Like Lucy, sometimes we miss out on God’s blessings because we are too busy feeling sorry for ourselves.
Don’t let misery become myopic. Open your eyes to what God is doing around you.
Book Review: The Luckiest Man: How a Seventeen-Year Battle with ALS Led Me to Intimacy with God, by John R. Paine with Seth Haines
Are God’s blessings limited to the pleasurable? Does God only bless us with experiences that lead to prosperity? Might God’s blessings also include adversity? Can God bless someone with a disease, loss, failure, or tragedy?
John Paine would argue for the latter. He can testify firsthand how God used the disease of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—to draw him into a deeper and more abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.
The book tells the story of growing up in east Texas. John was a scrawny kid with poor eyesight and a learning disability. His father was difficult to please. This motivated John to push himself and to excel in order to win approval. He drove him to be in CONTROL of every part of his life—business, marriage, family, church. It all came crashing down in his mid-40’s when he was diagnosed with ALS.
And yet, John discovered that as God stripped away his pride and control, he replaced it with a deeper, richer, and more intimate relationship with Christ. As he now nears the end of his life, he states that he would not trade his intimacy with Christ for better health.
I’ve been asked what I’d do to be rid of this disease. I’m not sure how to answer that question, but let me say it this way: if I could hold Margaret (his wife) one more time, if I could bounce my grandchildren on my lap or hug my children, if I could put in a full day at the office, if I could be a captain of industry, if I could lead thousands into professions of faith, if I could be the pillar of the church—if I could do it all but had to trade this rhythm of intimacy with God born from ALS? The choice is easy. I would keep this disease. I’d take this pain, this slow suffocation. I’d drink this cup all over again. I wouldn’t trade this intimacy for anything. What was meant for my torture has been used for my salvation. I’m thankful for that.
The book is well written and very encouraging. While it doesn’t lead to a happily-ever-after ending, it does provide an example of a man who discovered that when he lost everything but his faith in God, he discovered that God was enough. The book will cause you to reexamine your own life and perspective of who God is. Well worth the read.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
The most valuable lesson my father taught me was that God can be trusted. During the last four years of his life, my dad lost his eyesight due to a blood clot behind his eye, regained his eyesight, his car was hit by a train at a faulty crossing guard, recovered from a broken shoulder and hip, was diagnosed with cancer, had surgery twice, and died eight months after the initial diagnosis.
Two months before his death, I sat in the car with my father and asked him, “What do you think God is teaching you through these trials?” He responded, “I have no idea. But I know he can be trusted.”
Trusting God’s promises is a lesson that General Joshua passed on to the leaders of Israel. After seven years of fighting to conquer the Promised Land, the statement is made,
Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass (Joshua 21:45).
Approximately twenty years later, Joshua restates his confidence in God as he nears the end of his life.
And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed (Joshua 23:14).
Over the course of their lives, my dad, Joshua, and countless others have learned firsthand that God can be trusted to keep his promises. That is a legacy I want to leave for those who come after me.
I’ve thought a lot recently about the need to choose my perspective.
Do I worry about those who have left or do I minister to those who are present? Do I focus on how little I have to work with or how much God has blessed me with? Do I focus on my lack of strength and mobility or praise God for how much he has healed me? Do I focus on what I have lost or give thanks for what I have gained? Do I look to the past or look to the present? Do I remember the criticisms or do I listen for God’s praise? Do I strive to please people or do I focus on pleasing God?
Philippians 4:8 instructs me to choose what I think about. Philippians 3:12-16 encourages me to strain forward towards what God has in store for the future. Galatians 1:10 reminds me to focus on serving God rather than striving to win approval from people.
I need to choose my perspective and what I will focus on.
As we begin a new year, consider what God might want to do in your life in 2019. Begin the year by obeying the instruction, “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10).
As many times as the word “new” appears in Scripture, chances are he wants to do something NEW in your life and mine.
Psalm 40:3 – He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Isaiah 43:18–19 – “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 57:10 – You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint.
Isaiah 62:2 – The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.
Isaiah 65:17 – “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
Jeremiah 31:31 – “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
Lamentations 3:22–23 – The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Ezekiel 36:26 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Peter 3:13 – But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Revelation 2:17 – He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Revelation 21:1 – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
Revelation 21:5 – And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Allow God to do a new work in your life in 2019.
Happy New Year!
A prayer at the end of a year
Lord, increase my faith. I live among people who are jaded and cynical because of fake news. It is so tempting to begin to view your promises in the same way. It is so easy to believe your promises are too good to be true. Help me to take you at your word and believe what you say.
Lord, increase my faith. I live in a world that seems to become more evil every day. People become more negative as time passes. It is so easy to wonder if prayer even makes a difference. It is so tempting to forget that you can change hearts and lives. Help me to focus on what you are doing in the world. Help me to pray, believing that you can change hearts.
Lord, increase my faith. I live in a world that is permeated with a scarcity mentality. “There is only so much time, money, and energy available. When it’s gone, it’s gone.” It is so easy to forget that you are able to do abundantly beyond what we ask or think. It is so easy to forget that you are almighty God for whom nothing is impossible. Help me to trust you to provide all that is needed and more besides.
Lord, increase my faith. I live in a world that is punctuated by pragmatism. “Use your brain. Do what works. Take the safe, sure, easy, secure route.” It is so easy to think I can live without faith. It is so tempting to only attempt what I can do in my own power. Help me to step out in faith and take more risks for your glory.
Lord, increase my faith. I live in a world that goes through the motions. “Take it easy. Don’t work too hard. Just do what needs to be done, nothing more.” It is so easy to stop dreaming of “what if?” It is so tempting to stop asking, “what might God want me to do?” It is so easy to merely coast along. Help me to dream. Help me to work hard for your purposes. Cause me to grow.
Lord, increase my faith. The pressures are so great that I am tempted to jump into work and skip reading your word and praying. It is so easy to succumb to the pressure to be productive. Help me to “waste time with God.” Help me to saturate my mind with your word. Help me to submit my plans and schedule to you first. Help me to center my life and day on you.
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Lord, increase my faith.
Happy anniversary to my wife, best friend, and lover. 38 years is too short a time to be married to your best friend. We’ve gone from SoCal to Western MA, with stops in Dallas, TX; Anaheim, CA; Wheaton, IL; Moreno Valley, CA; Redmond, WA; Sammamish, WA; and now Chicopee, MA. We’ve served Christ at churches in Wheaton, Bellevue, Seattle, and Chicopee. We’ve led ministry teams to Toral and Malaga, Spain; Moscow, Tsibanobalka, and Anapa, Russia. We’ve traveled up and down the West Coast, across the States, visited London and New Zealand. We’ve celebrated graduations and weddings, sorrowed at funerals, and encouraged each other with rehab. We’ve experienced, benefited from, and enjoyed the grace of God through the ups and downs of life over the years and across the miles. May God grant us many more years to serve him together!