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First Thoughts

Caring for the Sick

In a world of hate, it is a joy to minister to brothers and sisters with compassion! Twenty-eight years ago, when God relocated our family to Jacksonville, we found First Baptist church to be a wonderful family of faith. People lived out in their lives what they believed as they loved God and loved each other while faithfully serving Him.

The Covid lockdowns brought so much turmoil and despair to our world. It seems like we found ourselves in a downward spiral rather than one moving up.  Many families were isolated from others. There were impacts on our schedules and work habits. There was a strong uptick in crimes like drug and alcohol abuse, depression, child and spousal abuse, and suicide. The hospitals, nursing homes, and funeral homes were closed to people visiting and connecting.

James 5:14 is very clear about a command for a church family to serve the Lord by praying for one another and calling upon the leaders to come and pray for them in times of suffering and sickness.

So, let’s see what God says in His Word in James 5:13-17 about how we are to care for those who are a part of our family of faith here at First Baptist Church:

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Did you hear all the times God instructed us to pray in this passage of Scripture? Prayer is a key command for us from the Lord as we minister to others in our family of faith. You know, Muslims pray five times a day, and Buddhists pray three times a day, and we as Christians are called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Why does God give us that command? As believers, we don’t have to face Mecca, bow down to an idol, or even assume a normal posture of prayer like kneeling or bowing down. Our God is always available as we approach His throne, and we know that our access is through the blood of His Son, Jesus. Our family of faith is a place where we meet with the Lord, fellowship with other believers, participate in discipleship opportunities and serve the Lord, and serve other believers who are spiritual family.

As we are aware of others who are suffering or are sick in our Sunday School class and the greater church family, we must pray. We’ve all participated in praying with faith for our own Pastor Heath in recent months. James 1:22 instructs us all to “be doers of the word and not hearers only.” This “doing of the word” isn’t only for the pastors and leaders of our church but rather for the whole church body. This is really a joyous privilege to be used to serve others.

When asked about the Greatest of the Commandments, our Lord was asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

James says, are you sick? Pray. Are you suffering? Pray. Are you happy? Pray. Many times, we will just say, “I should be able to figure this out,” and we won’t pray. “I should” is never your answer. We need to pray!  We aren’t sufficient in ourselves, and we aren’t in control. But we do know the One who is, and He is sovereign and in control.

So, serve others for His glory and for the good of your brothers and sisters. God will mature and sanctify you through your ministry of prayer, care, and encouragement. God will also sanctify them as they go through the suffering and sickness they are presently experiencing. And as the one who is suffering or sick, don’t rob your brother or sister by not allowing them to serve you in your time of need. We truly all can grow to be more like Jesus as we serve one another and ultimately serve Him through times of suffering.

Listen to Pastor Steve’s sermon on Caring for The Sick in the Church from the Sunday night series entitled Reclaiming Love: People of Compassion in a World Full of Hate.

Steve Clifton is the Pastor of Care and Discipleship and has served First Baptist Church of Jacksonville since 1996 in a variety of pastoral positions. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Church Music Performance from Arkansas State University in 1983 and completed post-graduate work in the field of Christian Education. He became certified by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors in 2017 and earned a specialization in addictions counseling in 2021.

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