I am a fortunate pastor. My overall health has always been good but I wasn’t always good about maintaining my health. However, recently, almost any exertion caused chest pains and shortness of breath. A doctor suggested I go to a cardiologist immediately. Within days, I was tested, hospitalized and received three stents in my heart. I am in recovery and the doctors say, I can live a full life except for needing medication and a change in diet and exercise. So, I am very fortunate.
There were several lessons with this experience for me:
- We have excellent, compassionate medical care in Fredericksburg from the hospital, the doctors, the nurses and support staff.
- I am blessed with a loving, supportive wife and family, great friends and a church that loved and prayed for me.
- Maintaining your dignity in a hospital is not an option. If you want proof, just check out my hospital gown. Sheesh!
- Good health habits such as exercise and diet help but they are no guarantee. DNA and family history still play a vital role.
- When seriously ill, there is an overwhelming tendency to become focused on self: “Help me, fix me, treat me, feed me, pay attention to me, ease my pain.”
It is this 5th and last lesson which concerns me. When we become sick, it is difficult to resist dropping everything and becoming focused on self-needs and wants. Yet, as Christians we are called by Christ to surrender to self, take up our cross and follow Him. Poor health, can interfere with our calling no matter how dedicated we may try to be.
So, one priority as a church should be to encourage healthy habits and offer the best possible support for people struggling with health-related issues: physical, mental, emotional, social or spiritual. As our congregation becomes more health conscious, we can better encourage each other to maintain our focus on the primary mission of serving Christ.
How can we as a church pay more attention to our health: physical, mental, emotional, social or spiritual, so we are better able to focus on the primary mission of serving Jesus Christ?
I sat with many heart patients. All of them speak of how profoundly they are impacted. Most make dramatic changes in exercise and eating habits but seldom stop there. One patient told me: “Realizing your mortality forces you to think more about family, friends, lifestyle and especially faith.”
The Apostle Paul gave this advice to a young preacher named Timothy: “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them.” (1 Timothy 4:7-11)
- Do not waste time… can be interpreted as a warning about becoming self-absorbed.
- Instead, train yourself… points to a different way helping us focus more on Christ.
- Promising benefits… that go beyond what we see and experience now.
- This is trustworthy… so you can stake the rest of your life on this promise.
- This is why… we work hard and struggle because our hope is in the living God.
- Teach these things… is the ultimate reason why our church exists: to serve and teach.
Our church recently formed a “Better Health Task Force” as a response to a growing number of health-related issues and concerns. We are learning the importance of improving our health: Physical, Mental, Social, Emotional and Spiritual. We have two principle goals: One is to offer resources and opportunities for our congregation and community to improve their overall health. The second is to provide improved support and comfort to those struggling with severe health issues. Why? Better health enables us to more fully live out our call to follow and serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I am a blessed pastor who was surrounded by a loving family, friends and church during my health crisis. With the lessons learned, I pray God will allow me to be a part of a better health revolution that will allow our church and others to more actively and aggressively assist each other and our community as we seek to follow and serve Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your prayers and your support. Words will never adequately convey how much that support aided in my recovery.
3:08 Prayer: “Lord, help me be the church today and believe that I can shine a light in someone’s darkness.” (A prayer to use at 3:08 AM or PM every day.)