Sunday, July 13, 2014

Storehouses of Hope for the Chronically Ill During Battle

For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:12

Do you ever feel tired? Not sleepy tired. Bone-weary tired. When you are fighting a chronic illness, you are in a physical war to get well and stay healthy. But the truth is, you aren’t just in one war. You are in two. You are also fighting a spiritual warfare for your faith, just as all Christians are. In addition to these two wars, every-day life is going on. No wonder you get tired!

The bible says that we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world. These evil rulers have been around for a long time. They answer to the Satan whose sole mission is to kill, steal and destroy taking as many fallen souls with him to hell as he can.

Our calling as Christians is clear in the Great Commission: love God, love people, and bring the two together. Sometimes when sick it feels like all of life vanishes. Good news! Just because you have a chronic illness doesn’t mean that your calling goes away, it just means that you answer it in a different way. You might answer it from a phone in bed or from a laptop or iPad from the sofa. We all have a place in the Kingdom of God. No act of love or encouragement is too small.

The natural progression of this life, as we can see it in our limited human/earthly vision, is that we are born, we live, and then we die. As Christians, we see the lie in that. There is life after death. If we live with hope in Christ, we live abundantly in love, knowing that this earth is not our home, heaven is. We know from God’s written word that we have a job to do while we are here. Rich relationships are formed with others as we do His Kingdom work. Unfortunately, part of living in a fallen world and getting the Kingdom Work done is suffering. Suffering is the battle wounds of war. Knowing this earth is just a stopping place until we get to our eternal home makes the battle wounds we receive easier to handle because it is temporary and relief is coming. In short, we have “Hope”. Our spirit sings “Onward” in answer to His calling each day when we hit those hard moments. That’s because we are living in His strength, not in our own.

Knowing the Enemy's Tactics

In the midst of the brutal battles, when we are battle weary and think we cannot go one step further, the enemy would have us forget our hope in his attempt to rob us of our position in the Kingdom. You see, once he has distracted you from the hope that God has given you, it’s very easy for him to lie to you. How does he do this? The “Rule of Distraction”. By throwing circumstances in your path and saying “Here! Look at this!” and thus tempting you to avert your eyes from the One who would carry you beyond that circumstance if you would let Him.  Once you allow that distraction to shift your focus off of the Heavenly Father and onto the troubles on earth, the lies begin coming in the form of darts from the enemy. One degree at a time, he begins to rob you of your hope, until before long you’ve made a complete 180 degree turn from a happy, fulfilled Christ focused individual to a miserable, anxiety filled, depressed Christian.

In recent weeks, I've been in a major flare up and the darts have been flying my way. Desperate for relief, I began praying for clear answers on what was going on. Through prayer and study, the Holy Spirit has shown me the truth about this warfare and the tactics of the enemy. The enemy is predictable when he is trying to get to God's children. Though not always in this exact order, his tactics follow this pattern:

Christian is Focused on God à Dart #1: Satan throws distraction the Christian’s way (via suffering, anger, pride, lust, greed, busyness/work, or discouragement) to get his/her eyes off God à Dart #2: Attack on a Key Relationship à Dart #3: Attack on Work/Ministry à Dart #4: Attack on Finances . The lies of doubt, fear, and discouragement begin in order to tear down the child of God and immobilize him/her. à Dart #5: If the Christian does not recognize the pattern and begin to fight with the Armor of God and the Power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:10-18), the darts keep coming.à Dart #6: Christians who try to fight it in their own strength, and without the support of other Christians will see a "doubling down" in efforts by the enemy to take them down (this is why the gift of praying for one another and Christian fellowship is so important). 

This is the same tactic he’s been using on God’s children for thousands of years. He will do his best to divert your attention from the One who protects you. Once he does, it’s a home run for him to attack your marriage, your children, your family, your work/career, your health, your friendships, your reputation, your ministry, and your testimony. The devil is a liar and he will tell you anything to take your hope away so that he can immobilize you and take you out of the Kingdom Race. This happens with all Christians. No one is immune, some just have better armor than others because they’ve taken time to prepare. They've put on the Armor of God filled their storehouses with hope.

The Extra Battle of the Chronically Ill

So that’s a lot of battling for the average person, right? Well, what about the second war? The war the chronically ill person is battling? Oh… you are probably asking "How do I fight two battles at once?" The answer is you don’t. You let God take care of the battle for you. 

Another key tactical move by the enemy in the lives of the chronically ill is that He will distract your physical battle with fear and the need for absolute control. The chronically ill person begins to put so much of their hope into themselves: If I just go see the right doctor, exercise enough, keep my stress levels down, keep my house cool enough, eat the right foods, get rid of the chemicals in my house, and on and on it goes, then I'll be well. The control is not ours. The diseases most of us with chronic illnesses face have a certain degree of unpredictability to them. The good news is that God does have the control. We need to give it to Him and allow Him to fight those battles on our behalf. Do what you can, but do it with a heart that relinquishes control and says “I trust God. No matter what… I trust God.”

Isn't it wonderful that we have a loving God who will take this battle on for us? We must do our part, but we don't have to take on the worry that comes with it. Knowing that God is already in tomorrow means that we can rest in today. 

Filling Your Storehouses of Hope

In your battle to get healthy, to stay out of bed, or to “just survive”, you must make sure that you pay attention to your storehouses of hope during your good days and healthy seasons. There will be down days/weeks/months when the pain and fatigue are so overwhelming that you’ll need to borrow from those storehouses. Make sure they are full to the brim. If you don’t, the enemy will use that to try to take you down.

How do you fill your storehouses? Practice thankfulness for His blessings on your life. Fellowship with God. Fellowship with other Christians. Read His word daily. Go to church when you are able because there will be times when you will be unable. Worship in quiet moments with praise music. Keep a prayer journal that shows His faithfulness.

The Battle is Already Won if You Fight It

If you want to win the war, plan for the battle. Be on the lookout and on the defense. Put on the Armor of God (truth and the Holy Spirit), keep your focus on the One who made you and loves you, and fill your storehouses. When you do, you win the war, battered body or not. That’s right, WE WIN. The bible is clear on that. It’s a fixed ending and the tools are free. You may not be able to win the war with your body… but with God’s help you can win the spiritual battle and do His Kingdom Work. Onward!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” ~  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” ~ Romans 12:12

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” ~ Romans 15:4

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ 
 Romans 15:13