“Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Romans 5:1-5 New International Version
For most of my life I never gave a thought about my ability to stand. I mean, you just stand up and there you are. You’re standing, right? Well, that all changed for me over a period of 6 years, and believe me, I no longer take standing for granted.
The genesis of my condition was nearly 20 years ago requiring an unexpected trip to ER and 3 night stay in the hospital with a diagnosis of chronic sinusitis and asthma. A couple of sinus surgeries, including a cutting edge procedure, and I was good to go!
Actually, that was only the introduction. My challenges with chronic environmental allergies, sinusitis, and respiratory problems were mostly kept under control until we moved into the San Joaquin Valley, ready to begin my pastoral responsibilities in a new district. The worst air quality in the state combined with the afore mentioned health challenges, and merged into the perfect storm of extreme bacterial infections. I was doomed! Three more surgeries and continued treatment later, the specialists and surgeons, local and at UCLA and Stanford concurred; the infections progressively mutated to resist each progressively potent medication until everything available had been tried and discarded. Let me assure you we had tried many options in the homeopathic arsenal, as well. For 4 years I fought a losing battle with the infections, 18 months of which I was on IV antibiotics.
During the 4 years of this ongoing war, my respiratory system against the bacterial terrorist cells, I endeavored to continue working. I had a few good days and many more bad days. In addition to my health or lack of health, there were the people issues which accompany any biblical fellowship. The challenges with my deteriorating health added to the stressors of pastoring two churches and I was in a vortex that was literally killing me. Finally I was placed on long term disability. The damage to my inner ears and the segment of the brain controlling balance are collateral damage from the bombardment of antibiotic weapons against the bacteria. Vertigo, dizziness, nausea, migraines, extreme fatigue, and chronic bacterial infection flare-ups are my daily life experience.
Why this intensive into Ron’s health history? I’m glad you asked! For this reason, my ability to stand has been impacted by those things listed in the previous paragraphs. Not only am I dealing with the fallout from illness physically, it has also hammered my psyche! Mostly in the arena of Agoraphobia, because of my fear of being knocked down or falling in a crowd! As I’m writing this I’m discovering there are underlying fears I haven’t faced! Fears coming directly from the experiences of the last six years, including the loss of much of my value, where I fit, what my purpose is, and especially a fear that I have completely destroyed my calling as a Pastor.
Fear, it freezes us in the space we occupy, convinces us we have nothing to offer anyone, destroys our ability to stand!
There it is for all of creation to study, investigate, seek to understand, and delve into with a wonder of the Grace that makes it possible for us to stand! Grace is foundational to every aspect of the life we live in God’s plans for us. There are words in the New Testament that have been used in such a way as to be intimidating, justification and sanctification are just two. The enemy of God is all about distorting the reality of God. So, where do we go to find out the Truth about God’s character, His personality. Who He is?
Well, there is one Book written claiming it has all we need to know about God! In it God declares those who are in Christ Jesus stand before God covered by the blood of Jesus as though we had never entered into the rebellion. In Jesus Christ we stand as Perfect; only perfection has any right to the Tree of Life. Until we have completed the Grace Process here, we are covered here (where God resides in us). This justification comes through faith and the unfailing sanctification God processes us through in preparation for an eternity with Him, we with our families, and all who claim an inheritance in Jesus Christ!
“No one is ever united with Jesus Christ until he is willing to relinquish not sin only, but his whole way of looking at things… And what does He give in exchange for our sin? Real solid righteousness. But we must relinquish all pretense of being anything, all claim of being worthy of God’s consideration. There will have to be the relinquishing of my claim to my right to myself in every phase” (Oswald Chambers—My Utmost for His Highest Daily Devotional for March 8th)
Jesus has accomplished so much for us in so many ways, including peace with God! There is also this fundamental understanding that through faith we have access to God’s Grace and are blessed with His peace in our lives!
Chambers places before us what needs to occur in our Grace Process: 1) relinquish sin; 2) relinquish my perspective; 3) receive righteousness as it is found in Jesus Christ; 4) relinquish our pretense; 5) release my claim of being worthy of God’s consideration; 7) letting go of my right to myself in every consideration.
“But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5 Contemporary English Version
And there it is, the reality of life in Christ as it is lived out in us through the presence of the Holy Spirit! We are more than the sum of ourselves, we are the sum of each other as we understand our connectedness in the Body of Christ! I believe this is one of the issues haunting the Church today. We remain too self centered without understanding our relationships as defined by Jesus, ordained by God!
Jesus reminds us this is revealed by the love poured out into our hearts and minds by the God who created us! This same God who has placed in us new hearts and new minds, and maintains those gifts by His infinite Grace! Working hand and hand with God’s Grace is His love, a love that is forever, a love that never fails, a love that corrects, holds us accountable, while offering a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. All the while God is silently at work transforming our lives, renewing our relationships, recreating our attitudes, and reminding us who we are in Jesus Christ.
“When a man’s steps follow the Lord, God is pleased with his ways.
If he stumbles, he will not fall, because the Lord holds his hand.”
Psalm 37:23-24 International Children’s Bible