I was talking with some friends today about medical issues. I told them I had heard people say they didn't want any extreme measures if they were critically ill. But I said, “I want extreme measures.” Life is precious. And it is good even if I am in pain or debilitated.
Immediately one of them gave the common answer that I was reacting against in the first place.
“Well,” he said, “you don't want to live if you don't have quality of life.”
I did not answer him, but I have been thinking about what gives quality of life. I don't believe it is comfort or freedom from pain.
I believe quality of life has to be related to purpose. As writers you know something about purpose. But in fact, any believer in Jesus Christ should be aware of divine purpose. If you are still alive God has a purpose for you on this Earth. God has a purpose for you even beyond this life. And knowing hope beyond this life ought to make us want to fulfill every purpose God has for us until we step into eternity.
If you do not know God's purpose for your life, you need to seek earnestly to learn what He is doing around you. Even if you don't know all that God wants to do through you, you can begin by obeying Him in small things that you know to do.
Among other things, this will shape your prayer life. I have frustrated some loved ones by telling them, “Every time I have prayed for God to heal me, I have sensed Him reminding me that it is appointed unto man once to die. In fact, I have seen a kind of healing. I am still alive years longer than my doctors thought I would be. But I still have cancer.
Earlier one of the friends I was talking to said, possibly in jest, that he wouldn't want to live if he couldn't play golf. Particularly as a writer I know I can still enjoy things I can no longer participate in. This really relates to being an intellectual. I don't think being an intellectual necessarily means you are smart. I have explained it like this for years. I would rather hear or tell a story about a boy hitting a homerun than to hit a homer myself. I have enjoyed fly fishing for a long time. I am afraid I can longer negotiate the rough stream banks. But I can still enjoy fishing in my memories and imagination.
So how do I pray for my cancer, and my life for that matter? I pray what David prayed in Psalm 138. “Lord, fulfill your purpose for me.” If God allows me to live when I can no longer write, then I hope I can still pray for people around me. And I pray that He will be glorified in me however He brings that about.
He asks for prayers for discernment in their ministry towards locals, so that they invest their resources strategically for the Kingdom according to Christ's leadership and not their own understanding. He also asks for prayer for the salvation of his family, especially his siblings, both brothers and sisters.
We live in a day and age where many people exercise for health, appearance, and happiness. Many who do so wear heart rate devices to monitor the speed of their heart rate as they run or work out. If the rate is too high or low, they change pace to bring it into a safe or more comfortable range to prevent injury or worse.
But how do we check our spiritual heart rates? Has someone developed a device that will do such a thing?
If such a device exists, would we be scared to own something that shows us the rate our spiritual heart beats for God? What if it showed a heart beating faster for something or someone other than God? What would we do?
God has given us at least three such devices- and the good news (or bad news; if you fear having such accountability) is that we already have them. There's no purchase to make!
Our first spiritual heart rate monitor is the Holy Spirit. We who've already received Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior know the Holy Spirit dwells within us (Romans 8:5-17). He resides within to help us worship God throughout each day. He points out sin areas in our hearts that must be addressed before He will work more fully and completely within and through us (Galatians 5:16-25). He also helps align our hearts with His heart, God the Father's, and Jesus' heart- so that we can know what to do, and how to pray, moment-by-moment throughout each day.
Our second spiritual heart rate monitor is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God has given us His Word to help quicken our spiritual heart rates toward Him, His creation, and others (all pointing our hearts back to worshiping God for who He is). Without reading and applying God's Word into our lives each day, we quickly can become spiritual couch potatoes; unhealthy and out of shape to serve God or others. Spiritual couch potatoes absorb God's glory and poorly reflect it back to Him. They struggle or fail as fruitful witnesses to others who need to come into a personal relationship with God. They can exhibit slow, or sometimes even hard-to-notice, heart rates toward God or others.
Healthy time and prayer in God's Word (and with the empowering of the Holy Spirit) quickens the heart for the Father, increases awe in who He is, and motivates the Christian to both watch for God working around them daily, and witness as He provides opportunities to do so.
Our third spiritual heart rate monitor comes in the form of other Spirit-filled, Word-grounded, Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25). These Christians exhibit healthy beating hearts and lives as they pray, serve, and train (disciple) others around them. They aren't actors, but are living fully in the joy, power, love, grace, and truth of God and His Word. These Christians are eager to help others freshly taste and see that He is good- in every day and every way; making disciples of Jesus out of others around themselves. Proverbs 27:17 also sums it up well. "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
Heart Check Time
Have you checked your spiritual heart rate monitors recently/today? Are you willing to believe what they say?
What are your spiritual heart monitors saying? Is your heart beating quickly in God's presence (worshiping, praising, and thanking Him for who He is and for specific things you see Him doing in and around you)?
Is your heart rate slow; maybe barely beating? Does it seem like a lot of time has passed since you've dwelt in His presence; worshiping, watching, or quietly listening for His voice as you worship Him in your heart?
