“But you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time …”. (Galatians 4:13)
So the Apostle Paul had a “bodily illness” which was hindering him as he sought to serve the Lord. But as we see in Galatians 4, he didn’t let that stop him from serving.
In fact, verse 13 says it was “because” of the bodily illness that Paul was able to preach the gospel to the Galatians. What these exact circumstances were, we do not know — nor the exact nature of Paul’s illness; though both :13 and :14 describe it as a bodily (literally “fleshly”) condition, and in :15 he mentions that the Galatians ‘would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me,” perhaps giving a hint as to the nature of his physical problem. But those are the only clues we have; perhaps because the specific nature of Paul’s difficulty was not as important as the fact that 1) the Galatians accepted him despite it, and 2) that Paul allowed the Lord to use him in it.
There are numerous lessons for God’s people here, among them that the “health and wealth prosperity gospel” is false. The new Testament does NOT indicate that God will heal us of every physical malady if we merely believe. The Apostle Paul himself had a physical condition which God did not imediately heal. We also read in II Timothy 4:20 where Paul said “Trophimus I left sick in Miletus.” So much for a supposed guarantee that God will heal every physical infirmity here in this world. That teaching is not supported by the scriptures.
Another lesson, for the ill persons themselves, is that we should not wait for perfect health to serve God. Quite honestly, that day may not come, and your opportunity to bless and be blessed by your potential service will have passed. Do not wait for the “perfect” circumstances, but serve God as He gives you strength NOW. And give you strength He can — often way beyond what you may imagine. Remember what the Lord told Paul when he asked Him for physical healing: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” God can give us great strength, even when we are physically weak, if we will present ourselves to Him as vessels for service. This should not be taken to mean that there are not circumstances which limit our ability to serve. This writer has personally spent time sidelined from active ministry by incapacitating illness. There are times when we simply cannot serve.
But we should also recognize that sometimes we think our limitations — physical or otherwise — automatically exclude us from being used by God. And we should remember that often, as in the case of Paul here, God has plans to use us IN SPITE of them, so that He may be the more glorified.