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When You Are Ill
February 8, 1976

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

Luke 17:11-18

A week ago Friday, a Stockton woman who had been having difficulty was told by her doctor that on Monday she would be admitted to the hospital where he would administer shock treatments to her heart because of her erratic heartbeat. The next day, Saturday, the church group which met on Saturdays in a United Methodist Church in Stockton prayed for her. Sunday they prayed for her. A few people went to a conference last weekend where she was again prayed for. A group which met Sunday evening in that church prayed for her. A friend in the church called her on the telephone and over the phone they prayed together. The woman said that while they were praying together, she felt a warm, peaceful feeling fill her. On Monday when she went to the doctor and the hospital, she was released and the doctor apologized for making her come in because she had a “new” heart with little resemblance between the two tests on Monday and Friday. 

We’re all interested in health. The healing of the ten lepers by Jesus, depicted in our window today, gives us an occasion to look at this topic. I was so interested that this week I got the flu! Like almost every other issue in our country these days, we are constantly being bombarded with conflicting views. On every hand, we are pressured to believe this or to believe that—from the American Medical Association, the Federal Food and Drug Administration, health food faddists, vitamin enthusiasts, chiropractors, acupuncture, and professional faith healers. We’re constantly bombarded with conflicting views. So this morning, let’s look at the Bible and the experience of some biblical people, and apply it to this most interesting topic. Of course, in 20 minutes I can’t do justice so what I leave out, you will understand. 

As I study the Bible, I believe it gives us principles for health and wholeness, and not prescriptions for illness. The emphasis in the Bible is on health and not illness. The Bible urges us to work at keeping well and not with how to get well once one is sick. The emphasis is on health, rather than illness and disease. It’s a positive approach. It’s a preventive approach. I’ve heard of some doctors who are experimenting with getting patients to pay them to keep them well. They pay a monthly fee to the doctor to keep them well. And when they are ill, when they require some kind of attention, when they are hospitalized, he receives no extra pay, and they pay nothing more, which gives him a financial incentive to keep them well. That’s the biblical approach—positive preventive medicine. 

There are three biblical principles. Number one, keep the body well. Take care of the body God has given us. The Old Testament is strong at this point. Moses can rightly be called the father of preventive medicine. We read some of the laws in the Book of Leviticus. We laugh, we shake our heads because some of them are awkward, clumsy, laughable. But those laws when properly studied were marvels. Considering the times in which they were written, they are stupendous in their knowledge of science, nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, medicine. They were way ahead of their time. For example, sanitation. It wasn’t too many years ago in our own civilization, in Western Europe that epidemics were not related to sanitation. They didn’t realize that those horrible epidemics were spread by poor sewage disposal. But the ancient Hebrew people in the wilderness, as they journeyed from Egypt to Canaan, took 40 years to develop themselves into a nation. They organized laws, principles, codes, values, and formed a people. Under the leadership of Moses, they devised a system of sanitation (washing hands, for example ). They had laws on food from which we can learn much yet today. The laws on what to eat, what was clean, what was unclean were a considerable advance above the those of their neighboring tribes. We laugh at the Jews’ abstinence from pork. But the eating of pork in a warm climate where there was no refrigeration was dangerous. The parasitic worm transported through the pig causes a painful disease. Every cook here knows that pork must be properly cooked, or we will get sick. 

The ancient Hebrews were vegetarians primarily, and taught and preached the eating of vegetables, and the animals that were called clean, the animals that were fit to eat, were animals who ate vegetation. Therefore, they did not transmit a lot of the diseases that came from animals who fed on things other than vegetation. The principles of storing food, the principles of cooking food, the laws about proper water to drink are really marvels. 

The emphasis in the Old Testament was to keep the body well. Treat it well. Treat it carefully and it will take care of you. We Americans have forgotten that. We think food is something we throw in our stomach when it gurgles—down the mouth. Whatever is handy, throw it in to keep us from gurgling and help us enjoy whatever we’re eating. We have forgotten the relationship between food and health, between food, the proper diet, and our bodies. The garbage we throw into our bodies is disgraceful. Studies have shown that Seventh Day Adventists seem to be healthier than the rest of us. Seventh Day Adventists seem to have less heart disease and cancer because they try to follow the Old Testament laws on food and what is proper to eat. 

