Tuesday, September 25, 2012
As I lay upside down on a spinal decompression table, my innards squeezed by the pressure of a machine that was supposed to return my scrunched up vertebrae to normal, I pondered a revelatory concept that I had just read in Bill Johnson's book, Strengthened in the Lord. I cannot recall the passage which describes that concept right now- but the essence of it still remains with me, several days later, like a cheerleader in the background of my consciousness.
I have heard other pastors, such as Leif Hetland of Global Mission Awareness, describe this concept, too. Basically, the idea of it is that our areas of greatest challenge and difficulty in life; where we have suffered the most, and where the devil has attacked us relentlessly- are often the areas where God most wants to use us to help others. For instance, if you've suffered illness and learned compassion through your battles with infirmity, it becomes a gift that you can use to help others who have gone through the same trials.
It sounds obvious, perhaps, and not so grandiose. Especially when you are still enduring the suffering. When I hurt, I know I would sometimes rather tear off a head than lend a helping hand.
Yes, I have managed to squeeze some profitable juice from the lemons that life has handed me, but I wouldn't say I'm one of those "glass half-full" folks who know how to turn pain into gain. Neither do I break out in celebratory dance when people tell me that God will use my suffering for good. I'm no Mother Teresa and neither do I aspire to that level of self-sacrifice in my daily life, (although God isn't finished with me yet!).
Yet I sensed that the implications of Bill Johnson's words meant something greater than suffering for the simple purpose of identifying with another soul, and that the gifts and character that result from difficult trials stir in us a longing to fulfill that which we were created to do, and be- for the good of others as well as our own.
God has given all of us a tremendous assignment to impact the lives of others. Our callings, or destinies, are probably greater and more important than what we can conceive of, even on our happiest and highest of days. What comes to mind here is that verse, "To him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us..." (Eph. 3:20). Thus, it seems no coincidence that the forces of darkness often fight tooth and nail to lead us into a litany of lies about who we are in Jesus Christ, the destiny that God has for us, and what He intends to do with our hardships and deepest sufferings. His goal is to get us to believe that we are the exact opposite of who and what God has created us to be.
So what better way to lie to the future physician or healing evangelist about his calling to heal the sick, than by striking him with an autoimmune disease? What better way to scramble the mind of a future financial consultant by thrusting him into poverty? What better way to discourage the woman destined to be a marriage counselor by creating dissension within her family? How better to confound the man with the gift of wisdom than to convince him that he has nothing to say or teach others?
Why not tell the timid young woman with the gift of leadership that the greatest authority she will ever have is over the six plants in her home? Why not use the father of the child who has ten different talents that he will never amount to anything; that he's just a worthless kid who would be better off cleaning doggie doo off the sidewalk than following his dream to be a writer, airline pilot or pastor? (Not that there is anything wrong with cleaning up a dog's mess, but if it isn't what God has called you to do, then maybe it's best to not pick up the shovel).
The enemy's wiles are crafty, deceptive, subtle and...effective, especially if we don't know what God intends for us, and that His power and ability to equip us to walk out our destinies and what He has created us for, are greater than the sinister lies and difficult circumstances that assault us daily.
When I was attacked earlier this summer with two black lesions on my back; ugly, black sores that for a time, infused fear into my soul, and which have since stolen the vitality from my body, I wanted to curl up into a ball and die. What next? I thought. The circumstances of the last decade of my life might lead any logical soul to believe that infirmity is God's will for my life, because every year since 2002 has presented a series of new challenges to my health. And not just Lyme disease. That has become the least of my worries. So it would seem that God has allowed me to be sick for some good purpose, such as to write books on chronic illness or empathize with others who have endured disease. Well, He might be using my experiences for these purposes, but just because He is the redeemer of bad situations, does not mean that He's their author.
And since when, as Bill Johnson often states in his sermons, did the devil and Jesus trade places? Since when did Jesus ordain sickness to make us into "better Christians" and the devil heal the heathen supernaturally? Jesus' command to those who would follow him has always been to "heal the sick, cleanse lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons." (Matthew 10:8). Today as yesterday.
The supposed cancers that afflicted me early this summer showed up right after God had gifted me with a more powerful anointing to heal others through prayer. Was this a coincidence, or was somebody pissed? Since that time, I have seen God pour greater healing miracles through my hands whenever I pray for others. And as I ponder the thought that maybe, just maybe, the devil is terrified that God's will for my life will prevail, I am encouraged by the attack. Because it means that the devil is scared, and I'm taking back ground that he has stolen from me- and not just for myself. With every attack that I overcome, something is being gained for God's kingdom, though I don't always recognize it as such.
This bizarre thought offers a strange comfort to me, as the enemy continues to use hopelessness in his campaign to discourage me. But thank God I have someone who intercedes for me and who has promised me the victory- Jesus Christ. I have no power to overcome the evil one, but greater is He who is in me, than He who is in the world. And I know this as long as I incline my ears, heart, and mind towards my Savior and His truths, rather than towards the destructive falsehoods that have been thrust into my mind and body for too many years.
But daily, I must spend time in God's presence and in asking Him to speak Truth to me, so that my mind is continually renewed with thoughts of who I am in Him, who He is for me, and what He intends for my life. Sometimes I fail to seek, believe and obey Him, but I don't give up trying. Because I want vindication for all the years that the devil has stolen from me- I want to be the one that believed the Creator of the universe when He said to me, "I am healing you, and I will then use you to heal multitudes. So that people will see what I have done in you, and know that I am good; that I am the God who heals, saves and redeems all mankind."
They are greatest calling to ministry.