Faith and Medicine
by Tony Cooke
Question: I was diagnosed with a certain disease and have been taking medicine for that condition. I have recently been learning about Divine healing. I am very excited about what I am hearing, and I am trusting God for healing. My question has to do with the medicine I am taking. Should I discontinue my medication as an act of faith? Is taking medicine a contradiction to my faith? I am a little bit confused as to what I should do along these lines.
Answer: The questions you present are very good ones. Actually, many people have had questions and experienced confusion about these very same issues. It seems that no matter what subject is being discussed, people tend to go to one extreme or another. It is like a driver who can’t keep his car out of the ditches on either side of the road. On the subject of faith and medicine, some people teach that God no longer heals, or if He does, it is very rare. They state that the age of miracles has passed away. Others go to the opposite extreme and state that not only does God still heal, but that it is a sin for a Christian to use doctors or take medicine in pursuit of healing.
The problem with the first teaching is obvious. It denies the Bible truth that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The Bible simply does not teach that God’s power was to be relegated to a certain time frame. We serve the same Jesus who lived and healed nearly 2,000 years ago. We have the same Holy Spirit who anointed Him to do the wonderful works He did. The compassion and mercy of God have not changed, and neither have His promises.
The danger of the second extreme is also clear. Much reproach has been brought to the Body of Christ by individuals who have preached against doctors and against the use of medicine by Christians. I have collected a number of articles from newspapers over the years relating how people have suffered and even died needlessly because of this type of approach. In some cases, parents have withheld medical help from their children on religious grounds. Beyond the public spectacle and the physical suffering this creates, many people have suffered emotionally and spiritually because of the guilt, shame, and condemnation heaped upon them by those who have embraced and advocated this erroneous ideology.
I believe it is unfortunate that some people have chosen to pit medicine against faith as though they were somehow adversarial. I believe these two forces should be seen as complementary, not as contradictory. After all, both your faith and the doctor are aiming at the same goal: your wholeness and healing. My persuasion is that medicine and faith can be integrated. They do not need to be isolated from one another.
Please consider the following as you seek to resolve this issue in your own thinking:
1. In Luke 10:30-37, Jesus related a story about a man we call "The Good Samaritan." In this story, the Samaritan man came across an individual who had been beaten badly and was seriously injured. He treated the man’s injuries with oil and wine (the best medicines he had access to in that day) and bandaged his wounds. Further, he made sure the man had time to recuperate and recover from his injuries. Jesus commended that man for his merciful actions, and said that his was an example worth emulating. Apparently Jesus was not against the use of medicine when it was necessary.
2. Proverbs 3:27 says, "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so." There are times where we have something at our disposal that is good and helpful. The Bible tells us when we have the means, the resources, and the wherewithal to do good, we should not withhold it from the person in need. Would the principle conveyed in this Scripture apply when a parent has access to medicine that will help an ailing child? I think so.
3. In the Septuagint version (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) of Proverbs 18:9, we read: "He who does not use his endeavors to heal himself is brother to him who commits suicide." This is a powerful verse! In this, we see that God expects us to do what we can do to help ourselves. If you accidentally put your hand on a hot stove, you will instinctively and quickly pull your hand away. Why? When God designed us as human beings He built instincts within that cause us to do whatever we can to protect ourselves and keep ourselves safe. A person would have to override his God-given instincts to not do what he could to help himself.
4. 1 John 3:17 says, "But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?" The Amplified Bible here refers to "…resources for sustaining life…" While John may not have been speaking specifically of medicine here, I believe the principle still applies.
5. The Apostle Paul advocated the use of something "natural" for a chronic physical problem that was experienced by his young assistant, Timothy. 1 Timothy 5:22 says: "No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for your stomach’s sake, and your frequent infirmities." The New International Version Bible Commentary says this about Paul’s comment: "Apparently for medicinal purposes, Timothy is told not to restrict himself to drinking water but to ‘use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.’
6. Ask yourself the question: "Who gave the doctors and researchers the wisdom to be able to develop medicines and treatments that help the sick?" I believe it was God Himself.
7. Remember that faith does not imply denying the existence of a problem. David did not deny the existence of Goliath. He believed that God would help him overcome that challenge. In the same way, trusting God for healing does not mean that we deny the existence of a physical problem. When Paul’s friend, Epaphroditus, was sick, Paul was very realistic about the situation. He did not play word games and deny the existence of the problem. He said, "For indeed, he was sick almost unto death, but God had mercy on him" (Philippians 2:27a). Some people have gotten into trouble because they thought that it was an act of faith to deny the existence of a problem.
8. Keep in mind that Paul said we are transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2), not by the removing of the mind. God is not against people using good sense when dealing with the challenges of life. It seems good to me that when a challenge comes, to hit it with every weapon we have available. Don’t neglect the practical and the physical by focusing only on the spiritual, but neither should you neglect the spiritual while trusting only in the practical and the physical. Use the good that the world has to offer, and benefit from whatever help is available in the natural realm, but make sure that you are trusting God first and foremost.
If you use medicine or have surgery, continue to trust God, and look to Him as your Great Physician. Use good sense in bringing every tool available to your aid. Trust God to not only work through the natural means available, but trust Him to work above and beyond whatever help man can offer.
In closing, let me offer a few pastoral thoughts. In more than three decades of ministry, I have seen many people healed as a result of faith and prayer. I believe strongly in God’s goodness and His mercy, and I believe He is still in the healing business.
I have also seen situations where it seems people operated in foolishness or presumption by electing to disregard or neglect medical advice. I have seen situations where a medical condition had advanced to an acute, critical stage that could have been taken care of had the person acted earlier. I believe it is very unfortunate when a person neglects available care or a prescribed treatment, especially when a condition is at a very treatable stage.
As a general rule I encourage people to work with their doctor, to receive medical care, and to follow their doctor’s counsel. At the same time I encourage people to trust in God and look to Him as their Healer. Saturating yourself with God’s Word and God’s promises concerning healing is the way to build your faith and to keep your faith strong. Your physician may or may not believe in Divine healing, but he can tell when a change has taken place in your body. Whether this change occurs by natural means, by supernatural intervention, or by a combination of the two, your doctor can recognize this and modify or discontinue whatever medications or treatments he has prescribed for you. In my opinion, this approach reflects the wisdom of God. It does not put faith and medicine in opposition to one another, but integrates them into working together for the good of the people whom God loves.