Is the Right Arm Still Good?
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I remember Lizzie amazing me with her ability to do most of what I could do as well as I could or better. She could plant, cultivate and harvest a garden, she could cook and bake bread, she could sew – all without a right arm. But if Jesus had offered to give her a right arm, I doubt that she would have refused.

Some also seem to manage fairly well without the “right arm” of the three angels’ messages – giving Bible studies, holding evangelistic series, sharing their faith with their neighbors (rarely).

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

I remember a board meeting in which the pastor was concerned about a plan to put on a health program. He wanted to make sure that we did not “shove the health message down peoples’ throats.” Sure, he knew it was “the right arm” of our message, but people had to do it “on their own time.” For him 30 years as a pastor clearly wasn’t enough to implement it in his own life.

But would we not be able to do much more if we employed the “right arm” ?

The Bible study on “Christ’s Healing Legacy” demonstrates that Jesus, our Example, went around healing people – ministering to their felt needs – before he asked them to follow Him.1 The hearts of those He healed physically were wide open to His message of spiritual healing.

Following the example of Jesus, I have observed medical personnel and trained church members put on health programs, such as CHIP. 2 However, they were very careful not to “shove religion down peoples’ throats.” They took down posters advertising an upcoming evangelistic series, lest people “get the wrong idea” – that they are “after them” for spiritual reasons. And they avoided talking about spiritual things. They were successful in helping people become physically healthy, while they failed to address the diseases of the soul that will drag them to eternal oblivion.

Both these groups seem to have amputated the “right arm” of the three angels’ messages: The first group tries to function without a right arm, and the second group tries to function without a body.

It seems to me that putting money and effort into health programs for the public without intentionally leading them on to spiritual health is a misuse of the Lord’s goods – His money and His time entrusted to us. And attempting to minister to the world without a right arm is also a foolish waste of God’s gifts

So how do we properly use this “right arm”?

I have mentioned health programs, and there are some excellent programs that can help us experience the gospel of health for ourselves and train us to share the same with others. But I want us to think about our attitudes first.

The gospel is literally “Good News” – the Good News that God Himself took on human flesh to live among us to demonstrate His character and to die for us in an ultimate act of self-sacrificing love. If we really care for our neighbors, will we not want to share this good news with them in the most tactful and engaging manner possible?

Christ mingled with the people of His time, demonstrated an interest in them, and ministered to their felt needs to gain their confidence. And then He invited them to follow Him. His methods will still meet with success.

Just the other day, I shared a health tip with someone who had been a bit defensive in my Sabbath School class. However, after she found that my sharing met her need, she immediately followed up with a spiritual question. It’s a pattern often repeated, and it demonstrates the effectiveness of using the right arm.

It is, of course, possible, to share healthy living information without any spiritual aspects. Many can fill that role, including New Age gurus. It takes conscious thought to share in such a way that the spiritual connection is evident, but it isn’t difficult, because modern medicine has discovered the “spiritual connection.’ 3

It is also possible to be a “health fanatic” – a person out of balance, focusing on health at the expense of relationships. I know of good Adventist Christians who have eaten quite “unhealthful” food in order to nurture a relationship, while others have sacrificed relationships in the name of health. What example did Jesus set?

How hard is it, really?

There are only eight “true remedies.”

Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine power—these are the true remedies. Every person should have a knowledge of nature’s remedial agencies and how to apply them. It is essential both to understand the principles involved in the treatment of the sick and to have a practical training that will enable one rightly to use this knowledge. (Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health, p. 90)

In the 1800’s, a young man studied medicine and then applied these eight principles in his treatment program. And he built a lifestyle center (then known as a “sanitarium”) that became world-famous, drawing the rich and the famous from all parts of the world.

What influence would we, as a church, have today if we each put these principles into practice in our own lives?

Food for thought, I think …


  1. Also see Matthew 4:23, Matthew 9:35, Matthew 12:9-11, Mark 5:29-31, John 6:2, Acts 10:38
  2. And, by the way, CHIP is a wonderful program.
  3. For example, see “The role of spirituality in health care,” by Christina M. Puchalski, of Baylor University Medical Center. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1305900/ (accessed Jan 30, 2014). Also seeEthics in Medicine,”University of Washington School of Medicine. Available at http://depts.washington.edu/bioethx/topics/spirit.html (accessed Jan 30, 2014).
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Is the Right Arm Still Good? — 7 Comments

  1. Good presentation of a vital subject. The balance must exist or there will be imbalance on either side, and faint chance for success. As for the importance; it is clear that the only ones who didn't bow to the image on the plain of Dura in Daniel 3 were those who won the battle in Daniel 1. There were many other Hebrew captives in both stories, but only three stood with Jesus in the furnace. The others needed to fix their shoe lace suddenly as the music played.

    In these chapters God shows us the importance of the balance needed to stand firm no matter what. Only when the music is played will this importance be realized. Until then most will feel they have it covered.

    Those young men didn't just know the truth, it was their life, and they took great risk to live it. It was their perfect faith in God that made it possible.

    The right arm will open doors that will otherwise never open.

