Faith, Health, and Healing #COVIDseries

Hi guys, it's been almost 5 months since I last posted. Accept my apologies for the hiatus. I am back at it now with a post that is relevant to the times we are in. Some Christians are of the view that you are not walking in faith if you adhere to the WHO safety protocols during this pandemic while others believe we should all take safety precautions in public and even get vaccinated. I'm doing a 2-part series on my blog on this debate. The second part will be published exactly a week from today, 23rd April 2021

Faith is a very important concept in Christianity. In fact, nobody becomes and stays a Christian without faith. We are justified by faith and according to Habakkuk 2:4, “the righteous shall live by faith”. This statement is quoted 3 times in the New Testament and it goes to show that the entirety of a Christian’s experience is based on faith. The writer of Hebrews defines faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. It is also stated in James 2:14  that faith without works is dead, therefore, the formula for faith is “belief in God” plus “acting according to that belief”. 

Faith requires you to act according to God’s word. The caveat here is that sometimes God’s word requires that you don’t act at all. Therefore, in some cases, staying put and not moving is an act of faith when it is in accordance with the word of God. One may even argue that inaction is still an action, hence, faith is still an “action word”. For example, when Jesus told his disciples after he resurrected to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In this instance, the disciples had every reason to scatter abroad since their association with Jesus put their lives in danger as well. But he told them to go to Jerusalem and wait. They complied; they didn’t travel or do anything else but wait for the promise and they had an experience that would forever change the course of history and affect millions of lives all over the world. Also, the movement of the Israelites in the wilderness depended on the movement of the pillar of cloud. This was how God guided them on their way to the promised land. When it moves, they move. When it stops, they stop. In Numbers 9:18-19, we are told that:

As long as the cloud remained over the tabernacle, they remained encamped. Even when the cloud lingered over the tabernacle for many days, the Israelites kept the LORD’s charge and did not set out.…

When an action is done in faith, it means it has its roots in scripture, according to the will of God or it is done at the command of God almighty. Faith is applied according to the will of God for an individual, a people, the body of Christ, or the world at large. For example, Peter was able to walk on water because Jesus gave him permission to do so. Therefore, by acting on that word, he acted in faith. It is very important that we realize how faith has nothing to do with showboating or doing things for the applause of men. 

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, there have been mixed reactions coming from different denominations of the body of Christ. While some denominations have gone on to emphasize and implement the World Health Organization’s (WHO) safety protocols in their churches, others have said that Christians shouldn’t follow the safety protocols outlined by WHO because doing so is proof of a lack of faith. In the past few weeks, we have also seen the outrage expressed by some men of God against churches buying into the idea of the COVID-19 vaccination. 

One of the verses that some Christians have based their arguments on against adhering to WHO’s safety protocols is Mark 16:18. It is a statement Jesus made after his resurrection in what is popularly known as the Great Commission. He said this was one of the signs that would follow all who believe in him, they will pick up serpents with their hands and if they drink any deadly poison it will not hurt them. Paul in Acts 28:3 had an experience that was close to what is stated above. He gathered a bunch of sticks to lay them on a fire that had already been set, then a viper driven out by the heat of the fire came out and fastened itself to the Apostle’s hand. He shook the snake off into the fire to the amazement of the people gathered there. Some commentaries I have read stated that this is a fulfillment of what Jesus said in the Great Commission. If this assertion is true, there are few points we need to note here from this event and what Jesus said:

  1. Paul didn’t intentionally expose himself to the viper just to show that he had faith.
  2. Jesus didn’t command us in the Great Commission to go looking for ways to put ourselves in harm’s way. He said, “they will pick up serpents and IF they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them”. 

“They will pick up serpents” doesn’t mean they should intentionally go looking for serpents to pick up but it means if they face the danger of being attacked by a serpent it will be rendered harmless to them. This is exactly what happened to Paul. The second part of the verse even puts things into a better perspective for us. It starts with “IF”, which is often used to introduce conditional or possible situations. So if it so happens that a Christian drinks a poisonous substance and only finds out after he/she has drunk it, it will not hurt the person. 

By definition, faith has nothing to do with intentionally putting yourself in harm’s way and expecting God to deliver you. There is a term for that, it is called “testing God”. Knowing that an act is dangerous to your health and safety but going on to indulge in it is not faith, in the bible, it is termed as testing God. Interestingly, Jesus used this term while responding to the devil’s temptations. The devil, while tempting Jesus, suggested to him that if he could jump off the pinnacle of the temple, God would send his angels to save him. In response, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:6 when he said that “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’”. It is the devil’s preoccupation to get us to test God in our daily lives by pushing us to defy sound logic all in the name of proving our faith or supposedly standing on some scriptures as a foundation to test God. It is important to note that the devil, during this particular temptation, quoted verses of scripture as well. 

”These “sign” miracles are given to encourage us to trust God and not to tempt Him with foolish experiments”. (from Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved.)

One of the facts about faith I mentioned at the beginning of this article is that it is seen when a person acts in accordance to God’s word or a personal instruction they received from God. So you can see in scripture on numerous occasions where God commanded people to do things that would appear dangerous to them and their lives and even that of others. Yet, in those instances, to act on the word of God is an act of faith but to do otherwise is an act of fear. 

Here are a few more points on faith I noted while studying on this topic:

  • Faith sometimes is necessitated when God is testing us not when we are testing God – Hebrews 11:17. In this verse, we are told that Abraham was tested by God to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.
  • What is done in faith that brings salvation to one person could bring calamity to another when they do not do it in faith – Hebrews 11:29. In this verse, we are told that the Israelites crossed the parted red sea by faith but the Egyptians drowned in it. 
  • By faith some people allowed themselves to be persecuted, stoned, sawn in two, and eventually killed – Hebrews 11:37. Faith doesn’t always require you to step out and do some “superhero” stuff. Sometimes, faith gives you the strength to endure painful ordeals in the name of the LORD. 

Usually, we can see defiance in faith. Defiance of natural laws, medical laws, logic, and sometimes even earthly authorities (as in the case of Moses’ birth when his parents defied the authority of the Pharaoh and hid him Hebrews 11:23). However, there are times when faith is in the simple obedience of authority and the wisdom of God. After all, we are admonished in Romans 13:1 to obey earthly authority. The President of Ghana has issued a directive that suggests that safety protocols have to be taken to safeguard the lives of citizens of this country. Defying this and calling it an act of faith is in direct contradiction of the word of God. Especially because the directive will not lead to the persecution of Christians or the church. There is a virus on the loose, what do you do? Just adhere to all the safety protocols outlined by the WHO to prevent you from coming into contact with it and also get vaccinated if possible. To defy this is to intentionally put yourself in harm’s way and endanger the lives of others which cannot be seen as an act of faith. You are testing God, not your faith in him.

The statement, “the righteous shall live by faith” is found in the following New Testament verses: Galatians 3:11 , Romans 1:17, Hebrews 10:38

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