Divine Healing

James

Divine Healing

July 25th, 1965 @ 10:50 AM

James 5:14-15

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
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DIVINE HEALING

Dr. W. A. Criswell

James 5:14-15

7-25-65    10:50 a.m.

 

On the television, on Channel 11, and on radio, on KIXL, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Divine Healing.  It is an exposition of two verses in the fifth chapter of James, James 5:14-15.

In this long series of messages being prepared and delivered on the Holy Spirit, we have been preaching several times, and next Sunday will be yet again, and the last time, on the emblems of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.  And last Sunday the emblem presented was The Anointing Oil.

Wherever oil is used typically in the Bible, it uniformly and invariably refers to the Holy Spirit.  Oil is a type of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, in presenting the message on oil as a type of the Holy Spirit, we come to this unusual passage, written by the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, the Lord’s brother, James.  And this is what he writes:

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

[James 5:14-15]

Who are these elders of the church?  There are three words in the New Testament that refer to what we call the pastor or the pastors of the church.  One of those words is presbuteros, meaning “elderly,” and it refers to the dignity of the office, the elders of the church.  A second word is episkopos, translated “bishop” in the King James Version, the episkopos; the Greek word means “overseer,” and it refers to the duty of the office.  The third Greek word is poimēn, translated “pastor.”  It actually means “shepherd,” and it refers to the loving nature of the office.

The words are used interchangeably to refer to the same man.  The pastor is a poimēn, he is a shepherd; he is an episkopos, he is a bishop, he overlooks the work; and he is a presbuteros, to be held in reverence and dignity by the congregation.

In the New Testament times there was one church in each of those cities.  Today, we have churches scattered all over, up and down every street, almost in every other block.  But in the New Testament time, there was a church in Jerusalem, there was a church in Antioch, there was a church in Philippi or in Rome.  Those churches were very large.  The church at Jerusalem must have had at least fifty thousand members in it.

When John Chrysostom was pastor of the church in Antioch, he said there were more than one hundred thousand members in the church in Antioch.  They had a multiplicity of pastors, as we have in this large church.  There are several of us ordained ministers who are pastors of the church.  “Now when one is sick,” James writes, who is the pastor, the elder of the church in Jerusalem, “when one is sick, let him call for the elders of the church”; they represent the church, and when they pray it is as the church praying for the sick.

“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick” [James 5:14-15].  That is an actual translation of the Greek word, “shall save the sick,” but it was used in the sense of healing the sick.

When the woman with an issue of blood touched the hem of the garment of our Lord, the Lord turned and said to her, “Thy faith, thy faith hath made thee whole,” the Greek word actually is “has saved thee.”  Then it continues, “And she went away and was made whole from that hour”; the Greek word is “she was saved from that hour” [Matthew 9:20-22].  The meaning of the word is “heal.”  “And the prayer of faith shall heal the sick” [James 5:14], and it is made certain in the next clause: “And the Lord shall raise him up from the sickbed, shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” [James 5:15].

The Greek word for “and” is kai, and it is translated here as though that were kai: “And if he committed sins.”  The Greek word is kan, which is a contraction of kai and ean, “even though”: “and even though he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” [James 5:15].  Doubtless that refers to the fact that so much of illness is caused by sin.  And the pastor of the church at Jerusalem is saying that even if the man’s illness is caused by his sins, his case is not desperate, for the same Lord God who is able to raise him from his bed of illness is also able to wash him clean from his sins.

Now we come to the heart of the passage.  “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall heal the sick” [James 5:15].  Now what is this to anoint one in the Lord?  When you get your commentaries down and read what the scholars of all the ages have written concerning what that means, you will find yourself in a wilderness of differences.  There is hardly any one of them that agrees with any other one of them—the anointing with oil.  For example, Ellicott—and his commentary is one of the finest in the world and is the best in format that I know, and if you want a wonderful commentary, get Ellicott’s commentary on the Bible.  It is about, oh, six volumes, something like that, a wonderful commentary.  Now, Ellicott in his commentary says that this is altogether symbolical, altogether.  The anointing with oil is a symbol of the power of the Holy Spirit of God to heal.

