“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your ways; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”–Luke 10:2-3
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.”–Matthew 10:16
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”–Mark 16:15
Hurting takes many forms and in actuality, the question, “are you hurting” is kind of a trick question. Maybe it would have been better if I had asked, “are you healthy?” At this point, you might even be asking yourself what any of this has to do with the scriptures listed above!
Indulge me for just a bit. How many of you have either had, or know someone who has had a problem with ingrown toenails? If you do, you know the pain and suffering that they had to put up with, as well as the pain of most treatments for it. To those of you who do not really know about this painful condition, let me take a moment to clue you in.
An ingrown toenail occurs when one (or both edges) of the toenail grows into the soft tissue causing painful inflammation. Infection frequently results from damaged tender skin from the corners of the nail. Ingrown toenails can be caused by injury to the toe, poor personal hygiene, trimming the nail improperly, or pressure on the nail from wearing tight or improperly fitted shoes. Now that is a clinical definition. If you can just imagine, the hard piercing edge of your nail, digging, cutting, puncturing its way into the soft edges of your toe. It has got to hurt!
Then, the inflammation or infection makes your skin even more sensitive, to the point that it is painful to walk on or function effectively. It’s amazing how something so small on your body can hinder its usefulness so effectively. When that happens, you don’t want anything touching the area. You don’t want to wear the appropriate shoes. You don’t even want to have to stand on the affected foot. It is really a pain!
The causes, stated above, could be toes that are shut up to tight in a poorly fitted pair of shoes; not caring for yourself in the way that your body demands; injury from some outside source, such as poor trimming or stubbing of the toe. In essence, when you think about it, your toes were never meant to be closed in tightly. They were never meant to take abuse, but rather they work best and most efficiently when exposed to air and protected from abusive trauma.
You’re probably wondering why you get the medical lesson, right? Well, let’s consider the spiritual body for a moment. The Bible says in Ephesians chapter four, that we are all a part of the Body of Christ. We are all necessary components of that body; each part needing the other, relying on the effectiveness of the other parts to grow and mature. Just as in the natural, when one part is hurting or “unhealthy” the rest of the body suffers; and isn’t it amazing how much suffering one little part that is not right, can cause to the rest of the body?
If one part of the Body of Christ is allowed to become ingrown, in other words, not growing outward as it should, it can become inflamed, infected and utterly useless. In the case of a foot for instance, the body would not move, or at least not move efficiently. When movement ceases you have a condition called stasis and from stasis you develop atrophy. Atrophy is a condition where the muscles shrink up and can no longer do the work they were designed or created to do.
Are you starting to get a picture of what I am talking about? It is no coincidence that the natural or physical realm mirrors or shadows the spiritual. It is no coincidence that the Apostles likened the Body of Christ to a natural body and how it works. We were created in the image of God not just individually, but corporately as well, once we became born again.
When the body is healthy, there is always growth. When the body is hurting, there is always death of some type or another. We must always continue to grow. Paul said that in the same chapter of Ephesians and hinted at it in the third chapter of Philippians.
The same principle applies in the spiritual as in the natural. It is a principle that was established by God, the Father in the creation of our very existence. If we abuse our physical bodies, premature death occurs on a continual basis. If we abuse our spiritual bodies, that part of us that comes together, supposedly in unity, we can see death occur there also.
I want to challenge you in this lesson. I want the Word of God to become real, in a mighty way, in all of our hearts. If Jesus, whom we claim to be our Lord and Master, says as in the scriptures above show, to go forth, to get out and accomplish what we have been called and gifted to do, doesn’t it stand to reason that growth and spiritual health and well-being is out there. On the other hand, if we hide behind the four walls of whatever institution we choose to call church, and never let the outside “air” of the spirit touch us, and we wrap our “programs” too tightly to us, doesn’t it stand to reason that part of us, by principle, will grow inward causing infection and inflammation, pain and lack of movement in our local body? That causes pain in the whole Body then!
