Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Stakes Are Higher than You Think

Leslie Basham: When life just seems awful and you don’t know when it will all end, think about eternity. Here’s Joni Eareckson Tada.

Joni Eareckson Tada: One day, friend, all this is going to be behind us. All the disease, the disability, the disappointment, the heartache, the suffering and affliction, one day it's all going to seem like some long ago, faraway half-forgotten dream. And I want you, when you depart earth and head for heaven, when your spirit rises up out of your tired and weary body, I envision the entire universe of angelic hosts standing erect and holding their breath and respect as your soul goes by. They will salute in amazement as your spirit ascends like a sweet smelling savor to God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, Nov. 15.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: How do you respond when circumstances press in on you, and it feels like your world is spinning out of control? The way that we act in those times affects those around us. We can lift them up, or we can pull them down into the mire with us.

I'm so thankful for a number of people the Lord has used to pull me up in some very difficult seasons, to encourage me when I thought I might be going under. 

I think, perhaps, the number one person who comes to mind whose been that kind of friend in my life is Joni Eareckson Tada. When I think about the circumstances she lives in and the hardship that she goes through physically after forty-seven years in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic, and then I see her singing hymns and praising the Lord, I have this wake-up moment: What am I doing down here in the pits? What am I doing being depressed or discouraged? My heart is so strengthened and made glad when I see Joni rejoicing in the Lord. She has been such a model to me and to countless others to serving the Lord with joy.

Well, I’m so glad Joni is planning on joining us next year at the True Woman 2014 conference. It’s coming up next October in Indianapolis. Joni is really a living hero of the faith, and I love to take every opportunity I can to hear the Lord speak through her. It’s a real privilege to hear Joni speak live.

Several years ago, we had asked Joni to come to a True Woman conference, and she was planning on being there with us. But as it turned out, she just was physically unable to do so. She had surgery for breast cancer and weeks before the conference she began undergoing chemotherapy.

She was so disappointed that she couldn't be there that she did agree to tape a message for our True Woman event. I called Joni the afternoon she was getting ready to record that message. She let me know that not only was she going through chemo, but she had also just been diagnosed with pneumonia and was struggling to breathe. She had just so many obstacles in trying to share this message.

But we prayed together and asked the Lord to be strong in her weakness. As you listen to the message she recorded that day, I think you'll agree that the Lord heard and answered that prayer.

This is such a powerful message that I want to encourage you, if you possibly can, to stop whatever you're doing right now so that you can focus your attention and your heart on really hearing this life message from a true woman of God.

Let's listen to Joni's message from True Woman '10.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Hi friends, and thank you for letting me bring you my message today. I was so looking forward to being with you for the Indianapolis True Woman Conference, but breast cancer has a way of ambushing the best of plans. When I was diagnosed back in June, never did I realize the extent to which chemotherapy would change so many things.

But hey, I'm so big on God's sovereignty. I have every confidence that somehow my absence will only add to the message that the Lord Jesus has put on my heart. So I want to thank Nancy Leigh DeMoss and the entire Revive Our Hearts team for inviting me to speak with you today even from this distance. You know what? If you keep your eyes on the big screen and don't be looking at the platform, it will seem like I'm right there with you, right?

Before I go any further, I just have to thank many of you who have written me to encourage me on. Lots of you have posted comments on my blog at Joni and Friends, and I have received so many emails and notes from people all around the country—cards filled with scriptures, prayers. One woman even emailed me and said, “Joni, this cancer couldn't have happened to a nicer person.”

But most, however, were like, “Joni, when I heard this news I was shocked. I mean, you're already a quadriplegic. You deal with chronic pain, and now this? I know God is good and He's in control, but Joni, I don't get it.”

When I read that, I thought about how many of us don't get "it" when it comes to getting hit broadside with suffering. I mean, we memorize all the right scriptures and we know that God is sovereign. But still, we're always surprised at the fiery trial when it comes. For instance, coming home in the van last week after another round of chemotherapy, I was feeling so sick. I was feeling so nauseous. I mean, you've got these powerful toxic drugs coursing into your system. All my life I've fought hard to keep my body healthy, and now I'm ingesting poison to kill this cancer.

Anyway, I was nauseous; I was tired and weary. Ken had on a CD in the van, and it was playing real low.

