A man has cancer, though no one knows is. He is dying. His cancer is manifesting itself in every system his body has. Worst of all his immune system is weak and seems to be confused because it is attacking some of the only healthy tissue left in his frail form. With his system so weak simple colds are ravaging his body, taking him right to the brink of death.
He fights back. He has a strong will. He seeks out the top doctors in their fields to help him. They take his body on a roller coaster ride of treatments. Waves of steroids and antibiotics pass through his body. For brief moments he seems, even fells, better. Though sometimes he could almost be getting better, he always ends up in the valley between the crests of the waves that have gone and are coming.
The doctors never find the cancer, the source of all the complications. They devote all their time and energy to trying to get the man healthy enough to make it through he night, then the next night, then the next. They never discovered the cancer, and if they could have, could they have cured it? The man died on a Sunday morning in early September.
A few days ago a I sat in a living room with some friends discussing the book “Celebration of Discipline,” a book explaining and expounding upon the spiritual disciplines of prayer fasting meditation solitude etc. Just in the introduction it provided such a revolutionary though to me, I got stuck. We were stuck on that one point in discussion for so long it was soon later than we had all meant to stay. The thought, maybe common and tucked into the folds of other theological principals, opened my eyes to a course of action in my pursuit of Jesus that had never before been clear.
The thought -
“Will won’t heal.”
I don’t remember if that is the exact way the author spelled out his precept in the book, but that was my take-away. “Will won’t heal.” Our will, our determination, drive, often times our stubbornness to do it all on our own, will never bring us to the point of healing.
To fully understand this thought it is important to grasp the foundational concept of why we need healing. Quite simply, the problem is sin. Not simply, the problem is our ineptitude to comprehend that we, as humans, are incapable of conquering sin.
Yes, we may agree that Jesus Christ was the one who conquered sin, rectifying our relationship with God, allowing us to have a life with God, with God as a friend. BUT, the thing that we, as humans, have a difficult time admitting is that we are not good enough. Christians get stuck trying to live up to the new life that they profess to have in Christ, when it was Christ that attained that perfection for us. We are to now live in the knowledge of that and with the ambition of following and sharing how/why to follow Him.
There, in those sentences just prior, lay tucked in the folds the thought that I wish I had grasped onto before now. No matter how hard we try our will, will never, can never make us whole. God, and God alone is the healer. We can try and fight back at the sins that plague our lives all we want with all our will power, with great determination to get it right this time, but we will fail. We are not strong enough to make ourselves better.
The question then, the one that leads to the course of action previously mentioned, is why would you put so much effort, focus and concentration of our will on what we can see has historically been and will continue to be a losing battle? Why do we fight so hard to lose every time? Is there a better aim for all of our efforts?
So we know that Jesus has conquered the problem of sin in our lives. But we fight it ourselves. We know that God is a healer. And we strive to fix ourselves by our own means.
Why would we not just take that effort, that we pridefully devote to remedying the problem ourselves, and devote that time, those thoughts, that concentration to taking our problem to the God we know will heal.
God will heal us, make us whole and cure the root of the problem.
It is as if we seeing the symptoms of the disease that has laid hold of us and are attacking the symptoms. We wage a war on our desires, urges and habits that contradict God, all the while ignoring the capability of God.
Its like we’re fighting cancer with antibiotics and steroids. Our will is not a proportionate response to the problem of sin, no matter how strong we are.
The entire time, as we wage our own war for a battle that has already been won. We sit discouraged because we have lost again. The healer is waiting for us to notice him, to give him our attentions.
What I have come to see as the correct response to my own problem of sin, and also to the symptoms of greed, lust and everything else that comes with it, is to redirect my efforts into the healer, the one true God. Just being around him can, and has, healed me where my own will has left me wanting.
Not that I wage no war on my sinful habits, I deny them fulfillment when they rear their ugly heads. But that is a band-aid, an aspirin, only temporary relief for a problem that has plagued humanity since the beginning. The God of the universe, through the death of his son Jesus on the cross has made himself available to us as a refuge and as a healer.
The fruits from the discipline of a life spent with God, actually with God not just as a Christian, will heal us. We will, through Christ, overcome ourselves, free to set off for the task the God has in reality set before us. We can move on from the foundation of repentance from dead works on to the life that God actually has for us in him (Hebrews 6).
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