The next two years were filled with anger, depression, suicidal thoughts and religious doubts as she endured the rehabilitation necessary to basically function again. But God used time and the wise, godly counsel of a fellow teen to turn her heart from bitterness to victory. This led to her forming a Christian ministry for the disabled community throughout the world. This young woman’s name is Joni Eareckson Tada and her ministry is going strong across the world making life easier for those with life changing disabilities. Joni learned not to give up!
Paul was another person who faced tremendous life changing challenges and did not let it stop him. If you read the book of Acts, you find that once Paul was committed to the Gospel, he was unstoppable. From the time he met Christ on the Damascus Road, he lived a life of bravery through his Lord. He refused to be stopped by anyone or anything. He defeated Elymas the sorcerer face to face. He was stoned at Lystra and, though everyone thought he was dead, he revived and went right back to ministry. After being beaten in Philippi, he and Silas gave the first gospel concert in Europe. He stood toe-to-toe with the intellectuals of Athens, he met violence in various places, he survived storms as sea, he lived through shipwrecks and shook off snakebites. He persevered. All the while he was sharing his faith and seeing lives changed. He was an unconquered, indomitable victor. What made the difference in his life?
What are the secrets to having that kind of spirit?
1. Paul had vision. He had a massive spiritual vision of the conversion of his own people and the evangelization of the entire known world. He longed to see Jews and Gentiles reconciled as one body through the cross. Without such a vision ourselves, we will never come anywhere near Paul’s spiritual vitality and perseverance.
2. Paul had faith. God never reneges on His word, and Paul drew strength from that. God called him to the task and God was always faithful to supply his needs, and thus, Paul was able to accomplish God sized tasks. Paul understood that God does not always conform to neat preconceptions. God’s way was not always what Paul thought it should or would be. But God’s way is always better.
3. Paul had a willingness to fight. Paul never quit serving. When he fell down, he pulled himself up. He was always focused on sharing the gospel. That was his goal, and he did not quit. Even while Paul was in prison, he witnessed. He witnessed to the Roman soldiers guarding him, and they, over time, became believers who helped spread the gospel. He did not allow limitations to keep him down.What do we do with limitations? What do we do when we get knocked down in our Christian walk? We should be like Paul. We can’t quit until we are through.
Joni Eareckson Tada understands this completely. “Few of us have the luxury — it took me forever to think of it as that-to come to ground zero with God. Before my accident, my questions had always been, ‘How will God fit into this situation? How will He affect my dating life? My career plans? The things I enjoy?’ all these options were gone. It was me, just a helpless body, and God … Maybe God’s gift to me was my dependence on Him. I am aware of His grace every moment. My need for help is obvious every day when I wake up, flat on my back, waiting for someone to come dress me. I cannot even comb my hair or blow my nose alone! …I have hope for the future. The Bible speaks of our bodies being ‘glorified’ in Heaven. In high school that was a hazy, foreign concept. But now I realize that I will be healed. I have not been cheated out of being a complete person — I am just going through a forty year delay, and God is with me even through that. Being ‘glorified’ — I know the meaning of that now. It’s the time, after my death here, when I will be on my feet dancing.”
What have we done with our limitations? Do we wallow in self-pity or have we given them to God so that He can do his greatest work through us?
Am I a soldier of the cross?
A foll’wer of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies?
On flower beds of ease.
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed thro’ bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace?
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord;
I will bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word
O Lord, may we share your vision for our lives, our families, our churches and our nation. May we desire your will for our lives. May we reflect your compassion, your hope, your love for all. May we dare to believe that what you say you can accomplish in and through us. Let us never quit, but finish well!
Dr. Dennis R. Culbreth is senior pastor of Jasper’s First Baptist Church www.jaspersfbc.org