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Monday, December 26, 2011

Whatever It Takes

I haven't been to church in weeks.  I've even stopped planning to go. When my Lyme disease first started affecting me, I woke up on Sunday mornings with every intention of getting up, getting dressed, and getting to church.  But like every other day of the week, before my feet even hit the floor I would be slammed with an intense headache, or my limbs would be too weak to move, or my heart would begin to beat to a random rhythm.  Disease takes no Sabbath.  And so back to bed I would go, without the refreshment of the Word and the joy of being with God's people.  
Recently, it has been sheer exhaustion and a compromised immune system that keeps me home on most days.  Thankfully, the medicine and a strict diet are slowly erasing symptoms and I'm looking forward to the day that I can return to the meeting of the Body.  But in some ways, healing makes it more frustrating.  I'm getting better at snail's pace and I'm still mostly home-bound.  So I turn to those things God has given as means of coping.  Writing, reading, and prayer.  I'm so thirsty for the Word!  Which is a really good feeling!  A lot of times, when I'm at school I forget what it is to really crave the Word because it surrounds me all the time. You aren't thirsty when you live with your face under the faucet.  But I've come to a desert and it's nice to know that the desire for God's Word isn't something I've conjured up on my own.  He's working it in me!  

Another thing I've been learning is that the Christian life isn't about ethics. It's easy to think that it is.  Sometimes I make it that way. I spend a long time talking about standards and the details of laws. While I'm not saying that those discussions have no place in my time, it reveals that I miss the point more often than not. God didn't save me to help me pick the right Bible version.  He doesn't bring sinners into His family to clean them up and make them look clean-shaven and neat. In short, it isn't about ethics.  It's about Jesus.  

By grace, I am slowly unlearning the fleshly tendencies that lead me to measure God's love for me by my performance on a given day.  I'm beginning to realize that if that is one of God's reasons in making me sick, He certainly knows what He is doing!  It is wise and loving of Him to say, "Hey!  You think that you can earn my love? You think that you are more righteous the more you do for me!?  Well, let me help you destroy that lie by flattening you."  So, I sit on the couch for hours a day.  I take frequent naps and require lots of embarrassing help with little tasks.  And through all of it, I've been asking the wrong question.  "Abba!  I want to serve you!  Why don't you make me well!?"  

I took my parched soul to Philippians last week.  I had no particular reason for choosing Philippians other than the fact that I could read it all in one sitting and enjoy some meaty Truth.  Having not read the book in several months, I was shocked (oh the irony!) to be reminded of how dazzlingly applicable the gospel is to my situation.  After a quick intro, Paul jumps into a weighty sentence.  

vs 12- "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel..."

Did I just see some parallels.  Paul has found himself in a position where (from all appearances) his ministry would be stilted, delayed, put on hold...etc.  I have been put in a place that seems like an abort mission.  I was happily fulfilling God's will when the smooth sailing abruptly ended.  But what is Paul's point?  God can use ANYTHING to advance the gospel.  Sure, what I saw as "my ministry" has been ended but to no loss on God's part.  He will actually use my trial to continue His work!  I love that!  Satan looks at the trial and says, "Ha!  Now she will curse God!  I'm removing what she loved most!"  And God says, "Now I have another chance to be gracious to her!  I will use even this to bring me glory and she will learn to love me more than what I've lovingly removed!"  So the plans of darkness are foiled once again by the grace that saved me.

What's the good?  He will advance the gospel in my own life as I learn to cherish it more and understand it more deeply.  He will advance it in those around me as He gives me opportunity to share His love.  And somehow, for some reason, and in ways I may never understand, He will advance the gospel in places I'm not, because I'm not there.  He knows what He's doing.  For His good reasons it is essential that I am where I am and I'm not where I'm not.  Is that oversimplification?  I don't think so.
Paul later states:  

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:7-11 ESV)  

In this case, I can biblically say that health would be a loss and I should count it as rubbish.  Why?  It was standing in the way of me knowing Jesus better.  Because there are ways that God is trying to help me to see Him and it can't be done unless He kills my independence.  Oh, to know Him!  It is to be my highest goal!  John writes that knowing Jesus is eternal life!  That statement agrees with this passage.  Paul says that knowing God leads to the resurrection from the dead!  And so God is trying to prepare me for eternal life.  Should I try to resist that?  Would any right-minded person dying of thirst reject free water? Without this illness, I am still liable to trying to work my sanctification on my own.  For some reason, I still think it's about ethics sometimes and I try to make God happy by showing Him how purely I'm living.  I forget that He is happy about the righteousness of Jesus that covers me.  I forget that it is HIS work that brings Him glory and not my own pathetic attempts at covering my wickedness.  I forget that my righteousness is filthy rags and what He is looking for is a deeper knowledge of Him that leads to deeper love and finally (after all the right motives are there) He wants love-motivated holiness.  But to share in that life, I have to die.  And, to my shame, I don't die very easily.  

So, may He slay me!  And "though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!" His slaying is not for death, but for life!  Faithful are the wounds of my Wounded Friend.  He breaks that He might heal.  
It brings to mind the words of the song "It Is Not Death to Die."  While the song should be taken literally in the sense that physical death for the believer is not death at all, I like to remember that spiritual self-death in submission to God is not death at all either.  It's life! It's abandoning the weary road to rest in Jesus.  You can't enjoy sin and Jesus at the same time.  They are sign posts pointing in opposite directions.  Sin leads to death.  Knowing Christ leads to life.  
Prayerfully, I want my God to train me to embrace those things that wound me for His sake.  Not because I am a great saint worthy of such wounds, but because I am a great sinner necessitating such wounds.  
That I may know Him!  

"Therefore that He may raise, the Lord throws down."  -jd

1 comment:

  1. Guess what!? You were able to go to church this morning. :)
    This post is probably my favorite so far.
    Thank you so much for typing (AKA "writing")!