Sunday, December 4, 2011

Can the Chronically Ill "Do" Ministry?

I have been involved in ministry for as long as I can remember. As a young girl I remember packing a sandwich for lunch and going with my mom to church where she served as the church secretary and pianist. My parents also served as youth leaders for a while and I tagged along on the beloved youth retreats and trips to amusement parks. As I got older, I became an active part of our youth group serving on mission trips, doing door to door evangelism, doing service projects, writing for our youth name it! In college I continued to go on several mission trips and eventually served for 2 years overseas after I graduated. I love serving the Lord and being involved ministry.

It never crossed my mind that I would ever not be involved in ministry. That was what I felt God had called me to do with my life: serve as a missionary overseas. Since my pain became disabling my opportunities for ministry have been very limiting. Basically I can blog, pray, or send cards to people.

Last night, however, I was able to be more practically involved in a ministry opportunity. I was able to help pack food bags for Feed My Starving Children, a Christian organization that sends food to hungry children in over 70 countries around the world. We spent about 2 hours along with 150 other people and packed enough food for 70 children to eat for a year! It was a small service project, but it felt huge to me to be apart of serving in a practical way.

Over the past several months I have gone from being the one who "serves" to the one who is the recipient of ministry. I am brought meals, people clean my house, give us money, and many keep us in their prayers. It's been a difficult thing to accept, but I know that allowing others to minister to me through my suffering is important.

As Christians we often equivalate feeding the poor, caring for the sick, teaching a Sunday School class or going on a mission trip with ministry. But in actuality the gospel of Jesus Christ is the ministry. The acts of service are only the acting out of the good news of Jesus Christ. My husband is an ordained pastor. He is ordained to the gospel ministry. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection is the ministry. Our ministry is to proclaim Him to all peoples. Serving people's physical needs is a good thing to do. Jesus cared for people physically, but it was not His primary purpose in coming to Earth. He came to bring joy to the world through salvation from sins and reconciliation with God.

In Acts 20:24 Paul says,

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

This is why someone who is chronically ill or physically unable to leave their bed can be "involved in ministry". Because the ministry is "to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" and any believer can do that.  If you are encouraging a friend over the phone to trust in God despite trials in their life you are ministering. If you continue to speak of God's grace through Jesus in your life to others you are "doing ministry". The goal of ministry is that God would be glorified and people would come to understand the gospel, not just that mouths would be fed or people be clothed.
I have often been encouraged by this quote from John Piper concerning running the Christian race and fighting the good fight of faith.

“The race is run against temptations that would make us doubt God’s goodness. It is a fight to stay satisfied in God through broken hips and lost sight and failed memory.The race can and may be run flat on your back. In fact, it may be run and fought better by the paralyzed than by the able and seemingly self-sufficient." (Taste and See p. 153)
If you are chronically ill, do you struggle with not being able to be involved in practical ministry? How do you serve God when you can't "go" and "do"?

1 comment:

  1. Thankful I stumbled across this blog! Been having health issues. Doctors are baffled.