by Steven Chan
27 June 2010
In Job 2:11-13, the Bible records for us an interesting account of how Job’s three friends supported him through his adversity:
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place–Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.”
When adversity comes to our friends and loved ones, do we make the effort to visit them and be there with them for a period of time even though we do not know what to say or do for them? “Just being there” with Job was what the three friends did for “seven days and seven nights” – and all through that period of time, they spoke not a word to him for they saw that his grief was great. It is not what we say or do that really matters – it is just being there with them during their time of grief. We need to visit our friends and brethren during their time of adversity.
As Eccl 3:7 counsels, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Sometimes it may be better not to speak because nothing that we can say at that point in time can help the person in adversity. But that does not mean that we should not even visit him during that time. We should just be there with him.
In Matt 25:43, on the day of Judgement, our Lord said to those on the left of Him: “I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.” He referred to two categories of people that they had failed to visit: those who are sick and those who are in prison. These were people who are left alone – as if in solitary confinement – and are in need of company. Instead, people have forgotten them and left them aside. Who are these who have been sick and in prison? Matt 25:45: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these My brethren (v 40), you did not do it to Me” So, when brethren are sick or in prison, we should not neglect visiting them.
The need to visit those who are lonely or left alone extends beyond just the sick and those of our brethren in prison. In James 1:27, the Bible says: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” In this instance, it covers the orphans and widows in their time of trouble. The modifier is “in their time of trouble”. Perhaps we can extend our visits to all brethren and loved ones “in their time of trouble” – and just be there with them. Of course, it would not be sufficient to just visit them in their time of trouble and do nothing to help them when it is in our powers to help them. This is clearly taught in 1 John 3:17-18: “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” The modifier is the clause “whoever has the world’s goods”. God does not expect us to give what we do not have. But whatever we have, we need to use them to glorify Him (I Pet 4:10) – even if it is just a “cup of water”: Matt 25:42: “I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink”.
Visitation is not restricted only to the time when brethren are in trouble. In Acts 15:36, the Bible records for us what the apostle Paul and Barnabas did: “Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” Going to visit brethren to “see how they are doing” ought to be applicable not only to mission trips (although it may be useful to remember that mission trips ought to have this as one of their objectives) but also to our need to visit one another, to “see how each one of us are doing” – in every sense of the word – but especially spiritually. Our concern for the well-being of our brethren ought not to be confined only to those who are overseas or in mission fields. It ought to include those nearby to us. The principle articulated in 1 John 4:20-21 would be applicable to us in this regards: “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” Perhaps, we can adapt that principle and asked thus: “for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love the brethren whom he has not seen?” There are some who desire to do much overseas or in foreign mission fields but they are loathe to do anything in their own home congregation. Brethren, this ought not to be the case. A similar principle is applicable to our provision for the needs of others – if we neglect providing for our own: 1 Tim 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim 5:16: “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.”
Brethren, the Bible teaches that we need to visit one another – to see how we are doing – and especially to visit those who in trouble or are sick. In that way, we would obey the Lord’s command as stated in Matt 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”