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A Conscious Decision

A Conscious Decision

I’ve made a conscious decision. In response to the leading of the Holy Spirit, I am going to be more open about my ongoing, residual health challenges. I will deliberately post about them and make my life a little more of an open book. For several reasons, I have been rather silent on this topic in recent years:

  1. When summarizing my 20+ year story in a thirty minute session, it is quicker to reference the dramatic suffering and improvements of the past and omit ongoing issues.
  2. I am so focused on ministry, its countless outreaches, tasks and challenges that my health is completely irrelevant, to me anyway.
  3. In comparison to the years spent lying down, screaming in agony, what I face now is miniscule. For the most part it hardly seems to qualify as “adversity.”
  4. Scriptural issues of faith and overcoming have hit home more in the sphere of ministry than health in recent years.
  5. There are some in the realm of church and ministry who are unfamiliar with trusting God to sustain and empower a Believer through weakness, or illness. Therefore, when they hear that one is currently battling illness, they panic and presume such a servant is not reliable. Faith has been placed in the strength of the minister, not in the power of God.  I have avoided short updates on Twitter or Facebook pertaining to my health because character constraints preclude Biblical context and framework.

Yet, I continually hear from people who are encouraged by the fact they aren’t alone—that I too experience health challenges.  Even though I haven’t said much, maybe the fact that I travel with a suitcase of supplements and medications is a dead giveaway. As mentioned, my current health issues have seemed insignificant to me, especially when compared to the challenges of ministry.  However, I should have realized long before now the benefit even my “current” challenges are to others.  It has always encouraged me deeply to hear of others who serve in ministry or work and oversee organizations in spite of health challenges.

I remember hearing years ago about a wealthy businessman who battled depression. His depression would become so severe that he would spend weeks at a time secluded at home…and yet he has been able, with God’s help, to maintain his business and vast wealth in spite of dealing daily with challenges most other businessmen never encounter. It encouraged me greatly to know that someone of such prominence and prestige made certain allowances for his illness, (he took necessary time away from public work) but he didn’t let it stop him or his God-given success.

Joni E. Tada and me

The most inspiring example for me personally has been Joni Eareckson Tada. I cannot fathom the limitations, discomforts and ailments she must overcome on a daily basis. I remember hearing once about her battle with a pressure sore and being confined to bed for months at a time. In absolute amazement, I later read a book she completed during that time. What encouragement to me in my far lesser physical challenges! Many years ago, I saw a television interview of Joni’s in which the camera crew filmed her throughout her work day.  She unashamedly let them document the fact she had to lie down for periods of time throughout the day. Her office was equipped for this need.  I remember thinking, “If God can strengthen her to overcome all of these things, He will strengthen me to overcome the obstacles I am facing.”

God designed our lives to intermingle in this way. Did you know that when you endured that misfortune and hardship — the layoff at work, the car accident, the illness of your child, the death of a loved one — others’ lives were also affected? They were affected just by knowing what you were going through? Strengthened merely by the fact that you were strengthened?

Lives Linked Together

“None of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone” (Romans 14:7).

Our lives are more intricately woven together with our brothers and sisters in Christ than we often realize or admit. 2 Corinthians 1:6 gives us evidence of this:

“If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (2 Cor. 1:6, emphasis added).

The existence of God’s work in your life empowers His work in mine. In fact, according to I Peter 5:8-9, knowing others are enduring the unavoidable difficulties of life helps us resist Satan and stand firm in our faith:

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (emphasis added).

Because You Know

Just knowing that others are encountering life’s challenges and being made more than conquerors through Christ emboldens us to stand firm and committed to the One who is greater than our enemy. To “resist” in the original language means “to set oneself against, to withstand, oppose.” The existence of others’ endurance fuels my resolve to plan my feet, dig my heels in and set myself completely against Satan, determined to withstand—fixed and immovable in my faith.

I can’t count how many times I have been frustrated due to my illness, when Scott Brodie’s candid accounts of God’s truth permeating his struggles have silenced my worship of temporal values and enabled me to receive God’s eternal perspective of my circumstance, to receive peace and joy.

Your life has the same direct bearing upon someone else, so be candid…and let them know about your hardships and the grace God is giving you through them.

In All Things

Through Christ we are more than conquerors IN all things, not just when we are delivered from them (Ro. 8:37 ). So why aren’t we all speaking out more often about how God is giving us His overcoming strength as we walk through adversity? I have not identified every reason, but I do know that a major source is pride. We don’t want others to know that we lead imperfect lives.

Or, perhaps we have been persuaded by other believers to view our lives through temporal eyes — to value what is of temporary importance, and therefore, to define success by temporal terms, rather than by godly, holy, Biblical, eternal terms. Although Scripture repeatedly refers to the healing power of afflictions — that God allows them in order to humble us, to cause us to depend on Him and live by His Word, to keep us on the right path, to give us the holiness of Christ, to refine us, purify us and make us mature — we see our trials through 21st century American Christianity. Adversity of any kind is seen as a triumph of Satan’s, rather than a loving, corrective, enlarging tool of God’s.

I’m sure not all contemporaries of Job’s affliction, Joseph’s captivity, Paul’s thorn or Jesus’ crucifixion saw these afflictions as the tool of spiritual victory that they were. The eternal work of God ran far deeper than the way things appeared on the surface.

So it is with your adversity, and mine. Beloved, God is at work, enlarging us, correcting us and bringing about ultimate spiritual victory – not just in our lives, but in the lives of others as well. Why be ashamed of this mighty work of God?

You may be discouraged today because you do not feel any benefit from a current adversity. Know that others are being comforted and strengthened today because of what they have observed in your life.  They have been strengthened to resist Satan and stand firm, immovable in their faith today because of Christ’s power that is resting on you in your suffering.

Let’s make up our mind to boast about our weaknesses. Because of them Christ’s power rests on us!

“‘My grace is enough for you; for where there is
weakness, my power is shown the more completely.’
Therefore, I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud
of my weaknesses, because they mean a deeper experience
of the power of Christ. I can even enjoy weaknesses, insults,
privations, persecutions and difficulties for Christ’s sake.
For my very weakness makes me strong in him”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Phillips New Testament

Question: How does it help you when you know what others are enduring?

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