! (My emphasis)

James said in chapter 1:16: “Do not be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Divine healing is the perfect gift; medical science is the good gift. Every miracle I have seen took place in the midst of receiving medical care.

In fact, I have come to believe that a person’s attitude toward doctors can have an impact on whether they experience a miracle of healing. The reason is that trained medical professionals are a form of authority by virtue of their gift and their mission.

Remember when the Centurion recognised Jesus’ authority and his servant received healing? Recognition of human authority and respect for that authority puts us in alignment with God. Paul further established this in Romans 13. Needless to say, God did not condition our respect for authority on the authority figures’ faith in God, but on their position of authority.

Just the other day I had an encounter that further reinforced this. A pastor friend relayed his disdain for doctors and medicine and said the only way he would ever see one is if God spoke to him and told him to.

He then said that years earlier he was out in the woods working and suddenly felt a wetness in his pants. Upon checking, he had passed a significant amount of blood. He told the ministers listening how he said, “Okay God, let’s do this thing … heal it … because I don’t have time for this.”

He passed blood for four days and ignored it because he did not need a doctor; he had God’s Word. After the fourth day of bleeding the Lord told him: “Go to the doctor!” He did. But he was very belligerent and disrespectful to them. He acted as though it was beneath him to have to be there.

Here was a team of people educated and dedicated to saving lives and he was talking to them like a bunch of chumps who don’t deserve his time. Fortunately, they caught the cancer in time and he survived. When he proudly relayed to the group his attitude and speech towards the doctors and nurses I realised why he did not get his miracle. He was rebellious and bitter and proud.

The people I have seen get miracle healing are always thankful and appreciative and, yes, trusting of doctors, because they know that doctors are one of the good gifts of the Great Physician. I also believe that God’s power begins where our ability ends. When we do everything we can do, we can fully expect God to do what only he can do.

With correct guidance, the taking of medicine is not as scary as we think, your pharmacist is willing and ready to assist, without prejudice or judgment. Your pharmacist is not interested in what sin could have caused you to develop diabetes or hypertension — our interest is that you get better or are better able to manage your disorder.

Yes this article was written for the believer who has doubts where medicine and the doctor are in the scheme of God. God made the doctors, pharmacists, nurses, dieticians, physical and occupational therapists (ah leff out anybody?)

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