Of course, when I say “medicine” I’m not just thinking of the stuff that pharmacists supply in bottles of packs. The medicine I’m lauding is simply that which the unwell well. And with the greatest respect to all my doctor friends, the best medicine frequently consists not of carefully composited chemicals, but words.
He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
Yes, it’s true that Jesus healed many people with just a word (Matt. 8:16), but the medicine I’m testifying on behalf of is not the miraculous kind but it is still none the less therapeutic. And like many medicines, its taste is inversely proportional to its effectiveness. In other words, the stronger the medicine the worst it tastes! I guess this is the reason why so many people deny themselves the very cure this medicine would provide for their ills.
I know of pastors who won’t take their medicine. A colleague who cares offers them advice that requires them to learn a new skill or adjust the way they preach or train their leaders, but this medicine tastes strange and is difficult to swallow. I know husbands who won’t take their medicine and wonder why their wife has become withdrawn from them. I know of friends who have friends who are desperately lonely yet when they have offered the very medicine their friends are craving, it is refused.
As a pastor I try to dispense spiritual medicine each Sunday to those God has placed in my charge. But it’s not just Sunday when the spiritual medicine cabinet is thrown open. I dispense often more potent medicine in my office throughout the week to ones or twos whose spiritual pain is similarly more intense. Perhaps only another pastor might understand the heart-ache I have experienced when such life-saving spiritual medicine has not been received by a soul or a union of souls. It hurts to be a pastor in those instances when you see those you care for hurt longer than necessary. But I thank God that I have discovered His medicine cabinet in such times of pain.
THE MEDICINE OF WORDS
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.”
Ravi Zacharias often says that despair does not result from adversity and hardship but more often from pleasure and ease. We in the West have enjoyed unprecedented levels of comforts, pleasures, and amusements over the past few decades. What we today find uncomfortable, difficult, or grievous reveals how far removed most of us now from genuine hardships. It would seem that Dr Zacharias’ assessment about the origin of despair has been vindicated over and over again when we look at how many of us in the West are afflicted with despair resulting in various kinds of mental anguish. But there is a medicine for this affliction. It is the worship of God.
I don’t mean the kind that gets called ‘worship’ and promises the believer that if they do it right they can coerce their Maker and Judge to give them whatever they ask. Rather, I mean that kind of worship that reminds the worshiper who the Saviour and Sovereign actually is and expresses deep gratitude that this is the case and deep gratitude to Him generally. After all, none of us deserves what we have and none of us has yet been been given what we truly deserve. This should cause every worshiper’s heart to gladly sing in gratitude in the midst of the congregation each Sunday. This is strong medicine for any soul.
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
When we worship together in the House of God we are not just singing. We are worshiping with words that come from our hearts and minds. And I’m sure I’m not the only preacher who regards the preaching of God’s Word as an interactive act of worship as well. And this too is strong medicine for any soul.
HOW GOD’S MEDICINE IS DELIVERED
God has designed the right medicine for your soul. There might be times when you are spiritually unwell. You may be blighted by discouragement and feeling unappreciated. The Great Physician has a medicine for your soul. But it is a medicine that must be delivered by a few not just a one. This is why Jesus gave the blueprint for His Church to consist of both the ‘Temple’ (the weekly assembling of the congregation) and ‘homes’ (the regular gathering of believers in each others homes). It is in the small group where a believer learns to trust a few brothers or sisters who can then be used by God to administer spiritual medicine in the form of encouragement, correction, advice or reminding. In these deeply therapeutic moments we are reminded by our brothers and sisters of how God has indeed previously used us to bless them and others. Their gentle reminders to focus on God rather than ourselves helps to heal our souls. It may initially hurt us to hear this but just as a knife can either wound or heal depending on who is using it and how and why it is used, it does us far more good than harm.
But this kind of soul medicine is too frequently avoided by those who need it most. I know how reluctant I am to be around people – even those people whom God may use to bring healing to my soul – when I am down and discouraged. But I remember what the Scriptures say to my soul for just these moments-
¶ Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
Or as the writer to the Hebrews put the same idea-
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Have you ever considered that God wants to use you to administer His spiritual medicine to those who are spiritually unwell? Perhaps ask the Holy Spirit to use you to strengthen another believer. But maybe you’ve been spiritually unwell yourself. The natural tendency is to withdraw and isolate ourselves from the very thing that God has ordained to make us well again. Your words of worship can be medicine for your soul and the words of your brothers and sisters can be strong medicine for your soul. See you at the Medicine Cabinet this Sunday.