Had a fantastic 33rd birthday yesterday, watching the Rays take down the Yankees, cooking up some burgers, and hanging out with some good friends.
Anyhow, I was a little bummed in church yesterday at hearing of two of Redeemer’s short term missionaries getting so sick in South Africa. When a church supports missionaries, we support them to do the work of ministry. But if they’re sick, they really can’t do too much; not only that but they in turn need to be ministered to. And how hard it must be for them who raised money to do ministry THERE, but can’t.
How should we think about this? Is this proof God isn’t there or doesn’t care? Is there any biblical precedent for what to do in this situation?
The first thought I have to continually beat out of my head is that this type of thing is NOT a good apologetic AGAINST God being there, caring, or whether missions is even worth it. I mean, if you’re just going to go and possibly get sick, what’s the point? That’s what pops into my heart. So I need something in my head to drive that stuff out.
Sickness, death, and suffering DOES NOT mean God doesn’t care. It would seem to be so, but the bible time and time again reminds us that this isn’t true. In fact it just means that God doesn’t lie. This is the stuff he said would happen to us in this world.
We just heard a great sermon on Revelation 6, which summarized to us what we would see BEFORE Jesus returns: Conquest, Wars, Scarcity, Famine, Pestilence, Death. Missionaries, and Christians for that matter, are not immune to this. I wish we were. I wish at least missionaries would be immune to this stuff because they are giving up the comfort of a known culture to go to an unknown culture and land. But God never consulted with me on this, and as my old seminary professor Steve Brown always said, “We don’t get a vote.”
So the next question then becomes, is this sickness the work of Satan persecuting Jesus’ church and it moving forward? Or is it directly, as opposed to indirectly, (although I recognize this is really impossible to figure out!) from the hand of God for some unforeseen better outcome? I think Satan can make people get sick; he made Job get a bunch of sores on his skin. Nevertheless he was only allowed to go so far, and couldn’t take his life. So I guess sickness could be a form of Satanic persecution.
In II Corinthians 12, Paul tells us of a messenger of Satan sent to him by God to keep him from being too proud of his crazy visions. So I guess sickness can also come directly from God to make us more dependent upon Him.
So whether God has a direct hand or indirect hand in missionaries getting sick (and its really a waste of time to figure out which is which), He’s still sovereign over all. All we can know is that He’s got a plan and it is coming together.
I just have to remember this when missionaries get sick. But at least someone on this team is doing better because she took this picture of some children running!
I’ll deal with another question tomorrow: is there any biblical precedent for missionary sickness happening in the bible?