The American Commentary on the New Testament—which is the only one our Baptist people have ever published—the American Commentary on the New Testament says that the anointing is altogether medicinal.  It refers just to the use of medicines, and oil was a medicine as they used it in that day.

The Expositor’s Bible, which is one of the great scholarly works of all time, the Expositor’s Bible says on one page that it is symbolical, turn the page and the same Expositor’s Bible says it is medicinal.  He could not fail.  He is bound to hit it right.  For example, I say, the Expositor’s Bible, volume VI, page 634, says, and I quote from it:

It is altogether beside the mark to suggest that the elders were summoned as people who were specially skilled in medicine.  Of that there is no hint at all, but the context excludes the idea.  If that were in the writer’s mind, why does he not say it once, “Let him call for the physicians”?  The case is one which medicine has already done all that it can, or in which it can do nothing at all.

So on page 634, he says it is altogether symbolical; it has nothing to do with medicine at all.  Now I am going to turn the page in the Expositor’s Bible, and listen to the author as he writes, on page 635, the next page:

What purpose was the oil intended to serve?  Was it medicinal?  Yes.  The reason oil was selected was that it was believed to have healing properties.  That oil was supposed to be efficacious as medicine is plain from numerous passages, both in and outside of Holy Scriptures.

As you study the passage then, from the hands of scholars, all you do is just enter a wilderness of conflicting opinion.

Now if I could sum up all of those opinions it would be this, just taking the whole libraries of what men have written about the Bible and about this passage.  First, there are many, many of them who look upon this anointing with oil as being a means to faith.  It encourages our faith, and by having some outward sign a man is encouraged in his faith.  And that sounds all right.

When our Lord healed the blind man—in two different instances in healing the blind, our Lord spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the blind man’s eyes, and he was healed.  It was an aid to faith [Mark 8:22-25; John 9:6].  When Hezekiah was healed, they made a plaster of figs and put on the boils, and he was healed [2 Kings 20:7].  So there are many who say that the anointing with oil refers to an aid to faith; it helps a man to believe.

All right, the second category: there are many, many commentaries and many scholars who say that it is a matter of medicine.  The anointing oil is a matter of medicine.  Now, there is ample substantiation for that.  For example, in the first chapter of the Book of Isaiah, in the sixth verse, in describing the illness of Israel, he says, “They have not closed up nor bound up the wounds, neither have they mollified the wounds with ointment, with oil” [Isaiah 1:6].

Here Isaiah refers to the medicine of his time when they anointed with oil as a means of healing wounds.  Another instance of that is very familiar to you in the story of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Why, the good Samaritan, I mean, the robber, left on the road to Jericho to die of his wounds, the good Samaritan came by and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine [Luke 10:33-34].  You will find that all through secular history.

For example, Dio Cassius, writing of the plague that attacked the army of Julius Gallus, said that they made a mixture of oil and wine and applied it internally and externally.  When Herod the Great lay in his last illness, Josephus says that they bathed, the physicians of Herod bathed the great king in oil.  When Celsus writes of medicine, he says that in the finest medicine of his day, back there in, almost a contemporary, he says that the rubbing with oil helps to allay fevers and is good for many other ailments.  So when you look upon it as medicinal, you have a great company.

But actually what does the Bible say?  What does it say?  Now leaving out all of these things that men say and that scholars say, and the commentary writes in his opinion, what does the Book say?  Well, it says a very plain and a very certain thing.  It is this: that “the prayer of faith.” not the anointing of oil, but “the prayer of faith shall heal the sick” [James 5:15].

Doesn’t it say that?  Is that not what I have read?  Then let us let God speak what He says.  “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall heal the sick; and the Lord shall raise him up” [James 5:14-15].

“Well, pastor, do you believe in divine healing?”  I do.  I do.  A few weeks ago, late at night, I was walking down one of the corridors in our Baylor University Hospital, and I was stopped in the corridor by a man.  He was in distress because of an illness in his family, and he asked me, he said, “Preacher, do you believe in divine healing?”  I asked him a question back.  “My brother, is there any other kind?  Is there?”

The physician can cut.  He can take his scalpel and open a wound.  But who heals it?  Who closes it together?  Who binds it back in health?  Who does?  The physician can prescribe, and he can give you chemicals, medicines, but who heals?  There never was a doctor, there never will be one, there never was a physician, there never will be one, who can heal.  Only God is able to heal! [Exodus 15:26]. Do I believe in divine healing?  I do!

