Does Sickness Bless You?

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The Sick Child, Edward Munch, 1885-1886

“A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years.”

John 5:5

That was a long time to be sick. It is very hard to be an invalid year after year. This day’s reading may come to some who have been thus afflicted, and we may as well stop a minute to think about their case. Christian invalids have many comforts, if they will but take them to their hearts. God makes no mistakes in dealing with His children. He knows in what school they will learn the best lessons, and in what experiences they will grow best.

It is the same in spiritual life. We have no power in ourselves to do Christ’s will, but as we begin to obey the needed grace is given. Young people often say that they are afraid to enter upon a Christian life because they can not do what will be required. In their own strength they cannot. It would be as easy for them to climb to the stars as unaided to live a noble and lovely Christian life. Human strength in itself is inadequate to life’s sore needs. But the young Christian who sets out in obedience to Christ, depending upon Him to open the path of duty, will never fail of needed help at the moment of need.

Richard Baxter has a strange note on this passage :

“How great a mercy it was to live thirty-eight years under God’s wholesome discipline ! O my God, I thank Thee for the like discipline of fifty-eight years ; how safe a life is this in comparison with full prosperity and pleasure!”

Sick-rooms should always be to us sacred places, as we remember that God has summoned us there for some special work upon our souls. We need to be very careful lest we miss the good He wants us to receive. It is only those who trust Christ and lie upon His bosom that are blessed by sickness. Too many invalids grow discontented, unhappy, sour, and fretful. Sickness ofttimes fails to do good to those who suffer. There are few experiences in which we so much need to be watchful over ourselves and prayerful toward God. Be sure to keep the sickness out of your heart, and keep Christ there with His love and peace.

JR Miller

 

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Just A Small Obedience

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Dear one, in spite of what you’ve heard, obedience is NOT a four letter word. (Some would suggest otherwise.) Pastors and teachers who are ‘old school’ remember when we heard much on obedience. But biblical obedience is not the same as legalism, and it is not the opposite of grace. It is however, an integral part of our daily walk with God. Obedience is essential if you’re going to follow Him.

“We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5, NLT

We have done so much with so little that when we finally initiate some bit of obedience we go into shock. God seriously delights in us when we move toward it. I believe that he waits for it, and grieves when we disobey His Word. We do not nullify grace by requiring obedience, rather we fortify our faith when we obey.

Oh saint, the Lord can’t hardly wait to pour heaven over your soul, and your home. He is ready to lavish Himself on you.

I’ve been reading the book of Jeremiah the last few days. One of the things that is striking is God’s faithfulness to His people under the ‘old covenant.’ He remained faithful even when they walked in disobedience. Jeremiah insists that we serve a holy God who seeks an obedient people. How much more is He under the ‘new covenant’ which was brought about by the blood of Jesus?

We are standing in a blessed place. When we make the choice to obey, all of heaven stands up and takes notice. (Let us not sell obedience short.) You see, greatness in God’s kingdom is always measured in terms of obedience.

“Our Lord told His disciples that love and obedience were organically united. The final test of love is obedience.”   

A.W. Tozer

We show our love by obedience; that is the ‘acid test’ of authenticity. We might insist that there are other ways to prove we are real: worship, witnessing, tithing or even prayer. All of these are great, but none can be a substitute for ‘everyday’ obedience. Heaven is seeking disciples who are compliant. The other things are wonderful, no doubt about it. But just the willingness to obey opens up heaven.

“Lord Jesus, make me willing to be willing to obey you.”

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All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Prayer

“Before they call I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.” 

Isaiah 65:24

In my thinking, there has to be terribly cataclysmic going on if you see me resort to prayer.  It seems like it is the final, last thing I will do, just before the walls crumble and the enemy threatens annihilation.  Only then I start praying.  At that moment, it will seem I am very devout.  But that is a lie, I am not.

All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergartenby Robert Fulghum. (That is a great title, and the book was pretty good too.)  Making that connection at that age implies a lot of native ability.  There is so much, so very much we are expected to learn at such a young age.  But I have to tell you this, and it’s a well-guarded secret of sorts.  Christians need to learn how to pray when they are in their spiritual kindergarten.

