I keep hearing and reading encouragement for people to pray during our pandemic but this is deceptive. Where are the old “Fire and Brimstone” preachers when you need them? They are a “bygone age” and one that I don’t think we will see again until the Two Witnesses are revealed as described in the book of Revelation.
Simple prayer for deliverance is the wrong message to be giving people and one that God does not honor. The message that we must relay is to REPENT from current and past sin. Please, hear me out.
As a consequence of the desperate corruption and rampant sin, I believe that the current earthquakes, pestilence and plagues are the birth pains prophesied in the Bible, and these trials are calls to repent that will get more destructive as the time grows nearer for Jesus’ return. Christians must maintain a consistent message with Gods’ call to repentance.
Why do I say that we are in the prophetic “birth pains”? Because our world is exactly like the world in the days of Noah . Jesus said in Matthew 24:37 that “as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of Man”, meaning that the world would have traits consistent with the world in the days of Noah before His return. It also mirrors what Paul described in Romans 1:18-32 as what people will be like in the “last days”. And, controversially, spend a few hours getting your mind blown in daniel11truth, who has spent his lifetime elegantly and comprehensively lining up all of Biblical prophesy in a way unique to anything I have ever read. According to his research, world history has completed all verses up to Daniel 11:31.
The Bible clearly and consistently states that God doesnt hear prayers from the unrighteous without repentance. All the posts and blog entries telling people to “storm the gates of heaven and pray for deliverance” is not consistent with that we are to do because God has a deaf ear to the unrighteous. The Bible outlines what we are to do in times of distress for the Christian (those saved by the blood of Jesus Christ) and the “unsaved” (those who have not called on Jesus for salvation).
For the unsaved:
Call out for salvation in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, repent from and confess your sin then turn away from your sinful acts. Spiritual salvation is assured in the Bible and with it peace and hope for eternal life. As God wills, He may heal your body as well.
If you don’t know what is considered sin, the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:2-17 are an easy list to read and understand. Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31 that the entire Law of God can be summarized as “Love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul and love your neighbor as yourself.” Examples of the ACTION of sin is all throughout the Bible.
Paul records a list of sinful actions in Galations 5:19-21 to help give you an idea of what sin looks like in action. (There are many other similar lists, this is just one example.) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Solomon elegantly summarizes 7 sins that God hates in Proverbs 6:16-19:
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
For the saved in Jesus Christ:
James chapter 1 has clear instructions for what to do with trials, suffering and illness. Yet I am not reading about these instructions in posts or blogs. I am certainly not reading about what James says to do in illness. I am puzzled as to what Christians actually believe, and I feel that we have grossly skewed the message to one that has lopped off the arms and legs of God’s personality. He is not just LOVE. He is first and foremost HOLY, or “pure and set apart”. Love is an important but secondary attribute along with JUSTICE, OMNIPOTENCE and so forth. And He works to produce holiness in us through trials and persecution. As a group we have sorely tried this most important characteristic of HOLINESS, only to veneer our prayers with petitions without action. Our action must collectively be repentance from ungodly action, thought, word, tolerance and idols.
1. Count the time of testing or persecution JOY in order to produce steadfastness.
Praising God for persecution sounds nuts. But that is exactly the message from Christians being slaughtered in Africa and the Middle East. Praise God for the ministry of organizations like Barnabus Fund and Open Doors USA who are bringing their stories to light and doing what they can to relieve their suffering. Their praise in the midst of grave danger, injury and death humbles me. What they know, because they have lived it, is that faithfully following Jesus is sacrificial and transformative. As a caveat, James also reminds us of God’s promise to reward those who demonstrate steadfastness under trials with the Crown of Righteousness.
Professing christians in less restrictive societies must take this to heart, stop the long faces, stop hiding in “bug out bungaloes”. We are called to love our neighbor and hoarding our stuff is a direct violation of this. Martin Luther ran toward the plague while “Christians” ran like rats from a sinking ship. He demonstrated his faith in trials. I am happy to see certain organizations like Samaritan’s Purse demonstrating love in action in Italy and New York City, and it is a great example of what Christians can do to give light and hope to the world. Give generously as you are called to do. Write notes of encouragement to neighbors. Offer to pick up stuff for others. Put in your name to Christian organizations in your area. YOU know where you are going and YOU know where they are going. In eternal terms, it is better for us to suffer.
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
2. Be reconciled to God and to your brother. Humble yourself, seek God’s face and turn from sin.
This is a worldwide need and one we need to meet collectively but we can only do that if we preach and act out repentance. If you are unsure if unconfessed sin is in your life, the lists above are a good place to start. Ask for wisdom and discernment to reveal what you may be doing or thinking that is not consistent with a holy life. As grafted into God’s family, we can claim the below promise made to the Israelites:
2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Matthew 5:21-24 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
4. Ask for wisdom, in faith without doubting, from God who gives generously. Notice the criteria of asking for wisdom. Ask in faith and do not doubt.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
5. When illness strikes, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Examine yourself to make sure you are not participating in communion with unresolved sin in your heart and life.
In obedience to James 5:14, call to the elders of the church to pray over you and “anoint you with oil” (a medical practice of rubbing in the skin of olive oil for healing). There is a promise of safety from pestilence and plague in Psalms 91 that is popular right now on many blogs, but this is a specific promise for the person who dwells in the shelter of the Most High. I believe that this promise is for the few who are absolutely bonded to God through our saviour Jesus Christ, and obey ALL His edicts. So I am concerned when people pull this out and say pandemics arent for Christians. It is absolutely false.
Even devout Christians in the New Testiment dealt with serious illness. Paul also has a strong warning about coming to the communion table with unconfessed sin. Failure to heed this leads to illness and early death. In our age of tolerance, broken promises, strife and idol worship, is is a wonder that so many professing Christians who participate in communion are ill?
Why do we want to obey this instruction? As God wills, the prayer of faith from a righteous person will save the ill Christian and sins will be forgiven. Sober reverence and confession of sin prior to communion will protect the Christian from the consequences of disobedience.
James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? 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. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
1 Corinthians 11:27-30 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
6. Be prepared for God to say NO to all your prayers for healing. If you are right with God and your brother you have no reason to be in despair. We do not know God’s overall plan and how your suffering fits into it. Paul entreated God for healing from a serious illness and God told him no. What you can do is suffer with grace and patience and be a testimony to others even at the expense of your life. Perhaps your testimony in suffering will produce a good work in both you and in them.