Would you like more members in your church? That is the current topic of discussion in my church! People have ideas for outreach, but my thought is "Let's heal some sick people!" Have you ever considered what a great approach that is to bringing new people into your church? That was Jesus' approach, right? Or, was it? Did Jesus heal people to bring more crowds to hear Him, or did He heal people because He had compassion on them? If you are healing people to attract others to the gospel, isn't that showing compassion? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about how to deal with sickness!
DISCIPLING THE SICK
FEBRUARY 1, 2014
Key Thought : There is an intimate correlation among physical, emotional, and spiritual health. We need to minister to the total person.
Have a volunteer read John 9:1-3.
Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
How do we understand the seeming unfairness of those who are born with handicaps and less than normal physical or mental health? Can it be the result of parental sin? Can it be the result of environmental influences? Can God be glorified through the handicapped or mentally ill other than being healed?
c. Personal Application : How can we learn to help and encourage others through our sympathy? Who hasn’t suffered in one way or another in this life? How can we lift them up to see Jesus? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your relatives states: “God wants us to be of a sound mind and in good health. Mental and physical illness is a result of a lack of faith, not living Christian principles, or not having a good relationship with God. People need spiritual healing, and the physical and mental are interrelated.” How would you respond to your relative?
Have a volunteer read Mark 2:5-12.
Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
Why did Jesus forgive the man’s sins first when it seemed apparent he was looking for physical healing?
Personal Application: When you have been physically ill, did it have any effect on your spirituality? Did it affect your Bible study, prayer life, faith and trust, or any other aspect of your Christian experience? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your friends states, “What can we say to those who come to us for anointing and healing when it doesn’t happen? Do we look to them or ourselves for some flaw or lack of faith? What can we find from Scripture that helps us in times when it looks like God’s grace is all that’s sufficient for us at the time?” How would you respond to your friend?
Have a volunteer read Matthew 6:31-34.
Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
How do we uphold Biblical teaching of healing ministry without being associated with “faith healers”? Are we only to adhere to medicinal “cures” or can we trust God’s Word for miracles? Share.
Personal Application : How do you prioritize Christ’s kingdom first before food, shelter, and clothing? What principle is involved in these priorities? Share your thoughts.
Case Study : One of your neighbors states, “I am puzzled by this passage. Many hippies and transient people who go from place to place seem to think they are Christlike by living off other people and deserve to be taken care of even though they don’t work or make any effort to fend for themselves. Is this the kind of lifestyle Jesus was encouraging?” How would you respond to your neighbor?
Have a volunteer read I Corinthians 12:7-9.
Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. How can healing ministries open hearts and minds otherwise closed to the gospel?
c. Personal Application: What helped you get through a time in your life when you were physically or emotionally challenged? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.
(Note : “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.” MH p. 149.
Discipling the Sick
Commentary for the February 1, 2014 Sabbath School Lesson
“But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” John 11:37, NIV
In the early 1970s, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber produced a rock opera called “Jesus Christ Superstar.” One memorable scene in the Broadway production that eventually also became a movie came after Jesus cleansed the temple of the money changers. Appearing exhausted and consumed with the weight of events soon to take place during Passion Week, he is besieged by those seeking healing. The lyrics betray the burden of these demands and perhaps the sometimes selfish motives of those making them:
“See my eyes. I can hardly see!
See me stand. I can hardly walk!
I believe you can make me whole!”
“See my tongue. I can hardly talk!
See my skin. I'm a mass of blood!
See my legs. I can hardly stand!
I believe you can make me well!”
“See my purse. I'm a poor, poor man!
Will you touch, will you mend me Christ?
Won't you touch, will you heal me Christ?
Will you kiss, you can cure me Christ?
Won't you kiss, won't you pay me Christ?”[i]
Anyone who has traveled in a third-world country and been beset by crowds of beggars may begin to feel how beleaguered Jesus must have been. When I was in Saigon visiting the city zoo during the Vietnam War, a couple of children came up to me asking for money. Feeling sorry for them, I gave them a few Piastres.[ii] Almost immediately a couple of dozen children and disabled adults came out of nowhere like a flood and surrounded me begging for more Piastres. Feeling overwhelmed and unable to provide even one Piastre apiece for so many, I quickly found refuge in a nearby Buddhist temple where the monks did not allow begging, seeing it as competition for the temple offerings.
Perhaps in our own sufferings, we can understand the desperation and need that drives these destitute petitioners. I prayed many, many times beseeching healing and favor from God on behalf of my first wife, who succumbed to the ravages of Multiple Sclerosis after three decades of marriage. Instead of healing, I saw her slowly lose strength, agility and even hope for healing before the relentless onslaught of the disease. Sadly, during the course of her illness, many charlatans sought to deprive us of our financial resources by touting “sure” cures that they happened to be selling through multi-level marketing schemes. These “cures” were always expensive and always came with the line, “What does the cost matter if it heals your wife?”
