Shepherding Sick Sheep

Shepherding God’s People Series:

  1. Shepherding God’s People – Overview
  2. Shepherding Weak Sheep
  3. Shepherding Sick Sheep
  4. Shepherding Broken Sheep
  5. Shepherding Lost Sheep
  6. Shepherding Scattered Sheep
  7. Shepherding Young Sheep
  8. Shepherding Standing Sheep

Let me remind you of the description of sick sheep: Some sheep are sick because they have physical health problems, while other people are spiritually sick. — Sick Sheep – Ezekiel 34:4,16

Sin-sick sheep often need to be reminded that the words “by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24-25) are just as applicable to a believer who has sinned as they are to an unbeliever. Jesus heals our sin-sick souls and cleanses us when we confess and repent.

Physically sick sheep often need a shepherd to provide care while they are sickly. In this era of COVID-19, the potential for sickness is fairly high, ranging from mild affliction or inconvenience to having deathly respiration troubles. As a shepherd, we have the wonderful opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to help bring wholeness back into someone’s life.

The point is… our small group is a relational environment, where those in our group walk together down this path of life. The path has many beautiful places to stop and enjoy but the dark side of life is also a reality that cannot be forgotten. How will we respond when our people, when our sheep, get sick?

While God is the Great Physician (Mark 2:17, Psalm 41:3, 103:2-3, 124:3, Isaiah 53:5, Jeremiah 30:17, Hosea 6:1, Job 5:18, Exodus 23:25, 1 Peter 2:24, ) and doctors and nurses are on the front lines when it comes to sickness, the community of faith can be the caring agent to our people reminding them that they are not alone, they are not forsaken.

When illness strikes a person or family, they may be more likely to respond in one of two ways… either they will get angry at God for his lousy care for them and lack of protection, or they will value life and community even more, recognizing their need for God, his sustaining presence, and be even more thankful for the people in the church.

Either way, small group leaders are on the front lines providing care, concern, practical help, guidance, encouragement, and counsel to those who are hurting.

It’s ALSO important to help sick sheep to discern the kind of sickness they are experiencing. Is it a sickness unto death, a sickness unto chastisement, a sickness to manifest the work of God and to glorify Him, or to teach contentment with the sufficiency of God’s Grace in the midst of sickness? I’ll talk about these in just a moment.

The Shepherd’s Responsibility is to Heal the Sick (physically)

  1. Visit them in the hospital – when you discover someone is in the hospital, the shepherd immediately reaches out to find out how they are coping. This is in person or by phone call. Talk to the person, to the family, or other class member who might be taking the lead in reaching out to the sick person. Discover if there anything that the community of faith can do for them. How confidential is this illness? Can this sickness be shared with the faith community for prayer and encouragement?
  2. Provide meals and childcare for the family – during hospitalizations and even deaths in the family – Lives are being disrupted and freedom from food preparation can be such a blessing in difficult times. Hey, you know this stuff and have seen application of this truth firsthand.
  3. Serve the family in other ways – wash clothing, cut grass, watch their kids, small jobs, pick up groceries. What other things can you add to the list? Talk with your small group about what could be helpful to members when someone gets sick.
  4. Ask if this sickness has become a financial burden. If so, how can you help? How can the church help? Communicate with the benevolence team about practical help.
  5. Encourage them to seek out medical help when they are physically sick – Acts 28:8-9; 1 Timothy 5:23. This may seem like a no-brainer, but how often do people NOT visit a doctor when they’re ill? “I’ll be fine.” “I’m already getting better.” But sometimes a visit to the doctor will discover something else going on rather than just the ailment from which they are suffering. Offer transportation and go with them to the appointment, or to the “doc in a box.”
  6. Remind them that the Lord is Jehovah Rapha – meaning “The Lord Heals” – Exodus 15:22-26; Deuteronomy 32:39; Psalm 103:1-4; 107:20; Proverbs 4:20-22; Jeremiah 17:14; 30:17a; 3 John 1:2. If this is one of God’s names, pray the name over the person. Find other healing Scriptures to read and pray over. A good book to read is the brief testimonial book by Sandy Guthrie, called, “In His Presence.”
  7. Guide them in discerning prayer
    1. Is it a sickness due to natural processes? Romans 8:20-23 = Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
    2. Is it a sickness to manifest the work and glorify of God? John 9:1-3 = As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
    3. Is it a sickness to teach contentment with the sufficiency of God’s Grace in the midst of illness? 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 = even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
    4. Is it a sickness unto chastisement?
      1. First Corinthians 11:28-33 = That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29 For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 31 But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. 32 Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 33 So, my dear brothers and sisters, when you gather for the Lord’s Supper, wait for each other.
      2. James 5:16 = Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
    5. Is it a sickness unto death? 1 John 5:16-17 = If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. 17 All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.
      1. This is likely one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to interpret, but read this from the guys at Got Questions… [ drill down more here ]
      2. The best interpretation may be found by comparing this verse to what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1–10 (see also 1 Corinthians 11:30). The “sin unto death” is willful, continuous, unrepentant sin.
  8. Encourage them to call for the elders of the church to pray over them – James 5:14-16 = Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. 16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

