I’ve been under the weather for the last week or so. That’s not an excuse, but it’s the truth. I feel like a battleground between the adversary on one side, and the angelic host with the Holy Spirit’s backing on the other. Last night was another moment in the conflict, where my health was both the arsenal and the battleground. Whenever I get as sick as I did last night, the devil likes to see if he can push me over the edge and give up. Then the Lord props me up and gets me through the night, and in the morning the world resumes its course.
But the thing is, you can’t blame the devil for my disease. That’s not his fault.
God did that.
Remember, God is in charge of everything at all times. Everything. Always. To claim the devil was doing anything without God’s knowledge or permission is outrageous.
In the book of Job, God is the One Who gives permission to Satan to take from Job all of his possessions, his children, and even his health. Anything that happens to him – and by extension, us – goes through the Boss first.
When Job has everything taken away, he still praises God – “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). His point was that all things come from God, good and bad.
His three “friends”, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, subscribe to a theory about God that many people subscribe to today. (This theory, by the way, is completely ludicrous.)
The three espoused a version of what’s commonly referred to as the “prosperity gospel“: Righteous people are rewarded by God with good stuff on earth. Sinful people are punished by having less good stuff during their time on earth. Righteous people live happy, carefree earthly lives; sinful people have nothing but trouble on earth.
This is a wonderful theory to push – if you’re the devil.
The way to disprove this load of rubbish is easy: take a look at the righteous apostles who were the first to live the Christian life, preaching and sharing the Gospel with whomever then could find. If the prosperity gospel was true, they would have lived happy, financially successful lives, right?
Peter was crucified upside down. James was killed by a spear. John was imprisoned on Patmos after dumping him into a vat of boiling oil didn’t kill him.
And, of course, the man who was the most righteous apostle, the man most responsible for the growth of Christianity following the life and death of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul, lived a life that – well, Joel Osteen would not have acknowledged as “successful”…(This is from 2nd Corinthians 11: 24-28, 32-33)
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.
Paul did NOT live a life of luxury and largesse; far from it. Still, he considered himself extremely fortunate, for his intimate friendship with the Lord. In fact, his severe physical ailment (which Scripture never specifies, by the way, a fact that I find remarkable in that it makes his ailment all the more universal) was specifically maintained by God, as this passage in 2nd Cor. 12:7-10…
A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
[“When I am weak, then I am strong.” That oxymoronic statement only makes sense when the Holy Spirit is living within you, and your weakness allows Him to “take over” without your fleshly interference.] But we’re drifting off topic here now… Back to Job.
Job’s friends believed that because bad things happened to Job, he therefore must have been doing bad things as well; Job, however, correctly understood that God brings good and bad into our lives, and not strictly because our “performance” deserves either.
In the end, God appears in chapter 38-41 and basically says, Hey, I’m God – I can do whatever I want to do! He rewards Job for his faith by giving him twice the assets he had before (and ten more children, which to me always showed that God may be more economist than parent…), and chastised the three friends. (Here’s hoping Osteen and his compadres get “chastised” at the great throne judgment. It’s a good compromise, and it kept the friends out of hell…)
My disease, I am certain, was given to me by God for a purpose. WIthout it, I would never have “slowed down” enough to stop and hear Him calling to me. The entire sequence – bringing back my high school sweetheart, a devout Christian, to marry me and lay the foundation for my emergence into Christianity…the financial downturn that put us in such a bind… the circumstances of that weekend in Nevada six years back when the Lord beat me down enough that I finally gave in and agreed to follow Him. But none of that would have happened had I not started developing TAM beforehand.
Of course, I wonder why I have to still have Tubular Aggregate Myopathy – hasn’t it done its job? The answer: apparently not. Like Paul and his “thorn”, God has made it clear to me that I need to have my “reins” on at all time, if I’m going to continue to be of use to Him. Proverbs 30:7-9 lays out three key things that those who want to serve the Lord must avoid –
Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
Not unlike being rich, if I were to have a richness of health and could go back to teaching band programs again, I would do so and apparently fall into that kind of “who is the Lord?” trap. (I feel pretty safe about the possibility of poverty – been there, done that, didn’t stop me from worshiping – and the lying – even now, the wooden paddle remains within reach for the purpose of correction as needed. After all, 44 out of 45 presidents testify that Honesty Is the Best Policy.)
So, I live with this myopathy as best I can. Even now, as I type this, the pain intermittently shooting up from a foot through the leg to the rest of the body. As I consider what to write next, I have to fight the pain that clouds my brain every few moments, re-gather myself, and fight to recreate the thought process I had a few moments before.
But that’s the challenge that God has placed before me, and so that’s the challenge that I must overcome. Why? Probably because it refines me as a Christian. It helps me become more like my Savior. It teaches me perseverance.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1st Peter 1:7-8)
And that hour is coming, sooner every day that we remain on the earth.
So, persevere, fellow Believers. Push forward against whatever challenges God has placed in front of you.
PS – Peter’s test of Godliness is applicable here – our challenges allow us to develop these qualities…
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2nd Peter 1:5-13)