WORKING TOGETHER AS ONE BODY – Part IV
(A continuation of teaching concerning the Body of Christ)
By Rev. James May
As we discussed in our last message, we know that the Body of Christ, the local church can begin to have symptoms of spiritual illness. Sometimes we can know the reason and begin the healing process and the church quickly recovers and continues on.
Then there are times when the body is really hurting. We know where the problem is and we know it must be taken care of. When a member has gone so far from God’s will as to develop a terrible spirit they are like a diseased organ of the body. If that disease is not treated quickly, it will soon infect the whole body like a cancer.
I have seen those whose attitudes began to be very sour towards the church. Their heart was no longer for the local church. Perhaps their whole focus had shifted and it was time for a change according to God’s will and perhaps it wasn’t. There are some who will go after their own will, regardless of what God is saying. They have detached themselves from hearing the true voice of God and have begun to listen to their own voice, their own desires or the voice of another who draw them away from God’s perfect will to satisfy their own desires.
God will attempt to speak to them by his Word but they won’t hear. It’s always for someone else but not for them. They will justify every move they make and every word they say no matter how much it is damaging to the church. They will eventually lose all feeling for anything that God is doing in the local church.
Whatever the reason, their attitude towards the church turns sour and their vision for the church is blinded. Their ministry is no longer fulfilling, in fact it becomes a drudgery. They no longer feel at home and they are uncomfortable. That’s when God must perform spiritual surgery to remove the diseased member from the church. That’s when I may have to do my duty as the Pastor and ask someone to leave before they injure the church even more. There is no more painful duty for a minister than to have to ask someone to step down from a position or to leave the church under those circumstances.
Sometimes these same symptoms occur when we have remained in our comfort zone long after God has told us that it was time to move out in faith, but most of the time it is because of our own lack of spirituality.
Paul referred to this same thing in his letter to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 5:5-7, "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:"
There are others who just decide to leave on their own without God’s will at the forefront of their decision. It is a decision that is solely based upon their personal desire. I have seen a number of people make decisions to move on when I knew without any doubt that they were making the wrong choice. I could not and would not attempt to make them stay for to do so would only allow that member to fester and bring a greater sickness into the church but it was hard to watch them leave.
It has been my experience that when this happens, it isn’t because they wanted to find a better place to serve God, it was for one of two reasons; either to satisfy the desires of the flesh or to get away from serving the Lord altogether. Either way they are headed for a spiritual disaster.
Nearly every time people leave the church there is a lingering turmoil and a lot of pain that stays around for a while. Whether they leave by following the will of God or not this can and does happen. While it may be lesser of an effect when they leave by God’s will, it still is there.
Another thing that we must realize is that some who leave will leave a greater turmoil for a longer period of time than others. It isn’t hard to understand why this happens.
I can remember when I had nearly 80 warts on my own hands when I was drafted to serve in the U. S. Army. It took a number of trips while the military doctor did his treatment. Some had to be burned off with electrical tools. Some of them had to be frozen off by using liquid Nitrogen. Others would not come off except by cutting them away. It was a minor surgery compared to most but it was still a long and painful process. By God’s mercy they all came off or went away and today I have none.
The same holds true for some who leave the church.
Perhaps their position was not one that was in the limelight. Perhaps they had been so unfaithful to their calling that no one even noticed much when they were gone. Still, they left an emptiness in their place that the whole church will feel for a time. There is some pain as we miss their presence. There is some injury to the ministry of the church as someone had to step up and learn to fill their place. In some cases, the ministry that they had is left vacant and undone. That causes the whole body to suffer until we can adjust to not having them around.
Then there are those whose ministry affected a lot of people. They were not only in the limelight but held positions of authority and were counted on very much to perform their duty. No matter the reasons for their leaving, the whole church will suffer greatly as a result.
Have you ever had surgery, or known someone who has had surgery to remove or repair a major organ in the body? There are some here who have had gall bladders removed. My father-in-law had to have a lung removed. My brother-in-law had to have a triple by-pass on his heart. It is much harder to overcome the effects of these types of surgery. The pain is far greater. The turmoil and trouble and suffering are far greater and last a lot longer as the healing process must take place and that takes a long time.
Some who have left our church have been like these major surgeries. They have left a large empty hole that is hard to fill. While we have those who are willing to step up and do their best to fill in the gap, it is still not easy, for them or for the rest of the church.
The whole church will be in a turmoil for a time until the healing comes. The whole body will suffer because of the pain of the spiritual knife that God has used. The whole church will be ill for a time, perhaps even weakened for a while, while the recovery process begins. But we must never forget that Jesus is the Great Physician and that he will never let his church be defeated as long as we follow him.
During this process of healing, it is very easy for tender places in the body to be hurt. It is very easy to hurt feelings, say things that we will be sorry for later, or do things that will only bring more pain to the body. This should be a time when we care for the body more, treat one another more carefully, watch our words, watch our actions, and watch our attitudes, lest we add more pain to the body than is necessary.
The body is most vulnerable to attacks of infection, disease and injury when it is in this weakened condition and extra precautions must be taken. This is the time for a more dedicated prayer life than ever before. This is a time to listen closely for the voice of the Lord and to follow the leading of the Spirit. Now is not the time to try to flex our muscle and see what we can do to force the body to move on. It’s a time for healing and having patience and understanding one with another.
James 5:14-16, "Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Remember that this too shall pass and the body will grow strong again. Perhaps, and most likely, it will be stronger than ever because now the thing that caused a sickness has been healed. The Lord will lift up the church. He will add to it daily those that he will.
Let us continue to pray one for another. Let us pray for those who we feel may have despitefully used us. Let us continue in our own service unto the Lord. Allow the ministry to continue forth without ceasing and give Jesus time to heal the hurt.
Allow me close this teaching with this passage from the Book of Romans. The Apostle Paul knew what it was to take care of sick churches and to help the Body of Christ to heal. Listen to his words.
Romans 8:26-39, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Let go of the pain and suffering of the past and let God begin to heal the church and to heal our ministry. There will be some who will leave in the future. That’s just the way that people are. There will be many more to come. Let God take care of the Body and just do your part. If we will all continue doing our best for the Lord the body will heal much quicker and the church will move on in victory.
Each of us has a job to do so let’s just do it. We all have something to contribute. We all have our part in God’s plan for the church. If we just stay in his will and obey him, all things will work out for our good and we will be victorious in the end.
Paul told the church in Corinth that there was a better way. That better way is Love. Let’s love one another through all the trials. Let’s love one another and lift one another up through all the pain and turmoil. In so doing, love will help us to overcome it all.