Many of you who read this will understand, especially in the light of experience, that what I am saying is true. The sad thing is, the only way to correct that infected condition is through a change that can be very invasive to the body. In the natural, there are drugs that you can take to help with the infection. Drugs, by the way, that were never meant to be taken in healthy situations. Sometimes, the only way to restore health is by invasive surgery. In the natural it is minor surgery granted, but it is still painful, and, the healing process still takes time. In the spiritual, doesn’t the same principle apply?
Now I am going to depart from our analogy for just a bit here. In the natural, the cells that make up a toenail, for example, do not have the independent intelligence to change their situation. They do what toenail cells do. If they are directed in a different direction than what is natural, an unhealthy condition can prevail. In the spiritual on the other hand, we are made up of “cells” that have independent thought. We can change the circumstances that we find ourselves in. If we find ourselves in an environment that is constricting and choking, we can move ourselves from that to a healthier one. If the environment that we find ourselves in is always centered “inward” rather than where the harvest is, “out” side, we can and must change our place in that environment. Sometimes, that means we create the circumstances that allow us to change perspective from looking inward to outward, but sometimes it means we have to move, if others refuse to change their perspective. But, if we choose not to move, we can actually become a part of the “infection” or “disease” that is causing the whole Body harm.
Now let’s put this in perspective in the eternal scheme of things. As Christians we all know and have often stated that Jesus is coming back for a Bride without spot or wrinkle. Have you ever thought about what that means? I have. Jesus is coming back for a healthy Bride. One where there is no sickness or disease present. That means if a part of the Body, or a part that “claims” to be of the Body, is diseased or infected or unhealthy, it will not be a part of the Bride. Jesus Christ is not coming for a lame, crippled or atrophied Body. He is coming for one that is in His image.
Paul states it this way:
Philippians 3:20-21, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
In the natural, our bodies will be changed, Paul says in Thessalonians in the “blink of an eye.” That is individually, but, what Paul is saying here in Philippians is that it will happen corporately also. We as individuals will be transformed into conformity with His glory, but we as the Body or Bride of Christ will also be transformed into conformity with His glory.
This does not mean, that I can sit back, do my own thing, and He will change my disobedience, or “disease” into a healthy one. If I am the “infection” or “disease”, I will be removed so that His Bride will have no spot or wrinkle within her Body. This is serious stuff, so that is why we cannot be so self-centered that everything we do revolves around us inwardly. Remember, near sightedness is also a condition we were never created with. Our vision should be looking outward where the harvest is, and that means we have to look outside the four walls of the institution that we call church.
Jesus Christ, Himself stated that He was sending us out. This is not just some fancy rhetoric that ministers choose to throw out at their congregations. These are commands from Jesus, whom we claim to be our Lord and Master. In this day and age, we really need to search our hearts to discern if we are truly looking and moving outward to where the “fields are white unto harvest,” or are we content to wrap the four walls of security around ourselves and just hope, that “surgery” will never be needed?
Jesus Christ is still the Great Healer. If we have become “ingrown” and too concerned with ourselves, if we are too nearsighted and only see the four walls of our “church,” and care little about the harvest field out there, He can still heal us and cause us to grow and become a strong part of His True Body!
When you consider the seventy or eighty years that we may have on earth as compared to eternity, forever and ever and ever, etc., the things I may have to deny myself here will be nothing compared to the glory that we will get to share as we reign as kings and priests with our Lord, Jesus Christ! Think of it!
We are in job training for eternity, right now! Let’s all lift our eyes and our minds and pursue what is necessary to bring as many others with us as possible. Remember, when we move, we grow, but when we stop and become too comfortable we atrophy and become useless. Let’s all move forward in unity!
In closing, I want to state that even though to some, this message may seem “hard” or “harsh,” it is given with a heart of love. You may ask how this can be a demonstration of the love I like to speak of so often, but if you can realize that my concern is for the eternal well-being of my brothers and sisters in the Lord, then you can see where I am coming from. When the Holy Spirit drops something in my heart to share, I have learned not to question Him, but rather move in the direction He is pointing, in faith. I want to fellowship and get to know each and every one who calls themselves Christians when we sit at that Marriage Supper of the Lamb. I don’t want to look around and see someone missing and wonder if I could have done or said something to make a difference!
God bless you richly!