Sickness As An Occasion For The Gospel
“As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.”
Galatians 4:13-14 (NIV UK)
It’s understandable that, when we are ill, many of our thoughts revolve around our own immediate needs. When will we feel better? Is the medication right? We may not be well enough to take care of making a meal or of doing the simplest of household tasks.
When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he reminded them of when they first met. He does not give all the details but it was a time when Paul was ill and needed help. Was he on his way somewhere else and became seriously ill as he passed through Galatia? Whatever it was, it appears to have been hard work for those around him, and the Galatians responded with care and consideration. Paul says they welcomed him as if he were Christ himself? What a commendation! I wonder whether we treat sick people we know in that way.
It’s also interesting to note that Paul used his illness as an occasion for the gospel. It was not all about himself and how he was feeling. He recognised an opportunity for Christ in what was going on. Perhaps some of the Galatians noticed something different about Paul as they nursed him, and asked him more about his faith. We don’t know exactly, but what we do know is that his sickness became the context for bringing the message of Christ to the Galatians.
Both these ideas are instructive for us: that we should regard the sick in high esteem in the same way as we regard Christ, and that, whenever we are ill, it’s not the time to put our Christianity temporarily on the shelf until we are better. Rather it’s a chance to let Jesus reach out to others through us.
Of course sickness may affect our outlook and everything we do. It’s not an easy time in our lives. Paul knew that, but he also saw how all of life is be an opportunity for the gospel.
Thank you, Father, for the compassion that others show me when I am sick, and help me, please, even when I am ill, to let Christ work in and through me. In Jesus name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. This weekend James is speaking in our Nottingham congregation. You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.wcg.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.