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Hardship: God’s Training Ground – Scott Brodie Inspires

Hardship: God's Training Ground - Scott Brodie Inspires

Thursday night I had a brief shoot for a Shades of Grace media project that will be released this Spring.  I traveled from east Texas (tweeting along the way) to the DFW area because Remnant Media in Rockwall is helping produce the project.  Although I woke very sick that day, it was nothing compared to what Scott Brodie forges through every day by Christ’s strength…and Scott is the subject of the media project — or rather, Christ is the subject, via Scott’s testimony.

Walking Through the Valley: The Scott Brodie Story

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Filming at the fitness center

Thirteen years ago Scott was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and given only two years to live.  But the story isn’t about what Scott has lost, it’s about Who he has gained because of his weakness and dependence upon the life of Christ.

At the shoot we gathered footage that will frame Scott’s story and interview.  Filming in a gym provided the perfect backdrop to illustrate his life and message.

handsome-scott-1986Scott was very athletic as a young man. He played as an all state quarterback in high school and was offered a college football scholarship. After graduating high school, he moved to California, then to Seattle to work in a local gym.  His life was really taking off…especially after meeting one of the aerobics instructors at the gym where they both worked.  He and Glennis were both very physically active and would frequently run and exercise together.  They soon fell in weddinglove and married a year later.  In seven quick years they had a family of six with a boy and three girls.

Today it’s the spiritual athleticism of this family that is such an inspiration. In I Timothy 4:8, the Apostle Paul said that physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

By way of Lou Gehrig’s disease, God has walked Scott and Glennis through deep crucifixion of self that has produced immeasurable godliness. This godliness – the life of Christ in them – gives them joy, peace, contentment, strength, perspective and endurance that is not their own, but that of Jesus Christ.

Scott has no use of his arms, cannot swallow, has difficulty speaking, is on a feeding tube, on a ventilator part time and holds his neck up with the help of a brace…YET, he types with his toes and ministers through his blog and website to thousands of people!

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Brodie Family today: Ashley, Justin, Jessica, granddaughter Korbyn, Kylee, Scott, Glennis

Recently I received home video footage of Scott that, among many impactful scenes, contains two lively scenes of Scott dancing with his daughters, being silly and praising the Lord. Scott, his wife and children are always upbeat, always speaking of the joy of the Lord and demonstrating it by their actions…in spite of 13 years with ALS. They wouldn’t be able to do this if it were not for the life of Christ in them and their deep faith and trust in Him. As I watched these scenes, I laughed hysterically with them one moment, then wept the next because of the deep Biblical truths behind their amazing ability to let the joy of the Lord be their strength.

At first glance, the dancing may seem silly and irrelevant.  But in reality it shows the depth of their walk with Christ.  I know of no one whose life better illustrates and teaches how to walk through adversity with faith and joy, receiving every blessing God has hidden in the hardship.

How many Christians in far less dire circumstances can actually relax in God’s loving care and be truly joyful? How many of us moan and groan, feel sorry for ourselves and come up with every reason in the world to be negative?  I know I do.  I am one of those facing far less serious implications in life who can’t manage an attitude of gratitude—not at least without making a deliberate effort, without being majorly intentional. It isn’t a natural, constant byproduct of my life like it is for Scott and Glennis. The Holy Spirit has convicted me and taught me how to live through these simple, light-hearted scenes.

But it isn’t all fun and games.  Scott and Glennis face serious, life-threatening situations every time Scott gets a cold.  Such an incident occurred earlier this year and led to near fatal pneumonia.   When we conducted the hour long interview with them in Tacoma, Washington, Scott never swallowed the entire time.  He has to expel saliva into a napkin or container….which he didn’t do for over an hour! The simplest of things we take for granted–like sitting and conducting conversation for an hour—require major effort and adjustments for Scott. He endures discomforts and losses that most of us cannot comprehend.

Yet as I have been in Scott and Glennis’ home, spent time with them in their church, watched hours of them on video, their conversation is always the same – constantly praising God, declaring His truth and expressing thanksgiving for His wonderful provision.  It’s an incredible thing to behold.

As I stood in the gym this past Thursday, speaking into the camera, mindful of the men and women enduring training—runners heaving on treadmills behind me, cyclists struggling on the pedals and weight lifters grimacing beneath a heavy load—I was struck by the fact that spiritual training is profoundly similar.

God’s Training Ground

Hebrews 12:7-11 tells us to endure hardship as discipline, or “training”.  God disciplines and trains us for our good that we might share in his holiness.

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons…10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we might share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Scott is being “trained” by a grueling fitness regimen – a “spiritual” fitness regimen.  It isn’t pretty or fun, but the results are eternal.

