Faith in Infirmities

The fires of infirmity (illness) can feel like they engulf your life 24/7; there is no break.  You don’t get to take them off like you do a dirty pair of sneakers, or wake up from them like you do from a nightmare.  They can attack your ability to think, to walk, and to function in basic human functions.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis this year and have been learning to deal with its progressive effects.   Then, about a month after I was diagnosed with MS, we received the blessed news that we are having our first baby, a little baby girl, which brought a great deal of joy to our life, along with those thoughts about how I’m going to be able to provide for our family with MS.  Along with the new pain comes a very steep learning curve as you figure out how your body works and how to deal with it.

There are days when I feel as though I am drowning in “overwhelmingness”.

STRENGTH

I am a very independent person.  It has been very difficult for me to begin to realize that my strength is no longer sufficient for the work God has called me to (bless the LORD!!)

 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13

I have lived my life up until now relying on my own strength.

I think this passage in Philippians is most often relegated, as so many other powerful passages, to nothing more than beautiful words; something we jest at with our friends Sunday morning about how hard it was to get up for early service because we were out late on Saturday night with our friends.  But few Christians in the Western world have ever felt so pressed that they know what it means to utterly depend on Christ to be their strength for them; I’m not saying it’s not popular to lay claim to this passage in the West, and certainly for some it has become a daily reality (how blessed are those who have trusted in Christ for their strength and not flesh!) but more often than not, this passage is  not understood.

Christ is waiting to be your strength, but you have to let Him; He will not be your strength so long as you are clinging onto a little bit of your own strength- so long as you fear trusting Him to be all your strength, He will be none of your strength!

We so often want to lay hold of just a little bit of our own strength, just enough so that we can lay claim to part of the credit for what has been done.

I have no problem with modern day preachers telling their churches to look inward to find their inner strength, so long as it is understood that it is Christ Himself abiding within that is to be our inner strength.  No, but the problem is that so many preachers today do not mean that at all; they may pay lip-service to Christ as a crutch to come alongside you and fill in where your strength fails, but preachers today are not willing to preach that Christ is to be all your strength!

You might say that robs man of all his responsibility, that such a thing is a lazy faith.  No it is not.  You are not free to move about the Kingdom of God until you have laid aside the strength and will of the flesh and crucified them at the feet of the cross.  You will not overcome this world by merit of your own strength with just a little bit of help from Jesus.  And thank God that we are not asked to, either!  I don’t know a single man or woman yet with enough fortitude to overcome Satan and all his demons by means of his own strength.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  ~1st John 5:4–5

We can’t overcome this world by virtue of our own strength and God hasn’t asked us to either!

I’m going to address this point in another post, but so many Christians are being weighed down under heavy burdens of discouragement and defeat because they are trying to endure the fiery trials of infirmity in their own strength!

Let Jesus Christ be your strength, and your glory; stop trying to use Jesus as a crutch and trust wholly on Jesus name for all your strength!  He has never failed anyone who surrendered their strength to Him with hope fixed resolutely on Him!

CONSOLATION

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy… ~Philippians 2:1

It is written of Christ that “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sickness” (Matthew 8:17).  Not only did Jesus heal the sick and relieved their suffering, but He took on flesh and was Himself burdened with them!  He is the mighty King who, for the love of His brethren, became stricken in the flesh and struck down at the hands of hateful men so that we, who were dying in our flesh, might be made fellow partakers of His inheritance and called by His name!

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

~Hebrews 4:14–16

Very few Christians today are entering boldly before the throne of grace to know the consolation of Christ.  Many Christians are looking for consolation from other people and have been sorely broken and feeling as though the fires of their trial have only been further fueled.

Now, don’t misunderstand me here, the Church is the Body of Christ and should be uniquely fitted to surrounding one another in the comfort of love, affection, and mercy.  But there is something missing, a connection as it were, when we look to people, even the Church, as our sole source of comfort; if we try to bypass the mighty and wonderful heavenly throne of grace and receive from men what we are to receive from our wonderful High Priest, then we will come away wanting, like a thirsty and weary traveler trying to draw water from a dusty old well.