We have every right and every assurance from the Holy Scriptures to look to God for the healing of our sick bodies.  His very name implies it, says it, avows it, proclaims it.  In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus, the last two verses, the Lord says to His people:

If thou wilt hearken diligently to the voice of the Lord thy God, and will do that which is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee!

[Exodus 15:26]

The Hebrew is, “For I am Jehovah ropheka, I am the Lord that heals”; that is His name, the Great Physician, Jehovah ropheka.  “My name is God Who Heals” [Exodus 15:26].

I turn the pages again.  In the atonement of our Savior, so marvelously, incomparably described by Isaiah in chapter 53, describing the atonement of our Lord, he says, “Surely He hath borne our sicknesses and carried our sorrows” [Isaiah 53:4].  Then when I turn to the eighth chapter of the Book of Matthew, where the apostle describes the fulfillment of that verse, and quotes it.  He says of our precious Lord:

When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with demons: and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick:

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying—

then he quotes Isaiah 53:4—

Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

[Matthew 8:16-17]

A part of the great atoning sacrifice of our Lord was the healing of our bodies; not only the washing away of our sins [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], but the healing of our bodies [Isaiah 53:4].

I know that the Lord heals from the very fact of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the temple of our bodies [1 Corinthians 6:19].  In the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, He is called “the Spirit of life,” the Spirit of life [Romans 8:3], and in the tenth verse of that eighth chapter, “the Spirit of life” [Romans 8:10], and then in the eleventh verse, “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies” [Romans 8:11]—not your dead bodies, not your corpses, but your mortal bodies, these bodies.  The Holy Spirit shall quicken your mortal bodies by the Spirit that dwelleth in you [Romans 8:11].

I know that from the great examples in the Bible of healing in answer to prayer.  Abraham prayed to God for Abimelech, and Abimelech was healed [Genesis 20:17].  Moses prayed to God for Miriam, his sister, who was leprous, and Miriam was healed [Numbers 12:10-15].  Hezekiah turned to God and prayed, and the Lord healed him, and added fifteen years to his life [2 Kings 20:1-6].  And the incomparable text:

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church;

let them pray over him, anointing him with oil . . .

And the prayer of faith shall heal the sick;

and the Lord shall raise him up.

 [James 5:14-15]

Now we come to the next question.  Is it possible, and is it explicable, and is it acceptable for God to use means in healing?  What of the physician, and what of the doctor, and what of the hospital, and what of the means of healing, is that acceptable before God?  When I pray, and when I ask God, is it also right and acceptable for me to use means?  Indeed, yes, yes.  I turn to the thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, and it says:

In those days Hezekiah was sick unto death.  And Isaiah the prophet was sent, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.

And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed and wept sore before the Lord, and begged for a miracle of healing.

Then the Lord said to Isaiah, Go and say to Hezekiah Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayers, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add fifteen years unto thy days.

[Isaiah 38:1-5]

What a marvelous thing, but look at the chapter.  “For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover” [Isaiah 38:21]; praying to God and making a plaster of figs and putting it on the boil, that he might be well, using means also; praying to God and using means also.  That is why so many of these commentators refer to the anointing oil as being medicinal also in its purpose, as well as symbolical of the power of the Holy Spirit to heal us.

I could not but be very interested reading B. H. Carroll’s exposition of this text in [1 Timothy 5: 23]: “Drink no longer water,” he says to young Timothy, “but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”  Isn’t that something?  And B. H. Carroll says that Timothy was a teetotaler.  He wouldn’t even touch wine.  He wouldn’t have it at his house.  He wouldn’t have it in his icebox.  He wouldn’t have it on the shelf.  He just wouldn’t have it, period.  He would have no wine.  So B. H. Carroll says Paul writes to him and says, “Now listen Timothy, it is all right to be a teetotaler and to be a prohibitionist, but don’t forget that alcohol is one of the most vital of all of the necessities in the physician’s world, and to use alcohol for healing is altogether correct.”  Is that right, doctor?  Alcohol, I have been told, is one of the most vital of all of the chemicals known to the apothecary and to the healing profession.  So B. H. Carroll says we are here in an instance, again, of God using means in order to heal; to pray and to use means, medicines and physicians and hospitals and using our highest wisdom in their use, according to the way they did in that day, in the Lord’s day.

