Why God is Not Against Vaccines

I’ve been seeing a lot of news about vaccines lately in the social media headlines so I figured I would throw in my however much these thoughts are worth. A frustrating situation is when patients refuse medical treatment because they believe in God. But wait, I believe in God too, and I don’t remember the Bible ever saying we shouldn’t use medicine. The reasoning, I think, goes something like this: God is the all-powerful healer who holds our lives in His hands, and so if it’s His will that I get sick, then I’ll just get sick because if it’s His will to heal me, He can, and He will if I have enough faith in Him (and if I take medications, this would mean I don’t have enough faith).

While I do agree that God is the all-powerful healer who hold our lives in His hands who allows sickness in this world as a result of sin, and that if He wanted to, He could miraculously heal anyone of any disease, I do believe that medicine and faith are not mutually exclusive. God can do miracles, but usually God works through natural processes and the creative abilities and intellect that He has given to human beings, His image bearers. Those who would trust exclusively on God for medical needs probably would have no problem going down to the local store to buy food, or the mall to buy clothes. Even though God is fully capable of supernaturally providing food and clothing (manna for the Israelites and coverings for Adam and Even), He has chosen to meet those needs through people who He has given the knowledge and ability to harvest food and make clothing.

In the same way, God has given people the capacity to understand the workings of the human body, and the ability to do research to come up with ways in which to combat sickness. Yes, Jesus came and healed a lot of people of disease. But there were tons more who were not healed, because healing wasn’t the main purpose of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came not to simply relieve physical suffering, but to usher in the kingdom of God. Jesus’ miraculous healings not only authenticated His claims to be the Messiah sent by God, but also pointed to the future reality of God’s kingdom that is without sickness, sin, or death. And so medicine is a means in which to bring creation back closer to how it was intended before sin entered the world.

In the Bible you don’t read anywhere a prohibition to use medicine. Paul even tells his fellow laborer in Christ Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23), and not just pray for healing. The Gospel writer Luke, a traveling companion of Paul, was a doctor, and we don’t see Paul telling Luke to quit his job. Are there misuses of medicine? Of course, as there are misuses of everything else that is good because we live in a world of sin. We certainly can trust in what our hands can provide rather than God, but that can happen not just with healing, but with anything else (e.g., provision of food and future security). It’s a daily discipline to come before God in dependence even as we are active in using our gifts that God has given us for our provision.

All this is to say, the development of vaccines is an example of the grace of God given to us to combat the corruption of the natural order due to sin. Vaccines and antibiotics are probably two of the greatest medical discoveries in terms of lives saved and illness prevented. Are there side effects to vaccines? Sure. Is autism one of them? I can’t imagine the fear a parent would have hearing about the reports of children manifesting autism after routine vaccinations. I want to acknowledge those fears, but the vast bulk of scientific evidence would say no. 

Christ came to deal with sin in this world. And that means not just taking away the penalty of our sins against God by dying on the cross, but also ushering in a kingdom (that will come in full when He returns) that is how things were intended to be: no more tears, no more sickness, and no more death. In the meantime, let us use everything that God has given us to stay healthy so that we are best equipped to carry out the kingdom work.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He willdwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5

 

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Walking by Faith

I spent some time this past Monday night with a group of pre-meds/pre-health students up in Redlands as part of the METS summer student project. This is a month long  program that teaches pre-health students how to integrate their faith with a career in medicine. I attended the program the summer after my 1st year of medical school, which I can’t believe was 8 years ago. If you are in medicine and  have wondered how to include your faith in the care of your patients, they are a great resource to check out.

This year they had a special week-long program for students still in college and I was invited to speak about my experiences. I got to share my testminony of how I ended up playing doctor and pastor, studying in seminary and writing the book. It was just a great time to be around students whose hearts are open to God’s leading. I hope what I shared was helpful in stirring up some prayerful thought about their future career goals.

This definitely was a stepping out of my comfort zone experience for me, and with the book near publishing, it’s exciting to think about future opportunties to share what God has put on my heart. But it’s also really scary since it’s totally out of my element, and sometimes I wonder if I’m out of my mind. But then a song we sang during the retreat came to mind about walking by faith, inspired by Matthew 14:22-36, the account of Peter walking on water. It was a reminder that as long as it is Jesus who we are following, we don’t have to be afraid even if we are treading on unfamiliar ground.

Here’s the song!

http://youtu.be/-8mZpGj29qw

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

What is God calling you to step out in faith in?

Trust Fall Fail

I’m guessing the older sister is going to have some trust issues.

Having faith is hard, isn’t it? I heard a sermon by Philip De Courcy on the radio talking about the story of the prophet Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17:7-16. There was a severe drought and God told Elijah that a certain woman was going to provide for him. So off he went and found this woman out gathering sticks. He asked for some water and bread, but apparently the widow was on the verge of starving to death, having just enough for one last meal for her and her son. I guess God didn’t give the widow a heads up.

Verses 13 and 14 are quite astonishing given the woman’s predicament: “Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day of the Lord gives rain on the land.'” (emphasis mine)

Imagine being one meal away from watching your child die from starvation and encountering a stranger who asks for you to make him something first out of the very little you have left, and promising some magical unlimited flour and oil. Why don’t I make some bread for me and my son first and see if the flour and oil will keep on coming?

Isn’t that what goes on in our minds when God asks us to step out in faith and trust Him? Perhaps God is asking us to wait on Him to start a relationship. Or asking us to step out in faith to take a less prestigious or lower paying position. Or even to reach out to someone who is difficult to love. But stepping out into the unknown is hard. We want the whole thing laid out first, and especially the outcome before we’ll say yes to God.

Funny thing is that God has already laid it out for us. I hate to spoil the Bible mini-series but we know how it ends. Christ will return in glory and God’s kingdom will be ushered in full. On that day, we will realize that the things we gave up in faith for God really wasn’t much at all compared to all that God has in store for His children.

And how do we know that God will do exactly as He promised in the Bible? Well, as Easter sunday is just a few days away, the resurrection of Christ showed that God was faithful to His promises then, and it gives us confidence that God will be faithful to His promises today. So as we celebrate Resurrection Sunday, let us be reminded that our God who is soverign over history is also sovereign in our everyday lives. Sometimes God only shows us enough to take the next step. But look far down and take heart that God has taken care of the end.

How is God asking you to trust Him today? 

“She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” 1 Kings 17:15-16

Thanks Priscilla for the clip!