Our world is a vast lazar house, a scene of misery that we dare not allow even our thoughts to dwell upon. Did we realize it as it is, the burden would be too terrible. Yet God feels it all. In order to destroy sin and its results He gave His best Beloved, and He has put it in our power, through co-operation with Him, to bring this scene of misery to an end (Ellen White, Education, 264).
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).
The idea in the first sentence of that quote needs no elaboration for those who are even somewhat aware of the present circumstances in our world. An hour’s recap of international news will rightly tell that our world is indeed sick. The physical state of humankind is a far cry from the glory in which it was first created. Millions are racked by sickness and disease. Sadly, some of these are preventable, but then others baffle the most intelligent minds. Many live under emotional sickness, the causes of which range from seeking after the world’s vain treasure to being caught in the grips of terror, violence, prejudice, greed and hate. The moral state of man, the root cause of all our woes, is the most dismal sight. Truly did Isaiah say of our times “darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (King James Version, Isaiah 60:2). Every aspect of human life and even the experiences of animals, plants and our planet is under the blighting influence of thousands of years of sin.
But God is uncomfortable with the state of things. He plans for our rescue from Satan’s oppressive rule, and He wants to make His government as inclusive as possible. He wants to invite everyone into His kingdom. It is His desire that we play a role in the toppling of Satan’s governance and the ushering in of the King of Peace. However, He finds fewer troops to fight for Him than He wishes for. He awaits the development of appropriate forces He can fully ally with and work through. Interestingly, the sick state of society and our world is the very tool that He uses to develop such forces. The present sick condition of our world is the perfect training ground for us to develop qualifications and characters like that of the great Physician. It is by following His example that we will grow up to become like Him. He was not only the topic of the gospel, but He was the embodiment of the gospel. And that gospel we are told in our quote above, is what can “bring this scene of misery to an end.”
So how did Christ illustrate and embody the gospel? He sought to bring about restoration in all the aspects of life that sin had destroyed. He did not pass by poverty and depression as altogether secondary to spiritual things. He worked with those oppressed by men as well as those troubled by the devil. We know well how much of His energy was devoted to relieving men of their sickness and disease and teaching them to observe right principles of living. Christ worked for the whole man because He created and desires to redeem the whole man.
That is what the gospel will look like that will usher in His coming. Really, anything short of it is not truly the gospel. “The union of Christlike work for the body and Christlike work for the soul is the true interpretation of the gospel” (Ellen White, Evangelism, 514).
Again, the practicing of such a gospel, one which offers whole-being salvation, is what works out our own salvation. While we await Christ’s coming, Christ turns the responsibility on us, saying He is awaiting the development of His character in us. Giving the true gospel develops just such a character. Daniel made it clear to Nebuchadnezzar how to get sin out of his life- “break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor” (Daniel 4:27).
So what’s the takeaway? The sickened state of our world presents us with the most prime opportunity to present the balm that will eventually heal all wounds. They that are whole need not a physician and even scoff at the mention of one, but a sick and dying world joyfully welcomes one. Really, the sick seek out physicians. People would come to our light if we would but let God shine in us.
Regardless of political leanings, the refugee crisis in Europe presents a wonderful opportunity to show God’s kindness to strangers and the oppressed. While the world seems to cyclically address racial prejudice, we Christians should ever work, even as individuals, to seek out the oppressed, despised and unfortunate and help in whatever way we can. But first, we should search our own hearts to see where we may be despising others and causing oppression. Though maybe not trained surgically or in public health, we can use the potent tool and lessons of our example to show our associates a better way to live to prevent sickness. When sickness and misfortune befalls those we know, even our kind attentions work healing of body and mind that opens up the door for healing the soul.
Natural disasters need not make us merely exclaim the coming of the Lord and the verity of His prophecies, but they also provide opportunities to hasten His coming by tangibly giving the gospel through sacrifices of money, time, or even prayers for the relief of the affected. The sick world should not merely cause our astonishment but should awaken our practical compassion.
In summary, our world is an astonishingly messed up place, but “He has put it in our power, through co-operation with Him,” using His methods and means, “to bring this scene of misery to an end.” We should consider that Isaiah 58 enjoins upon us the duty of working for the whole man as the practical expression of what it means to be Sabbath keepers. We should not be deceived into thinking God will hold us guiltless for taking His name (character) in vain if we neglect to do a Christ-like work for humanity. We should consider just what anguish is stirred in the heart of God for His suffering creation, and we should allow our own hearts to be in anguish for our suffering neighbors. In these last moments of earth’s history, we should keep our eyes and faith on Christ and especially on His cross, saying “Teach us, dying Savior, how true Christians live.” Living that lesson, our daily lives will be “for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14). Thus, the key is in your hand to “bring this scene of misery to an end.” Will you use it?