Suffering Produces Spiritual Strength or Reveals False Conversion

It's been a while since I've shared anything about my physical health (my last post was in November 2014). Perhaps you thought the Lord healed me from my serious health afflictions...but He hasn't...yet. And that's okay with me.

I'm now entering my 11th year of constant and often debilitating pain, extreme fatigue, seven surgeries in seven years (my most recent was a few weeks ago). I'm also still adding new specialists to my already large repertoire (an Endocrinologist, Cardiac Electrophysiologist, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, and more). In addition to all this, it looks as if I'm going to need at least one more, and possibly two surgeries this year (one for my hyperparathyroidism and the other for a cardiac pacemaker).

The reason it's been so long since I've shared anything about my continually declining health, is because I've wrongly concluded that it's better for me to encourage you rather than burden you with my seemingly, never-ending litany of trials. But when I was discussing this issue with my oldest son earlier today, I realized how wrong I've been not to share more about my weaknesses; because how then, can anyone see Christ's power manifested perfectly in me (2 Cor 12:9-10)?

Though our Father God has graciously allowed me to keep my heart and mind focused on the things eternal rather than on the things temporal—like my physical health, it's wrong of me not to share the pains of this journey with you. So please forgive me.

I want so much for you to be strengthened in your faith, to keep your sights vertical rather than horizontal, that I've neglected to show you how to do that when you're in the the heat of the battle between your flesh's desire and your renewed desire to please and honor the Lord.

"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does."
-1 Peter 4:1-6, ESV

Because the focus of what I do is not for physical results (comfort and healing), my hope is not deferred and my fervor is not exhausted. Part of my daily regime is to eat healthy, exercise five to six days a week (though it's painful and makes me very ill), drink about 72 ounces of water plus juice daily, and do more than my doctors ask. I don't practice these disciplines because I love my body and want nothing more than to be healed, I do them because I love Christ and know my body belongs to Him, and not me (Gal 2:20).

Some people wrongly assume because I'm so disciplined, it means I'm not tempted by my sinful flesh to gratify it, rather than honor Christ. But I am often tempted and sometimes give into my temptations to be lazy and do nothing; to be mediocre, rather than do all things with excellence as unto the Lord. I'm constantly tempted by my flesh to be so self-absorbed, that at times, I more resemble a black-hole, than a light to the world.

I could use God's grace as an excuse to remain enslaved to my fleshly desires (saying, "I'm only human", "God's not finished with me yet" or "I'm a work in progress"), or I could avail the great and wonderfully freeing gift from God given only to Christians—repentance. My confidence in my Father's forgiveness endows me with spiritual strength to persevere; to run my course and to finish well with urgency, rather than be satisfied with complacency (1 Jn 1:9, Rom 5:1-5).

Sadly, this is not the same experience all professing Christians know and understand. Some who profess Christ as their Lord and Savior live like they're their own lord and savior. They praise Jesus when things go well. And they may even praise Jesus and express trust when trials come their way. But when God's refining fire tests their faith over an extended period of time, their false profession and fruitless deeds are consumed by God's holiness (1 Cor 13:5). As Jesus says, there are those who hear the Gospel and joyfully receive it, but once painful trials come their way, they turn away from the Word rather than turn to it (Lk 8:13).

Those who do not truly know God only "love" Him when they think they can get something by claiming association with Him; including false piety. But when the show of false piety during difficult times gets old, their quick and easy profession of trust in Jesus, just as quickly, produces self-righteous demands, even arrogantly accusing God of not keeping His promises.

Throughout Scripture, we see how our gracious and merciful Father God uses even the fall of man that brought sin and suffering to this world, as a tool to reveal to us where we truly stand with Him: still in our self-righteous sin, or justified by the righteous works of Christ (Gen 3:24, Rom 5:16).

Those who are truly saved will never turn away from God or accuse Him of wrongdoing. Rather, they will turn all the more to Him, crying out to Him night and day, seeking to repent of any sins that are obvious or oblivious to them; begging God to help them see Him clearly and love Him more dearly. Those who abide in Christ will hunger and thirst for righteousness and look to the LORD for help rather than try to seek comfort from unbelievers who can only provide temporal remedies for our physical bodies, but can offer no real comfort for our eternal souls.

I don't remain true to God because I'm holier than others. I remain true to God because I'm keenly aware of the wretch that I am; the utter depravity of my sinful heart and mind, and my growing ineptness to do anything worthy of being called good by the only One who is good. Because I'm so desperately insecure in myself and often terrified of what others think of me or might say or do to me, I cling to Christ all the more and desire to remain hid in Him because He is my Strong Tower—the only place I can be me and feel completely safe, compassionately accepted, perfectly loved, and profoundly secure.

My faith and the life I live are not strong because of me. My faith and life are strong because of the One who holds and owns them both—Jesus Christ the Lord (Gal 2:20).

As I continue to struggle physically and spiritually—to live a life that most pleases, honors and glorifies the Lord, I often grow weary of the fight and am tempted to give up. But when I cry out to the LORD, He lifts me from my miry pit and sets my feet on solid ground (Mt 11:28-30, Ps 40:1-3). If you do the same, you will receive same because I don't have any more of Jesus than you do (Gen 4:6-7). As Burk Parsons wisely said,"We don't need more of Jesus, just less of self. We already have all of Jesus."

"Not to us, O LORD, not to us. but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, 'Where is your God?' Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

"I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth."
-Psalm 115:1-3; 121:1-2, ESV