Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Joni Eareckson Tada says no matter what you’re facing you need God’s grace.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Oh, I want to be where God’s grace is. God’s grace, the desire and the power to do His will, the desire and the power to obey is sufficient for my paralysis and for your pain and problems, for your struggling marriage or singleness, for your debt and job, because Jesus Christ is your co-laborer. And all this stuff called suffering; I mean, He has been tempted and tested and tried. He is with you. He is worth it all.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, May 25.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I have to be honest and tell you that sometimes when I’m tackling difficult ministry projects or deadlines, I get discouraged. Sometimes I get weary, and sometimes I feel like throwing in the towel. I'm just sharing the truth. You probably feel like that at times yourself.

But when I’m facing those experiences, God often brings to my mind the example of my sweet friend, Joni Eareckson Tada. As you probably know, when Joni was a teenager she suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of a dive, which left her confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. I’ve known Joni now for many years, and when I think of her faithfulness and God’s grace in her life, God often uses that picture of Joni to encourage me to keep going in the race, regardless of whatever difficulty or obstacle I may be facing.

When we began planning the first True Woman Conference back in 2008, we invited Joni to come and speak, and she agreed. But as the conference date grew closer she began experiencing debilitating pain and at the last minute was not able to travel to Chicago for the conference.

At the time, Joni was so disappointed, but she graciously agreed to record her message for us on video. We showed that video at the historic, first True Woman Conference. I can just think back to that evening where we showed her message. It was a powerful moment as Joni spoke of God’s amazing grace, demonstrated in the midst of her physical weakness.

We are going to hear that message today to give you a sense of what it will be like when Joni will speak at the True Woman Conference this year. She'll be with us at True Woman '12, Lord willing, this September 20-22 in Indiapolis. To get more details on that conference, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com. Now, let's hear from Joni.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Not far from the farm in Maryland where I grew up was this stone quarry; they called it Sylvan Dell. When I was little, my sisters and I would ride our horses by there all the time. But Daddy told us to be very careful to stay on the trail because the ground not twenty feet from the path dropped into this sheer cliff that plunged to the bottom of the quarry.

This quarry was a busy place. There were steam shovels, trucks moving rocks, which became flagstone for the new housing developments going up near the farm. The quarry was noisy—a lot of hammering, a lot of dust, a lot of work and sweat. But that quarry produced flagstone and some pretty beautiful Maryland quartz crystal.

I mean we would ride our horses along the trail and on either side of the bridal path there would be these little bits of sparkly quartz scattered everywhere, all shiny and glittering and dazzling. When I was a kid, I thought we were walking on diamonds, like somebody had opened a treasure chest and scattered precious jewels everywhere, like really walking on real gems.

The Bible talks about this very thing—glittering, dazzling, glorious. In Malachi 3:16, it describes how the Lord has a book in which all the names of those who love Him are written down. He calls these people His jewels. So we become jewels that glitter, I mean really shine.

Well these ladies, I don’t think this group is into "bling," but I know if I want a rock like say my diamond wedding ring to dazzle, I’ll ask my get-up girl in the morning to take my toothbrush and scrub my ring, because a real stone like this one can take a good scrubbing. Jewelry is not as delicate as we think.

So God gets out His toothbrush and says in Zechariah chapter 13, verse 9, “I will refine them like silver, and I will test them like gold.” That’s me. What can I say? I long. I desire. I want to be a jewel that does not cringe if God chooses to give my soul a hard scrubbing every now and then.

Now, I’m not glorifying the suffering it takes to polish my faith. But ladies, I am glorifying the God whose image is reflected on the surface of any smile, my smile that might be hard fought for through pain or problems. If you want God’s glory to be your shine, girls, it’ll be on His terms. His glory will be the glow of His godliness in your life, His patience and perseverance, courage and the conviction that the Father is worth trusting and obeying.

