I have been serving in the Gospel ministry for nearly 40 years. During the span, I have done a lot of hospital visitation.
Lest I take for granted my own health, or be arrogant about it, God has given a common sense perspective of what it means to minister to the ill, and I have accorded patients with due respect during their time of illness. In so many terms, I have stood on the outside of the hospital sheets.
Also, I have always kept in mind that bad health will eventually come. At the time of this writing, it has come. I am now lying on the other side of the sheets, facing the greatest personal health crisis of my life.
I have invested a lot of faith in God and fellowship with God through the years, and I find that it is paying off. Before you have to lie on the other side of the sheets yourself, it is good to build a platform of faith in God and fellowship with God. There are several factors to consider.
A prime factor involves practicing and experiencing peace with God and the peace of God. I have had many reasons throughout the years to depend upon the peace of God. It has made a lot of difference in how I have dealt with many circumstances. So, right now, while lying on the other side of the sheets, the peace of God is coming easy for me.
Apostle Paul said, “Be anxious for nothing … and the peace of God, which passes understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds.” Furthermore, Paul said, “Let peace rule (= act as president) in your heart.” Our son, Jeshua, emailed me the other day, writing a simple reminder, “Let peace reign.” I wrote back, “Peace is reigning.” I deeply appreciate God giving me His peace as I lie on the other side of the sheets.
Another platform factor to build for in the long run and to be strengthened by in the time of need involves constant acknowledgment of the grace of God. It was on the 17th that I was told how serious a condition I was in. Considering the recent travel and missionary work in the Philippines, the biking, working up firewood, exercise at the gym and the general stresses of life and ministry, God’s grace in my health is evident, and I am grateful for the timeliness of it in these recent days.
As a matter of fact, the writer of Hebrews wrote about the grace of God “that helps in the time of need.” He literally means that one aspect of the grace of God is that it comes “in the nick of time.” Evidently, the Lord has been nick-of-timing me for a while.
All too often people live life ignoring or disparaging the grace of God as an important component on which to depend, and find it hard to capitalize on it when crises confront them. But, when one constantly acknowledges the grace of God, it conditions and sensitizes the soul to easily depend, trust and rely upon God for times when one is suddenly reduced to lying on the other side of the sheets. I thank God for His past sufficient grace that has prepared me for His present nick-of-time grace.
We return full circle to the issue of faith. I have for a long time fully trusted God. Having practiced faith in God for a long time makes it easy for me to have faith in him now. Several of the psalmists said, “Blessed is the man who puts his trust in the Lord.”
Why is faith such a valuable possession? It’s because of what faith causes you to realize. Faith in God causes you to understand that a Christian is never in a win-lose situation, but always in a win-win situation. If after this week God wills that my life continue for more years, then He will have caused me to win. But, if during the course of this week that does not happen, He has still caused me to win because of His salvation of my soul and His promise of eternity in Heaven.
It is absolutely great to be a Christian on either side of the sheets.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.