The fact is that for most people the prayer closet is an alien environment.  They cannot draw from Christ’s deep well of consolation and love because they do  not know how to draw near to Him.  Sure, you may be well enough acquainted with tossing a few prayers up to God every now and again before you go to bed or at Church, or even as your are busy on your way somewhere, and all these are fine times to pray to God, but are you able to sit and rest under the cool shade at the well of Christ’s consolation?

It is a terrible tragedy for many Christians that prayer is a tiresome and laborious task that they would be altogether satisfied if it was in some way minimized and their labor relieved.  But this is only because they have not yet tasted that sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit in prayer that has driven some of the greatest men of God to their knees night after night longing for more!  And no matter how hard they try, they cannot taste this sweet fellowship because they do not revere God as Holy.  The fact of the matter is that most Christians do not want to know God, neither do they love Him; sure we want His benefits, but we do not want the more “unseemly” things of God (as we have judged them).  Give me the comfort of His love, but keep the fear of the Lord, we sure don’t want anything to do with that!    He can fill in for me when I’m not strong enough, but we don’t want anything to do with crucifying our flesh!  Oh, how I will take His healing, but forbid it Lord that we should receive the fellowship of His sufferings!

PEACE

There is something about a spirit that is deeply distressed and broken that even dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22); a man can bear with infirmity well enough if his spirit is not broken, but, once a man’s spirit is broken, sorrow fills the heart and he can no longer bear it!

The first symptom of MS that sent me to the hospital was blindness in my left eye.  Total darkness filled my eye, but there was something else that I felt rushing in me as well, with even greater force than the blindness that was progressively overtaking my eye, and that was peace.

I gratefully praise God for the peace He sent me that was not by my own making.  I cannot understand it.  People close to me were in shock and struggling with the rapid pace of events that were taking place, but a peace was filling me that I could not understand.  It did not come from the strength of my own heart, for that began to fade quickly once I realized that blindness was overtaking me, and it did not come from any word spoken to me by a close brother, though I thank God for my brothers that stayed near me.

The enemy will storm in through embittered comments that friends make, apocalyptic “woe is you” scenarios that family members bring up, and all kinds of doubts through which he hopes to find a breech in your wall and steal the blessed peace of Christ that has been given to you by our sympathetic Savior.  So you need to take up your shield of faith and overcome the mighty rush of the enemy so that you do not yield even an inch of ground in the Kingdom of God to the Devil.  We must learn to lay every doubt, every accusation, and every doomsday scenario at the feet of the cross!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  ~Philippians 4:6–7

We have often not surrendered everything to God and counted it all as loss for the wonderful joy of knowing Christ.

Satan is a patient foe.  He waits until our resolve has waned and our determination dims, then he will try and sneak in to steal, kill, and destroy.  He seeks to find that one entrance that you have left open to him by your refusal to surrender it entirely to Christ.  He looks for that wall that you are defending by the strength of your flesh, and often he finds it decorated by the praise and acclamation of men and preachers alike who praise us for our valiant efforts!  No wall around your heart is safe, nor gate into your mind secure  until it is guarded by the peace of Christ!

There is actually very little that stands in our way of receiving this peace.  Often our greatest barrier is simply that we refuse to pray with supplication and thanksgiving in our heart.  We would rather entertain ourselves with thoughts of self-pity than lay down our perceived self-entitlement to health, wealth, and happiness.

Peace is the external work of Christ upon the heart that has trusted fully in Him and laid everything bare before Him for the joy of following after Him!

EXHORTATION

I am sure of one thing in this life, and that is the faithfulness of Christ!  “In Him I live and move and have  my being”; my strength is expired, my so-called talents of  no use to me anymore, I will look with hope to Him for life and strength and the sustaining of my soul!

Behold, can you hear Him saying, “little one, my grace is sufficient for thee!”

Part 2: Worship from the Fires of Suffering

2 thoughts on “Faith in Infirmities”

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