No matter how painful the trial, His terms call for you to be refined like silver and for me to be tested like gold. That is something over forty years in a wheelchair has shown me. Like a good chunk of rock straight out of the quarry, my soul is not as delicate as I would like to think. Sometimes I say, "Lord, it's quadriplegia, don't be too hard on me." My soul can stand a good scrubbing because I have not arrived. Like this week when I had to call Nancy and tell her that I could not be with you, when pain was blindsiding me. It was obvious to me that God thinks my soul can still take a good scouring.

And with this pain I struggle with claustrophobia and fear. Claustrophobia thinking that it’s going to get worse, and fear that it’s not going to go away, that it’s not going to get better. I know you can identify. I mean, you’ve got problems that never go away. You pray. You plead until your knees get sore, yet the pinched nerve doesn’t heal, the pregnancy test doesn’t come back positive, the multiple sclerosis doesn’t halt. Your teenager keeps sneaking drugs. Your parent’s Alzheimer’s doesn’t regress. The marriage doesn’t get better. The job promotion never comes, and the engagement ring never arrives.

Well, my paralysis never went away. Job was right when he said man was born to trouble. Jesus was right when He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” And ladies, trouble is the textbook that will teach you who you really are. Trouble is what squeezes the lemon inside of you. That squeezed lemon that keeps revealing the stuff that you are made of. It's not very pretty.

I'll confess it. When I'm in pain, I implode; I collapse in defeat. If I let it simmer--not going to God's Word, not going to Him in prayer, I become selfish. I become impatient. I become irritated and mean-spirited. I get this, there is no better word for it, peevish, really sour attitude. You see it, plain and simple, here it is.

The core of God’s plan is to rescue us from our own sin. Yes, He did that back at the cross, but you know this whole sanctification thing, He’s got a long way to go with us.

The Father is heaven-bent on conforming us, conforming you to the image of Jesus Christ. First and foremost that means getting rid of sin. That’s the purpose behind the toothbrush. That’s the purpose behind the refining and the chipping and the polishing. So my wise and sovereign God takes one form of evil, that is suffering, and He turns it on its head to defeat another form of evil, and that’s my sin, my self-centeredness.

Girls, God is an expert at doing this. When you and I yield to His sovereign plan—I know I can’t help but cling to the man of sorrows. I cling to the cross where every ugly thing is put to death. Before I know it, my sin is sand blasted away resulting in His image shining out of my soul, tested and refined, polished, a soul that glows with the glory of God.

Look girls, be grateful for God’s sovereignty because if He weren’t in control, evil would come barreling at us uncontrolled. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t know about you, but I’m not for that. I’m happy to leave this issue of sovereignty in the hands of a wise and a good God, a God who uses suffering like one of those skilled hammer men back at the Sylvan Dell quarry. God is wielding suffering to break apart your rocks of resistance and mine.

Suffering is His chisel in His hand that chips away my pride and your stiff-necked stubborn rebellion. The hurting and the hammering is not going to end until we become completely like Jesus and until we completely reflect that marvelous image of our precious, precious Jesus Christ.

I have a girlfriend, Melanie, who when she discovered she was pregnant with a child with multiple disabilities, she collapsed into her husband’s arms and cried, “Oh, things are never going to be the same!” to which he wisely replied, “Well honey, maybe God doesn’t want things to be the same.”

It’s true. He doesn’t. For instance, last night things weren’t the same. I changed. I did last night. I should explain how.

I was in the bed in the middle of the night, and I was awakened by stabbing pain, and I thought, “Oh God, no. Not this. I can’t reach for Vicodin. I can’t wake up my husband. I cannot do this, not now.”

But in the next instant girls, I decided to grit my teeth and drastically obey rather than collapse and implode in selfishness and fear and claustrophobia. I began whispering the Word of God in my anxious heart, calming that fear and claustrophobia.

I mean, I’ve got an arsenal of songs memorized, snippets of Scripture like Psalm 119:153-54, “Oh God, look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.”

And you know what? In the quiet of the night He delivered me. I yielded to Him, and He changed me. He gave me courage, and suddenly I had this peace that passes all human understanding. I became better for all that battering.

