Yesterday at church Dave interviewed a couple who is going through the dark valley of cancer and all that comes with that trial. The wife is the one who is ill and the husband is left in the unenviable position of helplessness, watching his wife suffer physically and not being able to relieve it or protect her from it. They testified of the joy of the presence of the Lord through this trial, giving Him the glory for all they were going through.
The husband spoke of two things he has relied upon through this battle - the first was sacrificial love for his wife, putting her needs before all else - agape. The second was the power of prayer as the sustaining force in his life.
But what pricked my ears was another statement he made and I want to share it with you this morning. One of the first things he said of their battle was this:
It's also true of the Christian walk. We were given to each other as the body of Christ to encourage, edify, uplift, support, love on, challenge, exhort, correct and "do life together." We were not created as an island, but as a community. And if the imagery of the church being the bride of Christ is accurate in scripture (II Cor. 11:2; Matthew 9:15; Matthew 25:1-12; Mark 2:19-20; John 3:25-30), then the statement above is also true - as believers, we are called to give up a lot of ourselves to serve the bride in the crisis.
And crisis abounds in the church, doesn't it? There is much sorrow and despair - over the consequences of sin, over the circumstances of life. And our role is not to pat people on the back and tell them how sorry we are for them, but to roll up our sleeves and become part of the solution. Sometimes that comes in the form of fervent prayer, other times it means extended bible study and counsel. It might even mean supplying a need or giving up valued free time.
But we are not called to do anything Christ wouldn't do, right? So what is the example He set before us?
not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence,
work out your salvation with fear and trembling;
for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing;
so that you will [i]prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent,
children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you appear as lights in the world,
holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ
I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.
But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice
and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.
You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.