Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 18:14


Some people think that the Christian ministry is limited to a select few – like pastors and missionaries. But in truth the Lord dispenses His gifts and responsibilities in packages of fives, tens and even singles to all His children. And the King of kings expects us to use our various talents – not to bury them “for safe keeping.” Preaching and teaching are two forms of ministry, but so are comfort, prayer, support and encouragement.

This verse must first be read and understood stating a simple pair of facts. “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” But from there it should be used to encourage one of those “lesser” ministries which is no little thing at all. I’m speaking of “encouragement.”

As we all quickly learn, the world is a dangerous place.

In fact, the very nature of life is dangerous because of the general effects of sin and the curse for sin. Can it be said that we cause our arthritis or osteoporosis, and that baby brought about her own crib death? Can we necessarily stop a man with influenza or some other infection from shaking our hand because we have divine knowledge that he is contagious? Can we prevent the drunk or doped-up driver from running us down? Such things happen, and some times good people are hurt.

But the dangers and injuries of life are not just physical; they come in emotional forms as well. A friend or loved-one may try to say something in jest, but it comes out wrong and you are hurt. Or you simply misinterpret something said in general conversation, and feelings are injured. You wave to a neighbor, but because he is thinking about one of his many problems, he doesn’t see your friendly gesture and doesn’t respond, even though it seemed that he was looking directly at you. You are hurt, thinking he has deliberately slighted you. Perhaps you can think of other examples – better examples, when it comes to your own life.

In addition to these there are the spiritual injuries. Satan would love to keep you from serving the Lord – even in the “lesser” areas of prayer and support. So maybe he makes sure you remember your past sins and your present spiritual weaknesses. True to his name, he stays busy accusing you of faults, weakness and sins. And as soon as he sees an opening, he attacks, pouring in more and more despondency until sometimes you find yourself running down hill out of control. Oh, and when he knows that you are striving to become more useful to the Saviour, his attacks are intensified. Living the Christian life is not for sissies.

The spirit can overcome all of these things.

Solomon wasn’t talking about the Holy Spirit, but “the spirit of a man.” “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity” if he possesses the right kind of spirit. Let’s say that I am coming back from helping my neighbor fix something at his house, and I trip and fall. My left hand is injured; a bone is broken; it is beginning to swell-up and it hurts – it really hurts. I have a choice – I can moan and groan; I can beat myself up; I can be angry at my neighbor. Or I can thank the Lord that I didn’t give myself a concussion, or it wasn’t my dominant hand.

Another friend has said something which cut me to my heart. If I choose, I could “unfriend” him, and refuse to look at his Facebook page any more. Or I could say to myself, “I probably don’t deserve friends in the first place. I think I’ll over-look what he has done.”

And now, there is a new friend in your life, an acquaintance actually, and I feel led of the Spirit to overlook all his faults in an effort to win him to Christ. He really needs the Lord. Immediately, I find Satan shooting his fiery darts at you. It is two days after your initial visit with that man that I trip and fall hurting my hand. Normally sure footed, I suspect you were pushed by some unseen power. That same day, I receive news of the sudden death of a good friend. Then a week later I get a huge bill from the Urgent Care place for their treatment of my hand.. Why are all these hitting I, just when I am starting a good work for God? Two days later someone accuses me of befriending publicans and sinners. And on Sunday another says that even if I win that person to Christ he will never be welcome in our church. Satan whispers, “So what’s the point in trying to lead him to the Lord?” I should reply, “Get thee behind me, Satan. I refuse to acknowledge your attacks upon me. I know how unworthy and sinful I am; there is nothing you can do to make me less worthy. But I am a child of the King, however unworthy, and I will continue to serve Him to the best of my ability.”

“The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?”

The other day, Judy was talking to our sister Charlotte Yeoman up in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. The conversation turned to the Yeoman’s daughter, Arlene, who suffers from MS. This lady contracted this disease, through no fault of her own, long before the Oldfields left Canada. Today Arlene is a paraplegic with no control of her body below her arms. But we are told that she has the most positive attitude imaginable – because she is a child of God. Her godly spirit has been sustaining her in the midst of an awful infirmity.

The human spirit can be an amazing thing, especially when it is empowered by the omnipotent Holy Spirit. But while “the spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity,” the reverse is not necessarily true. When the heart is broken, the strength of the arm or the agility of the mind cannot repair it. Our bodies, the creation of God, can do astounding things, like repairing broken bones and broken nerves. But the body cannot repair the spirit. A skillful preacher could develop a gospel sermon from this text and idea. The works of the flesh cannot repair the effects of a broken spirit or the spiritual death caused by sin.

But another spirit can help. A ministry of one spirit to another spirit can be a powerful and God-glorifying service. There are people who go through life, seeking and finding ways to lift up others. It doesn’t have to be a great physical thing. Sometimes it can be nothing more than a smile, or a compliment. We don’t have to have the wisdom of Solomon to be able to strengthen the spirit of another person. The only real requirement is love – coupled to a willingness to sacrifice a little – even just a little time. If we can get the down-cast spirit, that depressed soul, to look up for a moment, that may be all that’s necessary to get the healing or sustaining process working.

“The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?”

Even if the Christian does not have a strong personal constitution, he does have the Holy Spirit. Not everyone is filled with the Spirit, in the sense of full surrender and a well-tuned heart. Every one of us should be, but the world, the flesh and the devil make it difficult. On the other hand. every saint is indwelt by the Spirit, sealed and blessed by the Holy Spirit. There is not a saint among us who cannot bear the fruit of the Spirit. And “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” Every saint has access to the fruit of peace, which is so important in sustaining us in our infirmities. From the weakest and newest saint, to the oldest and most spiritually mature, we have access to the healing power of the divine Comforter. “The spirit of a man, strengthened and blessed by the Holy Spirit, will sustain him through any infirmity thrown in his direction.”

I have heard people argue that the Proverbs are not promises, only pithy general observations. But as these Proverbs link to so many other scriptures, I believe they do contain promises. And this is one of those indirect promises from the God who cannot lie. We need to pray for the strengthening of our hearts – our spirits.