The cry often goes out among God’s people, “We must finish the work!” Yes, there are those who are longing to obey that command, but they honestly wonder what we should do. As we look to our example, the life of Jesus, we cannot help but notice that He spent more time healing physical needs than preaching. If we are followers in His footsteps, then shall we not do the same?
Is the world suffering less or more from chronic illnesses? The World Health Organization has reported that “the burden of chronic diseases is rapidly increasing worldwide;” meaning illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, obesity, and any other disease linked to lifestyle habits, are not declining. What has been the response from Seventh-day Adventists to these and other growing epidemics? It has been varied.
Many who are not Seventh-day Adventists, or even professed Christians, are opening their eyes to the realities of our physical being. Remarkably, in the same article from the WHO above, the author admits that “diet and nutrition are important factors in the promotion and maintenance of good health throughout the entire life course. Their role as determinants of chronic NCDs is well established, and they therefore occupy a prominent position in prevention activities.” This is light that we were given, as a movement, almost a hundred and fifty years ago. Long before the notorious prescription of cigarettes from doctors in ad campaigns, a special little lady was crying out against its pernicious effects, saying, “Tobacco is a poison of the most deceitful and malignant kind, having an exciting, then a paralyzing influence upon the nerves of the body” (Ellen White, Counsels on Health, 84).
God has given His church a most special gift of prophetic insight, and this gift we should not take lightly. Well would we remember the words of Jehoshaphat, saying, “Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper” (King James Version, 2 Chr. 20:20). To prepare a people for the great day of God, He has poured out much light through His appointed channel, Sister White. The same little lady that spoke against the evils of tobacco (long before the world opened its eyes to its deleterious effects) has left a legacy of light upon health and healing in many areas.
The world is ripe for the health message. The secular realm has produced movies such as Forks over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Many in the New Age movement are greatly interested in natural methods for health and healing. With such an opportunity to be our brother’s keeper, what has been the overall response from God’s professed people? Sadly, many neglect or outright reject the precious gems of truth lovingly given to us that we may “prosper and be in health,” even as our souls prosper (3 John 2). Because of the silence from this indifference, the rocks are having to cry, “Health!”
The love of the Father would not allow our Savior to pass by those suffering from illness without offering a hand of healing. The first and foremost reason that we should be interested in genuine medical missionary work: That is what Jesus did. The Son of God went from town to town, at times spending all day healing those suffering from ailments often brought on by their own sins. As we behold Jesus, the Jesus depicted in the gospel, we will become changed into that same image. As the love of the Father flowed through the Son to suffering humanity, that same love will flow through His followers. Beautiful are the words written from the pen of inspiration:
Medical missionary work brings to humanity the gospel of release from suffering. It is the pioneer work of the gospel. It is the gospel practiced, the compassion of Christ revealed. Of this work there is great need, and the world is open for it. God grant that the importance of medical missionary work shall be understood, and that new fields may be immediately entered (White, A Call to Medical Evangelism and Health Education, 7).
This brings us to the main reason why Jesus did this work: That barriers in the heart may be overcome and the gospel seed be planted in prepared soil. After apprenticing in a health retreat ministry for over a year and a half, and teaching and helping others with their health for over four years since, I can testify that never is a heart as ready to receive the gospel as when a person’s physical sufferings are alleviated. I have a hard time simply giving pieces of literature to people, hoping that they will read it, when I have not ministered to their physical needs in any way, shape, or form. Genuine medical missionary work is called the “Great Entering Wedge” and the “Right Arm of the Gospel” for good reason. When one in the ministry shuns the health message, the medical missionary work, they are missing out on harvesting much fruit and laying up much treasure.
Another highly important reason for God’s people to take hold of the medical missionary work is simply because the health system of this world is failing—especially in the United States. It is no secret that here in America, we have the highest healthcare costs with some of the lowest efficiency ratings. The health care system has become a cruel burden on businesses, and the red tape in this industry is making it increasingly more difficult for it to function and prosper. It is hard to tell what exactly the overall effects of the Affordable Care Act will be, but all can agree on one thing—our health care is a mess and something is going to have to give. Without going much into the woes of a hyperactive welfare system, the low-incomers learn to rely more heavily upon the government—via taxpayer dollars—placing a load upon our national debt that is already out of control. Satan has masterfully crafted many aspects of this system to make this road unsustainable for the long haul. Eventually, national ruin will be inevitable. Yet, health care is still very expensive for many, especially for the self-employed. Many are not wanting to, as they say, pay an arm and a leg to keep their arms and legs, and they are losing faith in the wisdom of the national medical establishment. They are looking for another way; yea, many are being forced to go another route of healing. This need will provide just the right opportunity for God’s people to come with a health message that makes sense and has been proven to work.
Not only will genuine medical missionary work be more sought after, the time is coming when this type of training will prove to be a most valuable asset. We are further counseled:
As religious aggression subverts the liberties of our nation, those who would stand for freedom of conscience will be placed in unfavorable positions. For their own sake, they should, while they have the opportunity, become intelligent in regard to disease, its causes, prevention, and cure. All those who do this will find a field of labor anywhere. (White, Counsels on Health, 506).
Not only will medical missionary work become a most useful trade, it will become the only one: “I wish to tell you that soon there will be no work done in ministerial lines but medical missionary work . . . . You will never be ministers after the gospel order till you show a decided interest in medical missionary work, the gospel of healing and blessing and strengthening” (White, Evangelism, 523). God has not left us to wonder what we can do to prepare for the times ahead, and how to become most efficient at winning souls. Let us take heed to the servant that He called to relay precious instruction that we may truly prosper.
What's my last reason for favoring learning medical missionary work? It is to help ourselves. Isaiah chapter 58 holds many wonderful blessings for those who do this labor of love. We would do well to take these promises to heart and lay hold of their fulfillment. Then, as we undo the heavy burdens and bondage of disease, and “satisfy the afflicted soul," our own “health shall spring forth speedily” (Isaiah 58:10). Our minds cannot comprehend the blessings God has prepared for those who will go forward in faith, laying hold of the labors of Christ.