“You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus (Galatians 4:13-14).”
Apostle Paul shared the gospel of Jesus Christ, our Risen Savior, as a result of his illness. This was likely not a mission trip that Paul had his heart set on going on. Still, Paul shared the great light of the world, even from his dark place of affliction. If only we were all as bold to share Christ from our deepest places of pain, and to allow the Holy Spirit full access to proclaim His message through our bodily afflictions.
I love how the Voice translates these verses. It helps offer me clarity, as to what Paul wrote and its importance for us today.
“Do you remember the first time I preached the good news to you? I was sick, and I know my illness was a hardship to you, but you never drew back from me or scorned me. You cared for me as if I were a heavenly messenger of God, possibly as well as if I were the Anointed Jesus Himself! Don’t you remember?”
Paul is calling the people of Galatia to remember the life they lived, with Paul actually in their midst. They saw Paul and how he dealt with his illness. That isn’t all, though, for they saw the importance of discovering the hope found in God as well as Paul’s continual choice to trust in Jesus. They saw how these essentials played out in how he lived and coped with the difficulties in his life. This kind of example changes lives. While we don’t know what his illness was, we can learn a few things about Paul and the way he led these people.
Illness has a special way of impacting our lives, as it causes us to become desperate for our Lord, His power, and presence. Any trial will show us where our faith lies, but in illness – there is no possible way to run from it. Or, at least, it is that way for me. My story is a bit like Paul’s, in the sense that I have been able to minister to certain individuals – as a result of my health declining. My words, often, are not fancy, but plain. Yet, the opportunity to minister is the only worthwhile thing about the suffering.
Currently, I am awaiting test results. Sickness, doctors, and tests are nothing new to me. I finished seminary classes five years ago, which were preparing me for this very season of my life. My ministry was chosen for me when I got sick in the last semester of classes before the big graduation. And this is one of those Scriptures that has been used to remind me that there is hope found in illness, even when the illness seems like it compromises our ministry. It is easy to feel as though ministry doors will be closed due to illness. However, Paul’s testimony reminds us that his affliction was the very reason why certain doors were open.
As Paul wrote and remembered how the illness led him to the people, he was mindful of how they loved him. This kind of love for an afflicted minister is fairly rare. They loved him, genuinely, and he wanted to remind them of this love and the time they spent together.
What I appreciate most is Paul’s focus, through this passage of Scripture. Paul’s sole focus was on glorifying God by sharing the gospel and his own life with the Galatians. This is a truth worth taking to heart and allowing it to draw us nearer to our Savior and seeking the ministry He has called us toward.
Paul’s focus was clearly set on our beloved Savior. Jesus is the focus, rather than our own suffering. Our suffering can lead us to Jesus, as we remember our dependence on Him and the suffering He endured for our sake. This is the kind of focus we all need to have. We need the right focus, so we can pursue God’s Kingdom even when it seems unlikely to do so – due to physical limitations. After all is said and done, our focus is what will be remembered more than the illness that plagued our mortal bodies. Let’s resolve to have a Christ-centered focus, one of desperation, where our devotion to Him is of greatest importance.