(Singing) I can only imagine what it will be like. (You know the rest of it, don't you?) Surrounded by His glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You be still? And I sat there in the back of the van, still, fighting back tears. No, I'll take that back. I was crying.

Like, I really was surprised by what a fiery ordeal this chemotherapy was. Like, “Lord, is all this just to move me up a few notches on the scale of spiritual maturity? Isn't quadriplegia and chronic pain enough? And now this cancer?”

You know as well as I do that when pain lumbers through the front door and squats right down in the middle of your life and makes itself at home day after day, year after year, you can almost crack. But as many times as I have felt like cracking, Hebrews chapter 12 keeps reminding me. Now, listen to this. It says, “You and I have yet to struggle to the point of shedding blood. So consider Him (that's Jesus) who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you (now get this) so you do not grow weary or lose heart” (vv. 4–5 paraphrased).

Jesus helps me not grow weary or lose heart. He helps me persevere. Like He says in Hebrews 10,

You need to persevere so when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith (vv. 36–38).

Now here is the scary part.

And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him [says the Lord]. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but we are those who believe and are saved (vv. 38–39).

Now that is a robust, invigorating verse to keep you focused when you feel like fainting. Because friend, I don't want to be one of those who shrink back. I don't want to be among those with whom God is not pleased. I want to be of those who believe and are saved. Yes, through quadriplegia. Yes, through pain. Yes, through cancer and chemotherapy. I want to persevere; I have to persevere.

Especially in the night when it's dark here lately. When I lie in bed . . . As you can imagine, being paralyzed, gravity is my enemy, and I can feel so claustrophobic. Yes, from the paralysis, but now here lately from the uncomfortable side effects of chemotherapy. But lying in bed awake at 2:00 a.m., I remember something that helps me to endure. I learned it long ago when I was first hospitalized after my diving accident back in 1967. And it has served me so well these many years.

It's Ephesians 3:10. Now listen to this. This is so key. This is so critical. It says there that,

[God's] intent is now, through the church [that's you and me, through us], the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.

That means at 2:00 a.m. when I cannot sleep, or when I have to wake my husband, Ken, up for the fourth time to turn me in bed. When at night I don't get it, I don't understand it all, or am surprised by the fiery ordeal, I remember Ephesians 3:10. I remember that something dynamic and electrifying is abuzz in my dark room. The unseen world in the spirit realm, all the heavenly hosts, including powers and principalities, they're watching me. They're listening to me. As I respond, they are learning about God and His character through melittle me.

And so I tell you what, lying there thinking about this I rally my senses. "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why are you so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God." (Ps. 42:11) At night, I tell you, you'll find me praying in the dark, “Oh Jesus, my emotions keep telling me to doubt. And fear is at my heart door, but I cannot succumb. I don't want to smear Your reputation. I don't want to embarrass You. I don't want to defame Your good name. So Lord Jesus, I am trusting You to pull me through. O, Lord Jesus, help the girl here in bed.”

My response to hardship is never isolated. It is never in a vacuum. Like, “Okay, so I'm home alone today and I'm really tired of this, so I'm going to be sour, and I'm going to be complaining. I'm just going to give up on the day and succumb to depression thinking no one cares or no one notices.” No. I dare not let myself go down that dark, grim path because the stakes are too high. God's reputation is on the line and that alone stops me from collapsing in defeat. My life is on display, and so is yours. It's all for God's glory.

  • When the spirit world sees God's strong arms uphold you in your weakness, the Father gets the glory.
  • When the spirit world sees God condescend to come to your aid when you are fearful, the Father gets the glory.

The angelic and dark powers of the entire universe learn how high and wide and rich and deep is His incredible mercy and power and love. They are amazed to see that it is the mighty strength of Christ's resurrection that is giving you the power to say “no” to bitterness and “yes” to grace.

  • They learn about His wisdom, His unsearchable judgments, and His ways past finding out.
  • They learn just how far His unfathomable compassion will go in stooping to lift your spirits.

In short, the spirit world watches you persevere under pressure, and you know what they think? “Oh, how great her God must be to inspire such loyalty through such suffering.” Wow. This is what it means to glorify God in your afflictions. It is a cosmic responsibility that has out-of-this-world impact.