The Shepherd’s Responsibility is to Heal the Sick (spiritually)

  1. Confront the sin and disobedience they may be involved in
    1. Romans 15:14-15 = I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. 15 Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.
    2. First Corinthians 4:14 = I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children.
    3. Galatians 6:1 = Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
    4. First Thessalonians 5: 14 = Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.
  2. Call for repentance of known sin and destructive patterns of behavior
    1. Luke 17:3-4 = o watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. 4 Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”
    2. Second Corinthians 7:9-11 = Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. 11 Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.
    3. Second Corinthians 12:20-21 = For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior. 21 Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.
    4. Revelation 2:5 = Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.
    5. Revelation 2:16 = Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
    6. Revelation 2:21-22 = I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality. 22 “Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds.
    7. Revelation 3:3 = Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.
    8. Revelation 3:19 = I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
  3. Reassure them that forgiveness is always possible – 1 John 1:9 = But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

So, all this is to say that we have an opportunity to care for the people in our charge. Some may be weak (which we looked at last time) and some may be sick. As Leaders, we have a responsibility to get better at what we are doing for those in God’s family.

Related Topics:

  • Abortion: Exodus 20:13; 21:22-25; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5
  • Adultery: Exodus 20:14; 2 Samuel 11:2; Proverbs 16:18; 5:1-23; 6:23-35; 7:5-27; 9:13-16; Malachi 2:13-16; Matthew 5:28; 15:19; 19:9; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Hebrews 13:4
  • Anger: Genesis 4:5-7; Psalm 7:11; 37:8; Proverbs 14:16-17,29; 15:1,18; 16:32; 19:11,19; 20:3,22; 22:24; 24:29; 25:15,28; 29:11,22; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Matthew 5:21-22; Mark 3:5; Ephesians 4:26-27; Colossians 3:8; James 1:19-20
  • Bad Relationships: Proverbs 14:9; 22:24; 23:20,21; 29:24; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 15:33; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 2 Timothy 3:2-5
  • Bitterness: Ephesians 4:31; Hebrews 12:15
  • Blame Shifting: Genesis 3:12-13; Proverbs 19:3
  • Confession: Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9
  • Divorce: Malachi 2:14; Mark 10:11-12; 1 Corinthians 7:10-12
  • Drunkenness: Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35; 31:4-6; 23:20; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:3
  • Factious: 1 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 5:20; Titus 3:10-11
  • Forgiveness (From God): Psalm 32:1,5; 85:2; 103:10-12; Jeremiah 31:34; 33: Isaiah 1:18; 43:25; 55:7; Ephesians 1:6-7; Co1.2: 13; 1 John 1:9; Hebrews 8:12
  • Gossip: Proverbs 10:18; 11:13; 18:8; 20:19; 26:20-22; James 4:11
  • Guilt: Revelation 12:10; Romans 8:1
  • Homosexuality: Genesis 19:1-9; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10
  • Humility (to repent): Proverbs 15:33; 22:4; 29:23; Hebrews 12:15-17
  • Immodesty: 1 Timothy 2:9
  • Immorality / Fornication: Matthew 5:27-30; Romans 13:13-14; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
  • Laziness: Proverbs 12:24,27; 13:4; 15:19; 18:9; 26:13-16; Matthew 25:26
  • Lying: Exodus 20:16; Proverbs 12:19,22; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9
  • Pride: Proverbs 8:13; 11:2; 13:10; 16:18; 21:24; 27:1; 29:23
  • Resentment: Proverbs 26:24-26
  • Revenge: Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30
  • Shame: Genesis 2:25; Proverbs 11:2; 13:18; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Philippians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:16; 1 John 2:28; Jude 1:13
  • Spiritually Incompatible: (Marriage) Amos 3:3; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16,39; 9:5; 2 Corinthians 6:14
  • Stealing: Exodus 20:15, Proverbs 20:10,23; 29:24; 30:7-9; Ephesians 4:28
  • Temptation: Psalm 119:11; Matthew 26:41; Romans 6:14; 1 Corinthians 10:12; James 1:13-15
  • Worldliness: Romans 12:1-2; James 1:27; 4:4-10; 2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15-17
  • Worry: Proverbs 12:25; 14:30; 17:22; Matthew 6:24-34; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7

Credit for the original teaching goes to my mentor, teacher, and friend, Rick Leineweber.

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