As a child growing up in a minister's home, and as an adult who has been "in and out" in things pertaining to the people of God, I have noticed a pattern that I would like to address. If I am in error, may God forgive me and show me truth.
It regards those who have totally dedicated themselves to living a life given to God. This covers a range from deacon, Sunday School teacher, prayer warriors known and called upon in times of crisis and pastors, Bible teachers alike.
I have noticed when these special people of God themselves fall on difficult times, those they have ministered to may become embarrassed, bewildered, or caused to doubt as to why one so used of the LORD seems to be having difficulty. My dear Mother was one of those. She was used of God during her life to minister to many; from missionaries visiting our home to family members, her sons included.
When I would go to visit her in the Nursing Home after her health took a severe turn for the worse, I would look upon her as one seemingly forsaken of God. On my way back home to prepare for my employment I would cry out and ask God, "Why?"
My Grandfather was a man of God of such a nature that I have only met maybe a handful. He languished in a hospital for almost ten weeks before he went to be with the LORD. A minister friend of mine that was married 65 years has periods where he breaks down and weeps uncontrollably for the loss of his wife, the lack of concern in the churches he ministered to, and the general lack of concern, except for two or three out of the hundreds of people he and his wife ministered to for over fifty years.
In defense of the prevailing attitude of neglect of these modern day saints of God who have paid the ultimate price, I have been led to several passages of Scripture that have given me some insight into this important issue. It is an issue that is as old as the foundation of the Church.
Christ, who is our example in all things, of whom we are to emulate, had the religious leaders of His day, the Chief Priests and Scribes cry out and mock Him in His time of distress; saying, " He saved others, He cannot save Himself. He trusts in God, let God deliver Him!" ( Matthew 27-Mark 15:31-Luke 23:35)
Is this not what we say by our actions when we question the saints of God who have their hour of trial and testing? What is the difference? How can one so used of God on behalf of others in ministry, prayer, giving or faith face such an ordeal?
The book of Hebrews tells us to remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill treated, since we are also in the Body. (Hebrews 13) Do not be ashamed of our brothers and sisters, fellow warriors of the faith, in their hour of darkness or despair. They need our support more than ever in this condition. It is the human condition and all are subject to this hour of trail as long as we inhabit this human body. We are to strengthen and encourage each other in the faith as we see the day of the coming of Jesus draw closer.
This concept is nothing new. In 2 Timothy 1, the Apostle Paul was deserted by ALL of the church in Asia except one man, one family, the house of Onesiphorus. This one family out of all refreshed Paul and was not ashamed of his chains when he was imprisoned in Rome. They actually searched for Paul before finding him. Their support may have just been word of kindness, prayer, a cup of tea or a sandwich; but support non the less. How many old saints are still around who would appreciate such kindness from someone to whom they have ministered?
A ministry can be a blessing in good times, and a great burden in difficult times. Anyone can minister when things are good; it takes a person with a gift from God to minister to one in great need. Paul, again in Galatians 4 speaks of having a bodily illness when he preached the gospel in Galatia the first time. He acknowledge that it was a trial for the people he was ministering to. He also says that his bodily illness was not despised or loathed by these people but that he was received as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself!
Imagine, an Angel of God or Christ Jesus Himself, in bodily illness, ministering and being received openly and with joy! Far fetched? Consider Isaiah 53~
"He was despised and forsaken of man,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,
And like One from whom men hide their face,
He was despised and rejected of men."
Is this process of total death of all flesh for the saints of God? Is this a process He puts His special earthly treasures through before they enter into His presence?
Isaiah 53 vs. 12
" Therefore, I will alot Him a portion with the great,
and He will divide the treasure with the strong,
BECAUSE He poured Himself out to death and was numbered
with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors."
We must remember the prisoners and those in bonds. This may not be a structure where they are being detained but a prison of the mind and thought of being forgotten and neglected; As was Christ forgotten and neglected by the disciples, save one, who was beside His mother at His time of greatest need and when any comfort would have been welcomed.
Paul, the man who was through it all at the beginning of the Church of which we are members said as he sits in prison awaiting certain death,
" And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment..."(Philippians 1:9)
We need an extra baptism of discernment and real knowledge of those who have paid the price and are in need of ministry, comfort and support as they reach the end of their ministry.
Do not be afraid of their tears, their uncertainty as they reach the end, or questionings that may arise from time to time. Encourage, support, cry, hug and pray with them. It appears, from what I have read in the word of God, to be part of the human experience.
God is there all of the time. He has said that NO FLESH will glory in His presence and it appears likely that the last vestiges of flesh do not give up easily.
By His grace, His discernment, His comfort and His Spirit we can help in the transition from earth to His glorious Presence.