Now that brings up this question: does the Lord always heal?  Does He?  The answer is “No.”  The Lord can heal.  The Lord has healed.  The Lord does heal.  But the Lord may not always heal.  He may not.  It may be the Lord’s will that we be taken away, that we be translated.

Moses, in the very prime of life—the Bible says, avows it, points it out, emphasized it: “At a hundred twenty years of age, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” [Deuteronomy 34:7].  That’s what the Bible says.  And yet, having led Israel out of Egypt [Exodus 3:10, 18:1], and through the forty years of the wilderness [Numbers 32:13], and at the very edge of the Promised Land, as he stood there over Jordan [Deuteronomy 34:1-3], ready to go in in triumph to God’s heritage, the Lord said, “Not so, Moses, for thou shalt die and not live” [Deuteronomy 34:4].

And Moses pled with God, “O God, let me live, let me live, let me go over this Jordan.  Please, Lord.”  And so vehement and so importunate was Moses as he pled before God, until the Lord said, “Moses, speak no more to Me of this matter; for thou shalt die, and not live” [Deuteronomy 3:23-26].  And the day came, after he delivered his final Deuteronomic messages, the Lord said, “Now come up here [Deuteronomy 34:1-4].  Now come up here,” and there in the valley of Moab, next to Beth-peor, Moses died [Deuteronomy 34:5]. Moses died and he never entered the Promised Land until he was transfigured with the blessed Savior [Luke 9:28-33].

“Thou shalt die, and not live” [Isaiah 38:1].  God does not always allow length of days; He doesn’t.  Yet when Hezekiah prayed to God, the Lord said, “I have heard your prayers, and I have seen your tears, and I have added unto your days fifteen years” [Isaiah 38:5].

Even the apostles did not have the promiscuous art of healing.  Epaphroditus was sick with Paul in Rome, and the church at Philippi that had sent him heard that he was sick, and they were grieved, and they were in sorrow and distress because of Epaphroditus so ill in Rome [Philippians 2:26-27].  And when the apostle made his last journey to the Eternal City, he wrote to his son Timothy, pastor at Ephesus, he said, “I have left Trophimus at Miletus, sick” [2 Timothy 4:20].  They had not the indiscriminate power of healing.

Well, what then is the Christian’s attitude to be toward illness?  When sickness comes, what shall we do?  First of all, first of all, first of all, admit it, face it, look at it, accept it—this is illness!  And it is the most incomprehensible thing to me, this vast sect of religion that denies the fact of illness.  “We will just hide our heads in the sand like an ostrich and deny its presence.  Why, we just will not be sick.  It is all in your head; it is an illusion, it is a fantasy, it is in your mind, and if you will get it out of your mind, if you will deny its existence, why, there is not any illness, not any at all.”

My first pastorate out of the seminary was in a college town.  There was a state college in the town, and in the state college was a professor of voice, and she belonged to this system of religion that denies illness: “There is no such thing.”  And upon a day her mother, who was a large, heavy woman and a marvelous, sweet Christian member of our First Baptist Church, her mother lost her footing and fell down the entire length of the steps into the concrete basement.

And the daughter rushed down there, and helped up her mother, and said, “Mother, you are not hurt.  You are not hurt.  You are not hurt.  Mother, you are not hurt at all!”  And I went to see the dear mother, lying there in bed, broken up—couldn’t walk, couldn’t get out of bed, black and blue all over—and yet her daughter stand there and say, “You’re not hurt.  You’re not hurt.”

What do you call that kind of mentality?  It has a credulity in it beyond anything that I could imagine.  That poor mother, and I couldn’t do a thing in the world; couldn’t call a doctor—”Don’t believe in doctors”; couldn’t minister to her.  “She’s not hurt.”  Let’s just be honest; even if we are Christians, try it anyway.  See how it feels.  Just be honest before God.  “Lord, I’m sick, sick!  I’ve got the bug.  I’ve got whatever it is I’ve got.”