After spending money on some of these schemes, we found most did nothing and a few actually made her worse. Finally we told the hucksters, if they will pay for the first month of “treatment” and she improves, we will take it from there. We had very few takers once their own finances were on the line. The few that did found they had the same results. This experience helped us to understand the desperate lot of the woman coming to Jesus who had an issue of blood for twelve years and spent all she had on doctors.[iii] Not able to heal her, the doctors were certainly not eager to return her money either.
We also encountered those who said that healing was a matter of faith, and if we had sufficient faith, my wife would be healed. Perhaps they were basing this on the encounter when Jesus descended from the Mount of Transfiguration and was confronted by a father with a son plagued with seizures.[iv] The Disciples were unable to heal the boy, and Jesus rebuked the father for his lack of faith. When the Disciples asked why they could not heal the boy, Jesus told them they also lacked the faith necessary to do so. But is faith the answer? If so why do so many saints sometimes suffer so greatly from physical ailments? Even Paul had his “thorn in the flesh” that some feel might have been a vision disability.[v][vi]
Perhaps there is more to healing from God than simple faith. When Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth,[vii] He pointed out that during a severe famine in the time of Elijah, God did not send relief for anyone through Elijah except for a foreign woman from the same country as the wicked Queen Jezebel, notwithstanding that there were many in Israel who were suffering from the famine. Also, in the time of Elisha, no lepers in Israel were cured through Elisha’s intercession. Only Naaman, a Syrian, who practically had to be dragged unwillingly into the river to be cured, found healing through the prophet. If faith was a necessary precursor to healing, why were these foreigners healed over anyone in Israel? Is God capricious?
Far from capriciousness, the Bible tells us that God sends his rain on both the just and the unjust.[viii] The rains were necessary to provide good harvests in an agrarian economy. God apparently dispenses such a blessing without favoritism. If blessings are shared without regard to righteousness, would it be reasonable to assume that sufferings might be equally shared as well? If so, perhaps real faith is not in finding deliverance from suffering, but in how we face it. In the well-known Shepherd’s Psalm,[ix] we are not told that God will deliver us from the “Valley of the Shadow of Death,” but that instead He will be right there in the valley with us. That presence is perhaps a comfort for all those who have been in the vale of despair. Maybe deliverance comes not through the absence of suffering but in experiencing the presence of God.
Some might say that God has a purpose in our suffering, and if we could understand it, we would agree with His decision not to deliver us. However, this paints a rather Machiavellian portrait of God, a God who justifies the means by the end. It would be hard to picture such a God weeping[x] at our misfortune since He decided to make us go through it. Is God really such an intriguer, or are we merely attributing human ways to Someone who transcends all of that. The Bible prophet Isaiah says that His ways are not our ways,[xi] yet we nonetheless often anthropomorphize Him and his actions. Maybe in the face of our lack of understanding, silence is a better response than attributing to God human character, especially negative human character.
Some when dealing with human suffering in the face of ongoing prayer are tempted to say that God is answering the prayer, and the answer is “No.” This is a trite response that makes God appear indifferent to the sufferer. It also flies in the face of a God that Jesus said would provide whatever was asked for in faith.[xii] Perhaps for the saint, the citizen of the Kingdom of God, the answer is always “Yes,” but the timetable is up to God. Like a surgeon who decides when the patient is best able to handle a needed surgery, God may delay the answer until the moment it will be optimally received. For some that may be at the Parousia. For others, it might be during their lifetime here on Earth, only at a later time more appropriate to the sufferer’s best possible outcome.
This possibility allows God to continue to be loving. It does not make Him indifferent or scheming to a particular end at our expense. As with any human perspective, it naturally falls short of adequately explaining God. How can we explain a being that can exist outside of space and time and yet is said to have entered into that space and that time in the person of Jesus? Our perspective is bound by that very dimensionality that defines our universe. We may as well be ants trying to describe the various aspects of human society around the globe while limited to our anthill and its immediate environs.
When we peer into the vast expanse of space with our best telescopes, we are unable to view the edge of our universe. We can only mathematically speculate that such an edge even exists. We do not even clearly understand dark matter which apparently makes up much of that universe. When we attempt to project what we understand from living on Earth into the cosmos, will it hold up, or are there things beyond our understanding that will fail to conform to our expectations? Do we even understand here on our little blue-and-green marble of a planet the possibility that the basic underlying principle of everything we see may be love?[xiii] Is it possible that if we allowed ourselves to be swept in the surging current of that love, its presence would be all we would need in our dark valley of suffering?