When I woke up this morning, my character looked a little different. It took on a different shape. I was slightly transformed from glory to glory. And girls, growing in the Lord happens exactly that way. I mean, you don’t sit in front of a Bible and just hope that it happens to you through osmosis. No!

When you obey in small and great ways, that’s when you change. You begin feeling this sense of freedom, freedom from the bondage of sin and self, plus you experience a sense of destiny. You become the Christian that God has destined you to be.

I am more the Joni Eareckson Tada that God has destined me to be since I obeyed last night and whispered the Word of God. I’m a little more unique now. I’m unlike any other jewel written in the book of the Father.

The simple formula is described in 1 John chapter 2 where it says there, “If anyone obeys his word God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Christ” (v. 5). And the good news is, God is the master jeweler. He rules. He orders. He commands. And He is happy to do good toward you.

Just remember that His idea of good is to make you more like Jesus. And if our Savior learned obedience through the things He suffered, should the Master expect less from you and me?

In Jeremiah chapter 32 God says, “I will rejoice in doing them good. With all my heart”—get this—“and with all my soul” (v. 41). I mean heart and soul God is happy to give you and me more than enough help from His hand, abundantly more. And if grace abounds where sin abounds as the Bible says, then grace abounds where suffering abounds.

Oh, I want to be where God’s grace is. God’s grace, the desire and the power to do His will. The desire and the power to obey is sufficient for my paralysis and for your pain and problems, for your struggling marriage or singleness, for your dead-end job, because Jesus Christ is your co-laborer. And all this stuff called suffering . . . I mean, He has been tempted and tested and tried. He is with you. He is worth it all.

Therefore, as it says in Hebrews chapter 12:12: “Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet so that the lame might not be disabled but healed.”

Ladies, I’m healed. Health and wholeness, maturity and completeness will be totally mine one day, and it’ll be yours. Then the hammer and the chisel will be put away and just two minutes in heaven will be worth it all.

Maybe you feel as though someone were taking a gigantic toothbrush and scrubbing your soul raw today, and it hurts. It’s hard. You wince at the pain and the disappointment. I’m with you in that. But let me remind you, you are not as delicate as you think. “For to this you have been called,” it says in 1 Peter chapter 2:21, “because Christ suffered for you leaving you an example so that you might follow in his steps.”

You’re not a piece of flagstone. You’re not just quartz crystal. You are silver. You are gold. If you want to know who God’s brightest jewels really are, you know the ones who really sparkle, then the answer is in Matthew chapter 20. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. Just as the son of man did not come to be served but to serve.” (v. 27)

If you want to be first in the Kingdom, if you aspire to be a jewel in Christ’s crown (oh boy, do I aspire to be that), then do not focus on the hammer in your own life. Look at the sandblasting that’s happening in the lives of others. Let’s help them. Let’s serve them. Let’s look out for their interests.

Yes, I have a wheelchair, but I tell you, there are eighteen million other disabled people in the world who don’t have a wheelchair, who don’t the Word of God. So I consider it the highest privilege that God asks much of me, that I travel and share the good news of Jesus to give wheelchairs to needy disabled people in places like Peru or Poland or China or Cuba.

And if God expects me, a quadriplegic, to be actively engaged in my own sanctification; I mean if God expects me to give much, what does He expect of you? If you want to increase your capacity for joy, if you want to increase your service and worship in heaven, if you want to enlarge your eternal estate, then do not focus on the bite of the chisel in your life.

Focus on others who need to be quarried out of the dust and the dirt of this world.

  • You help them.
  • Minister to them.
  • Serve them.
  • Look out for their interests.

During a recent visit to the Baltimore, Maryland area, my husband and I drove down the old road which still borders Sylvan Dell Quarry. Some years ago that quarry filled up with water from an underground spring. The trucks have fallen quiet. The steam shovels have left.

We pulled over and stopped our car on the side of the road to just listen; rolled down the windows. The woods were utterly quiet except for birds calling. Boy, that’s something we never heard when the quarry was active and we used to go horseback riding there.

