Pampering Saints or Preparing Sons?
Hebrews 12:5-8, "And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons."
Over three months ago, I contracted a disease called, "Ramsey Hunt Syndrome." An illness so rare that only 10 out of every 1 million Americans get it and most doctors have never heard of it. In addition there's no medical treatment for it. The disease involves the herpes/shingles virus attacking the 7th cranial nerve leaving behind facial paralysis and severe nerve damage that results in debilitating 24/7 pain -- primarily in the ear, along with vertigo, difficulty in swallowing, and hyper-sensitivity to light and sound, etc. In addition, I couldn't walk without the aid of a cane, and couldn't drive, read, or use the computer until last week.
In 71 years of my life, I've never experienced such intense, stabbing, unrelenting pain, including those 3 times I've had kidney stones. During this time of being shut up to God, I have cried out for miraculous healing, been anointed and prayed for by the elders, repented of every known sin, including some I hadn't committed just to cover all the bases - especially unbelief and lack of faith. I have been prayed over by many and prayed for by thousands all over the world. I have had dear believers attempt to break curses spoken over me and willingly submitted to attempts to try and cast out any demons in, on, or around me. My wife and I have rebuked the Devil and done spiritual warfare daily. I have taken all kinds of natural medicines, herbs and vitamins. And yet, so far, although I am improving slowly and the pain has been reduced greatly, I'm still dealing with the ravages of Ramsey Hunt Syndrome.
A part of the hurt of my pain was its unusual occurrences and the unfathomable mystery of why me? In the middle of episodes where I was awakened in the middle of the night screaming out in pain, it's only normal to begin to ask, "Why is this happening to me?" "What is the meaning of this?" "Has God forgotten my address?" "Why do the heavens seem like brass with no word from the Lord?"
My discovery has been that these types of questions are not answered in the midst of pain and problems. If we seek our relief from pain and problems through understanding it, then we likely will be hurting for a long time. My conclusion: No, "why am I suffering" question is sufficiently answered to make satisfactory sense if you're the one doing the suffering!
Then why ask why. Our pain is sometimes complicated by our feverish attempts to comprehend something that is classified information with God. Frankly put, why is none of our business -- and more than likely, we would not be helped if we understood.
The best illumination I can get from the Lord is that even though the devil started the affliction to try and take me out, He allowed in order to continue my advanced training for reigning with Him.
This confirmation comes to me from the book of Hebrews - chapter 12 in particular. The Jewish believers to whom the book of Hebrews is written had been given a tough race to run. Their course seemed more like an obstacle race than an Olympic marathon. It had included family problems, financial pressures, physical punishments, and government persecution, and all of this for no other reason than their public confession and identification with the Messiah, Jesus. They had already witnessed many of their friends throwing in the towel and going back to the old, traditional ways of Judaism. This was another stumbling block to many of them as they tried to muster faith to trust God’s heart, because for the moment, they couldn’t trace His hand. Where they being punished for leaving their old covenant religion? Were all their trials evidence of sin that needed punishment, or was it evidence of sons who were being matured?
To this struggling community of believers, the author of Hebrews tells them, in so many words, that discipline is primarily God's proactive commitment to mature them, and not His reactive response to punish them; that Father’s discipline isn't evidence of sin that needs punishment, but of a son who is being prepared for greater tasks. He would remind them that the higher the task, the harder the training.
The key point for them and us is not the reasons or the source of Father’s disciplines, but how are we responding. The heart of the matter is not what happens to me but what happens in me. God allows things to happen to me so that things can happen in me so that things can happen through me for His glory!
Someone defined suffering, sorrow and pain as the arrangement in which God permits what He hates in order to achieve what He loves! Although the devil may initiate the affliction with the intent of destroying our bodies and deranging our minds and disgracing our character, God has designed it to develop our maturity. Hebrews 12:11 confirms this truth: "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
Nothing is incidental or accidental in the life of the child of God. Our God is large and in charge. He is superintending our growth, and He allows tension, testing, oppositionand even persecution so we can experienceHis power, wrapped in His love, in order to act like Jesus and not react like fallen sons of Adam. He is intentional and purposeful about everything. He wants us to come to the place where we respond in grace instead of reacting in grievances. He wants us to refuse to be wounded in bitterness, but to receive His grace so that through the wounds inflicted, the life and love of Christ flows out of us powerfully.
Although we’re God’s SPECIAL people, we’re notHis SHELTEREDpeople -- we will experience tribulations; we can’t expect to be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease while others have fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas. Some trials, such as sickness, accidents, disappointments, and even incidents that seem to be nothing but utter tragedies, come upon us simply because we’re human and are still living in a fallen world. Other tribulations are an essential part of God’s training for reigning preparatory school for King’s Kids. God is intent upon training and preparing His Kids to reign with Him forever, and not in protecting them from troubles and pampering them with a lot of toys and things! He ruthlessly perfects those whom He royally elects!
So far, here's what I have discovered during this time of adversity: God is good all the time. His grace is sufficient, His joy is available, and His heart will permit what He hates only in order to achieve what He loves! And it’s not what happens to me that really matters as much as what happens in me because of what has happened to me. I can react in bitterness or respond in grace and bless the Lord for not giving me what I really have merited and deserve.
For many years I have preached and taught that we are King's Kids in Training for Reigning and that our loving, gracious Heavenly Father is far more concerned about preparing sons for glory and future rulership with Him than He is in protecting and pampering saints from all of the hurts and hardships of life. Now I am getting to practice what I have preached. I love Him more than ever and desire to pursue Him more passionately and proclaim Him more pervasively than ever before. Like Job of old, I declare that "though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."
This verse of the old hymn, "How Firm a Foundation" has spoken loudly and reassuringly to my heart.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
Your prayers are coveted as I continue to ask Father for His healing touch and trust Him for more grace to wait upon Him - until!