“Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick” (2 Timothy 4:20)
During the time of the apostles, miracles abounded. Just as our Lord Jesus performed miracles, He also gave the apostles power, through the Holy Spirit, to perform miracles also (Acts 1:8). Furthermore, the apostles were able to, by the laying on of hands, pass on the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to other Christians also (Acts 8:14-19). Hence, during those times, Christians were able to perform miracles, speak in tongues, heal the sick, and prophesy, according to what the Spirit bestowed upon them (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
The apostle Paul, being one of Jesus’ apostles, possessed the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, as the other apostles did. Notably, during Paul’s time in Ephesus, God worked wondrous miracles through him, whereby many who were sick were able to be healed. Even the handkerchiefs and aprons that touched Paul’s skin could cause diseases and evil spirits to be cast out! (Acts 19:11-12). Hence, we know that Paul most certainly possessed the Spirit’s gift of healing.
Since Paul possessed the gift of healing, it may be surprising to find out that Paul did not heal everyone that he met. For example, in his epistle to Timothy, Paul noted that he had left his co-worker Trophimus at Miletum sick (2 Timothy 4:20). Surely Paul would have liked to see his good friend healed from his sickness. This leads to the question: Why did Paul not heal Trophimus?
Miracles are for God’s Purpose, not Man’s Purpose
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38)
Jesus Himself possessed the full measure of the Spirit. Yet, there were times when Jesus did not exercise His power to help Himself. For example, when Jesus was fasting in the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, so that He can feed Himself. Yet, Jesus did not (Matthew 4:1-4). In another instance, Jesus proclaimed to His disciples that He could have called twelve legions of angels to save Him from the Jews. Yet, He did not (Matthew 26:53). What we see is that Jesus never performed miracles for selfish reasons, but to serve God’s purpose.
Hence, we can deduce that Paul did not heal Trophimus because it did not serve God’s intended purpose. Since Trophimus was already a believer in Christ, we can surmise that there was no real purpose for God to work a miracle to heal Trophimus. The Scriptures reveal that God’s intended purpose for miracles can be broken down into 4 reasons:
To prove that Jesus is God (John 20:30-31)
To confirm God’s word to the hearers (Mark 16:20)
To verify a true apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12)
To fulfil prophecy (Matthew 8:17)
Christians Can Still Have Victory Over Sicknesses Today
“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 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 5:13-15)
Although the time of miracles have ceased, God has not left us powerless. God may not heal us miraculously, but God can still work through providential means for our benefit. Hence, when we fall sick, we can still obtain help through the following means:
Get medicine (1 Timothy 5:23). Paul prescribed Timothy some wine for medicinal purposes, for his frequent infirmities. When we fall sick, we may need to take our medication, in order to recover from illnesses.
Pray to the Father (James 5:13). If we are afflicted, we are instructed to pray to God. God promises that, if we ask, we will receive (Matthew 7:7). God may not give us everything we ask for, but surely, He will give us what we need most. It is certainly within God’s power to give us recovery from our illnesses.
Ask the elders for prayers (James 5:14). There is a certain power and effectiveness in the prayers of the faithful (James 5:15-16). Hence, it would certainly help to call for the faithful saints to pray for us. It would certainly help to call for the elders to visit and pray for us. The elders, being our shepherds, are concerned for our well-being, and they would most gladly do so for us.
Christians Can be Victorious Despite Sicknesses
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
If God did not heal every sick person during the apostolic age, we should not be surprised that God does not heal every sickness today, especially since miracles have now ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). We should realize that Jesus did not come to earth to remove diseases from the earth; instead, Jesus’ ultimate purpose was for the salvation of our souls (Luke 19:10). The salvation of souls is of much greater value that the preservation of our physical bodies (Mark 8:36).
Perhaps some of us have been beset with long-term illnesses. The apostle Paul too was beset with a certain “thorn in the flesh,” despite the prayers that he made to the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). Nevertheless, despite the ailments that we may suffer, we can still lead a victorious life in Christ. In order to be victorious, we need to do the following:
Be thankful to God (Job 2:9-10). Despite being struck with boils, Job did not blame God. Instead, he recognized that every good thing he ever received was by the hand of God. Hence, if these good things were to be taken away, he had no right to complain! We may be sick, but we ought to give thanks to God nonetheless. In every situation, there is always something to be thankful for (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Rely on the power of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Paul realized there was good in the “thorn in the flesh” that besought him. This ailment prevented him from exalting himself above measure, but rather, to rely on the power of Christ. Therefore, by being weak, it actually made him strong! We may be sick, but in our infirmities, we can find strength from God.
Keep up the work for the Lord (Philippians 2:25-30). Epaphroditus was very sick, and nearly died. Thankfully, God had mercy on him, so that he recovered. However, Paul had this to say, that Epaphroditus nearly died for the work of Christ, “not regarding his life.” Epaphroditus did not use sickness as an excuse to stop working for Jesus. Rather, he risked his own life to help Paul, and to serve the Lord! We may be sick, but there is surely something we can still contribute for the Lord’s kingdom.
Faithful men of God in times past struggled with illnesses. Today, we will continue to struggle with illnesses. We may not always understand why we suffer, but we can always trust that God will guide us in the right path (Proverbs 3:5-6). In whatever situation we are in, let us always remain steadfast to God, praying to Him, give thanks to Him, relying on His divine strength, and serving Him to our best ability.