Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"If one part suffers, every part suffers with it ..."

My heart is heavy as my brother in Christ in Pakistan suffered a heart attack on Sunday.  He is a pastor - a humble, yet powerful servant of God!  He spoke just last week to over 7,000 people at an evangelistic meeting.  He has helped nine other congregations get started.  He began a Bible institute.  He opened a home for orphans.  He has a heart larger than his country and is nearly ten years younger than I am ... and he is gravely ill in a hospital in Pakistan, where the necessary medical treatment is not readily available, especially to Christians who live in extreme poverty.  What can I do?  What can God's people do?

This man of God is not the only believer around the world who is suffering.  Many are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.  Others, like him, live in poverty and do not have access to medical care.  We all know this is true, but it is easier to overlook if you do not have a personal connection with the people.  As I have had the opportunity and privilege to travel to places like Cambodia and Haiti and Guatemala, I have witnessed sincere Christians, followers of Jesus, enduring suffering of various kinds.  It is happening in many places around the world, and has been so for centuries.  So how do we respond to the suffering of others - especially those who are brothers and sisters in Christ?

As Paul writes to the Corinthians, he uses the body as an illustration of the oneness of the body of Christ.  He explains that we all need each other and that one part of the body cannot say to another part, "I don't need you."  The parts of the body are inter-dependent.  We depend on each other in times of need.  But there is more than that:  there is sympathy, empathy, caring, compassion.  Paul writes, "There should be no division in the body, but its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" (I Corinthians 12:25-26).  As strange as it may sound, in a very intimate way, I am suffering because of the heart attack of my dear brother in Pakistan.  And it's not the first time.

It is hard to watch people suffering, but it is equally difficult to know that people are suffering.  When we are suffering, whether it is our health, our finances or in some other way, we want people to know it.  But when others suffer it often makes us uncomfortable.  We feel helpless and perhaps vulnerable ourselves because we know that suffering in this life is really just one moment away from any one of us.  It's easier to ignore suffering whenever you can and pretend that all is well.  But it's not what God wants you to do.  Being part of the body of Christ means having the mind and heart of Christ - the very Spirit of Christ, and that means that you will have compassion and a desire to show mercy and love to those who are suffering.  It comes with the territory.

Sometimes there is little we can do ... or so it seems.  The power of prayer cannot be measured.  Because God is sovereign, He guides His people to pray and promises to hear.  The answers to our prayers are sometimes miraculous.  Other times, God gives insight and wisdom through out prayers to move us to help in other ways - to care for people directly by going to other countries - or across the street, by investing our time and energy, and even our financial resources, to help our brothers and sisters in Christ and others with whom we want to share the good news of salvation in Christ.  However God moves us and however He uses us, those in the body of Christ cannot and will not choose to ignore the plight of others around them.

We can't do it all ... and so sometimes our hearts will be heavy.  "If one part suffers, every part suffer with it." Sometimes (perhaps often) we will not understand God's plan and we will wonder why God allows certain things to happen - especially persecution, suffering and death.  But God is not only sovereign, He is also loving, merciful and faithful to all who call upon His name.  I know that my brother in Pakistan is a faithful servant of Christ.  I know that he loves his Savior and Lord.  And I know that God loves Him.  So I rest in the knowledge that my God is with him at this moment, and I pray that God will do what seems impossible ... that He will restore him to health and strength and provide the financial resources for him and his family and his congregation.  It seems like a mountain - but our God moves mountains!!

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