But sitting there in that peace and serenity, it was like a slice of heaven. Just to feel the quiet reminded me of 1 Kings chapter 6. It says there, “In building the temple”—get this—“only blocks dressed at the quarry were used. And no hammer, no chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built” (v. 7).

Do you get that ladies? God wanted the building of that temple to be a picture of preparation for heaven. So God told King Solomon that all the stones for that temple should be chiseled back at the quarry, back at the worksite with the all the trucks and the steam shovels, not near the temple.

That’s a picture of the way God is fitting you for heaven. If you are a member of Christ’s family, you are a living stone being built into a holy temple. This world is God’s worksite. This world is His very noisy, very dusty quarry. We are being mined out of the stone pit of earth. It is a place of noise and hammering and sweat and work and chiseling and pain.

God is using your afflictions to shape you so that you might fit perfectly into heaven’s landscape where there will be no more hammer, no more chisel, nothing that bites or causes pain, no other iron tool, where there is no suffering, only serenity. No pain, no sorrow, no tears, no death.

Because we know that our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us a glory in eternity that far outweighs them all, we don’t waste our sufferings. No. We are believers who want to partner with God. I want you to join me in getting rid of sin and serving others because friend, you are not an ordinary pebble with no purpose.

Zechariah chapter 9:16 says that you will—get this; I love this verse—“You will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.” And if you want more evidence, Matthew chapter 13:43 tops that. It says, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the father.”

One day I’m going to shine. One day you’re going to sparkle in His land. You will shine like the sun. The point God wants us to consider is 1 Peter chapter 4:1, where it says, “He who has suffered in the flesh is done with sin.”

My suffering is helping to put behind me the self-focused Joni and to mature into the Joni the Lord has destined me to be—honed and polished by years of quadriplegia. I mean, look, you’ve already experienced trouble in this world, right? Most likely you’re already dealing with pain and disappointment. Why not make certain it has a purpose?

So agree with God to leave behind your sin, would you? Don’t waste your suffering. Don’t waste your life. And certainly do not waste it on dry religion for only Jesus Christ has the words of life. If you yield to Christ and embrace Him as Lord and Savior, He’ll make sure the trouble you face is worth it because He knows how to handle the chisel. He’s got a crown in mind for you.

Right now, if you are not a believer (and you know who you are), maybe you were dragged here to this conference by your girlfriend who registered you without you even knowing it. Maybe she grabbed you by the elbow and here you are listening to all these people talking about the Lord Jesus.

Well, if you’re not a believer, I want you to become one right now. Pray, “Dear Lord Jesus, I realize I have lived my life far from You. And I see now that I need You. I have disobeyed You. I have turned my back on You. And I don’t want to live that way anymore.

"Please come into my life Lord Jesus, my heart, my mind, my spirit, make me the person You have destined me to be. I want to experience the life You’ve promised. Forgive me for my sin. Forgive me for being so distant. Forgive me for being calloused toward You in the past. Help me to turn from my wicked ways and live.

"I invite You to be Lord of my life and sit on the throne of my heart. And thank You for the difference that You’re going to make in my life. In Your precious name, amen."

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, Joni Eareckson Tada has been providing much needed perspective on the challenges we all face. She delivered that message by way of video at the True Woman in 2008.

If you just prayed with Joni to place your faith in Christ, or you’d like to know what a right relationship with God looks like, I hope you’ll give us a call. We’d like to send you some material to help you grow in your new-found faith in Christ. We’ll send it to you at no charge. Just call us at 1-800-569-5959.  

I'm thrilled to say that Joni Tada, Lord willing, will be joining us at True Woman '12. This is a great chance to hear from a woman who is true hero of the faith. She’ll join me and other speakers, such as Mary Kassian, Janet Parshall, Priscilla Shirer, and others.

I hope you’ll join us at True Woman '12, in Indianapolis, September 20-22. For all the details how you can register, how you can get a group to register, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture was taken from the New International Version.

 

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