It’s like that young physician.  He put out his shingle, and the fellow came to him, an old-timer, and said, “I’m sick.”  And the young fellow tried everything he knew how to find out what is the matter with the old-timer, and he couldn’t do it.  And finally he had an inspiration.  He said, “Sir, have you ever had this before?”  And the old-timer said, “Yes.”  And the young doctor said, “Well, you’ve got it again.  That’s it.”  I’m sick.  Admit it.  Admit it.

Then when you are ill, when you are sick, take it to God.  Take it to God, and search your heart and see where did this illness come from.  Did it come from the neglect of God’s laws?  “Is that why I’m sick?  I’ve just neglected the things that I know that I ought to do in order to be well, and the reason I’m sick is because I have neglected God’s laws and rules of health?  Is that why I am sick?”

The doctor said to me, “Now, I notice you go over there to the “Y” all the time.”  I go over there and lift up those dumbbells, the iron kind, and I exercise, and I bend, and I go over there and have to take a bath anyway, so I don’t bathe at home; I bathe at the “Y.”  Well, the doctor said to me, “And you walk around barefooted; don’t you do that.  If you’re going to walk around barefooted, you’re going to pick something off of that floor because there are ten thousand men that walk around those bathroom floors over there in those gym floors.  Now you get you some sandals!

So I asked how much sandals cost, and they cost sixty-nine cents.  Well, I was just going to save me sixty-nine cents.  No need to throw money away, sixty-nine cents.  Costs money to buy sandals.  So I didn’t buy any sandals, and I just walked around the “Y” and on those showers in my bare feet.  Lo and behold, I picked up a wart on my foot, picked up a wart.

Now, I went to the doctor, and I said, “I want you to look at that thing.”  He said, “Yes, it is a wart.”  Well, I said, “I know it is a wart.  What is the matter with me?  How come me to have a wart on a bottom of my foot?  I never heard of such a thing.”

“Why,” he said, “pastor, that’s a virus.  It’s a virus, and you have picked it up off of the floor over there at the YMCA.  And now I’ve got to doctor it,” and man, he has been doctoring that wart for months, it seems to me.  It’s a virus, and a pernicious one!  So I went to the “Y” counter, and I said, “You’ve got any sandals here?”

“Yes,” he said.  Well, I said, “Give me a pair, quick.”

We do foolish things like that.  We do them all the time, foolish things, and we get sick, and that’s one reason.  We don’t obey God’s rules of health.  That’s one reason.

All right, we search our souls, and we search our hearts, and we search our lives; why is this illness, why?  Sometimes it’s due to our transgression, and our iniquity, and our sin.

For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.

If any endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Lord chasteneth not?

But if ye be without chastening, whereof all are partakers.

[Hebrews 12:6-8]

Now isn’t that something the Lord says to us?  Every one of us, if we are children of God, the Lord spanks us sometimes.  Sometimes He flails us, and sometimes He may flog us.  But if you are a son of God, the Lord will chasten you.  “All of us are partakers thereof.  Then, if that isn’t so, you are illegitimate, and you are not real sons” [Hebrews 12:8].  You don’t belong to God if you are not chastened.

And the Lord whips you and He spanks you at times, and He corrects you, and He uses the rod.  So search your soul, and search your life, and search every part of your heart.  “Has this illness come because of sin?  Have I sinned against God, and this is a chastening from the Lord?”  Ask God, and lay your heart bare and naked and open before God: “Has this come as a chastening from the Lord?”

But we fall into colossal error, colossal error if we ever begin to think that all of these illnesses that come and the agony that they bring, we fall into colossal error if we ever persuade ourselves that these things, all of them, are due to sin.

Sometimes illness is for the glory of God.  “And Jesus passed by, saw a man blind from his birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he is born blind?”  For they thought that all illness was due to sin, and the Master answered, Jesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor yet his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him, that the glory of God might be made manifest in him” [John 9:1-3].  Sometimes an illness is for the glory of God; you will find that oft illustrated in the Holy Scriptures.

