Many diseases of the world are new or are worse now due to certain factors. For example heart disease and strokes are worse now due to our diet and lack of exercise. However, arthritis has been around since time began. All societies, cultures and ethnic groups have arthritis. There has not been a time or place where arthritis has not existed. The next time you are out walking stop and look at some of the older people around. Many of them have hands and feet, which are deformed from arthritis. Certainly arthritis affects older people more than younger, but arthritis can affect people of all age groups. It can also affect both men and women.
How common is arthritis? Certainly, as just mentioned, arthritis is more common as we grow older. We will talk about the reason why in a moment. Probably 5-10% or more of all Chinese have some type of arthritis. More importantly probably 90% of all Chinese by the time they are 40 years old will have XR changes consistent with arthritis. That is frightening isn’t it? You are getting old before you know it. This fact is especially important for China as they have one of the older old populations in the world and one, which in the next 20 years will have a growing percentage of older people.
Is their just one type of arthritis? No in fact there are many. However there are three main types. The most common is what we call osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis. This is what most older people have. The second most common type is called rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory arthritis. This is more common in people in the middle age of life. However, this type is also the one, which affects younger children as well. The final more common type of arthritis is related to gout. Gout has been called ‘the rich man’s disease or the disease of kings.’ However, people of all ages and income can have this type of gout. Gout primarily affects the large toe of the foot and is related to crystals forming in the joint.
Why is arthritis such a big health problem? Two main reasons. First, it hurts and can cause a lot of pain and suffering. Second, arthritis can prevent us from doing the work we want and need to do. It is the second, which makes arthritis such a potentially devastating disease. Even people without a lot of pain can be prevented from doing the work they want to do. For example older people cannot walk well and even clean their house because of arthritis in their knee. This places a big burden on them and their families. Also, consider the older patient who has bad arthritis in their hand and is dropping their chopsticks when they eat and have a hard time eating. Or consider the lady who is 35 years old with bad rheumatoid arthritis of her hips. She has a child who is 7 years old who is playing outside and she cannot play or even walk with them. Finally consider a 40-year-old Chinese man with gout in his foot who has to cancel an important business meeting due to the gout. All of these people have been affected by arthritis. Arthritis thus affects not only cause pain and suffering, it also directly how we can and do live our life.
What causes arthritis? Before we answer that we need to consider that God is in control of all disease and illnesses. About 1700 BC, which is during the Xia dynasty in China, the prophet Moses was leading the Hebrew people (now the current day Jews) out of the land of Egypt. However, the leader of Egypt at that time, i.e. the Pharaoh, would not let these people leave. He wanted to keep them as slaves for economic reasons. However, God had promised Abraham long ago that he would inhabit part of the land of the Middle East for his people. This coming of the Hebrews out of the land of Egypt was a fulfillment of this promise. Moses went to Pharaoh 10 different times but Pharaoh would not change his heart. Each time Moses went to Pharaoh, Pharaoh told him that his people could not go. God sent a different type of plague after each rejection to try to change Pharaoh’s heart. Some were plagues of flies and locusts. Others were plagues of types of skin diseases and other diseases. The final plague was a plague to take the first born of every family who would not obey God. This whole story is recorded early in the Bible in a book called ‘The Exodus.’
What this time in history shows, is that God is Lord over animals, health, life and death. Thus even people with arthritis have this because God allowed this type of illness. Not only this it shows that God can resolve any disease as soon as it starts. He did this with these diseases in Egypt. As soon as he allowed them to occur he took them away. Often we cannot understand why God allows diseases such as arthritis to occur, but he does. We can be comforted though in the fact that God is in control of all disease and illness. If they occur it is for his purpose and he can take them away if he so chooses.
Now, let us talk about what causes arthritis. Recall there are different types of arthritis, the main types being osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory arthritis, and finally arthritis such as gout. Let us first talk about the most common one, that is osteoarthritis.
The name osteoarthritis is a bit misleading. The name degenerative arthritis is more understandable. Why is this the case? First, the primary part of the body affected with arthritis is the joints. In the case of osteoarthritis it is the cartilage which is most affected, not the bone as the name might suggest. The name degenerative arthritis is a good name as it describes what happens in the joint, namely degeneration of the joint. The degeneration of the joint occurs with growing older. As we have already said that by the time a person reaches 40 years of age, whether they are a man or a woman, they have some arthritis changes on X-rays. Actually, the changes are present by 40 but in all likelihood the changes start in a very small way at 30 years of way and very slowly these small changes build up so that by the time someone is 50 or so they have can have a lot of arthritis changes. Certainly by 60 years of age most people have some types of arthritis changes which they can feel.
