Any affliction that brings us down to our knees before God is a blessing.
Children are the glory of marriage. Then there is the glory of the first-born and the glory of the last-born. The first-born is given pre-eminence in all things. He gets the best and the biggest portions. He goes out without being chaperoned. He is treated with great respect by his siblings.
The last-born, on the other hand, gets all the attention. What he wants, he gets and he gets it when he wants it. When he cries, his parents pay attention and he knows it. He is likely to be preferred over the other children and is more likely to be spoilt.
Root of bitterness
I was the last-born in a family of five children, nevertheless, I was neglected. I was the last-born, but my brother, Kola, who was two years older than me, got all the attention. He did because he was sickly. At a very early age, he was diagnosed with sickle-cell anaemia. Therefore, I discovered to my great annoyance that the glory of being sickly exceeded the glory of being the last-born.
There were times when I wished I was the one who was sickly. There were times when I wished I would fall terribly sick, just to get my parents really worried and upset. I wished I would fall down and die, so they would regret all the time they had failed to give me the attention I craved.
But I did not die. It was my brother who died. At the age of fourteen, Kola died. After he died, the attention then shifted to me. But I was no longer interested. I sulked for years and rebuffed all entreaties.
Jesus says: “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” (John 6:12). From these fragments of my embittered childhood, I learnt an invaluable lesson about the glory of infirmities. God is the God of the sick. God sent Jesus expressly for the healing of the sick. Jesus says: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Matthew 9:12).
Therefore, if we are not “sick,” we are of less interest to the Great Physician. The glory of the doctor is in the healing of the sick. Therefore, Christians should not be overwhelmed by sickness or sin. We should recognise that the glory of God comes from man’s infirmities. (John 11:4). That means sickness is not a curse. On the contrary, it attracts God’s tender-loving care.
Have you ever been at a church-service where someone boasts he has not been sick for years? What kind of testimony is that? Surely, not falling sick does not make a believer a man of faith. What validates our faith is falling sick and getting healed. At no time does God promise us immunity from sickness. On the contrary, he declares: “I am the Lord who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26).
God created us for his glory. (Isaiah 43:7). A testimony that we never fall sick is not to God’s glory but to ours. Therefore, our boast should be that God healed us and not that we did not fall sick. Indeed, any affliction that brings us down to our knees before God is a blessing.
When Lazarus fell sick, his sisters quickly sent word to Jesus to come and heal him. But rather than come immediately, Jesus delayed. Finally, he said to his disciples: “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” (John 11:14-15).
In effect, when God decided to be good to Lazarus, he allowed him to fall sick and die. Natural men wonder about this kind of goodness. Why would God allow the man he loves to fall sick? Could Jesus not have prevented Lazarus from dying? If he loved Lazarus so much, why did he delay before coming at his hour of need? But the reason why Jesus allowed Lazarus to fall sick and die was so that he could be good to him to a degree that Lazarus could not have imagined before.
Jesus was determined to reveal to Lazarus that he would not only be good to him in life, he would also continue to be good to him even in death. Through his resurrection, Jesus said eloquently to Lazarus that his natural life was far too short for the goodness that he had laid up for him, but that he would need eternity to express it fully. “Therefore, Lazarus, be confident that with long life will I satisfy you, and show you my salvation.”
If Lazarus did not die, his knowledge of Jesus would have been limited. If he did not die, he would not have known that Jesus is not just a healer, but he is also the resurrection and the life. If he did not die, Lazarus would not have seen that glory of God; and neither would his sisters.
Now, the word of God is a living word, and we believers are living stones that are being built up as a spiritual house. So let us put the death and resurrection of Lazarus in a contemporary setting. Jesus wants to give you the abundant life, so he allows you to fall sick. Jesus wants to give you the abundant life, so he allows your business to fail. Or he allows your marriage to break up. Or he allows you to lose your job.
Within the context of the collapse of your life, the Lord now says to you: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die; yet he shall live. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). If you believe, then like Lazarus, he raises your business from the dead, or he heals your marriage, or gives you a better job.
The believer should know that, according to the dynamics of the kingdom of God, God creates the good out of evil. He does not create good out of good. God creates success out of failures. He creates life out of death. He creates wealth out of poverty. If there were no failures there would be no successes. If there were no evil, there would be no good. If there were no darkness there would be no light.
During a Redeemed Church fellowship in the home of Muyiwa and Bimbo Dada, the Lord told me to call out a girl called Waikini. He asked her to sing any praise-song of her choice. After she did, he declared: “I have changed her blood. She no longer has sickle-cell anaemia. Tell her to do a blood-test for confirmation.”
The irony was not lost on me. The same sickness that killed my brother Kola at the tender age of fourteen was healed unceremoniously through a praise-song to the Lord thirty years later. Why did our pastors back then not tell us Jesus heals? “We were a people without understanding; so our Maker had no compassion on us, and our Creator showed us no favour.” (Isaiah 27:11).
Jesus declares: “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).