Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Never Give Up the Fight

     Following my fight with bulbar polio in 1955, I had a long road ahead of me in order to recuperate.  My form of the polio virus affected the right side of my face, my ability to swallow, and my upper body.  The right leg was weaker and would occasionally give out.  I know it was God who spared my life and answered my prayer for healing that I lifted up from my hospital bed.
     After my stay in the hospital, I remember having to lay perfectly flat.  There were hot packs, hot baths, therapy sessions, and my mother had to grind up all my food as I could not swallow well.  It became very tiring to have to lay flat for what seemed like an interminable time especially when you are seven years old.
Glenn and I at Cedar Key, Fl with one of our
favorite little "photo bombers" Aiden.
     Finally, the day came when I was allowed to try to walk again.  My grandfather put coins across the floor to encourage me to take some steps and pick up the coins.  I was weak, but I made it across the living room.  Day by day, I worked to regain my strength and ability to move.  Some muscles in my throat could not be rehabilitated so I had to learn to swallow using a tucking technique which I have used all my life.  For me, and other polio survivors, life would never be quite the same, but we never gave up in trying to regain our health and mobility.  Even today, we are once again engaged with a new
challenge with Post Polio Syndrome.  This is a new weakness in the muscles damaged by the polio virus.  The point is, not just for those of us who had polio but for all, life is a continuous movement from one challenge to another whether physically, mentally or spiritually.  God has a purpose and a plan for us and we must never give up in the race of life but move on to the goal of His high calling for us.
     In three different places in New Testament letters, the writers encourage us to never give up in the race.  Paul writes in I Corinthians 9:24-27:  "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."  This is a powerful reminder from the Apostle that we need self-control which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in order to remain focused on the goal.  We are running the race of life in order to glorify God and reflect His image as a bright light in a dark world.  We cannot accomplish this unless we put forth a consistent, steady walk with Christ.  I know I might sound like a broken record since I write about this continually, but only through Bible study, prayer and fellowship can we grow those faith muscles lest, as Paul says, we become "disqualified".  If we want to be used of God, we must maintain an ever deepening relationship with Him.
     A second scripture is found in 2 Timothy 4:7-8:  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing."  Here we have a chance to see Paul at a later stage in his ministry.  He has been running the race and contending faithfully for the Lord.  Now, he is aware that soon he will go to be with His Lord.  This is such an encouragement to us when we feel tired and weak.  Consider all that Paul went through during his ministry:  beatings, a venomous snake bite, shipwreck, a thorn in the flesh which would never leave him, and imprisonment.  Yet, he kept the faith and grew in his love for Christ.  Life was anything but easy for this man.  If he could do this, we can too.
     Our final scripture is found in Hebrews 12:1-4, 7,12-13:  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.....(vs. 7)  It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?....(vs. 12-13) Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed."  These are words that offer us the reason to keep on reaching towards that goal.  Like a runner, we may be tired and ready to quit.  We are thirsty and our muscles ache beyond belief, but we have another mile to go.  Can we do it?  Not in our own strength but certainly, in His.  I love the saying that I have seen around that says:  "God does not call the equipped, but He equips the called."  When He sets before us the race in this life with all its pitfalls, valleys and heartaches, He never once leaves our side.  Our cheering section are all the saints that have gone before us as Hebrews tells us. Likewise, He is the living water so we never have to thirst as we run the course.  However, we must discipline ourselves to go where we can be refreshed, and I would suggest that we will find this in prayer with our Father, the reading daily of His Word and in regular fellowship with other believers who will hold us accountable.  If Jesus could die for us, if Paul could suffer all he did but still persevere, then, certainly, we can, with God's help, run the race set before us!
     As a little seven year old girl, I simply asked God, from my hospital bed, to make me well and let me go home.  I believed He could do that for me.  He did.  He spared my life, helped me make the long road to recovery and has kept me all along life's pathway.  No matter what your burden or challenge, He can do that for you.  Our Lord has never promised us that life would be easy, but He has told us that our lives would be abundant in Christ.  He has also promised to be with us every step of the way.  Therefore, let us trust in Him today and roll our cares on Him.  He is able to strengthen us when we do not think we can go on.  With Him, all things are possible.  Selah!

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