God desires that our hearts beat quickly and only for Him. He is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:23-24). Our hearts quicken as we seek Him, worship, and allow our hearts to be filled with awe and wonder of who He is (by His Word, Spirit, and the witness of other Christ-centered people).
Take some time right now to ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and assess your heart rate (Psalm 139:23-24). If it's not where He'd (or you'd) like it to be, don't beat yourself up or become frustrated. Instead, confess whatever needs to be confessed to God. Realign your heart with His as He instructs, and allow Him to fill you with His joy, presence, fullness, and more that will quicken your heart rate for Him and reflect his glory outward to others as well. As you do, others will begin to see more and more of Jesus within you!
Continue checking your spiritual heart rate throughout each day. It's a vital way to live a healthy and Christ-honoring life moment-by-moment!
"Since hardening of the attitudes typically sets in long before hardening of the arteries,
I must pursue those calisthenics of spiritual consecration that make me vibrant within."
"The Old Man in the Mirror"
Yesterday, I turned 54. It is truly hard to believe I am one year away from that golden age where AARP torments me with their recruitment tactics and restaurants give me the old-wrinkled-guy special.
How did this happen? Just yesterday I was playing baseball with my buddies in the neighborhood park, enjoying dodge ball on the playground, running the mile relay in junior high, and catching touchdowns in high school. Just moments ago I was traveling on a singing team for my college, inspiring my peers as their Student Body President, and cramming for a theology exam in seminary.
Was it really almost 30 years ago that Rosemary and I exchanged vows? Can all our children really be in their 20s? Where did all those years escape when I was the young pastor, performing weddings for the children of those “mature” parents?
Alas, reality prevails. I have become that decrepit dude who has reached the age of balding, bifocals, bulging, and bunions. I thought only geriatric white-hairs in wheelchairs were grandfathers. Yet, I am one... twice.
The Old Man in the Mirror
If mirrors did not exist, I would be 35. It was Satchel Paige who asked, “How old would you be if you did not know how old you were?” My answer is still 35.
Paige also said, “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” I am working on that part. Just last week I was talking to a guy who looked pretty old. As we conversed, I noticed how worn his face was. His eyes had bags underneath. He looked like he had logged a good number of miles on his body. I felt a little sorry for him until he made some comment about his age, which happened to be five years less than mine. At my next opportunity, I looked at my face in the mirror. Let’s just say, it’s been on my mind ever since.
Grace to Choose
So, now I have a choice. I can become a grumpy old “prayer man” or I can trust God for the grace to make the rest of my life the best of my life. Thank God for the grace to choose door number two.
Of course, there are many other choices that accompany that one. I must choose to regulate my diet and reduce my portions. I can get serious again for the 100th time about exercise. I can even scrub the moon-crater-like pores on my nose and put some kind of magic lotion on my face to wage my losing war on these obstinate wrinkles.
Most importantly, I must make some spiritual choices. Paul, who really knew how to finish the race, said, “Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Since hardening of the attitudes typically sets in long before hardening of the arteries, I must pursue those calisthenics of spiritual consecration that make me vibrant within.
A Vision of Vibrancy
I love the biblical vision of the best kind of aging where it says, “Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (Psalm 92:13-15). While I cannot control the creep of crow’s feet and the appearance of age spots, I can cultivate the character of a fully-alive inner man that is fresh, flourishing, and fruitful until my final breath.
The Eternal Exercise Plan
First, I can exercise my feet, standing firm, “planted in the house of the Lord.” I find it sad when people mature physically but shrink into spiritual pygmies because they stop choosing to plant their lives in the place of passionate worship. I want to keep “pressing on” in my pursuit of God in my everyday practice of His presence. Someday, I want to be that old dude who the young people laugh at (but secretly admire) because he is unrestrained and cuts loose in worship, even if he looks like a "doofus." I don’t want to stay home and watch “senior citizens' church” as long as I can stand among the godly with my heart soaring in His presence in the courts of our God.
Second, I can exercise my tongue, “declaring that the Lord is upright.” When this kind of praise frames the substance of my speech there is little room left to whine about the parts that don’t work and complain about my pain.
Third, I can exercise my heart,trusting fully that “He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Of course, energy wanes, days get lonely, and the scoreboard of significance becomes blurred – but the Lord is still my security and there is no unrighteousness in Him. I will trust and obey these great truths – and be happy in Jesus.
Finally, I can exercise my eyes, focusing on the reality of eternal significance, not just the earthly vapor of this physical life. Paul says it this way: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). As a child I sang, “Be careful, little eyes, what you see.” As I approach the finish line I must sing, “Be careful, little eyes, HOW you see.”
A Birthday Resolution
Thank God that, in Christ and by His grace, every birthday can find me standing firm in worship, speaking loudly in praise, and trusting boldly in the One who is my rock and righteousness. And every day, I can see the world through the eyeglasses of eternity, even when I look at that old man in the mirror.
Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
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