For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. –Hebrews 6:10-12
Many of us who suffer with pain or disability think back with sadness about the days when we were able to do more to serve the Lord. We may remember cooking meals for families in trial; helping with cleaning projects at the church; or working in the nursery, walking and rocking crying babies so their mamas could enjoy the church service. Now, we're just not able to do as much as we could, and the temptation is to become sad (and maybe even bitter) about our limitations and how they keep us from serving the Lord.
But wait! Is there not more than one way to serve? Just because you can't do the things you once did, does that mean you can do nothing? Sometimes, as we struggle against our flesh, we may use our pain as an excuse to withdraw from the Body of Christ and stop serving. The passage above speaks against this attitude. God has not forgotten how we ministered to the saints, but He expects us to continue to do so. This is clear because of that little phrase, “and do minister.” While this passage is not speaking to people who have become disabled, it is clear that the expectation is that, as believers, we will continue to minister to one another. No exception is listed here, or anywhere else in Scripture that I can find.
Have you become sluggish? I know that you are tired. Pain and physical disability are wearisome companions. But, if you love the Lord, you are surely eager to serve Him! Making phone calls to shut-ins; writing and mailing greeting cards for birthdays that would otherwise be forgotten; and offering a listening ear to a struggling sister over coffee—these are all ways that we can serve with very little physical effort. Even more powerful and effective are your prayers! Your prayers are more valuable and useful than anything that even an able-bodied person can do! Never doubt the power of prayer. Here are a few verses to get you started in meditating on the power of prayer: Psalm 107:28-30; Mark 9:29; Acts 9:40; James 5:14-16; Philippians 4:6-7. Read and meditate on these whenever you feel discouraged in this area.
As life goes on and our pain continues, we will be tempted to get lazy in our service to others. But we must remember that what God requires of us is no different from what He required when we were more physically capable: To serve Him with all our heart. Just in case you're still not convinced, here are a few more passages (italics added) to encourage you in serving, in whatever way you are able.
Galatians 5:13: You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Romans 12:1: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:11: Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Friend, what does “never” mean? I looked it up, just in case there was any doubt. Webster says that ‘never’ means, not ever; at no time; not at all; absolutely not; to no extent or degree. Do you see any loopholes there? I don’t. We are commanded to serve as long as we are here in this body. If we keep our spiritual fervor, we will inherit the promise, just as others down through the ages have done. Think of Moses, Joseph, Noah, Isaiah, and even Christ Himself! Diligence, patience, and faith kept them from becoming sluggish, and these same gifts from God will sustain us, too.
One of the biggest contributors to depression in people who struggle with physical disability is the feeling that they cannot contribute or do anything to help anyone. But, as believers, we need not succumb to this feeling. As long as we can pray, we can serve! What can you do today to serve someone? Do it now!