When entrusted to God, even sickness can become a tool for his glory. Asked why the man in John 9 was blind, Jesus replied, “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (NIV). Paul’s illness, though a “thorn” in his flesh, displayed the sufficiency of God’s grace. William Sangster’s four rules for facing illness show us how that happens.
Sangster was born in London in 1900 and started attending a Methodist church at age nine. At 13 he became a Christian and immediately began sharing his faith with friends. Three years later he preached his first sermon on February 11, 1917. After stints in the army and in college, he began pastoring a circuit of Methodist churches, working himself to exhaustion, frequently saying, “I just can’t do enough!” His reputation as a powerful preacher and beloved pastor followed him from church to church.
In 1939 Sangster assumed leadership of Westminster Central Hall, a Methodist church near London’s Westminster Abbey. During his first worship service he announced to his stunned congregation that Britain and Germany were officially at war. He quickly converted the church basement into an air raid shelter, and for 1,688 nights Sangster ministered to the various needs of all kinds of people. At the same time he somehow managed to write, to preach gripping sermons, to earn a Ph.D., and to lead hundreds to Christ. He became known as Wesley’s successor in London and was esteemed as the most beloved British preacher of his era. After the war Sangster headed Britain’s Methodist home missions department until he was diagnosed with progressive muscular atrophy. For three years he slowly died, becoming progressively more paralyzed, finally able to move only two fingers. But his attitude didn’t falter, for when first learning of his illness, Sangster made four rules for himself. Many people have rules for living. Sangster composed four rules for dying: “I will never complain. I will keep the home bright. I will count my blessings. I will try to turn it to gain.” He did all those things.
And thus the work of God was displayed in his life, and God’s strength was made perfect in his weakness.
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Teacher, why was this man born blind? Was it because he or his parents sinned?” “No, it wasn’t!” Jesus answered. “But because of his blindness, you will see God work a miracle for him.” (John 9:1-3)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Feb. 11.