Monday, June 15, 2009

WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED

Message preached on Sunday, May 3, 2009

How would you define what essentials are? They are things one cannot do without. Life would not be sustainable without essentials. People have two kinds of essentials that they need met. Some are material essentials and others are emotional essentials.


Last year I had a regular eye check up. The doctor hinted that I had the very beginnings of cataracts in my eyes. To my question about what precautions I could take to slow down their progress, he said that there was nothing to be done. He did say that there was no urgency. It could take a year or ten or twenty for them to mature.

Elishba (my daughter), now a medical student, insisted that I get a second opinion. So I went to a doc who had a much bigger setup. At the second clinic not only was I made to wait for three hours past my appointment, but the doctor pretended I could be a candidate for glaucoma and wanted to do a more expensive test.

The special clinic was far away from my home. While I was trying to arrange for someone to take me there and bring me back, one of the members of the church asked me if I would be willing to wait until she got me an appointment with a doctor she knew. I was only too happy to get out of the clutches of the doctor who wanted to do the glaucoma test.

The doctor my member took me to has a nice place. The clinic is run very professionally and people from different socio-economic levels come to him. There were several examination tables and special instruments.

The preliminary tests started on schedule and within half an hour I was sitting in front of the specialist. There were three instruments in a row. The doc was behind the instruments and he rolled his chair from instrument to instrument as he saw his patients. While I was waiting for my turn, I heard him counselling the woman at the next machine.

The woman had had some surgery earlier, but she said that her scalp felt funny and she had frequent headaches. One good thing about this doctor was that, unlike most doctors I’ve known, he would take time and trouble to explain things to patients using understandable terms.

In the case of the woman, the doctor explained that pain is largely a non-physical feeling. Most of the time it had no real cause but people would worry themselves and think pain into existence. He assured the woman that her surgery was a success and there was nothing wrong with her eyes physically. So, said the doctor, the uneasiness and pain that she was experiencing were merely some negative feelings that were making her think that there was something wrong. He told her that if she insisted he could prescribe some medication for her, but she really didn’t need it.

The doctor then told the woman that she needed just two things in her life: shukhar (gratitude) and sabar (patience). As I sat there listening to the doctor I thought to myself, “This doc should be a pastoral counsellor.” What the doctor had prescribed are the emotional essentials of our lives.

Gratitude

When you are not grateful, then you feel that you are a person who “is deserving”—who deserves better. You are guilty of having the attitude that God owes you. Instead of appreciating all of the grace that crowds your life, your attitude leads people to think that God hasn’t done enough for you according to all that you deserve. Truth is, we deserve nothing. The only thing we deserve is punishment for being rebellious toward God by our repeated acts of disobedience. To then claim that we deserve better from God is not just ingratitude, but despising His grace.

The second aspect of the ungrateful is that they suffer from a sense of destitution. They face their situation of need and/or problems with a sense of being all alone. They feel that God isn’t there for them. They are not atheists, but they might as well be. They don’t say that there is no God, but they say that God is not there in their own lives. They are practical atheists.

Someone who is ungrateful is a desecrated person. The ungrateful look at their lives and feel that they are not consecrated and blessed. Indeed they are, but they just don’t feel blessed. Instead of feeling that they are consecrated under God’s will and blessing, they feel that their lives are unblessed. This is the surest way to lose God’s blessing.

Ten men with leprosy were healed by Jesus. Nine never came back to acknowledge that they had been blessed. Jesus remarked that the one who came back was the least likely one—a despised, ostracised outcast of a man:

One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you” (Lk.17:15-19, TM).
Someone pointed it out that Christian theology is all about grace and Christian ethics is all about gratitude. We have been given grace on grace (Jn.1:16, NRSV), and there is nothing we can do in return for God’s grace, except to express gratitude. To not be grateful is to trample on grace.

Patience

When you are not patient, you distrust God. You feel that you cannot depend on Him and you must go ahead and take care of things for yourselves. There are many who feel they have to fix their own problems instead of counting on God.

On the other hand, God wants people to wait for the right time—His time.

For moderns waiting is the hardest thing to do. While we wait, we feel our time is running out. What if God doesn’t act? Meanwhile the time we could have used to do something to solve the problem is gone.

When the Israelites reached the Red Sea they despaired because they were caught between the devil of a Pharaoh and the deep blue Red Sea. God commanded Moses to hold his staff above the water and have Israel step forward on the promise that the water would part and they would walk on dry ground (Ex.14:15-16). Similarly, when they reached the flooded River Jordan, the Lord told Joshua that Israel’s priests were to march into the river bearing the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders and when the priests stepped into the water, at that very moment the flow was stopped and the people of Israel walked across without getting their feet wet (Jos.3:15-17).

Can God do that? Will He do something like that now in our day? Will He do it for me? What if He doesn’t? Maybe God wants me to take care of my problems myself. Believe me, patience is all about being patient with God and trusting God.

On the other hand, it could also show a hidden dislike for God’s methods and solutions. There are people who feel that if you left it to God, He is just going to do something unpleasant. When you are in the mood to hit back at someone, you fear that God is going to work on you and have you do something kind. Or, He may tell you that you need to endure the problem for more time. Maybe He is planning that you live with the problem. That’s the reason we want to get things in our control quickly. Waiting for God could spell trouble. Instead of God doing what we want, we would end up doing what God wants. What a dangerous position to be in.

The second thing about impatience is that there is disappointment with God. When I don’t want to wait for God, I’m also saying that God hasn’t done according to my expectations. My situation provided an opening for Him to do something. He didn’t, and I can’t wait for God anymore.

Gratitude and patience are essential in our lives if we are going to be people who are blessed and feel blessed, because in the final analysis both gratitude and patience have to do with our relationship with God. Gratitude is toward God for what He has done and keeps on doing, and patience is being patient with God waiting for Him. Without gratitude and patience, we will feel disconnected, and it is a disconnection with God. Those who are blessed don’t need to say anything to let people know they are blessed. Their lives will be marked with two deeply sublime qualities. They will show that they are deeply grateful and they have great patience.

Dag Hammarskj√∂ld, Secretary General of the UN 1953-1961 was the 1961 posthumous winner of the Nobel Prize in Peace. Hammarskj√∂ld was a godly man and he didn’t hesitate to indicate that his life had been influenced by the gospels or that he considered himself to be under God. After his death in 1963, his journal was published with the title Markings. His journal included a profound line that he is most remembered for:

For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.
Gratitude for all that has been and patience for all that will be. Say, “Yes.” Say, ”Amen, Lord.”

No comments:

Post a Comment