Sick and Serving
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners. ( Mark2:17)
John Piper in Desiring God gives us the following:
The difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam won’t take you in his service unless you are healthy and Jesus won’t unless you unless you are sick. Christianity is fundamentally convalescent (Pray without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17] = Keep buzzing the nurse). Patients do not serve their physicians. They trust them for good prescriptions. The commands of the Bible are more like a doctor’s health prescription than an employee’s job description.
Therefore, our very lives hang on not working for God. “To the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. (Romans 4:4-5) Workmen get no gifts. They get their due. If we would have the gift of justification, we dare not work. God is the Workman in this affair. And what He gets is the trust of His client and the glory of being the benefactor of grace, not the beneficiary of service.
Nor should we think that after justification our labor for God’s wages begins: “Did you receive the Spirit by works of law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you of now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3) God was the Workman in our justification, and He will be the Workman in our sanctification .
Religious “flesh” always wants to work for God(rather than humbling itself to realize that God must work for it in free grace). But “if you live according to the flesh you will die”(Romans 8:13) That is why our very lives hang on not working for God. Then shall we serve God? It is commanded: “Serve the Lord”(Romans 12:11) Those who do not serve Christ are rebuked(see Romans 16:18) Yes we must serve Him. But we will be aware of serving in a way that implies a deficiency on His part or exalts our indispensability.
You have often heard me say the church is a hospital for those who have discovered they are spiritually and morally sick, thus needing the Great Physician and not a museum of the saints who believe they are well and need no medicine.
The challenges with this crisis, the social distancing, and the resulting effects cause us to pause and evaluate ourselves, our motives and our serving God. This crisis has given emphasis and deepened awareness of something God began in me and is working in me. I was with a hospice patient and family one day. Both the patient and family repeatedly expressed their gratitude for me being there. They in essence said that my presence there gave them the comfort and strength. I admit that made me feel good. After all this was what I lived for, to bring help and hope to those in a crisis. At that moment the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, “Do they need you or do they need Jesus? I realized the “fixer” in me was operating as though I could fix them when in reality only Jesus could give them what they needed. At that moment, I realized that I had operated as though I was indispensable and that God’s work couldn’t be accomplished without me. I didn’t mean that to happen but it had. Though I had and still do give God the credit, I realized that in some way I had forgotten that all I am was a gift from God. A few days ago as I received news of those sick and struggling, those who had suffered loss, this feeling arose again. I said if I could be there, I know I could help them. The “fixer” was still alive. Again the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Are you the Comforter or am I? I confess that there is this struggle of needing to feel necessary and I’m realizing that God can really do His work with or without me. I realize that I can earn none of His blessings or ever do anything to receive His grace. “I’m just a nobody”. So my job is not to make it happen or “fix it”. My job is to “tell everybody about Somebody who saved my soul”. Is it good to serve? Is it good to work? Yes! But, let’s not work to earn our place in the kingdom or somehow earn His grace and blessing. Let us work because we enjoy and because we love the Lord. Let us serve with gladness, never from duty or obligation or pressure. Let us let God do the work and remember we are His assistants and not the other way around. I will no doubt continue to struggle with trying to fix things and I’m sure God will remind me again that I’m just a helper and through His grace He lets me assist. Let us be prodigals who come home and party with the Father and not elder sons who believe they must serve to receive. Let the party begin and let us be children and not servants.
Dr. John Thompson