For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
When I was younger I looked at the elderly and wondered what was going on that caused them to walk stooped over and to make moaning noises when they moved. That question was raised in the day when the house I was living in was a strong, low maintenance abode. Well, I no longer wonder why. I now know from personal experience. My moaning in part comes from degenerative discs (part of the structural framing of my current house). At least that is what the army of doctors I have seen tell me.
I also have an army of well meaning people who volunteer their cures when they hear me groan. There is a fascinating array of them. They may involve doctors, pills and potions, honoring Jewish customs and calendars, herbs, fasting, diet, oils, magnets, color, sound, touch, chemicals, repentance, communion, vitamins, rest, yoga, faith, prayer, confession or proclamation. I don’t mean to but I am sure I am leaving someone out. Oh yes, there is prayer. Prayer is sometimes recommended as an additive to the above list.
Sometimes (like now) I express my groaning with sarcasm. This may even be picked up as frustration or anger (which on some days it may lapse into). While those elements are sometimes present I hope that readers will also find something winsome in my words because, while I am usually trying to make an eternal-sized point, I am attempting to do it through an ornery and playful spirit living along side others in the midst of vast mystery and uncertainty.
While some might dispute this because of their bias toward one (or some) of these possible options I believe it is the Spirit He gave me as a pledge that helps me to sift and sort through these and all the options proposed for my life in all areas. Is this an infallible process? Does this interaction with the Spirit yield airtight solutions and guaranteed results? Well, the answer to these questions, I believe, all depends on our perspective. The short answer is “no” because faith would be precluded by certainty, a condition God does not offer his apprentices who live to please him by faith. A bit longer answer is what follows.
I believe that the Spirit in Paul and me and all who are trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior has a distinct mission on earth. It was apparently a very important one if Jesus’ words are to mean anything…
But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.
And we might ask, “So then, what is this advantage the Helper (his Spirit) will give us?” In a nutshell it is that…
He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.
How does He do this? You would think that if the Spirit was doing this much in the earth it’s expression would become the daily headlines of every news agency. Here is just a small byline from the story I believe he is writing on my heart. Please indulge me as I turn off the main highway onto what I pray will be a scenic overlook…
On the to my office this morning there was no coffee in my system yet to fuel any focused bursts of thought so I was still burning through the fog of a night’s sleep and a clutter of thoughts that were crowding in for attention. As soon as I recognized I was not really on duty, I simply turned my mind to the Lord. My first intentional act of this day was to say, “Lord you are the Way, the Truth and the Life.”My next thought was, “Like many of your words, many are aware of this phrase who do not believe or experience it. In my heart, I ask, “Why?”
Many I know would retell what I am describing as a crystal clear, “I said” and then, “The Holy Spirit said“-conversation between them and the Lord. I can’t in good conscience do this because I did not hear the Lord say, “Now Rob, “Here is how it works with me. You see…. (and then fill this space in with whatever download I thought he may have offered).” Instead, my thoughts (along with his Spirit, who I believe is leading me into all truth) just as he promised, produced, I believe, this advantageous thought (or comment);
“They do not believe these words because there is a great shortage of those who can tell others just how (beyond their salvation) Jesus has become their Way, their Truth and their Life.” So, were these; 1) God’s thoughts 2) my thoughts or 3) a combination of the two. I have chosen door number 3. But, I just report. You decide.
Instead of reporting to the world, my personal infallible thus sayeth the Lord, I will simply and unapologetically report that this is my best impression of what he is saying and that I have been living by these types of impressions for 36 years. You may ask why would I have ever gone down such a vaguely marked path? Answered simply; because his words have been a light along this path and they always seemed to have been leading me somewhere.
These types of thoughts are usually derivatives and distilation of scriptures that have been hidden away in my heart along the way, words that have progressively transformed my heart and mind (which I construe to be my character). Over time, the testing of these words by faith have proven to me that they were in fact His advantageous words. As I have embraced them by faith, testing them in the rough and tumble of real life, the outcomes have proven to me that God is faithful and true to his words. It is out of this living, inexact exchange of ideas and words, in the regular course of living, that a relationship with God has been forged which by virtue of the experiences they have led me into (and through), I can say in good conscience is personal in nature. When I report that I have a personal relationship with God, this is what I mean. I hoped you enjoyed that brief detour.
So, returning to our main passage, what is God saying about groaning and the myriad remedies and options we must sift through? For me, I report that while I have listened and will continue to listen to my well meaning friends and family, my sole remedy remains to be Jesus Christ. He really is my only ultimate Truth or Way. All of us who trust Him I believe will find that the Spirit’s mission on earth has always been above all things to point us continually to Jesus who is our very Life. It seems his mission in my heart has been a steady push to establish this fact so that I do not end up having trusted in some option that offered only an improved quality of temporal life.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time seeking a cure for degenerative disk disease and the results have led me to ask, “Is this circumstance my thorn in the flesh?” This question will make many of my thus sayth the Lord-friends cringe because they know that by his stripes we are healed. I can almost hear the voice of some of them rebuking such an apostate question. And yet, the voice I hear is One saying,
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
So Lord, just how am I to take courage?
I hear his answer,
Always give thanks for all things (especially trials) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and be subject to one another in the fear of Him.
So, always on the journey, always passing through a mysterious landscape, I see I am joined into a body of people (whom I am to listen to and love) who have a myriad of irreconcilable thoughts about God and his ways. So, what I see ahead is a pathway intentionally paved with uncertainties by a sovereign and loving God who is leading me into, through and out of a myriad of circumstances and relationships (many which I would not have chosen) for the sake of the day which I will stand before him and give the final report of what I’ve been up to. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Thank you Father for my degenerative discs which shall contribute to your glory as a faithful Lord as my healer now or my deliverer when I receive my new body which will know no degeneration. It’s all good because you are good always. Until that day, whichever comes first, I am so so grateful that my spirit is being renewed daily as it lives life in partnership with Your Spirit who is transforming me into the image of your Son, just as you have promised.
For the record, I am quite open to glorifying you right now with a report of either partial or total healing. Even in the presence of a little degeneration, thank you for all the advantageous thoughts and words that you are using to continually lead us into all truth. Take all the small bylines of our stories and somehow publish them for your name’s sake. Let them be shouted from the housetops. In Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen.