I am a pastor. One of my regular weekly activities is to preach sermons. But, today the tables were turned, and I had a sermon preached to me from a most unlikely place…a hospital bed. Now, the message did not have three points and a poem. There was no alliteration. There was no invitation at the end. It wasn’t even shared with the intent of “preaching.” But, the strong, practical message hit home in my heart. And I want to share it with you.
I had the opportunity to visit with a 65 year old friend who spent the last 13 years of his life, along with his wife, serving God as international missionaries – serving in West Africa, Eastern Europe, and, finally, in Israel. However, life changed dramatically when, after coming back to the US 11 months ago for health-related concerns, he has had 5 surgeries during that time, most recently including an above-the-knee amputation of his right leg and a quintuple bypass heart surgery.
It would be easy, in the midst of such circumstances, to ask the “why” questions. “Why me?” “Why is this happening?” “Why has God allowed this after all my years of serving Him?” Yet none of those questions were asked. In fact, my friend shared that he was choosing not to ask those questions. Why? Because he really does believe the things he proclaimed to those he lived among and shared with over the past 13 years are true. What are some of those critical truths? There were many, but I will highlight three.
- God is Faithful – My friend can trust God today because he knows God’s faithful character. Of course, he reads that truth in God’s Word. But, he also reflects on the practical experiences where he has seen God’s faithfulness firsthand. I heard stories of God’s faithfulness in His provision and protection in the difficult, and often dangerous, places this family served. I heard testimony of thankfulness for God’s grace even in allowing these medical issues not to come to light until back in the US where state-of-the-art medical care would be available. We can rest in God’s faithfulness today as we look back and consider all the previous examples of God’s faithfulness – clear practical expressions of God’s character and nature.
- God’s Grace is Sufficient – Is it difficult to go through such trying circumstances? Of course. Is it fun to endure five surgeries in less than a year? Certainly not. But, it is in those very times that God shows us just how sufficient His grace is. As I quoted from Paul in 2 Cor. 12:8-10, my friend gave personal testimony of his experience of that truth – “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Whether persecution for the sake of the Gospel or physical challenges we face in this fallen world, God’s grace really is sufficient for us.
- God’s Glory is What We Live For – As I was preparing to leave, my friend asked me to please tell others, “I am ok. God is in control.” The reason for this declaration is because my friend’s desire is for God to be glorified in and through his life, whether on the mission field or in the hospital bed, whether before internationals on a foreign field or before healthcare personnel in a hospital rehab unit. The purpose of our lives is to live for God’s glory. I saw that being lived out today.
Some of the most powerful messages God uses in our lives are the ones we don’t expect. Today was one of those. I went to be an encouragement to a brother. I left encouraged and challenged. I hope these truths will challenge and encourage you as well, regardless of your circumstances, by the power of God’s Spirit, to trust God completely, and to live for God’s glory.
(Photo courtesy of Mark Hillary on Flickr)