Gaining a Heart of Compassion: What Being Sick has Taught Me About Patience, Wisdom, and Evangelism.


Colossians 3:12-15 (ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

 

Isaiah 58:9b-11 (ESV)

If you take away the yoke from your midst,

the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.

11And the LORD will guide you continually

and satisfy your desire in scorched places

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters do not fail.

 

The increase of the kingdom is more to be desired than the growth of a clan [i.e. our local Church].

– Charles Spurgeon

 

About five days have passed since I became sick, in that time I have indulged in a lot of Advil, TV, and chicken noodle soup; I have been so busy the past couple of months that my body decided enough was enough, and left me open to allergies gallore. In July alone I was out of town almost two weeks; five of those days were spent teaching, leading, observing, and disciplining Junior high boys at camp, on top of arriving a day early to set up and being one of the last to leave after tearing down. Then I went to Joplin later that month and spent 8 hours a day for 5 days in the heat working in construction along with riding in a bus with no A/C 7 hours there and back. Last month my leadership duties at the Church stepped up and I was there almost 5 days a week, and on several occasions I was there for 3-10 hours at a time. Several times I went with Abraham to work on discipleship plans (with an implication being Church growth, but not the goal per se) for the College and Youth ministries; this included coming up with-and organizing ideas, having set principles and goals in place, discussing them with the youth and college Pastor’s, and finally executing them practically.

 

Last month was the phase of executing what we had been planning. Now to think of it, its amazing I hadn’t gotten sick sooner.

 

All this work has instilled in me a strong abhorence to being still, or lazy, or not doing anything. This was not in my agenda, and certainly not something I wanted, especially since I was to be teaching Junior high on Wednesday; yet this shows that God does not need me to accomplish anything, everything I participate in for the ministry is by His grace and for His glory. That still doesn’t make being house-bound any easier. My mind is like a team of construction workers that don’t sleep: they will build and keep on building, it just depends where to build and what it is that make up the materials. “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason”, wrote G.K. Chesterton, “the madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason”, and that is exactly what happened.

 

Each morning I open up my devotional from Chuck Swindoll and start my morning with interesting life stories and real applications and assigned Scriptures. This book has been a tremendous help during the most bizzare, trying, or uncomfortable moments in my life, most importantly the latter. In Joplin I read about being like the cricket in the church who went where few crickets go, and how Christians need to do the same, right before I find a cricket jumping in the shower minutes later. One of my devotions this week had to do with what many are quick to label “predestination” but what Swindoll simply calls, “sovereignty”; he recalled the story of a man whose plane was accidently assigned the wrong destination in the computer, being angered by this change he later discovers that the plane he missed ended up crashing shortly after take off, killing everyone inside. Or the woman who buys her husband a Christmas present, and later finds out he was shot while on duty (since he was a cop), the surpise being that she gave him the gift before Christmas, why is the timing so important? Because what she bought him was a bulletproof vest. To quote the rapper Lecrae, “some call it sovereign will, all I know is you the boss.”

 

Being a Calvinist (not a 4 pointer mind you, but the whole flower..with maybe some extra peddles thrown in) I hold to a strict view of sovereignty, a high one; but being the only “Calvinist” (that I know of) at my Church, it gets lonely and challenging sometimes, because I find myself the only one holding to the absolute sovereignty of God  (over EVERYTHING) and the responsibility of man. So right when my grasp of the doctrine of sovereignty begins to waver and become shaky..that is when I read Chuck Swindoll (a NON Calvinist, mind you) and this just throws me a new one. Later that day I happen to play two songs on my ipod and as they’re playing, magically there appear signs that have the words I’m listening to on them, (“Miracle”, as I hear Third Day sing “Miracle”); if that wasn’t enough, how about the fact that I hadn’t written one thing in my notebook for two weeks and the moment I go to look for a pen, a pencil was right under my bed, sharpened? God appointed a plant to sprout up for Jonah and a worm to eat that plant, and a wind to blow by, so pencils and advertisements are nothing for Him.

 

I wrote all of this nonsensical and bizzare piece of grammatically-ewwy-literature to get to the main point of this note: we need to have compassion as Christians, not simply a work-based attitude, but a God-centered one. I was working so much for people that my ministry became people-centered out of a heart of work; my desire for Evangelism has never been strong, but once I grasped this week about how we need to care for the poor, uphold the weak, call people to repentance and seek to win people to Christ, not to our churches, this shook me to the core. The Pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote to his students, “The increase of the kingdom is more to be desired than the growth of a clan”. How often do I hear of men desiring to win people for Christ in their church building, instead of out in the thick and dirty and sinfully-ugly world! Sinners are in the Church, and they abound, since we can be the worst sinners of all. But we are redeemed by Christ, His name is written on our lives, our names are written in the books of heaven while many people are out there enslaved to sin, and they walk blindly without any warning as we enjoy our own attempts to make heaven a building rather than a temple of God’s people.

 

This weekend, I hope you ask God for a heart of compassion, and seek to come to the aid of people in need, this could be other Christians who need help and ministering to, this could be going to the places most people do not go to and helping the poor, this could be something as easy as evangelizing to your neighbors, or someone at your job.

 

In all things to him be the glory. 😀

 

Sincerely,

Austin Thompson

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