In thebook Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis writes of Reepicheep. He is a mouse of exceptional courage and with a strong faith. People seem to always misunderstand a talking mouse, especially one who dresses like a swashbuckler.
He is determined to reach the utter east and join the Lion, Aslan (a type of Christ), Reepicheep is heard to say,
“While I may, I will sail in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I will row in my coracle. When that sinks, I shall paddle east with my four paws. Then, when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, there I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.”
Compare this to the Apostle Paul’s testimony:
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what is ahead,14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul transmitted an example to his generation of Christians. He put himself as a model of what is to motivate a believer. The apostle Paul pressed into what the Holy Spirit had for him. Both Paul, and Reepicheep are great examples, they would rather die than to miss their calling.
Everything depends on what God allows of course. But I believe He makes a special place at His side to those who mix their faith with authentic desire like Reepicheep of Narnia and Paul of Tarsus.
God may be making you brave and full of faith. Deep down, this is exactly what your soul is really wanting. Give Him permission to do this work in your heart. Then stand back and see what happens.
Before I entered college I hardly gave a thought to cancer and terminal illness. But ever since those college days death by disease has walked beside me all the way. Two of my college acquaintances died of leukemia and cancer of the lymph glands before they were 22. At seminary I watched Jim Morgan, my teacher of systematic theology, shrivel up and die in less than a year of intestinal cancer. He was 36. In my graduate program in Germany my own “doctor-father,” Professor Goppelt, died suddenly just before I was finished. He was 62—a massive coronary. Then I came to Bethel, the house of God! And I taught for six years and watched students, teachers, and administrators die of cancer: Sue Port, Paul Greely, Bob Bergerud, Ruth Ludeman, Graydon Held, Chet Lindsay, Mary Ellen Carlson—all Christians, all dead before their three score and ten were up. And now I’ve come to Bethlehem and Harvey Ring is gone. And you could multiply the list ten-fold.
What shall we say to these things? Something must be said because sickness and death are threats to faith in the love and power of God. And I regard it as my primary responsibility as a pastor to nourish and strengthen faith in the love and power of God. There is no weapon like the Word of God for warding off threats to faith. And so I want us to listen carefully today to the teaching of Scripture regarding Christ and cancer, the power and love of God over against the sickness of our bodies.
I regard this message today as a crucial pastoral message, because you need to know where your pastor stands on the issues of sickness, healing, and death. If you thought it was my conception that every sickness is a divine judgment on some particular sin, or that the failure to be healed after a few days of prayer was a clear sign of inauthentic faith, or that Satan is really the ruler in this world and God can only stand helplessly by while his enemy wreaks havoc with his children—if you thought any of those were my notions, you would relate to me very differently in sickness than you would if you knew what I really think. Therefore, I want to tell you what I really think and try to show you from Scripture that these thoughts are not just mine but also, I trust, God’s thoughts.
Six Affirmations Toward a Theology of Suffering
So I would like everyone who has a Bible to turn with me to Romans 8:18–28. There are six affirmations which sum up my theology of sickness, and at least the seed for each of these affirmations is here. Let’s read the text:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (RSV)
1. All Creation Has Been Subjected to Futility
My first affirmation is this: the age in which we live, which extends from the fall of man into sin until the second coming of Christ, is an age in which the creation, including our bodies, has been “subjected to futility” and “enslaved to corruption.” Verse 20: “The creation was subjected to futility.” Verse 21: “The creation will be freed from slavery to corruption.” And the reason we know this includes our bodies is given in verse 23: not only the wider creation but “we ourselves (i.e., Christians) groan in ourselves awaiting sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Our bodies are part of creation and participate in all the futility and corruption to which creation has been subjected.
Who is this in verse 20 that subjected creation to futility and enslaved it to corruption? It is God. The only other possible candidates to consider would be Satan or man himself. Perhaps Paul meant that Satan, in bringing man into sin, or man, in choosing to disobey God—perhaps one of them is referred to as the one who subjected creation to futility. But neither Satan nor man can be meant because of the words “in hope” at the end of verse 20. This little phrase, subjected “in hope,” gives the design or purpose of the one who subjected creation to futility. But it was neither man’s nor Satan’s intention to bring corruption upon the world in order that the hope of redemption might be kindled in men’s hearts and that someday the “freedom of the glory of the children of God” might shine more brightly. Only one person could subject the creation to futility with that design and purpose, namely, the just and loving creator.
Therefore, I conclude that this world stands under the judicial sentence of God upon a rebellious and sinful mankind—a sentence of universal futility and corruption. And no one is excluded, not even the precious children of God.
Probably the futility and corruption Paul speaks of refers to both spiritual and physical ruination. On the one hand man in his fallen state is enslaved to flawed perception, misconceived goals, foolish blunders, and spiritual numbness. On the other hand, there are floods, famines, volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, plagues, snake bites, car accidents, plane crashes, asthma, allergies, and the common cold, and cancer, all rending and wracking the human body with pain and bringing men—all men—to the dust.
