Weak and Sick
"For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep." 1 Corinthians 11:30
Our verse today comes from the powerful section in Paul’s letter about the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians somehow missed what this was supposed to be all about. They were abusing it. Some were pigging out and eating it like a common meal and while they were doing that, they kept others from partaking. The divisions of the first chapter seem manifested throughout this book. Lawsuits in chapter six. Jealously about spiritual gifts in chapters 12-14. Accepting an immoral man in chapter five. And, now, making a mess of the Lord’s Supper. The deep undercurrent seems to be that some were not getting along with others.
Paul doesn’t hold back in this letter. Our verse plainly explains why they were in such a mess. Weak, sick and asleep—not physically, but spiritually. He called them carnal at the beginning of the letter. But never does he suggest closing the doors. Never does he tell some to start another congregation. Never does he say to just stay home. Problem by problem, Paul, like a skilled surgeon, removes the tumors among them and offers the spiritual medicine that they need.
Recently, in a class I listed several reasons why churches fail. Many that have closed their doors for the last time, probably shouldn’t have. Here was my list that I came up with:
- Foresight and visionary planning were lacking
- Habit replaces faith
- The spirit of duty overcomes the spirit of joy
- Serving stops
- Maintaining becomes the focus
- The attention turns inward rather than outward and upward
- Monotony rather than excellence becomes the norm for worship
- Everyone expects someone else to do what they should do
- People drop out
- The problem is obvious, but no one has the energy or desire to do anything about it
And, with that, a congregation floats into lukewarmness and then gradually dies. One, by one, the congregation gets smaller and smaller until finally, practical sense leads to locking the doors for good and putting a “For Sale” sign out in front of the building.
Why do we wait until the ship is going down before someone says, “We ought to do something?” Paul’s words to the Corinthians were to awaken them to the honor of the Lord. Getting our focus back is essential. The problems in a marriage fester until one finally has had enough and divorce papers are filed. Or, a troubled child is justified and excused until one day he is kicked out of school or arrested. And, with a congregation, the sinking ship syndrome continues until it is beyond hope.
Why do we allow things to get so bad and to the point that it’s too late to change things?
First, it may be an arrogance on our part. We don’t want to admit that our marriage isn’t the way God wants it to be. We don’t want to admit that our child needs help. We don’t want to admit that the congregation has problems. Denial will keep us on the same course. Denial will keep us from seeking any help. Denial will lead to problems that become so great that one will just throw in the towel and quit.
Honesty and humbleness will lead one to call upon the Lord. It will lead on to apologize and admit mistakes. It will look for help and solutions.
We love to say when we see each other on a Sunday morning, “Hi, how are you?” And, the expected reply is, “Just fine.” We say, “just fine,” even when things are not fine. We say, “Just fine,” even when we are scared and our lives are falling apart. And, “just fine,” is a beautiful mask that fits everyone’s face. Everything is fine even though I struggle spiritually, I’m dying spiritually, and I feel distant from the Lord and everyone else. “Just fine,” the language of denial. “Just fine,” likely the most said lie in church.
Now, if one of us was to say, “Terrible,” that would send shock waves through the building. Panic would take over. Some would try to talk us out of terrible so we can get back to being “just fine.” But maybe that honesty would allow some deep conversations, passionate prayers, genuine concerns and help.
It may be that we are just afraid to be honest with one another. Everyone expects me to be “just fine,” so I play that game. I go along with what is expected.
Second, we allow things to get so bad because we simply do not know what to do. What do I do with a troubled child? What do I do with a marriage that stinks? What can be done with a congregation that has problems? It’s one thing to recognize the ship is sinking, but other than jumping off, what can be done?
And, again our pride gets in the way. Why not ask for help? You may have to seek professional help for that child or the marriage. Brethren sometimes want quick and easy answers. I’ll toss you a verse and that will fix everything. Most times it doesn’t. In business, companies will bring in consultants to help. If the leaders in the congregation do not know how to turn things around, why not seek the advice and wisdom from a brother in another congregation? Someone who has experience, a heart and knowledge that would make a difference. Our pride tells us that we need to fix our own problems. And, if we don’t know what to do, we’ll try our best even though we may not have a clue.
The Corinthians were filled with questions and problems. Paul answers them according to the Word of God. Problems happen. The real question is, what do we do with them?