My father’s nurse once said, Parkinson’s is nobody’s friend. Like me, she viewed illness as an adversary. It grieved me to watch that disease sap my dad’s strength, decrease his mobility, almost silence his voice, and usher in dementia as well. By the end of Dad’s life, however, I could see that God had used that horrible affliction to transform a proud and sometimes difficult man into one who was called “sweet” by those who cared for him. He even came to trust and appreciate his grown children after a long and tumultuous estrangement. I believe God humbled my father that he might better receive the love of his Savior, Jesus Christ, and his family. My brothers and I actually thanked God for the privilege of watching the promise of Romans 8:28 play out in our father’s life. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NKJV
In retrospect, I even question if Parkinson’s disease was an adversary. Dr. Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church referred to his own cancer not as his adversary but as his “pastor!” Similarly, John Piper wrote a pamphlet entitled, Don’t Waste Your Cancer. Viewing a debilitating illness in a positive light may seem odd initially, but such perception is a recurring biblical theme. Thankfully, scripture speaks in more generic terms than disease or illness. Such terms as trials, troubles, or the testing of our faith can apply to a business failure, an unwanted divorce, or rebellious children. Whatever the challenge that prompts our suffering, the biblical admonition and comfort are the same. We are repeatedly instructed to view trials in a positive light, even to welcome them! Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4 NLT
Heritage of Hope does not deny that the final season of life contains serious challenges and suffering. It is tempting some days to join the tide of negativity flowing through the ranks of those described as seniors. Will we give up because the clock is ticking, because of tired, aging bodies? As in the world of athletics, many victories are won in the fourth quarter of life. Those who win the prize of the upward call are looking beyond their earthly clock to an eternal God who keeps his promises. Hallelujah. NIV Philippians 3:14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
In the lives of biblical heroes Abraham, Joseph and Moses, we see infertility, murderous adversity, enslavement and imprisonment as well as isolation and exile. They knew trials, opposition, disappointment, and hardship. In their years of suffering, these men based everything upon God’s promises to them.
ABRAHAM CHOSE TO BELIEVE GOD—not his own body. Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred year old body could never father a child. Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. . . He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” Romans 4, last paragraph in the MSG.
JOSEPH CHOSE TO TRUST GOD—in spite of adversity at every turn. He revealed the faith that undergirded his endurance in an incredible statement to his repentant brothers who were afraid of pay back after Jacob’s death. You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20.
MOSES CHOSE TO BELIEVE GOD—not the odds against his success. Not only did he face a powerful enemy in Pharaoh, he led a people with a fearful, slave mentality. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. Hebrews 11:28
PRAYER: Help us to trust you also, God. I ask that we not be dismayed by aging bodies, by adversity or opposition. May we discern your “friends” at work among us—however unfriendly they might appear. I pray we will choose to believe You and Your word no matter how adverse our circumstances. May we be strengthened in Christ to walk in the faith of Abraham, Joseph and Moses. No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:37