Shaming the Sick

Michael Beck

“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (1 Timothy 5:23)

Timothy has always had the reputation of being somewhat of a spiritual wimp in certain circles. What kind of self-respecting church leader has “often infirmities”? Paul had exhorted the young minister to be an example of many things, including faith, to the believers. (1 Tim. 4:12)

What kind of example was Timothy setting for his flock in having persistent stomach troubles? Shouldn’t his faith have dispelled his sickness without the need for a natural remedy? Did he not know how to “use his authority”? Why didn’t Paul disqualify such a failure from being an overseer?

Many “faith” teachers set themselves forward as examples of how those under them should lay hold on divine provision. It is not only divine healing that they advocate, but divine health. One prominent faith teacher gloried in not having a headache for 45 years (until he got one; then he denied having it until it went away.)

This private letter from Paul to Timothy, his son in the faith, reveals something that would be a major embarrassment to many a modern “faith” teacher. “Infirmities,” let alone “often infirmities,” are not supposed to happen in your average believer, let alone a minister. Shouldn’t Paul have rebuked Timothy for failing to lay hold on his rightful inheritance in Christ?

I am afraid that the “gospel” of health that so many have received is foreign to the gospel that Paul believed. Healing is available, but it is not an automatic, guaranteed “right” that all must have or be considered to be failures. The gospel that some preach is not good news to the sick, because if you don’t walk in divine health, or are not healed when you get sick, or have a disease of some sort that isn’t taken away, you are looked upon as either under the judgment of God or not having the faith you should have. Since when has the gospel become a ministry of condemnation? Thank God that Timothy had a better father in the faith than many have today.

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.