If death leads us to eternal salvation, should we pray for healing when faced with sickness? Professor Travis Myers asks on DesiringGod.org.
Myers, who serves as assistant professor of church history and mission studies at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minnesota, wrote in a recent post for the evangelical website that he and his wife were torn about what to do after he was diagnosed with B-cell follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer.
He wrote that during his time waiting for the cancer treatment plan, he kept thinking of Philippians 1:21, 23 which says: "To live is Christ, and to die is gain […] to depart and be with Christ [...] is far better."
This verse, Myers writes, made him question if praying for healing was the truly Christian thing to do.
"By praying for healing and longer life, would I be capitulating somehow to the sinful flesh or be compromising my pursuit of God's glory? Would I be abandoning the pursuit of joy and superior satisfaction in Christ himself for the sake of an idolatrous love of the world?" Myers questions, adding that he eventually realized his prayers for healing did not go against the teaching of this verse.
Just as the Apostle Paul dedicated his life to serving the Philippian Church, so Jesus can use your time on earth to serve others, Myers writes. "God has graciously put that same 'mind of Christ' in me (Philippians 2:5). And many brothers and sisters in the Lord — including my wife! — seem to desire my healing and ongoing presence among them as an 'ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus' (Philippians 1:26)."
Myers also points to Psalm 6:4-5, in which King David asks God to spare his life so he may continue doing His work.
This verse "implies that it is good and godly to desire remaining a part of the mission to make known God's glorious grace in King Jesus among the yet unreached people groups of the world."
Myers writes that his experience with lymphoma, which is now in remission, has strengthened his faith in God and his desire to carry out God's mission here on earth.
"By sustaining, and strengthening, our trust in him through the experience of having lymphoma, God has made us even more certain of his love for us, our love for him, and our love for each other. He has given us a more solid assurance of salvation and a keener sense of his divine safe-keeping of our souls," the professor writes.
John Piper, who serves as the founder and teacher of DesiringGod.org, wrote a 2011 book on the subject of illness entitled Don't Waste Your Cancer, which details how "cancer [is] an opportunity to glorify God."
In the book, Piper, who also serves as chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, "gently but firmly acknowledges that we can indeed waste our cancer when we don't see how it is God's good plan for us and a hope-filled path for making much of Jesus."