Although Scott’s life has changed dramatically from Lou Gehrig’s disease, perseverance and endurance still mark his life – the training ground is that of hardship and the discipline, endurance and strength are that of Christ.  He is running his race with endurance.  The training ground of hardship has clearly given Scott spiritual stamina for the all-important, eternal race that we run on this earth:

Excerpt from Scott’s blog, Run Your Race, September 7, 2009:

My spirit has been encouraged considering Hebrews 12:1: “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”. This cloud of witnesses is a metaphor referring a great amphitheatre with tiers upon tiers of seats rising up like a cloud surrounding an arena full of runners that are in a race. In heaven, these witnesses are in the bandstands cheering us on as the spectators of an athletic competition…

Hebrews 12:1b continues to exhort us to lay aside every weight and sin that so easily ensnares (or clings to us) to slow us down in our race. What we need is endurance; to finish what we have begun in Jesus Christ – a race that is set before us. Our race is before us and we must run it!  In Acts 20:24, Paul pictures himself as a runner who had a race to finish and nothing would keep him from finishing his race with joy. In that passage, Paul speaks of my race – he had his race to run, we have our own – but God calls us to finish it with joy; and that only happens when we look unto Jesus. The NAS Bible version translates this: fixing our eyes on Jesus. We run this race of faith as we look to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. He is our focus, our inspiration, our example and our prize.

Take encouragement, do not lose heart. Your race is not hidden from the Lord. Isaiah declares in Is 40:28-31:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Perhaps God has enrolled you in a training program—a hardship—that you greatly despise.  Just as a personal trainer in a gym sees the potential of a client and designs a regimen necessary for the client to achieve that level of fitness and strength, God sees our potential and appoints the experiences necessary for us to achieve it.  He sees our purpose on this earth and allows the circumstances that will cause us to fulfill it.  You have a race to run and He wants to ensure that you run it well—that you finish, earning every reward and can meet Him in glory without regrets.  He has your best in mind.

Your hardship is not a waste! As a loving parent sends a child to school—not because the child enjoys it but because it has lasting implications and will impact the child’s entire future—God lovingly sends us through unpleasant, imperfect, less than desirable circumstances for our long-range benefit.

“Endure hardship as discipline for God is treating you as sons”

The word “discipline” in the original language means “training which results in education.” There is an education in our hardships that is invaluable. Of all that we learn in them, what ranks the highest?  For me, it has been what I have learned about Christ by living by Christ—when I am forced to let Him become my life.  My abilities, agendas, thoughts and expectations are removed and replaced with His limitless ability, wise plan, perfect truth and eternal perspective.  This only comes through crucifixion of the flesh – otherwise we are content to live in our own will and way.  Joni E. Tada has a beautiful way of wording this transaction: “In our hardship we become one with God.  He takes on our flesh and we take on his holiness.”[i] I so agree.  What greater gain could there be in this world than the loss of our flesh and its replacement by the very life of Jesus Christ, Word of God, the One who spoke the world into being?

Let me be the first to be transparent. I’m in this very place.  Although I have experienced this wonderful transaction through devastating illness, God’s loving plan has brought me into a different season, a different set of uncomfortable circumstances—a different gym in which to train spiritually, with a whole new training program.  From glory to glory He is taking me.

I’ve heard personal trainers talk about “shocking” the muscles by inserting variety into the training program.  Apparently muscles get used to performing the same exercise day in and day out.  They need a new demand, a new challenge, in order to obtain maximum growth and strength.

In a similar way,  I learned how to trust God and find total contentment in torturous illness. I learned how to let Him be my life there. He became my endurance in that training program. But now He has placed me on a whole new spiritual fitness program—as part of the fulfillment of His promise for my life, but still, it is stressful, discouraging, and a field day for the enemy if I am not grounded in Christ each moment.

After years on the last ‘program,’ I had finally learned to be content, to rest in Christ and live by His life. My spiritual muscles adapted to the challenge. But now, in this new hardship, I easily slip into self-effort, self-dependence, self-governance and self-pity … even though it is a comparatively lighter ‘training program’.  Oh how I pray to endure this different hardship as training, and grow strong by letting Christ be my life here, my crucified life and resurrection power.  I pray I will yield to Him, giving Him my flesh and accepting His holiness.  I want the promised harvest of righteousness and peace. I want Christ to be my joy, my strength, my dance – as He is for the Brodies.

So what about you?  Are you walking through hardship that you’d rather not think of as training?  I would love to know your thoughts, and to pray for you as well.


[i] Paraphrase from When God Weeps. I am traveling and do not have that wonderful book and exact quote with me.

Now on Film:

Walking Through the Valley: the Scott Brodie Story

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