Why does the body’s joints degenerate over time? No one is quite sure. However, we do know that the cartilage starts slowing loosing its strength and thickness. It might be good here to mention the purpose of cartilage. Cartilage is the substance in our joints which provides a ‘cushion’ between our bones. Otherwise when we ran or jumped or played we would have bone hitting against bone. Man, wouldn’t that hurt? It is the cartilage, which provides that cushion. We can say thank goodness for cartilage. We can also say that God made our body fearfully and wonderfully. Not only did God make our bodies fearfully and wonderfully but he also knows all of our thoughts full well. This statement was made by King David about 1100 BC. These thoughts are recorded in a poem in the Bible by the name of Psalms.
The Bible also says ‘the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword. It pierces down to the dividing of bone and marrow and discerns the thoughts and intents of our heart (Hebrews 4.12).’ This part of the Bible was written about 70 AD. This verse is interesting given our talk today on arthritis. God’s Word, written as the Bible, is so powerful it can have an affect on our physical bodies. However, God’s Word can also penetrate down and understand the thoughts of our hearts. This is amazing. Which one of us does not have thoughts, which are not good or right? All of us would be guilty. However, how can all of us not be guilty, because we all know we have had bad or wrong attitudes or thoughts? The Bible says that ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23). This was written by a man named Paul to people in the city of Rome around 60AD. The book is called Romans and is also contained in the Bible. Paul later said in the same book that ‘for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6.23).’ We may sin and all have bad thoughts. In fact if we do the result is eternal death or separation from God. However, the gift of God is eternal life, not eternal death. How can we have this eternal life? It is through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came to earth so that each of us might have eternal life. He died on the Cross-for our sin. Otherwise these sins might separate us from God. He took our sins upon himself so that we would not have to bear them before God. These sins caused his death.
However, God showed his power over death by raising his only Son Jesus from the death. Jesus still lives today and wants to live in your life. Before I talk to you about how that is done I would like to tell you about how the second major type of arthritis causes problems. This type as we have said is caused Rheumatoid Arthritis. This type of arthritis is also called inflammatory arthritis. Exactly what is inflammation? Inflammation has four important signs. These are redness, swelling, pain and warmth. Each of us has had this after hitting ourselves hard or cutting ourselves. The following redness, swelling, pain and warmth are simply a result of the bodies trying to heal itself. However, in rheumatoid arthritis, the body is not trying to repair itself. In a weird or unusual way it is related to the body actually attacking itself and causing this redness, swelling, pain or warmth where it should not. In this case it is in the joints.
However, don’t we do this ourselves? That is doing things to our body, which causes us harm? We don’t eat right, exercise right, smoke, and eat too much. But we also may lie and cheat and steal. All of these in time can cause us problems. It can cause our consciences to not feel right. This is the same thing Rheumatoid Arthritis does. It causes problems where it should not. This is what the sin or wrong doings of our life also does. They cause guilt in our hearts and minds where they should not. We have just mentioned how Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross-can allow us to put our sins on Jesus and thus not on have these sins on ourselves. But exactly how do we do this?
Recall we have mentioned the book the man Paul wrote to the city of Rome about 60AD. This book is contained in the Bible. In this book Paul tells how we can place our sins on Jesus. He say, ‘if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead you will be saved, for it is with the mouth you confess that Jesus is Lord and with the heart believe that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10.9,10).’ What does this all mean? We must confess that Jesus is Lord or ruler of our life. That means our money, work, family, everything. We should and must that Jesus is Lord of everything in our life. Then we should believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead. We must believe that Jesus died on the Cross and that God raised Jesus, his only son, to new life. If we believe this and will publicly confess this we will be saved. We will be saved from our sins both now and can live a life of joy and freedom in Christ as well as live a life eternally with Jesus Christ.
If this is a life you would life to live then I would ask you to pray this prayer with me right now. ‘Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I have sinned. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross-for my sins. I believe that Jesus took these sins on himself so that I might have life now and forever more. I also believe that after Jesus died on the Cross-for my sins he rose from the dead so show that you have victory over death. I want you to come into my life to save me. Thank you. Amen.’ If you have prayed this prayer you are not now a child of God both now and forever. Congratulations.