Weakness and Comfort
This month I was struck down by a severe and long-lasting flu. I laid in bed for 12 days, five days with fever. Being hardly able to read or concentrate, I realized how this sickness weakened me both physically and spiritually. “A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Pro 18:14). Yet the Lord is good and full of mercy. He restored my strength and filled me with a new longing for the eternal rest of the saints and with a hunger to desire the spiritual and lasting things of God in life. A few days later God granted me the joy of witnessing deep forgiveness between two people I counseled intensively over the last month. Bitter roots were dug up and peace was sowed instead. This was a wonderful comfort, seeing how the spiritual graces overcome the sinful, weak and fleshly things of this fallen life.
Weakness and Preaching
In the beginning of the month I preached on John 12:20-26, where the Greeks want to see Jesus and he tells the story of the grain of wheat. I taught the necessity of understanding in order to see Jesus, i.e. understanding the basic facts and truths of the gospel, pictured here in the death and fruit of the grain. But I also taught the necessity of moving in order to see Jesus, i.e. denying our own life, taking up our cross and following Jesus. We must learn to see the beauty and glory of Jesus in all our ways, and not let anything stand between. Experiencing sickness was a humbling reminder of how much I need to focus on Jesus.
Then I preached on John 27-36, where Jesus speaks of his glorification and Satan’s defeat. I explained from the text how Jesus was lifted up first by the cross and then by the resurrection and ascension into heaven, and also Satan’s defeat by falling out of heaven, out of the world and into the pit. I taught some basic lessons on how to deal with trouble and stand firm against Satan’s devices. As Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” The experience of my weakness reminded me often to pray, “Father, glorify your name.”
Though I was with fever and felt absolutely feeble, I went to preach on Easter Sunday on John 12:37-43, where John quotes Isaiah in explaining the seeming unsuccessful of Christ’s ministry. I tried to explain the responsibility of men for their own unbelief and the sovereignty of God in hardening the hearts, etc. While preaching I unintentionally skipped some of my notes; I got cold and hot, felt dizzy and immediately after the service went home to bed. I felt like I’ve never preached so badly before. The next Sunday a young man told me that he was very much encouraged by the sermon and that even another first-time visitor enjoyed hearing the truths of that passage. He told me that this sermon was better, in his opinion, than the sermon that I preached for the opening service some time ago (where I felt much better!). I praised the Lord for his mercy in my weakness. And yet, I still think it was one of my weakest sermons…
Please pray for the visitors who attend the services, that they might be moved not by the power and eloquence of man, but by the mighty power of the Word of God through the Holy Spirit.
Please pray for me to grow in times of weakness and comfort others with the comfort I have received by grace.
Please pray that we as a church might be heavenly minded, longing for the things unseen yet enjoyed by the saints as a foretaste of heaven: forgiveness, love, tenderness, peace etc.