Another major emphasis of the Old Testament on keeping the body well was the Sabbath. We moderns do not believe in keeping the Sabbath. They were strict in enforcing the principle that the body needs a day of rest, a complete change of attitude, change of stance, change of style, a day of rest. They believed the land needed rest. They knew about crop rotation and the need to rest the land long before our scientists. But you and I, we push ourselves. We don’t rest. We don’t take care of our bodies. The wagon trains as they moved westward many years ago proved that the wagon trains that rested one day a week arrived at their destination in better spirits, better attitudes, healthier animals, healthier people and sooner than those trains which pushed every day. 

We do not keep our bodies well. We eat starch. We eat processed foods, which means that the nutrition is processed out of it. We eat white flour which has the nutrition processed out of it. We eat white sugar, we eat breakfast cereal, we pour all kinds of garbage into our system. We do not rest ourselves, we do not rest our bodies, we do not rest our minds and then we wonder, we get resentful. We get irritated when we get sick. And we say, “God, why don’t you heal me?” We expect a miraculous cure but we haven’t taken care of our body. It’s like getting a brand new car, driving it without oil, and then sending it back to Detroit and expect a new one. God has given us our bodies, a beautiful mechanism in which our soul can walk around, and we mistreat it. We wonder why we get ill and then expect a miracle. The Old Testament principle: keep the body well, and you will not need to be healed until you die. 

The Bible has a very healthy attitude about death. This body does deteriorate, this body does decay, and it does die. They said death is good; it is a natural part of life. It is to be accepted. We are anxious and afraid of death. The emphasis in the Bible is on the quality of life and not quantity. We have that all backwards. Our emphasis is on quantity of life—spending our time, money, research, energy to extend life regardless how miserable, regardless how unhappy, regardless of how unsuccessful it is. You don’t have to walk too far in any direction until you see examples of people who would really rather die than live the way they live. The emphasis should be on quality, wholesome living, and accepting death when it comes. Let the body die when it is ready to die. If we really believe in eternal life, life with God in eternity is far better than an extended life of pain and misery. Keep the body well is the first principle. 

The second principle, taught by Jesus, is to keep the mind and emotions well. Jesus, far ahead of modern psychiatry, saw the relationship between bad attitudes and disease; between hate, unresolved anger, resentment, bitterness, and sick bodies. There is a high correlation between the way we think and how we deal with our emotions with that of our body’s health. Bad attitudes and poor thinking can block, hinder, create obstacles to good health. 

Keep your body well, keep your mind and emotions well, and thirdly, let the Spirit in, let the Spirit move. Depicted In our window today, Jesus healed ten lepers. As he sent them on their way the caption reads, “Go your way. Your faith has made you well.” There is a correlation between faith, God’s healing spirit and health. I’d like to use some different terminology. We’ve heard Bible words so much they have a tendency to go in one ear and out the other. I’d like to use some different words and express this concept a different way. I believe I’m true to the original meaning. Another way of saying this concept is to let the energy flow. We each have energy, we each give energy. If we had the proper eyesight or the proper spectacles to see, we would see emanating from each of us a force that reaches out to people, an energy that’s unrelated to space, an energy that can flow across thousands of miles. Haven’t you at times wanted to telephone someone; you picked up the telephone and they were telephoning you. You communicated across space with extrasensory perception. Those who have developed such powers can can do a great deal. 

We have an energy that flows. And when this energy is blocked, we become starved and we hunger. When bad attitudes cripple, stifle, obstruct, we become hungry. Many people are starved for God because they’re not allowing the power, the energy, the force of God to flow through them—his holiness, his health, his peace, his love. And when it’s obstructed, there’s starvation. There’s hunger, there’s illness. Prayer opens such channels. Prayer opens and allows energy to flow. When the prayers of many people are focused, when the energies of several people are focused in one direction, there is power there, such as experienced by the Stockton woman who was healed. We have a flow of energy that catches up God’s energy and allows God’s healing power to flow. Prayer is a powerful thing. 

When a person is open in prayer, when a person humbles himself, acknowledges his dependence on God in humility and openness, and asks God, gets in touch with God, the energy flows and he finds his life changed, warm, beautiful and whole. The emphasis is on health. The emphasis is on good quality living. Keep your body well. Keep your mind and emotions well and let the energy flow.

© 1976 Douglas I. Norris