Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chains of Glory

My best friend and I are living proof that opposites attract. He’s tall, I’m short. He’s skinny and I’m not. He’s quick and impatient but I’m slow and take my time. Our differences couldn’t have been more obvious then this past weekend. We spent an afternoon together hanging out in his basement suite. Around dinner time he suggested we head to a nearby burger joint to satisfy our hunger. He told me it was within walking distance and would only take a few minutes to get there. So I grabbed my crutches and away we went. A block and a half into our journey, I’m sweating up a storm but going as fast as I can. My best friend is resting half a block away waiting for me to catch up.

What was a 5 minute walk for my friend ended up taking about a half hour! The walk was quite a challenge for me and when I got there I was dehydrated and in desperate need of a drink. In a few days I was scheduled to do a 10KM road race so I treated the walk as training for the upcoming event. It wasn’t until our journey back that my friend starts to realize just how challenging this trek for burgers is for me.

It starts settling in that he has a much easier time getting around then his little friend on crutches. After seeing the workout I’m getting from a proverbial “run to the store,” he starts running on the spot. By doing this, he figures he can get the same effect I am. That day he had a lesson in humility and a lot more to be thankful for when he went to bed.

When people first see that I have a disability, they have an automatic inclination to find out what happened. I usually tell people I was born with a disability and wouldn’t have it any other way. Life with disability is all I know. Unlike someone who ends up paralyzed after birth, I have nothing to compare it too so I don’t wake up wishing I could walk again.

Viewing a disability as good is not a universal stance. Being in a wheelchair 24 hours a day is a source of pain for many. I once met a girl in a wheelchair who wants to be a scientist so she can find a cure for her disability. Doing so will free her from the prison that is her disability. Even though I consider it a joy to be in a wheelchair, there are some days I agree. Because of my disability, I am in prison. During those times, I’ve found comfort from the apostle Paul:

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. Philippians 1:12-14 NIV

Paul writes this while he is in prison awaiting trial in Rome. “He had been allowed to arrange private lodging for himself; but night and day in that private lodging there was a soldier to guard him…” some in the church might view his imprisonment as a bad thing, so he writes this to let them know exactly the opposite has happened. Whenever Paul had a visitor, he would preach to them about Christ. Because a guard had to be with him at all times, it meant the guard’s duty was to watch and, consequently, listen to everything Paul was saying. This happened on and off over a two year period. During that time it became abundantly clear to everyone that Paul had a relationship with Christ. In Paul’s eyes this was how the Lord was advancing the gospel.

Paul’s prison term had another advantage. “…because of Paul's imprisonment in Rome many people had heard the gospel who would not otherwise have heard it.” Acts 28:17-30 tells us who these people are. Unbelieving Jews and Gentiles were among those Paul preached to. Other Christians were also encouraged by Paul’s boldness in sharing his testimony. This is how Paul can praise God for such dark circumstances.

I am no stranger to being an encouragement to people. One time it happened while I was at a conference in a local church. Sessions were held all over the place. Some were in the basement while others were held atop numerous flights of stairs. Stairs are not an issue for me, so I was a trooper and climbed them as necessary. At the beginning of the second day, I ended up chatting with a gentleman who attended the conference while staying at a homeless shelter. He told me he was hesitant in coming the night before; until he seen me going up and down those stairs on crutches still smiling. He went home that night and thought about what he’d seen. Considering the joy in the midst of the struggles I had, he decided to return for the rest of the conference hearing the Gospel of Christ he might otherwise have not been exposed too.

In 2 Corinthians 12, we learn that Gods power is made perfect in weakness. In sharing his weakness with the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:7-10), Paul tells them having the weakness keeps him humble. Any good that he accomplishes doesn’t come from any merit of his own. It is God being gracious to him and using him in the moment. Sometimes God does that with us.

He gives us a weakness to keep us humble. Anytime people see something good come out of it, we are shocked. How such good can come out of our seemingly dark circumstances? It is because God is using us in ways that at the end of the night when our head hits the pillow all we can say is “praise God!”

What are your weaknesses? How might God be using them to open doors to share what Christ is doing in your life?

No comments:

Post a Comment