[i] “The Temple,” Jesus Christ Superstar, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber, 1970.
[ii] The Indochinese Piastre was the South Vietnamese currency through the Vietnam War and was replaced by the Dong in 1978. At the time of this event, a Piastre was worth about 60 cents U.S.
[iii] Mark 5:26
[iv] Matthew 17:14-20
[v] 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
[vi] “What Was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh?” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, http://carm.org/paul-thorn-in-flesh
[vii] Luke 4:14-30
[viii] Matthew 5:45
[ix] Psalm 23
[x] John 11:35
[xi] Isaiah 55:8-9
[xii] Matthew 21:22, John 14:13, John 15:16, John 16:23
[xiii] 1 John 4:16
He had only one hope. No other options. No other solutions. He had used every resource at his disposal and everything that concerned family members and friends could do had been done. Now dangling in a bed let down through the roof of Peter’s house, he was at his moment of truth.
The familiar story of the paralytic shared in Luke 5 contains many of the shared experiences of those facing sickness personally or dealing with loved ones who are sick. The sense of fear, sorrow and pain is common. And for some there is the added guilt and remorse for lifestyle choices that led to their state of being.
As the love of Jesus drew this dying man to this time and place we see examples all along the way for this week’s subject of Discipling the Sick. We find in this story illustrations of the roles we should play towards those who are in desperate situations.
“Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.” Luke 5:18, 19
To assist those in need, from the feeding of the hungry, the clothing of the naked, the sheltering of the homeless and the relieving of sickness is integral to the life of a disciple. “For the love of Christ constraineth us” 2 Corinthians 5:14. The renewed heart of a disciple is a heart that is drawn towards serving others.
“Many have no faith in God and have lost confidence in man. But they appreciate acts of sympathy and helpfulness. As they see one with no inducement of earthly praise or compensation coming to their homes, ministering to the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the sad, and tenderly pointing all to him of whose love and pity the human worker is but the messenger,—as they see this, their hearts are touched. Gratitude springs up, faith is kindled. They see that God cares for them, and as his Word is opened they are prepared to listen.” Ellen White, Review & Herald May 9, 1912
As these four men from the roof of the house hold this bed of misery, down below a lesson in God’s grace is being unfolded. Our paralytic friend has met the eyes of Him who is the Desire of Ages. His emaciated body is there for all to see. He is desperate for healing of his mind as well as his body. With the love that we will study throughout eternity he hears the words that have set millions free, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” Luke 5:20
Your past, regardless of the depth of your sins, is forgiven. Your years of remorse and guilt are ended. The shame you’ve endured is over and you are forgiven. The mental toll of worrying about the future and your standing before God is settled. You are forgiven. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
As the stunned audience looks on, Jesus addresses the evil thoughts of those who did not celebrate the healing of those they looked down upon.
“Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Luke 5:22-24
What a hallelujah moment that must have been! Can’t you see with your mind’s eye a man well known as a cripple, climb out of his bed of desperation and stand in the strength and vigor of manhood? Can’t you see the shocked crowd part with their jaws dropped and their eyes wide in amazement as he passes through leaping and praising God? Can you picture his four companions joining him in a jubilant and triumphant return to his home? Do you see his family who last saw him as a dying man now see him stand before them leaping and hugging them with a joy that could not be contained?
Our God is an awesome God! He delights to bring healing to the mind and the body. He has given us the privilege of being a part of this process. He has called us to be instruments of His love and compassion that others might experience what the ex-paralytic experienced that day at Peter’s house. “Go, and do thou likewise”. Luke 10:37
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
What does a “medical missionary” mean to you?
Isn’t it true that not everyone (Christian SDA) is called to be a medical missionary?
Why do you answer yes or no?
Isn’t it true that Matthew 15:10 “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” teaches that what we eat is not that important?
Why do you answer yes or no?
What does 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” mean to you?
Isn’t it true that not being healed is an indication of a lack of faith either on the part of those praying for healing or those who need healing?
Why do you answer yes or no?
Isn’t it mostly true that sickness is God’s deliberate way of getting our attention?
Why do you answer yes or no?
We close this week with the prophetic words of Isaiah 61 as quoted by Jesus announcing His mission to a lost and dying world:
“And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:17-21
1. Health and healing. How important was the healing ministry in earthly Jesus' life? We're told that Jesus spent more time healing than preaching. Was that a wise distribution of His power and love? Why? Should we as His followers and friends, spend more effort than we do in ministering to the frail? the sick? the weak? the fearful? How can we expand our efforts to reach those who are physically challenged?