The curriculum is basic.  There needs to be a reality and a definite sense of effectiveness in our prayer.  Prayer seems to require an awareness of something substantial, as if it were really making a difference after all.  And to make matters more intense, it’s all to be done on completely by faith.  When fighter pilots start flying for real their F-16s, the instructors will block off their vision, forcing the students to fly by instruments only–that is all they can see.  Now that seems very scary to me.

By faith we fly “…not by sight.”  And this process is quite intimidating, many wash-up and can’t continue.   It really is a trust issue, and at times it’s all we can do to muddle through it.  The basics of prayer are given at a young age, but there seems an exponential growth in our spirits over the things we accomplish through him.  It seems to me (the ultimate 98 lb. spiritual weakling, mind you) is that it is not so much as duration but in frequency.  Pray short! But pray a lot.  Pray about everything.  Ten second prayers should be a regular part of your life.

Prayer is a class we must attend to get our wings.  I don’t think that it can be done poorly.  (It is just done!)  It seems the best kind of prayer is the desperate kind.  People learn to pray when things are very, very bad.  When they fall into a deep well, or when they find out their young daughter is pregnant.  People who have terrible illnesses (physical or mental) are often the best prayer warriors. The Father has given them a precious gift.

Pray short! But pray a lot.  Pray about everything.

Learning prayer is a basic 101 course.  But if we take good notes we will keep coming back to our basic lessons.  It seems that things are received but never obtained.  We are his students, and we must truly believe he loves to teach us.  Praying seems to be a way of giving him joy.  And if I can do that, I want to.

“All the troubles of life come upon us because we refuse to sit quietly for a while each day in our rooms.”  Blaise Pascal

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Killing My Sin, Before It Kills Me

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We are for the most part anyway, eager to please God. We are Jesus’ people with the occasional brush with sin. But hey, who doesn’t? But that attitude must be questioned.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.”

1 John 2:1

John hopes that his readers would make a choice— not to commit sin. After all, what soldier goes into battle with the intent of getting just a little wounded? Often we will sin just because it seems so inevitable, and we feel we can’t help ourselves. (But the reality is that we can.)

But the Holy Spirit now lives inside. Cooperation with Him is needed. Often we will work ourselves into a ‘no win scenario’ where we believe that sin rules. We can’t beat it, so we stop trying. That is common, and sad.

‘Passivity’ is defined as not participating readily or actively; inactive. When we are passive spiritually, we disengage ourselves from any effort of living holy and pure lives. Not being ‘hot’, but content to be lukewarm. At this point sin becomes, reluctantly, tolerated. “After all, I’m a sinner, what can I do?”

Mentally ill people are often passive. We are told that we have an uncontrolled illness which dictates that we act ‘irresponsible.’ Our depression often escalates and we feel victimized by it. My experience has taught me that there are three kinds of depression:

  • organic depression, or the ‘biochemistry’ of the disease,
  • Guilty depression, the kind that feels bad because of what we’ve done (or didn’t do),
  • reactionary depression, the type we feel when experiencing a loss, a loved one, or a job

Depression will almost always fall in these three categories. And passivity plays a part in all three. We  frequently feel victimized and ‘acted upon.’ When it comes to our discipleship we don’t act, we react. We are utterly convinced of the Bible— God’s truth, but we are so sporadic we can’t seem to get it to work for any length of time.

Yes, we are believers. And yes, we have issues. We’re waiting for a miracle, and hope we get a breakthrough soon.

At the base point of our lives, quite often, there is a passive attitude. Passivity aggravates our depression or mental illness. It deepens, spreading through our lives like a contagious illness. Our discipleship sputters and stalls. We no longer act on God’s Word, but we find ourselves fabricating a faith that makes allowances for our situation.

But we must ‘act the miracle.’ Everything God gives… everything… must be received by a convinced faith. We must be persuaded to give up our flawed ideas, and believe God for the real thing. I opened up this with 1 John 2:1. But there’s much more to this verse:

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

I don’t want you to sin. Avoid sin. But even if you do— we have someone who will plead our case before God. He stands and argues our case. He loves us that much.

 

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