As long as we are in the body we are slaves to corruption. Paul said this same thing in another place. In 2 Corinthians 4:16 he said, “We do not lose heart, but though our outer man (i.e., the body) is decaying (i.e., being corrupted) yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” The word Paul uses for decay or corrupt here is the same one used in Luke 12:33 where Jesus said, Make sure your treasure is in heaven “where thief does not come near and moth does not corrupt.” Just like a coat in a warm, dark closet will get moth eaten and ruined, so our bodies in this fallen world are going to be ruined one way or the other. For all creation has been subjected to futility and enslaved to corruption while this age lasts. That is my first affirmation.
2. An Age of Deliverance and Redemption Is Coming
My second affirmation is this: there is an age coming when all the children of God, who have endured to the end in faith, will be delivered from all futility and corruption, spiritually and physically. According to verse 21, the hope in which God subjected creation was that some day “The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” And verse 23 says that “We ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” It has not happened yet. We wait. But it will happen. “Our citizenship is in heaven from which we await a Savior, the Lord, Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our lowliness to be like the body of his glory” (Philippians 3:20, 21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no longer any death; and there shall be no longer any mourning or crying or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
There is coming a day when every crutch will be carved up, and every wheelchair melted down into medallions of redemption. And Merlin and Reuben and Jim and Hazel and Ruth and all the others among us will do cartwheels through the Kingdom of Heaven. But not yet. Not yet. We groan, waiting for the redemption of our bodies. But the day is coming and that is my second affirmation.
3. Christ Purchased, Demonstrated, and Gave a Foretaste of It
Third, Jesus Christ came and died to purchase our redemption, to demonstrate the character of that redemption as both spiritual and physical, and to give us a foretaste of it. He purchased our redemption, demonstrated its character, and gave us a foretaste of it. Please listen carefully, for this is a truth badly distorted by many healers of our day.
The prophet Isaiah foretold the work of Christ like this in 53:5–6 (a text which Peter applied to Christians in 1 Peter 2:24):
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (RSV)
The blessing of forgiveness and the blessing of physical healing were purchased by Christ when he died for us on the cross. And all those who give their lives to him shall have both of these benefits. But when? That is the question of today. When will we be healed? When will our bodies no longer be enslaved to corruption?
“When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?”
Mark 6:2-3, NIV
Jesus amazed people. When He is brought to the front of the synagogue, He begins to speak. His listeners are driven to silence and an awareness of something else. They attempt to try to decipher these things. It seems they cannot make the connection between the Holy Spirit and their traditions. But as they listened their hair stood up. What is going on? Something isn’t quite right. Too many things are being threatened.
But they remain astonished. The situation is getting out of control. This young man is one of their own. They don’t expect this type of intensity from Him. He says things that very closely approaches a definition of blasphemy. Who is this man, and why is He speaking to us in such a manner or attitude?
And on top of all these pronouncements, He begins to perform miracles!
He does what no one can do, or has done before. And He does it so easy– no theatrics or gyrations. There is no effort. Those who observe Him, are brought into even more astonishment. Jesus is doing things that are unreasonable, and amazing. I can just imagine their thinking. Who invited this guy to speak and why was He invited in the first place? Has He been brought here to mock and shame us?
Our tendency is to consider miracles to be fantastic interventions in our lives; when in fact they’re better understood as revelations of the nature of a Covenant keeping God.
Jesus simply reveals the heart of the Father. He is the son of God. And at this particular junction, no one can compare. As He stands behind that pulpit, He reveals an intimacy with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus clearly stands as the ultimate deliverer of the human race. We will find no hope by looking somewhere else. He has established Himself as the only way to the Father. And He sees us clearly. We may twist, and we may squirm. But Jesus remains our only salvation.
“Loving Father God, my heart is filled upon rethinking the greatness of your love and the completeness of your plan. I want to please you, but how often my flesh folds under the pressure of temptation. I thank you that you know my frame, and you remember that I am but dust. And I thank you for the abundance of Grace and the gift of righteousness that you have made available to me through the cross of your son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for receiving me back, my gracious Lord. Amen. ”
When my children do wrong I ache inside. As a father I so want to hear their confession and see their repentance. But I cannot imagine disowning them. Never, ever! How much more is our Heavenly Father ready to receive us back, and hold us close to his heart.
This profound love turns us back to Himself. The very fact you feel the Holy Spirit’s tug is evidence enough that you haven’t been permanently forsaken and ‘cast aside.’ You’ll need to take a step of faith however. Always remember— proximity to Jesus is always a good thing. Stay close, and watch the enemy flee.
Become brutally real with yourself, but not despairingly. Confess sin to the real God who loves you unconditionally. Let Him fill you with His Spirit again.
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Who else would take us? Jesus loves each one of us as if there were only one of us. Sink into that love, and have the assurance that He alone has the power to save us- His called rascals. And now His friends.
