As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.
Galatians 4:13-14 (NIV)
God brought physical healing to many through the prayers of the apostle Paul (e.g. Acts 28:8). But sometimes even those with the gift of healing remain sick. This was true for Paul when he was in Galatia. Evidently, in the Bible, God the healer does not always physically heal every earthly illness.
The reality of sickness was true in New Testament times as it is today. For example, 2 Timothy 4:20 records that Trophimus, one of Paul’s full-time Christian missionaries could not make the journey because of a sickness. The illness is reported without any theological surprise or shock. It seems to have just been one of those realities of life that occur to all of us sometimes.
Even the young pastor Timothy had “frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23). In other words, he often fell sick! And instead of telling Timothy to pray more or exercise more faith to claim God’s healing, Paul tells Timothy to take a little wine to soothe his stomach troubles. The apostle Paul did not think it un-spiritual to suggest a very human act of drinking wine in order to promote physical well-being. I am sure that he would gladly endorse the work of human doctors and medicine as part of God’s healing and soothing process also.
Paul was grateful that the Galatian Christians did not grumble or despise having to look after him when he was ill. Let us be grateful to God for doctors, nurses, family and friends who do not despise us when we fall sick. Instead, they do what they can to bring God’s healing and comfort when we fall ill.
Bishop Dr Gordon Wong was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2020.
He served as President of the Trinity Annual Conference from 2012-2020.