Well, I start this post out to say I’m a legitimately driving West Virginian now with my new license plate.
Anyhow, this is a continuation in how to think when missionaries get sick. The main goal I have is to invite you into my thinking process (which is not necessarily always a good thing, but perhaps it could be helpful), and get a more solid working scriptural framework. So I posited this question: is there any scriptural precedent for missionaries getting sick?
Even as the gospel was first exploding on the scene, missionaries got sick. Epaphroditus, who Paul describes as “my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, your messenger…” was very sick for a time (Phil 2:25). And from this description, you could certainly call him a missionary, yet he definitely couldn’t leave as a missionary during this time. How much “ministry” did this joker miss simply because he was too sick to do it? I mean, “What’s the deal, God?”
He eventually recovered and went to Philippi to strengthen the believers in that area. But it also helps me to know that there is biblical precedent for missionaries getting sick, even from the beginning. It doesn’t mean that God isn’t there or doesn’t care about missions or missionaries.
But that also raises another point: Christ will build His church and He will do it the way He wants to do it. It will not be built around one person. While Paul did write much of the N.T., let us not forget that he spent much of his time imprisoned. If I’m ‘writing the script,’ I would keep Paul, who would probably be in the “missionary Hall of Fame” if they had one (and if they did, where would it be?) out of prison. I would also extend his life, and not leave him under some sort of house arrest his final years. If he wanted to go to Spain, I’d let that joker go.
But again, I don’t get a vote. And I don’t need one. The gospel went forth just fine without my vote. It went forth just fine with a Hall-of-Fame type missionary spending a lot of potentially fruitful time in prison. Jesus said He’d get this thing done, and so I just need to trust Him. He can use healthy and sick missionaries, and people like you and I to get the job done. Fortunately. He doesn’t need All-stars like the Yankees, but can use consistent players like the Tampa Bay Rays. Maybe that’s the point.