What’s Good about Disease

Week before last I had a bad head cold. You probably know the kind I’m talking about – so clogged up at night you can’t breathe, which makes you breathe through your mouth, which causes incoming air to tickle your throat so you cough, so you can’t sleep. Sore throat, achy joints, blah blah blah. Miserable.

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As the cold began to pass and I was getting some relief, I posted this on FaceBook:

One thing that’s positive about having a miserable head cold is that it makes you appreciate NOT having a miserable head cold.

That’s a hidden blessing in illness and disease. It makes us more appreciative when things are working right.

When you stop and think about it, it’s truly a miracle when everything in our body is working at the same time. Did you realize that, barring disease, your heart will beat 2.52 billion times over the course of 70 years (36 million beats a year, 98,630 per day, 4110 per hour, all based on the average heart rate of 68 bpm). Your heart will beat that many times WITHOUT A BREAK. What appliance or piece of technology can match that reliability? And is a realistic expectation that my heart, or any other part of my body, is going to function perfectly 100% of the time?

Some consider the eye the most complex part of the body, so it should come as no surprise that there are over 60 documented eye diseases – 60 ways for these complex organs to NOT work correctly. Here’s one you probably never heard of: Choroideremia. It’s a rare disorder that causes progressive loss of the choroid, an important layer under the retina that is responsible for some of its blood supply.

Before this research, I never heard of a choroid. I never thought about the fact that blood has to flow into my eye. (I guess it’s necessary even when my eyes are not bloodshot.) Do you see what I mean? Our bodies are so complex it’s a miracle when they work right at all. David’s words in the Psalms are absolutely true:

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.

-Psalm 139:14

When our bodies are working right, it should spark a sincere gratitude toward the great God Who made us so well. When a body part fails to function correctly, or when we are attacked by dis-ease, let it serve as a reminder to be thankful for the other parts that ARE working right, and make us doubly grateful when the disease passes and we are whole once again.

Question: What can you be thankful for today, beyond what’s not working?

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Jesus Rode a Donkey

Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, not a stallion.

Donkeys aren’t as impressive as horses. Horses are powerful, purposeful, majestic. Donkeys are so…ordinary.

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When I think of donkeys, I think of the goofy sidekick in Shrek, or the goofy mascot for the old show “Hee-Haw.” Donkeys don’t typically inspire awe or respect.

If Jesus were entering Jerusalem today, I wonder if He might choose an AMC Gremlin with wood panels instead of a black Escalade.

For some reason, the prophet said we should be excited about this:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
– Zechariah 9:9

I must admit, I think I get more excited when I see a black Escalade. “Who might that be? Is it someone famous? Can I get my picture taken with them?”

But it’s more impressive to see Someone Who is truly powerful not flaunting it, but walking in humility.

It’s more impressive to see a King Who uses His power to serve others rather than Himself.

It’s more impressive to see a donkey at work, carrying the Savior of the world.

Among the more tangible demonstrations of humility in history, we see Jesus arriving in a stable to a poor peasant girl, stooping down to wash His disciples’ feet, and riding a donkey when He arrives as King.

If Jesus had ridden a stallion, it would have sent the message that He was going to use His power to serve His own purposes. By riding a donkey, He set the stage to use His power as the ultimate sacrifice.

It begs the question, am I spending more time trying to look impressive, or am I content to make the impression that God designed me to make?

Am I taken in by others’ external appearance, or do I appreciate the truly important things in life, like righteousness and salvation from sin?

This Holy Week, I am thankful that Jesus came not to make us ooh and ahh, but to bring us new life. I don’t need a fancy empty package – I need the salvation of my soul.

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The Engine Behind Your Work

We all love to succeed in our work, whether it’s a paid job or tasks around the house. I don’t know many people who set out at the beginning of a day hoping to fail at their to-do list. But the motivations behind that success vary widely – some are positive and some negative.

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I began a new position on January 1 of this year. It’s exciting, scary, and opens up new possibilities to see what God might do in and through my life. Because there is a new level of responsibility, I recognize that I have been pushing myself to work harder than in past positions, putting in more hours, having more conversations, doing more planning.

That’s all well and good, but recently in my time with the Lord I was prompted to reflect on what’s driving me to work so hard. I realized that there are two possible engines that push us to work hard: drivenness and diligence. They might appear similar on the outside, and even produce similar results, but they feel very different on the inside.

Driven

Drivenness follows fear. Fear of failure, fear of incompetence, fear of appearing lazy, fear of actually being lazy. These fears drive us to put in more hours, make more people happy, check one more task off the to-do list.

Driven people look productive, and they often are, but internally they are a churning mess of anxiety which is not sustainable over the long haul. Fear tends to short-circuit our brains and impede our decision-making ability, so while driven people may look really busy on the outside, the truth is they may not be making wise decisions or working efficiently.

Diligent

Diligence flows from faith. Faith that your education, experience, and temperament are God-given and perfectly matched to accomplish a particular calling. Faith that the God Who called you to your work will equip you to carry it out.

Diligence is held up in the Scriptures as a virtue, contrasted with laziness:

“The hand of the diligent will rule,
while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”
-‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬
 
“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”
-‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭13:4‬ ‭ESV‬
 

Diligence is defined as “constant in effort to accomplish something.” Driven is similar, but significantly different: “being under compulsion, as to succeed or excel.” We refer to compulsion as a disorder, as though something outside us is driving us to do what we do. Diligence carries a calmer sense that flows from a settled inner faith.

So what is your engine? Give some thought to the difference next time you are at work, or even tackling a project at home. Drivenness follows fear, but diligence flows from faith. If you find yourself fearful, identify what you’re afraid of and then bring it to God – let Him melt away your fear by faith. Then you can move forward with calm and productive diligence.

Question: How do you move from driven to diligent in your work?

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