Illness, Pain and Reviving the Church

“My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)


Job and His Friends by Ilya Repin

God does powerful work through small things. But there is an important difference between small and shrinking; between passion for people and ties to tradition. I see 2 barriers (though not the only ones) to reviving one’s soul and reviving a church: one is spiritual and one is physical/emotional:

  1. Churches panic and look for quick fixes, rather than enter a season of repentance, spiritual discernment, and greater faithfulness. (More on this in a couple of weeks)
  2. People are overwhelmed by sickness, injury and pain. Doctor visits, medical treatments, hospital stays, new medications, grief, loss, distress. They all bring suffering, test one’s faith, and limit one’s ability to serve.

I’m preaching on The Bible and Chronic Illness (#2), and sharing from pastoral and personal experience.  I was diagnosed with Epilepsy when I was in 5th grade, and have been on medication ever since. Like all disorders and diseases, the body resists medication, so other treatment options are considered.

When I was in 18 years old, I went from being passionate about Christ and His church, to being disappointed with God. Doesn’t God heal? I wrestled with this biblically, which is the basis for my 2 part sermon series. Here’s an important passage from Paul that helped me, can help you and our congregation:

“I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. It’s a messenger from Satan sent to torment me so that I wouldn’t be conceited. I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone. He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

We don’t know what Paul’s illness was, but he suffered from a chronic condition. It was severe enough for him to plead with God to take it away. People with a chronic illness will have days like that.

Paul’s illness hampered his ministry but not his passion and vision. He traveled and planted churches when he could, and wrote pastoral letters when he couldn’t.
Churches supported him and his ministry when his health failed (Galatians 4:14). Churches thrived, the Gospel spread like wildfire and the world was transformed.

Illness is a reality that affects us all. It can keep us from functioning the way we want, but it doesn’t have to keep us from having a passion for Christ and a vision for his church.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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1 Response to Illness, Pain and Reviving the Church

  1. Pingback: Illness, Pain and Reviving the Church - HUNTINGTOWN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

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