One time Satan came into the presence of the great High God and said, “That man Job, and You dote upon him, and You say all kinds of things excellent about him.  That man would curse You to your face if You would let me touch him” [Job 1:11].  The Lord said, “What did you say, Satan?”  And the devil repeated it, “I said, You have hedged him about with every good thing and every blessing.  He is rich, and affluent, and has strength and health and every happy thing.  You let me touch him, and he will curse You to Your face!” [Job 2:5].  The Lord says, “Is that so?  You go down there and touch him.  Just spare his life [Job 2:6].  Take away everything he has, take away his health, afflict him.  And Satan, I say that that man will still bless My name.”  So Satan went his way.  And he came down there where Job lived in the land of the East, and he took away everything that he possessed [Job 1:13-19].

And then, second, he touched the body of Job, and from the top of Job’s head to the sole of Job’s foot, he was afflicted with sores.  And he sat in an ash heap [Job 2:7-8], and cried unto God in his misery and in his agony, and said, “The Lord gave and the Lord took away, blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21].  “Though He slay me, yet do I trust Him” [Job 13:15], for the glory of God, for the glory of God [John 9:3].

When I come and see you, when I come and see you, and you are healthy, and you are strong, and you are affluent and successful, and everything is going your way, and you are singing and happy, why, fellow, an infidel can sing and be happy when everything is going his way; doesn’t mean anything at all when you’re praising God in your health and strength and affluence.

I want to come and see you when the dark day comes.  I want to knock at your door when despair, and agony, and pain, and sickness are there.  That’s when I want to come and see you.  Then, I want to know, are you singing songs in the night?  Are you?  Are you praising God now?  Are you still holding in faith, steadfast, to the Lord Jesus?  It may be that God’s will is like Hezekiah, and He raise you up and add fifteen years to your days [Isaiah 38:5].  It may be like Job, that you suffer [Job 1:13-19, 2:7-8]; it may be.

O Lord, that I can be a Christian when the time comes.

I attended the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1944.  The president of the convention was the president of Baylor University, Pat Neff.  It was May of 1944.  I was a young man then.  And at a time in that convention, our president, Pat Neff, stood up and said, “I have just come from bedside of Dr. Truett.”  When he made that announcement, there was a hush and a quiet over that vast thousands and thousands of people that you could touch, that you could feel.

The great pastor at that time had been ill, grievously so, painfully agonizingly so, for almost a year.  Dr. Truett suffered greatly in his last illness.  And Pat Neff said, “I have just come from the bedside of Dr. Truett.”  Then the president of the convention, himself one of the most eloquent men who ever lived, Pat Neff, described to us his visit with the great pastor.  And in his agony and in his pain and in his heavy illness, he described his trust in God, and his faith in the Lord, and the commitment of whatever might lie ahead in the gracious hands of the Great Physician.

And as he talked, the tears fell unheeded from my face, and I was no different from ten thousand others.  Some of you may have been there; the Christian example and tremendous Christian commitment of God’s great preacher.  Never dreamed, as I sat there and listened to the description of the faith of that man of God in his last illness, that I would be standing in this sacred place, behind this very pulpit desk.

Take it to God.  Take it to God.  Ask God for healing.  God may say to you, as He said to Hezekiah, “I have heard thy prayers, I have seen thy tears: I add to thy days fifteen years” [Isaiah 38:5].  Or God may say, “My strength is made perfect in weakness” [2 Corinthians 12:9].  And if God wills that we suffer, may we say with the apostle Paul, “Therefore, I rejoice in infirmities, and in sicknesses, and in agonizing pain; for when I am weak, then am I strong” [2 Corinthians 12: 10].

Glorifying God, whether in health or in sickness, whether in life or in death, we still are with the Lord [Philippians 1:20].  God bless us to be as Christians in our life, in our time, in our day, and in our testimony.  The Lord be praised in the bravery and the commitment of our lives; and we shall leave it in His precious hands.

While we sing our hymn of appeal,

The Great Physician now is near,

The sympathizing Jesus;

He speaks the drooping heart to cheer,

Oh!  listen to the voice of Jesus.

[“The Great Physician Now is Near,” William Hunter, 1859]

While we sing the hymn, “The Great Physician,” a family you, one somebody you, giving your heart in trust to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8], come.  Or putting your life in the fellowship of the church, come.  Or asking to be baptized, come.  As the Spirit of Christ shall press the appeal to your heart, come.  Make it now.  When you stand up, stand up coming: “Here I am, pastor.  I make it today.  I make it now.  Here I am.”  Do it, do it, while we stand and while we sing.