The ICU of the Church
Hospitals have units within which they operate the most sophisticated medical machinery. They employ the most highly qualified and reliable staff members in this area. It often consists of a ward of a few rooms containing technology worth millions of dollars. A relatively small space of concentrated expertise is set apart from the rest of the medical complex to allow personnel to focus on the most critical patients – those in need of round-the-clock attention. It is called the Intensive Care Unit. There you can be attached to an apparatus that will do the breathing for you – keeping you alive. Technological gadgets monitor every single heartbeat, measure the precise amount of oxygen in the blood, and accurately record blood pressure every few minutes. Patients can also be hooked up to electrodes and wires that will gauge their brain activity. All of this is provided just to make sure you stay alive. The most intensive measures are taken, no matter how invasive or uncomfortable they may be, just to keep you from dying. The church of Sardis was told, in the book of Revelation, that there were "things" ready to die. This doesn't seem to be referring to specific people but certain "things" that they would have to strengthen - to do whatever it takes - to keep from dying. If the church has an ICU, there are some patients we had better take good care to keep alive! A quick survey of Scripture reveals several instances where without intervention, notable characters would have perished. We focus here not so much on the person as the quality he or she symbolizes. Keep worship alive One would be hard-pressed to find another individual within the pages of the Bible who survived as many attempts on his life as David. The attacks were always coming at him, from the days of his youth until he became aged. Early on, he fought a lion and a bear, risking his life to defend his father's flock. A little later, when young David challenged the champion of the Philistines, Goliath boasted that he would feed his flesh to birds. King Saul became jealous of David's successes and threw a javelin at him. This was the beginning of multiple attempts by Saul and his men to kill David. He was doggedly pursued through the wilderness for many years, hunted like an animal. At one point, David's own men threatened to stone him. Things did not calm down for him even after he ascended the throne. As soon as the Philistines heard that he was king, they launched repeated attacks. So did other nations such as the Ammonites and Syrians (II Samuel 10). After many years as Israel's king, David fled from the revolt of his own son Absalom. A second revolution was attempted soon after by a man named Sheba. As an old man, he had to be rescued in battle by one of his soldiers. It seemed this time, a Philistine giant would get the best of him. Ishbi-benob "thought to have slain David" (II Samuel 21:16) until his loyal sidekick Abishai arrived on the scene to keep him alive. There is perhaps no better representation in Scripture for worship and praise than David. His harp-playing soothed the irritable moods of Saul the madman. He left to Israel and the rest of us an incredible number of beautiful psalms to be incorporated into worship services. He set up a tabernacle in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant. He also is known for dancing before the Lord with all his might. There seems to have never been a time that the life of David was not threatened. The same is true of worship. All you have to do to let worship die in the church is not fight for it. Keep revival alive King Solomon was confronted with a legal conundrum. The two women appearing before him were arguing over which one was truly the mother of the baby. In the darkness of the night, one child had died and one had survived. Who was the true mother? "Bring me a sword," Solomon commanded his servants. This fragile little baby was to be divided into two pieces. Maybe both complainants would then be satisfied. So what that it destroyed the precious new life, it would be fair to both women. Isn't that what a leader is supposed to be: fair? The impostor mother was unbothered by the prospect of seeing the child meet such a barbaric end. All she wanted, it seems, was to make sure that what she herself had lost was what the other mother lost, too. Can't let her have what I can't have. She was pretending that she had not lost her child. She was pretending that what belonged to someone else was actually hers. We would call that a hypocrite. But the one who was really interested in preserving the life of the tiny infant spoke up. The real spirit of motherhood manifested itself. "No! Let her have it! I won't be selfish about it. Just keep the baby alive!" The spirit of revival will die in churches where saints are more concerned about who gets to sing or hold a position rather than be concerned about the souls of the lost. The spirit of motherhood languishes where individuals are preoccupied with having a platform to show off their talents rather than eagerly seeking after the will of God for their assembly. Where individuals are obsessed with keeping track of who has done the most work, or who gets the most recognition, or who is the most noticed or appreciated, these are places that are endangering the spirit of motherhood. New converts are dying while everybody is fighting over who is most important. Spiritual babies are destroyed in such an environment. As long as we have victory, it doesn't matter who gets the credit! If we could all have this mentality, it would be amazing how much we could accomplish. Keep ministry alive Basking in his newfound Christian experience, Saul of Tarsus remained in Damascus, getting to know the disciples. Few, if any, had any real idea of what a mighty force for the gospel this man would someday become. He would, in time, be known as the great Apostle Paul. Not everyone was thrilled with his about-face from persecuting Christians to becoming one. Some in the Jewish religious establishment was very unhappy with his conversion. Especially once he began to eagerly share his experience with others. Certain Jews purposed that he must be killed. They were so serious about it that we are told in Acts 9:24, "And they watched the gates day and night to kill him." Had they accomplished their aims, we would be missing much of our New Testament today. Epistles such as Romans, I-II Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians would not be available. Many of the great churches of 1st-century Christianity would not have been established, such as the congregations of Ephesus, Philippi, and Thessalonica. Souls such as Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and the disciples of John (Acts 19) would have remained unreached and unconverted. Preachers like Timothy, who became pastor of Ephesus, and Titus, who became pastor at Crete, would not have been developed and trained for the ministry. All of these spectacular aspects of Paul's ministry would not have been possible had the death sentence in Damascus been successfully carried out. A small group of brothers and sisters put their own lives on the line to ensure that the enemy could not get to him. Were it not for this faithful handful of believers, the early church might have been severely handicapped. Jewish religious leaders may have been determined that Paul must die, but these church members were even more determined that Paul must be kept alive. To smuggle him out of the city so he could safely escape to Jerusalem, Scripture informs us, "Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket" (Acts 9:25). Think of how much ministry they preserved by one small effort. Little did they know how much doctrine and teaching was wrapped up in one man. Imagine the magnitude and incredible consequences of their attempts one night long ago to keep a person alive. More than providing an individual with a few more years in which to breathe and live, they unleashed upon the world a far-reaching powerful influence for the sake of truth and gospel evangelism. Much of our secular world has become unfriendly to real ministry. There is a movement afoot to silence the pulpit. This spirit should not be given a foothold in the church. Of all places, there should be liberty and freedom in the church for the preacher to "declare the whole counsel of God." We must endeavor to keep ministry alive, at all costs.