“Pray don’t find fault with the man who limps Or stumbles along the road Unless you have worn the shoes that hurt Or struggled beneath his load There may be tacks in his shoes that hurt, Though hidden away from view Or the burden he bears, placed on your back, Might cause you to stumble, too.”
“Don’t sneer at the man who’s down today Unless you have felt the blow That caused his fall, or felt the same That only the fallen know. You may be strong, but still the blows That were his, if dealt to you In the self same way at the self same time, Might cause you to stagger, too.”
“Don’t be too harsh with the man who sins Or pelt him with words or stones, Unless you are sure, yea, doubly sure, That you have no sins of your own. For you know perhaps, if the tempters voice Should whisper as soft to you As it did to him when he went astray, ‘Twould cause you to falter, too.”
Stuck in the wonderful convolutions of scripture we can start a great study of Leah and her sister Rachel. These two daughters of Laban have become Jacob’s wives.
Now, we may question this polygamy when all we know is monogamy. These kind of decisions may be criticized and even outright challenged, but we will change nothing (and does it really matter)?
Jacob longs for Rachel. She is his “soul mate” and because he is so much in love, the customs and technicalities of the day somehow get by him. Because of this, he will have to take on Laban’s subtle trickery, where daughters get exchanged, and he must sort out who is who. Laban’s deception really creates a crisis. But it seems Jacob just rolls with it. I suppose deception has always been Jacob’s strong suit. (But when a deceiver gets deceived, that can’t be all bad, I suppose).
Jacob is so in love with Rachel that he works for seven years for the right to marry her. This may be a bit outrageous. But we really must weigh these issues. I believe Jacob really is a monogamist at heart (shh… don’t tell him). He can only see that one girl that he is crazy about, his true love, Rachel. But it’s Leah that I think about. Her own issues are unique. Genesis 29 explains it a bit cryptically,
“Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.”
I must tell you that there is confusion by commentators about the “weak eyes.” Some take it literally (as in, she in very “near-sighted,”) others who look at the original Hebrew find the words to be a bit looser and vague. They think that this is a polite way of saying she really wasn’t pretty. IDK, but I think I can gain from either interpretation.
In the long view, Leah would birth four patriarchs for Israel. But she would struggle with jealousy over her younger sister’s beauty and favor. Her pain was real, and she would hurt deeply over this.
I think I may understand Leah. She is wounded, and life requires that she live as unwanted. She sticks out as a woman of tragedy and broken hopes and dreams. She will always live as a reject. At best, she will always be a distant second, and perhaps a bit scorned and neglected for this.
I so love Leah and I do understand her.Her life is a long tragedy and very full of sadness. For the next 30-40 years she will always be a cast-off, someone who has been broken on life’s hard wheel. I look at her with a painful bit of understanding. She reminds me of being a struggler and a survivor. Her sad life is comparable to us who have to fight so hard over our own illness or handicap.
I suppose its “Leah’s eyes” that catch me. I have no idea what the issue was. But I know that she was weak, and challenged by this terrible weakness. I understand this. My own life has been “topsy-turvy” and a really hard struggle. Somehow it seems we must work through way too much. It doesn’t seem fair. But than again, we are the ones who must drink our adversity straight; and the ones who get to know special comfort.
For those of you who are confined to a ‘chair,’ and the others who must deal with mental illness. Leah should be our hero.
Those who have been betrayed by addiction, or who have felt rejected through a bitter divorce. Leah speaks to us. For she is for every loser and for failures of all stripes. But through all of our “set-backs” and messes, we must realize that God does love us– even as we weep.
We may have “Leah’s eyes,” but we also have His grace.
One more thought that might be relevant:
“When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.”
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.”
Corrie Ten Boom
This is the first prophecy of Jesus Christ in the Bible. All the prophecy that will follow are to be interpreted through this statement first. It’s like getting a fishing pole outfitted with a line. It’s threaded from one eye to the next until that same line goes through them all.
Hatred. There would be an ‘enmity’ between the serpent and the woman. We hate being held in ‘chains’ as much as Satan hates us. There will be no end to hostilities until his final destruction comes.
This verse is focused on the future. Note the term, ‘offspring.’ There will be no peace treaty between humans and the demonic A compromise only means that one is assimilated over the other. Either we lay down our weapons, or he does. There are some who have done this, with tragic consequences. They are being held hostages in a spiritual battle. They are ‘prisoners of war.’
Although Satan is powerful, he is not omnipotent. There are limits on what he can do. He bruises, but we crush. In a real accurate sense, this describes Jesus destroying the enemy. The baby lying in a manger is really a hammer, that pulverizes the darkness. It is experienced in our lives, as we declare Satan’s defeat in our own hearts.
Satan bruises; but ‘in Christ,’ we crush his head. Jesus leads us in a ‘victory parade.’
“Prayer is repeating the victor’s name (Jesus) into the ears of Satan and insisting on his retreat.“