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Monday, October 18, 2010

Sick of Sin

Some were fools through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!
 (Psalm 107:17-22 ESV)

Sometimes we get sick because of something that happens to us. Every year during flu season, people get sick basically because they breathed the wrong air. You might get sick because you ate something that you didn't know was too old for safety, or because of the genes your ancestors passed on to you, or because you stepped on something sharp by mistake, or any number of reasons. But sometimes we get sick because of something we did ourselves. Ever get stomach pains because you ate too much, or too fast, or a lot of something you should have only eaten a little bit of? Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States not only have stomach cramps, but are dangerously obese because they have uncontrolled eating habits. People are in the hospital with cancer in their lungs because of decades of cigarette use. People have injuries because they got distracted in the car and caused an accident. People get diseases that are only transmitted through careless, risky sexual behaviors which are warned against, not only by the Word of God, but by medical science. It's easy to get sick through no fault of your own, but it's just as easy to get sick because of something that is your fault.

Psalm 107 presents four mini-stories about the kinds of people God has redeemed from trouble. Verses 4-9 are about people who were lost in the desert and couldn't find civilization, but they cried out to God and He led them out of the desert. Verses 10-16 tell the story of some people who had been put in prison because they had rejected God's direction, but they cried out to the Lord from prison and God delivered them. And verses 23-30 tell the story of people who encounter a huge storm at sea, but they cry out to the Lord and He delivers them. Verses 17-22, though (quoted above), caught my attention. They describe people who have become ill "through their sinful ways" and "because of their iniquities." By purely human standards, these people are getting what's coming to them. They're getting what they deserve. They've brought this sickness on themselves, and now it's time to pay the piper.

But these people, who had been so unwise that it brought sickness into their lives, suddenly did something wise: they cried out to the Lord. Did God say, sorry losers, but you brought this sickness on yourself, so you're going to have to lie in the bed you made? No, God did not! "He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction." Just like Jesus did for the centurion, God healed them with only a word. Did you notice whose word we're talking about? His word. But whose destruction are we talking about? It's their destruction. God replaced what they had (destruction) with what He had (His word and His healing). That reminds me of another switcheroo God has pulled: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23 ESV) We can't earn eternal life; the only wages we can earn are death. Jesus took the wages we've earned—death—and gave us, free of charge, the wages he had earned—eternal life. I see a pattern here: we get the better end of this deal every time!

I also notice another pattern. When we cry out to God in distress and desperation, God sends what we need, not what we deserve. Did the sinful person deserve healing? No, he deserved sickness. Did you and I deserve eternal life? Nope... our wages were well-earned. But God is able and willing to give us not what we deserve, but what we cry out for. God is a music lover; He wants to receive our "sacrifices of thanksgiving" and hear our "songs of joy!" So if you're sick because of abusing your body some way, swallow your pride and swallow your guilt right now, and cry out to God. I wish I could say that there will definitely not be any consequences of your actions, because there may still be some challenges that you have to face in your body as a result of what you've done, but what I can say is that if you will cry out to God, God will apply His deliverance to your situation!

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