2020-02-06 Lift Up Your Heads, O Gates!

“But if you can…”
Mark 9:22

I’m back behind my keyboard again. I had a couple days off lately and was sick yesterday. All is well with me. I did have an interesting interaction yesterday that has impacted me considerably. I have a friend who has been very sick for quite some time. To say her ordeal has been difficult doesn’t begin to touch the extent of it. She is back in the hospital again.

I asked her if there was anything that I could do for her. I asked how I might specifically pray for her. Here’s what she said.

“Pray that God directs everything according to the counsel of His will. And that He strengthens us with His strength. He upholds and keeps us. Praise Him.”

That choked me up and has stuck with me continually since. She didn’t ask for supernatural healing. Make no mistake, she has already done that. No, she has settled herself that God’s will is more important than hers. I don’t know if any of what she says rings a bell, but we find this language in scripture.

Ephesians 1:11-12 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

This is part of a tongue-twister of Paul, one that is worthy of considerable study. For now, however, let us suffice it to say that God has a plan that he has determined long, long ago. For those whom he has had mercy, that plan includes an eternal inheritance with him in Heaven.

That’s the big picture, folks, and all the details of our life here on earth are in accordance with his will. Now, we can certainly act/pray in step with that or we can try do our own thing. Whether we obey or disobey, he will bring around that which he has already planned.

The interesting thing is that you and I do seem to have influence on events and circumstances, and we see God encouraging us to pray as such.

John 15:7-8 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Furthermore, it is clear that God heals our illnesses here on earth – sometimes. Not always. Sometimes. Now, I think we can get all tangled up on whether or not someone could have been healed had we prayed or prayed this way or that. Can we settle ourselves that God can heal anybody at any time of anything? Yes, he can. Does he need you and I to pray to make this happen? No, he doesn’t. Does he use us in the healing process to pray? Yes, it would seem he does, at least at times. Does prayer obligate God? Certainly not.

Which brings us to a sobering reality. If our ultimate purpose is to praise and worship God, should we not do so no matter the circumstance? Shouldn’t we praise him if he DOESN’T heal as we ask just as we would if he DOES? I’m serious about this, folks. Furthermore, shouldn’t we praise him for that which causes us suffering, even if that suffering will ultimately lead to the death of our physical bodies?

The answer to that is most definitely yes. Is not God good even with a world full of disease? Isn’t he good even though disease is a result of the fall, and ultimately our own sin as well? Can we settle ourselves that God owes us nothing, that we, through our own will, have chosen to part company and to our own self-willed destruction? Can we settle it in our minds that God is righteous and just in punishing disobedience and that disease and decay are part of that?

If he is, then he should be praised. In all circumstances. Should he not? Of course, he should.

Then why is it so difficult for us to accept illness and death? I think that answer has its root in fear. If you think about it, what’s our knee-jerk reaction upon learning someone is sick? We pray for complete healing, right? Well, we know that God allows disease and death, so why do we not start with that mindset first? Why don’t we start off with praise? Because we are afraid, or so it seems to me. If we are praying out of fear, are we truly abiding in Christ, the requirement of John 15:7-8? Consider this verse:

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

It would seem to me that to be of any value to anyone, one should approach the problem with love so that fear might be cast out. And once everyone’s head is clear, then we might praise God for the circumstance and ask his guidance that we might pray according to his will. We might then sing praises in our affliction, even if the affliction is of no direct consequence of our own sin but rather the sin of a fallen world.

Do you see why my friend’s request was so powerful? She gets it. She knows that God has her in the palm of his hands. I told her that her request was wise and that I admired her for it. Here’s how she responded to that:

“Thanks for praying. It’s been a very long road of suffering, with more layers continually added. But as Sproul says, whatever He allows, He has ordained.

God works through suffering. Those in Christ will suffer. Got to keep focused. Set my mind on things above. Gratitude and praise.”

Please join me in praying for my friend as she has asked.

Father, I thank you and praise you for this wonderful example of a faithful walk with you. I pray that those who read this may learn from her example, as I have, that we may prove to the world just how loving and compassionate you are in all circumstances. You indeed are worthy to be praised. Amen.

Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers

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