You may think it doesn't amount to much when you hold your tongue from complaining or when you refuse to give in to fear. But when you embrace your Savior in the midst of hardship, I tell you what, it really turns up the applause meter for the Lord Jesus in heaven. The entire universe sees Him as worthy. They see Him as able. They see Him as powerful. And considering how weak and spineless we can be, they are astounded at His mercy and condescending to us.

All this is played out on the stage of your life when you graciously respond to hardship. Whether it's at your kitchen sink, whether it's in your car, whether it's at work, at home, on the way to church. I can't think of a more noble reason to persevere, can you?

Oh, there is something else about Ephesians 3:10, something that has helped me in my battle against cancer. I know that when I say “yes” to Jesus and “no” to doubts or fear or resentment, it absolutely irritates the devil. I mean, the trust you show God drives Satan up a wall. When I'm fighting nausea from the chemotherapy and feeling downhearted, I remember who is watching. God the Father and God the Son and the Holy Spirit and all His angels and a world of wicked demons.

And you know what? It makes me feel like a warrior roused by some far-off bugle from a battlefield. I feel like—and maybe you do too occasionally—I feel a little like Job, whom Satan used to taunt God saying, “That Job doesn't love You. He loves Your blessings. You're not great enough, God, to get someone to follow You on Your own merits.”

But I want my life to show that God is worth following on His own merits. And so I'm with Job. I reply, “God, though you slay me, yet will I put my trust in you” (Job 13:15). A statement like that speaks highly of Job, but it speaks far more highly of God. Nothing deflates the devil more than when God's people choose the Lord over fear and doubts and sin—when they choose their Savior over affliction and pain. And when, through tears, you whisper, “I choose you, Lord. I prefer you, Lord. I yield; I submit; I respond to you, Lord. I bow to you.”

Responding like that in your suffering? Well, it's a little like rubbing salt in the devil's wounds. So help me here, doesn't this stir the fires of the Spirit within you as it does me? I tell you what, it should, because it makes the life of the most insignificant person. Maybe you're here in the auditorium today feeling so insignificant, like how did you even get here? Like what are you even doing here?

Well, if you are feeling insignificant, your life is a battlefield on which the mightiest forces of the universe are converging in warfare, and you and I get to make God famous. We get to make Him out to be as good as He really is. To glorify God like this elevates the status of the seemingly most insignificant, lowliest Christian on earth. It lifts them to a cosmic field of warfare where the stakes are about as high and universal as you can get.

One day, friend, all this is going to be behind us. All the disease, the disability, the disappointment, the heartache, the suffering and affliction, one day it's all going to seem like some long ago, faraway half-forgotten dream. And I want you, when you depart earth and head for heaven, when your spirit rises up out of your tired and weary body, I want—I envision the entire universe of angelic hosts standing erect and holding their breath and respect as your soul goes by. They will salute in amazement as your spirit ascends like a sweet smelling savor to God.

And then watch out! Hello! The party is really going to break loose. You're going to hear those wonderful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You persevered. You endured.”

So remember, friend, each day you go on persevering through hardship, it means something. God is up to something big.

  • Yes, for the sake of your own faith.
  • Yes, for the sake of others whom you inspire and encourage along the way—people who look on and watch you.
  • Yes, for the sake of angels and demons.
  • But most of all, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Listen to this, and this is the best part. Second Corinthians 2:14–16 tells us,

Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere a fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

The world cannot see Jesus endure suffering with gladness because, well, He's not here on earth, but you and I are. We can fill up in our flesh what is lacking in His afflictions and in so doing become that sweet perfume of the aroma of Christ to God.

Oh my goodness, to think that the way I handle this cancer, the way I respond to chemotherapy in the middle of the night when I feel sick, to think that my gracious response, my saying “yes” to God and “no” to complaining, it's fanning the memory of sweet Jesus in the direction of the Father and that I might remind almighty God of the heartbreakingly beautiful way Jesus persevered through his own suffering. Oh my, oh my, what a privilege, what an honor.

It really is all about Christ, this issue of suffering.  I tell you what, friend. You can endure almost anything—paralysis, chronic pain, cancer. You can be hooked up to an IV in a chemotherapy clinic and persevere through it all if you know that Jesus, the Lord of the universe, is sitting next to you.

Jesus is the answer to your every hope and prayer and promise. Suffering has more than proved His intentions. Unlike us, Jesus will, for all of eternity, He will visibly bear his wounds to the universe and for that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will enjoy praise indescribable for all of eternity.

