“I Will Be With You!”–Why a Resilience in Reliance is So Necessary

It’s just been one of those months!

November, which started out well being on mission in Trinidad and Tobago, has turned out to be a most difficult month physically. The virus that turned into pneumonia which kept me out for longer than I ever anticipated, left me feeling rather useless, frustrated, and discouraged. My days are usually filled with study, meetings (both formal and informal), and working on my dissertation on Spurgeon in the evenings. In running up to the Trinidad missions trip, we were preparing for a leaders retreat along with a Stay Pure conference in the evenings during the week. Plus, I knew that sleeping on this missions trip would be difficult given the heat and humidity.

When we sat on the plane coming back (a six-hour redeye flight over the Caribbean), I spent four of those six hours with chills so bad that I couldn’t shake them off. I arrived back home with a 101.7 temperature. Then the virus. Then the pneumonia.

By God’s kind providence, I came across a quote from none other than Charles Spurgeon:

“Health is set before us as if it were the great thing to be desired above all other things. It is so? I would venture to say that the greatest blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness. Sickness has frequently been of more use to the saints of God than health has. If some men, that I know of, could only be favoured with a month of rheumatism, it would, by God’s grace, mellow them marvelously.”

C. H. Spurgeon, “The Minister in These Times” in An All-Round Ministry (Banner of Truth, 2000), p. 384

I confess, sickness is seldom seen as a blessing—I know I did not see it as such. Yet, sickness is often used in Scripture as a teacher in a way health could never be (read the book of Job). All through the Gospels, sickness brought about a desperation to seek out the Savior for comfort and relief. But I believe the greatest lesson sickness shows us is that we are not superhuman. We need rest, we need help, we need… well… we need Christ!

God did not ever promise to take away our sickness, but He did promise to always be with us no matter our situation. From Moses, to the prophets, to those in Exile in Babylon, to the disciples in the Great Commission, to Hebrews, to the end of Revelation, the abiding promise from God is (in one form or another) is, “I will be with you!” Sickness always develops resilience in reliance—a decided maturity in relying on Christ for all things.

Processing the John Crist Confession

As many of us have read, the news of Christian comedian John Crist and his accusations of sexual harassment and using his status as a celebrity to manipulate other women, followed by his confession, have (once again) seen a Christian personality in the news again for egregiously sinful behavior and sent shock waves through the Christian community and beyond.

I say “shock waves”–yet each time something of this nature happens, the crests of those “waves” are lower and lower each time. For many of us, we become more guarded when it comes to whom we follow. Ed Stetzer’s words reflect many of our thoughts:

“Disappointed, yes, but unfortunately my ability to be surprised by these stories ran out long ago. Apparently, there is no end to the public failures of Christian leaders and influencers.”

Ed Stetzer, “John Crist, Failure, and Warnings to Heed for Christian Leaders.”

Crist penned a confession and has cancelled the rest of his 2019 tour dates.

Personally, I liked most of Crist’s work. As one who has spent a lifetime in church world, and the last almost 28 years in ministry in church world, much of what Crist performed was a spot-on parody of this niche in our culture that kept everything lighthearted. Even now, as I think of some of his stand-up and videos, I smile.

But now those smiles are turned to sadness–and to prayer that he (and all of us) will see a number of things:

  • We must pray for the victims who, by all accounts, tried to let others know, but were shunned in some fashion. We must continue to take these allegations seriously, do our due diligence, then act on the truth. And while the investigation is taking place, put them on leave (if you’re in a church setting) until the investigation is complete.
  • God knows our most private thoughts and sins, which will find us out. What we do in private affects us in public–it’s subtle, but significant. “Sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you” (Genesis 4:7). Satan is a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, so we must resist him (1 Peter 5:8).
  • The ambition toward being a celebrity can be a curse for those whose heart is geared toward that ambition. Many toil in the work of the Kingdom, but inwardly desire to a “somebody” in church world and beyond. Be careful for what you ask.
  • Martin Luther tells us that the Christian life is a daily life of repentance. We pray for the work of the Spirit in John Crist’s life, yes, and we continue to pray for the work of the Spirit in our own lives–every single day. The goal is not for Crist to get back on the circuit, but for him to repent of his sins, confess those sins to the ones he victimized, and stay under the guidance and accountability of a local church and their pastors/elders.
  • Pray for your leaders and influencers in the Christian community. The temptations they (we) face are numerous. Paul continually asked for prayer (Ephesians 6:17-20; Colossians 4:2-6, et al) not only for the Word to go out, for the Spirit to work within!

Christ comes along to teach us much–sometimes through successes, sometimes through failure. Pray for John–and process these lessons in your own hearts as well.