One of the glorious things about a church filled with people transformed by God’s grace is the body’s Spirit-enabled ability to uniquely care for one another—spiritually, emotionally, physically and, when needed, financially (Gal 6). One of the ways this is powerfully manifested is when the body actively and intentionally ministers to the sick, the disabled and the homebound saints.
Whether the church family is responding to an acute, life–threatening disease, a severe injury or a chronic illness, these major life events often result in a beloved brother or sister becoming physically limited and/or disabled for a season and sometimes permanently. In God’s perfect design, the church family has been uniquely equipped to care for them! (Acts 2; Rom 12; 1 Cor 12-13; Eph 4). One of the great joys I’ve experienced at FBC is seeing God work through His church in a variety of amazing ways to care for those suffering with acute, life-threatening illnesses.
My primary purpose in this post is to address the specific “why & how” regarding care for the sick, disabled and homebound in our church family. The larger biblical question as to “why” people suffer, are born with deformities, become severely injured or disabled is not the focus of this post. You can find more on that topic elsewhere. In the future (part 2), I hope to address our specific care of those with debilitating, chronic illnesses.
The Human Condition
Since the fall of mankind, sickness and disability has become the “norm” (Gen 3:14-19). The earliest recorded history archeological artifacts reveal that all types of medicines and treatments were used to care for the sick .
Cancer, heart disease and arthritis have been found in the oldest recovered human remains . Scripture repeatedly declares that times and seasons of sickness, suffering and disability are an inescapable part of this life and are one of the means by which God displays His glory and works for our ultimate good! (Eccl 3:1-8; 1 Cor 4:16; Gen 50:50; Rom 8:28; 2 Cor 12:7-10)
While actively caring for own our physical bodies is a needed and wise pursuit, it will not totally prevent us from experiencing sickness and disability at some time in our lives. The multi-trillion dollar healthcare industry attests to this reality!
A Reasonable Expectation
We can expect that, at any given time, a certain percentage of individuals in the FBC family will be personally dealing with a wide range and severity of sickness and disability. Some will experience little to no physical limitations while others may struggle with little to no ability to participate in some or all of the normal activities of daily living (e.g., work, housekeeping, self-care, family gatherings, recreation, school, church activities, etc.).
What can or should we do about those with significant limitations and constant physical suffering? Is there biblical precedent or guidance for us to follow?
What Did Jesus Do?
Jesus’ response to sickness and suffering was to ACT. Ministry to the disabled was a daily, normal part of Christ’s public ministry while He walked on earth. He routinely ministered to and through those of all ages, of all types of disabilities, and at all cognitive levels of understanding. Jesus spoke to them. He touched them. He healed them. He loved them. He is our ultimate example.
While He alone is the God-man, I believe, at a minimum, this is what Jesus would have us do for those who are sick, disabled and homebound:
- Speak to them. Graciously break through the isolation and sorrow they experience. Learn the best ways to connect and encourage them.
- Touch their lives. Creatively use some of your time, talent and treasure to build them up and connect them to the body.
- Love them. Faithfully, humbly serve them as an act of love.
- Bring healing to their hearts. Pray for them, witness to them, be present with them, and seek to meet their special needs.
When the God of the universe so clearly values those who are suffering, should not believers do the same? Especially when He has supernaturally equipped each of us to be unique channels of His grace?
While the main function of Jesus’ miracles during His earthly ministry was to authenticate/validate His Deity, they also manifested His compassion, mercy and love toward the sick and disabled! As Spirit-enabled followers of Christ, we are compelled and commanded to follow our Lord’s example—not by doing miracles, but in our compassionate treatment of others.
Jesus Still Helps Those Who Are Suffering Today!
While “physical healing” is not the norm today, in His sovereign grace, God still does sometimes supernaturally intervene and care for His people today who are confronted with significant health/life issues.
Examples abound by missionaries, doctors and others—saved and unsaved alike—where the only explanation for the healing or change in a person’s condition was God’s help. Through His common grace, He cares for all of humanity. For example, through the use of modern medicine, technologic innovation, and research into better more effective preventive, diagnostic and treatment methods, millions are cared for and suffering relieved.
However, I believe the single greatest means of His care for the sick and homebound is through the members of His Body, the Church! Scripture declares that, as each of us humbly work together and employ our unique gifts, Christ works in and through us! We have the awesome privilege of being vessels by which His compassion, mercy and love are poured out on the suffering and disabled in our church family (Eph 3:20-21).
A Call to Action
At FBC, we should seek to create environments where God’s caring purposes can be optimally fulfilled in and through our sick, disabled and homebound saints. (Eph. 2:10) We, as followers of Christ, need to remember that God powerfully works through weakness. In fact, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Cor 12:22).
A local church cannot be fully representative of, and fully functioning as, the body of Christ if a vital part of the body is missing. Therefore,
- Let’s all commit to ensure we know who are the infirm among us.
- Let’s all commit to being a link that connects them to the body!
- Let’s all commit to being conduits of Christ’s care for the sick, disabled and homebound God has placed among us!