“The Blessings of Poor Health”
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church
My recent bout with bronchitis, along with an ongoing concern for the various people within our fellowship who are struggling with a multitude of physical problems, has caused me to again think about how Christians should face sickness practically speaking. While it is clear that our world places a high priority on health, a study of God’s word finds that there is little emphasis on the need to pursue or maintain our physical health. The clear priority for the believer is a thriving walk with the Lord despite sometimes adverse circumstances. I am not saying that Scripture does not address this issue at all. Nor am I implying that we should ignore our health. The apostle Paul gave instruction to Timothy to help him care for health problems he was facing. “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”
(1 Tim. 5:23). But we must be careful that we do not allow poor health to rob us of our joy in the Lord, confidence in the promises He has given, and the need to be faithful in our service to Him. As I think about how our health tends to dominate our thoughts and affect our actions, I came up with several questions that I hope will cause us all to reconsider our attitude when facing various health problems.
1. How has this illness brought glory to God? Our illness provides an opportunity to remind us of our weakness and God’s strength. Ongoing battles with health rekindle within us a longing for glory and an opportunity to reflect upon the transience of this life (II Cor. 5:1). In all of these things we are reminded of how utterly dependent we are upon God for all things, both physical and spiritual. Paul learned this through his struggle with the “thorn in the flesh”. “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
2. For what have I been thankful during this time? Christians are always to be thankful in that they recognize that God is sovereign over all and is therefore worthy of being thanked even when He, in His sovereignty, has removed our good health. When we allow ourselves to cease giving thanks to God, even in the midst of physical weakness, we are (through our thanklessness) implying that God has let us down. While we would never admit that, our unwillingness to give thanks bears witness that we see nothing to be thankful for. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6).
“In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider— God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.” (Eccles. 7:14)
3. Have I manifested to others the sufficiency of God in the midst of my illness, or have my complaints, doubts, and despair undermined my profession of trust? When our outlook on life is clouded by poor health, we must work hard to remember that God has not changed! The blessings of salvation have not been diminished! Our eternal hope is still sure!
4. How can this time be used to encourage others? Though we are reluctant to admit it, illness often leads to a form of self-pity in which we expect others to be waiting on us. When this happens we are not as sensitive to the needs being faced by others and are a little less open to being used by God to meet those needs. Scripture has given us many examples of those who faithfully served while struggling with their health. Paul’s thorn in the flesh (II Cor. 12:7,8), Timothy’s frequent illnesses (I Tim. 6:23), Epaphroditus – sick to the point of death (Phil. 2:25-27), Job and his suffering. Though specific types of ministry may be hindered because of poor health, ministry itself does not cease. Even in illness we can pray for others, call them, and send notes of encouragement.
5. As God examines my heart, does He see one who is content and waiting patiently? “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Rom. 8:23-25) “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58)
6. What have I learned about God through this that has deepened my love for Him? This was a questioned answered by Job who suffered tremendously in accordance with the sovereign purpose of our loving God. “Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.’” (Job 42:1-2) “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)
Followers of Jesus Christ have been given the opportunity to see His hand in every aspect of our life and to rest in His provision. This is true even when He has seen fit to favor us with poor health. While it is good to pray that the Lord may restore us to good health, let us be as diligent in praying that He would enable us to rejoice and remain faithful even while we are still sick.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give me a call.
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church