2. Messiah the Healer. What was the outstanding difference between the way pagan gods seemed to perform healing acts and the way Jesus dealt with the sick? Why was it most effective for Jesus as God to take on Himself our human weaknesses, even sickness? What were some of the times in His life that Jesus suffered the most in a physical or emotional sense? Did the crowds surge around Jesus hoping for healing as He walked in their midst? Did He grant their requests?
3. Sickness and sin. Have you ever had a bad stomach ache because you ate too much? Was the stomach ache a punishment for your sin? Do faithful, true followers of Jesus get sick from lung cancer? or get hurt when driving on the highway? Does Jesus ever try to win us to Him by causing us to suffer? How should we treat a sick person who doesn't seem to have a Christian relationship with Jesus? What should we think of someone who prays earnestly to be healed but dies anyway?
4. Physical and mental healing. Do Christians ever suffer from mental illness? Is there a cure for everyone who seems to have a "sick" mind and cannot cope well with life? What can church members do for fellow believers who seem to have a terrible temper, constant weariness, or troubles too great to bear? How should we relate to the family members of a person who ends his or her life because of the weight of discouragement? Do you believe in the power of happiness in Christ?
5. The resurrection and the life. In the beginning did God create us to live forever? When sin entered, what took the place of an endless life of joy? Why didn't God create us ready to welcome death whenever it comes? Why do so few Christians believe that when you die, you are dead, unaware of the world? Do they really believe their loved ones would be happy watching what's going on with family members and friends on earth? How should we view receiving the gift of eternal life when Jesus comes compared to the gift of our lives being extended a little longer now?
6. Christ's healing legacy. How much money could we bring in if we could bring healing to the sick with just a touch or a word? Do God's people still possess the ability to heal those who are sick? Should financial gain ever be the motive for applying healing skills? Seventh-day Adventists are famous for being healthier and living longer than average folks. Are we doing all we can to share the skills and knowledge we have about good health? Are there people we can bring to Jesus by introducing them to the joy and good health we obtain by following Him? What are we waiting for?
Praise the Lord if you are following the principles of good health and enjoying the benefits! Did you know that one of the best exercises of all is to flex the muscles that make you smile? God bless you. Joyce Griffith
"Discipling the Sick"
February 1, 2014
Texts: Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17; Mark 2:1-12; Philippians 4:4-9; 1 John 3:20-22; John 11:37-44
The flu season usually peaks during January and February. Many of us are metaphorically crossing our fingers that we will stay well. Being ill with anything is something all of us attempt to avoid. The majority of us want to feel good, look good, and do good for others.
With that in mind, an entire industry is being built on the concept of wellness which uses an integrative approach to help people make informed choices that lead to a more successful existence. In addition to being physically fit, the wellness movement focuses on one's mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Wellness is looked at through the lens of one's lifestyle as opposed to merely freedom from disease.
The National Wellness Institute is a nonprofit organization promoting global wellness. The Institute's co-founder, Dr. Bill Hettler, created a model referred to as the "Six Dimensions of Wellness." To optimize the body's functionality, Hettler's six dimensions consider one's physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, social, and occupational wellness.1
Jesus was all about wellness. It could be said that Jesus is the father of the holistic approach. Scripture records indicate that He spent more time healing people than preaching. Jesus healed the paralyzed, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, the epileptic, the paralytic, a woman suffering from a hemorrhage, a man with a withered hand, and a man with dropsy. Jesus freed many from Satan's enslavement who were demon possessed. The heart of a parent of a dead child, and the hearts of two of Jesus' closest friends, were broken in grief over the death of a family member. Jesus spoke new life into their dead loved one.
Jesus' manner of curing people took on various forms at different times. Sometimes the person was healed without being in Jesus' presence. At other times Jesus personally laid hands on the sick one, or touched a wound and healed it. Several diseased persons simply touched Jesus, or even the fringe of His garment, and were healed.
As followers of Jesus who may be full of faith and confidence in God's power, we may or may not witness a miracle of healing-or of someone being raised from the dead. But we do have the responsibility of telling someone who is seriously ill about the promise of a global resurrection and eternal life.
Our Bible study this week reminds us that physical or mental restoration was never Jesus' first concern for the crowds with whom He mingled. Regardless of the individual's circumstance or Jesus' method of healing, the number one endeavor that Jesus made was to get involved in people's lives so that He knew their need. Jesus' goal was to make disciples regardless of their condition. By meeting their need, they were then open to hear His testimony.
When we have a genuine concern for someone who is sick and get involved in his or her life, we are not taking on a project-we are investing in a person's life helping him or her to make or to solidify a spiritual commitment to the Master Physician.
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