Sermon Illustrations

“Healed But Not Cured!” Hebrews 12: 5-12: Key verse(s): 6 “...because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

Sickness! There isn’t a life that hasn’t been touched by it. And, when we count our blessings at the end of the day, we aren’t likely to include sickness as one of them. Being sick, whether that be the flu or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is never fun. Anyone who can link fun and feeling bad together would certainly have to be a bit of an illusionist. But, I have always been struck by a story that in many ways sheds a different light on what we normally ascribe to be bad fortune as illness and disease creep into our lives.

Many years ago down in Alabama the locals were looking forward to their annual cotton harvest. Cotton had been king in the south for decades and this year as in countless years past all hopes for profit and the good life were banking on cotton. Unfortunately, a little bug called a boll weevil had different plans. Migrating into an Alabama port from Mexico, the little black bug took aim on the thousands and thousands of acres of fields of cotton just coming into bloom. In the space of just a few months it had eaten its way across one county and started into another. It wasn’t long before pretty much most of Alabama was feeling the pinch. In the space of just a few years, 60% of the cotton harvest in the state was ruined. The cotton industry was sick unto death in Alabama and because in those days there was little in the way of pesticides to control the pest, many farmers just gave up farming altogether. Until one innovative farmer down in the southwest corner of the state where the weevil first attacked came up with a bold idea. What about peanuts? And, sure enough, within a decade a good deal of the prime cotton land was planted with peanuts. It wasn’t long before Alabama, especially the southwestern corner of the state, became prosperous again. In fact farmers soon found out that it was less expensive to plant, grow, maintain and harvest peanuts than it was cotton. Many marginal farming efforts were suddenly becoming quite profitable. A sickness that threatened to wipe out prosperity in Alabama suddenly became the catalyst for agricultural growth and unprecedented prosperity. The people of Alabama who at first greeted the boll weevil with dread and great despair were so overjoyed that they put up a monument to the little bug thanking it; for it had as an instrument of suffering become the means of great blessings.

Can sickness, even sickness unto death, be such a blessing for a Christian? On the surface it would seem not. How can a Christian do God’s will if he is lying in bed, flat on his back? How can pain, discomfort, medical treatment and surgery as well as the compounding effects of medication be in any way a blessed state? Tony Campolo tells a story about being in a church in Oregon where he was asked to pray for a man who had cancer. Campolo prayed boldly for the man’s healing. That next week he got a telephone call from the man’s wife. She said, “You prayed for my husband. He had cancer.” Campolo thought when he heard her use the past tense verb that his cancer had been eradicated! But before he could think much about it she said, “He died.” Campolo felt terrible. But she continued, “Don’t feel bad. When he came into that church that Sunday he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was 58 years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn’t take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God. The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody...

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