It is why finally on that great day you will drop to your knees when the Man of sorrows walks from His throne and approaches you. And when He comes up to you, He will have absolutely no doubt of your appreciation for Him, for He'll know what you have suffered. He'll recognize you from joining Him in the fellowship of sharing in His afflictions.

Then He reaches toward you with His nail-scarred hands. When you feel your hands in His, you're not embarrassed because your own scars, your own anguish, all those times you felt the bite of pain and affliction. All those times will have given you at least a tiny taste of what the Savior endured to purchase your redemption.

So your suffering, like nothing else, is preparing you to meet God. For what proof could you bring of your love to heaven if this life left you totally unscarred? But to your amazement, the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings in heaven is going to fade just like that half-forgotten dream I mentioned earlier.

Now finally in heaven, it is the fellowship of sharing in His joy. Joy made more wonderful by all the suffering you endured on earth and the gracious response with which you dealt with it. And oh, the pain of earth—you're going to half-sigh, but then you will smile—rising to your feet to live the life God had been preparing for you all along, and oh the delight of it all. I can't wait.

So in closing, friend, if you are tempted to throw in the towel, if you are tempted to give up or give in, if you are tempted to turn your back on Jesus, if you came here as kind of a last ditch effort hoping that at this conference something would jar you out of your spiritual insensibility, don't give in, don't give up.

Yes, life is hard, but don't throw in the towel. Consider him, Jesus, and you will not grow weary. You will not lose heart. And persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a little while, I can only imagine. In just a little while He who is coming will come and not delay. So go the distance with me, friend, because all of heaven, even the Lord of heaven, is cheering you on. God bless you. And thanks for listening.

Nancy: And thank you, Joni, for sharing so richly out of your heart and your journey with the Lord. When I’m tempted to be discouraged by my circumstances, as I often am, just thinking about Joni Eareckson Tada always cheers me on.

That's because she is always pointing us to Jesus, "Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross," He persevered all the way through to the cross so that we could have eternal life. It's only as Joni keeps her eyes fixed on Jesus is she able to endure—and not just to survive, but to thrive and to keep serving the Lord with joy even in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances.

And it's as you and I keep our eyes fixed on Christ that He will give us all that we need to run that race that He has set before us and to do it with joy.

Joni recorded that message for the True Woman '10 Conference in Indianapolis. I’m so excited to announce that Joni is making plans to join us in person in Indianapolis for True Woman '14. I’ll be there as well, along with Pastor Jim Cymbala, Janet Parshall, Mary Kassian, Angie Smith, Lauren Chandler, and others. We’ll also be join by the Chicago Tabernacle Choir, spoken word artist Blair Linne, and worship leaders Keith and Kristyn Getty.

True Woman '14 is coming October 9–11. And it’s not too early to make plans to attend now as hotels in the area will fill up quickly. I hope you’ll invite a friend or a whole group of women from your area to join you. 

Right now, until November 25, you can get $50 off each registration. That’s even better than the early bird discount. In fact, it’s the lowest registration cost for any True Woman conference we’ve had. To get in on this special sale, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Before we close today I just want to mention, a few days ago I was in email with Joni Tada. She was sharing with me about some more physical difficulties that she's been having and how she's trusting the Lord and asking Him to give her the ability to sleep well at night. So I'd like to take a moment to lead us in crying out to the Lord in behalf of this dear sister who means so much to all of us.

Lord, we do thank you for this faithful servant, Joni Eareckson Tada. We don't exalt her, but we love the Christ we have seen in her. I thank you that today as we've aired this message how you have spoken to many hearts, including my own.

Lord, right now we want to lift up this sister to you. We pray for her. We pray you would strengthen her. We pray you would touch her body and restore it. Would you give it the ability to sleep at night. Give doctors the ability to know how to really help her.

Lord, encourage her heart. Help her today to keep her eyes fixed on Jesus so she can run that race you have set before her and keep pointing us all to Christ who is our life and our joy. We pray it for Jesus' sake, amen. 

Leslie: Do you feel like the holidays are headed your way and you’re worried about handling all the busyness and pressure? Nancy gives you important perspective on handling high-pressure situations.

Join her for the series “The ABCs of Handling a Meltdown.” It starts Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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