    Like(5)
  2. I would like to underline what is said, with the following consideration. Yes, the body and the right arm are a unit not to be separated. The combining core of this unit seems to be compassion. I noticed that Christ said: I was sick and you have visited me (Matthew 25:36). Being connected with Christ as the vine is connected with the branches, we will have the same kind of deep compassion that Christ had in healing the sick and suffering ones. Whatever is done in health programs, visitation of sick and suffering people and other kinds of outreach: Our words and actions cannot be separated from the great physician we are so intimately connected with.

    Any separation would degenerate into mere application of health technique, which should be avoided for the sake of those we are working for. Words and actions born of compassion cannot be classified as technique, not even as conversion technique, which would be manipulating people. However, God will open hearts for questions to be answered and witness for Christ to be given, leading people away from us towards Christ. He alone will heal broken hearts and supplant bitterness for peace, which has a healing effect on the body and its health condition. Although the gospel does not offer a technique as such, it however has a unique approach to suffering humanity.

    Regards

    Winfried Stolpmann

    Like(4)
  3. Thanks for the comment, Robert, in which I understand you to be saying that faithfulness comes as a package: Either we are faithful in all things or we are not likely to be faithful at all. We are faithful in health reform, or we may not be faithful in spiritual reform. (I believe there are exceptions in that many people do not understand God's teaching regarding health.)

    As I keep thinking about this, both (real) groups I mentioned consider themselves to be doing the work of God. But each fails to see the whole picture. God not only purchased eternal salvation for us, but He is interested in our lives here and now. Salvation comes as a package - not just for the bye and bye, but for right now too, because eternal life begins now. And if we accept Christ's offer, we will do what he tells us both in the physical and spiritual realm.

    The Bible study on "Discipling the Sick" seems to put more emphasis on recognizing Christ's interest in our physical welfare than it does on our discipling those who are sick. But I believe that if understand the Good News for us, then we will naturally want to share it. And that is best done by recognizing that only Christ's methods meet with success: The gospel of physical, emotional and mental health prepares the way for the gospel of spiritual health.

    If we truly love our neighbors as ourselves, we will want them to be healthy, happy and holy in the here and now, and we will want them to enter into eternal life through the grace of Christ our Saviour.

    Like(5)
    • Sad to think there is actually two groups, and I have seen it expressed in comments from either side against the other, from some highly regarded pulpits. We need to be one group in the most urgent way, which is the central message of your post Inge. I was glad to read it.

      I think that it is the genuine interest in the total welfare of others that will inspire discipleship if done in the love and sacrificial manner in which Jesus worked. If we are in Him, we will labor as He did, with mercy, grace, longsuffering, meekness and lowliness of heart with complete restoration as the goal. Any of the accounts of healing show the perfect balance in Jesus' ministry for both body and soul, which are inseparable. We can't truly heal only half of an individual.

      The other aspect is that in keeping the health matters separate, there is no real purpose. What would be the reason to extend the life of sinfulness, especially when sinfulness is the source of sickness. Jesus made the connection clear when admonishing; "Go and sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee." This leads to thorough healing and cleansing. A healthy body results in a healthy mind, which can then receive the truth and wisdom of God.

      You said it well in the last sentence of your comment Inge; "If we truly love our neighbors..." :-)

      Like(3)
  4. Very good points in the article. Could it be there are a few common features to the two examples of amputated right arm? Both groups were busy in the service of the Master. Both were likely doing their best and both were probably accepted by God. There is value in both in spite of the segmentation. Any relief whether spiritual, mental, physical or emotional which may be obtained in this sinful world is advantageous.

    Although Christ wished to save all His help was not limited to those who might have been receptive to the Gospel, and He could read hearts. None of the help was wasted although some beneficiaries afterward turned against Jesus. Not only were the needy and the witnesses (including unfallen beings) benefitted, but the expression of compassion also helped Christ himself. As well complete ministry does not have to come from a single source for one to be completely blessed (1 Corinthians 3:6).

    There is something else though. It could be in both cases there is an implied feeling of a need to please and/or the fear of offending the target audience. A lesson we have difficulty with is that the advancement of God’s kingdom does not depend on our skillful handling of the messages. If we are moved to deliberately conceal vital elements of the truth we believe in, we may end up being mildly deceptive and the converts feeling duped (bait and switch). Some have joined the church only to be surprised about what we really believe and sometimes rebel.

    The arm of flesh may succeed in filling pews or auditoriums, but it is the Spirit who fills hearts. It behooves us to trust the Savior and share the whole truth in love. The numbers (returns) may be less than we would like, but that is on God when we do what He says (See Noah). Ours is not a popular message; but a prophetic one. It may not be pleasing to some, but truly fulfilling to all who accept.

    Like(4)
    • Any who have joined the church only to be surprised later at what they were not taught were not thoroughly prepared for baptism. We have clear instructions and often they are not followed and people become baptized too quickly with little instruction. While there is a "gospel order", no one should be baptized until taught to "observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:". Yes, many think our doctrines strange, but Paul warned that many will not endure sound doctrine. We must expect this.

      We cannot separate (right arm from the body) what God has joined together. If we move by faith and follow God's directions, we will win souls, even though the vast majority will reject what is not popular: self-surrender to Christ, who is the Savior of the world. He was more rejected than we will ever be, but He healed and taught as directed by God, filled with the Holy Spirit and genuine love for the lost. He knew rejection would persist with most who heard Him, but He finished the work given Him to do and glorified God. His labors planted the Church which will ultimately triumph through faithful obedience.

      Like(3)

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