I finished this post on perseverance on the 23rd of last month and was planning to post it the following day. But it seemed that I had another lesson on perseverance to learn and more paragraphs to add before I posted it.
I woke up that Monday morning and was not feeling well, but I stuck with my routine of Mary getting me dressed and out of bed at 7:30. I found it so difficult to breathe, much more difficult than usual when Mary removed my breathing mask. Still, like thousands of times before, I lied to myself about being a tough guy and surged ahead.
When Mary finally got me propped up in my wheelchair in front of my computer I couldn’t breathe, even after Mary put my breathing mask back on. I struggled even to open my eyes, which is a real problem when you control your computer’s mouse with eye movements.
Somehow, by God’s grace and Mary’s adrenaline rush, she got me back in bed and called my visiting nurse Practitioner, Rebecca. She came right away (she’s the best). After checking my vitals and listening to my chest, she heard fluid in my right lung. She then called for an X-ray tech to come out to look at my lungs. On my best days, only 30% of my lungs are functioning; apparently this was not one of those “best days.”
The X-rays showed that I had pneumonia in my right lung. Even with my breathing mask on, I was gasping for air through my mouth, kind of like a Goldfish just before you scoop him out of the tank and flush him down the toilet. Rebecca later determined that my kidneys were no longer functioning and that I would probably not survive the short trip to the hospital; that I would likely die of heart or respiratory failure before even arriving. I knew that she was right.
With our agreement, Rebecca handed me off to hospice. I was so relieved with our decision. To understand my relief, you have to realize that, with my skinny arms and bony hands, it usually takes several Phlebotomists to find and puncture a vein for the IV; and that’s using the tiniest of needles, the needles they use for premature babies. They try so hard to be gentle, but it’s like a torture treatment, and my arms and hands end up looking like a pin cushions. The “stab a vein” contest is just the first step of my previous hospital visits. I’ll spare you from hearing about my catheter insertion stories. I am so thankful for nurses and caregivers, especially the caregiver I’ve been married to for the last thirty-three years.
The following is the original post that I planned to post the day I got pneumonia. I’ll give a brief update on my current health condition at the bottom of the post. Thank you for reading.
Among other things, perseverance is one of the lessons Mary and I have learned through this challenging Twenty-two year battle with my having ALS. In a protracted trial, the greatest temptation is giving up. So many times, Mary and I have come to a place that continuing the fight seemed impossible, but God’s grace steps in and carries us further down our narrow, bumpy path.
Have you ever been to a place where you felt surrounded by enemies and continuing the battle seemed to be impossible?
If yes, I hope and pray this simple post will strengthen your perseverance to keep “fighting the good fight.”
The definition of perseverance:
(The) continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.
Critics of Christianity, like I once was, say that followers of Christ are weak-willed for having to rely on God for strength to go on. To this charge, I plead guilty. In every way, I am pathetically weak.
To be honest, it takes perseverance for me to get out of bed every morning. I’m comfortable, and I have my breathing mask on so I’m breathing well. It’s so tempting to stay in bed. But, except for the times I’ve been sick, it’s not a temptation I succumb to because, like all that temptations we give in to, it gets easier and easier to do so every time we face it. Thankfully, this works the other way also; when we do not give in to temptation, we find greater strength to overcome that temptation as well as other temptations we face down the road. Learning to overcome temptations, even minor temptations like saying “Shut-up” to the ice cream screaming your name from the freezer, is vital for perseverance.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Forming good habits and routines is also necessary if you are to persevere. Mary gets me dressed every morning, and, using a transfer lift to get me out of bed and dumps me into the wheelchair. She then makes me presentable and gets me set up on my computer. It’s a thirty-minute process that we have to finish before she goes into her office to start work at 8:00. This has been our routine for the last twenty-one years. Sounds very monotonous, you might be thinking. Yes; day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year – for two decades. You can see why I call my best friend and wife of thirty-three years an angel. Even though she isn’t usually angelic until after her morning devotions and a cup of coffee, which she starts at six every morning.
I don’t know if she got the joke at first, but, as was typing this post, I told Mary that perseverance is the most difficult of all virtues because it requires a whole lifetime to finally grasp.
I learned even more about perseverance writing this post. It took me so long to write what follows because I kept getting knocked off track by distractions and diversions. The truth is that I allowed those distractions and diversions to keep me from staying focused on writing this post. Do you ever allow the trivial to get in the way of the important things that you should be accomplishing? This seems to a part of our human nature.
As a devout follower of Christ and a member of the British Parliament, William Wilberforce tried and failed, for many years to put an end to the slave trade. Likely the following quote was recorded in a meeting with his fellow abolitionists. He became so ill with Colitis that he was forced to continue his fight from his bed; in so much pain that he was forced to use Morphine just to get through the day. I think he used this quote echoed through his head throughout the day:
“Our motto must continue to be perseverance. And ultimately I trust the Almighty will crown our efforts with success.”- William Wilberforce (If you’ve never seen the movie, “Amazing Grace,” the story of his, please watch it).
Followers of Christ should have a vision and goals for what we believe God wants us to accomplish in this life. To achieve these short-term and long-term goals, it takes God-given perseverance. To persevere, we must “just say no” to other things. That seems to be a hard thing to convince people of in this Twitter culture of ours. It’s something I have to recommit to every morning and usually throughout the day.
I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that the first time that the word “perseverance” appears in the Bible is in the eighth chapter of Luke, “The Parable of the Sower.” For those of you that might not know, this parable is about what followers of Christ now refer to as “The Great Commission.” It’s spreading the “Good News” to a world full of bad news. For Christians, this is, or, at least, should be, our number one priority.
In this parable, Jesus explains to the disciples that the seed being sown is the word of God – the Gospel message. He then tells them (I’m paraphrasing), “Your responsibility is to spread the word, you’re not responsible for the results you get; the hearers of your message will be held accountable for their response to hearing the message.”
When I was in sales, my boss never told me anything like that. In sales, it’s understood that, if you want a roof over your head and food on the table, you better get results. Fortunately, my dad was in sales and told me the first and most important rule to be successful in sales. This rule applies to sharing the Gospel message too: “There’s no secret to being successful in sales, the more doors you knock on, the more successful you’ll be.” I told the salesman that I managed the same thing.
Through this blog, my work as an “Online Missionary” with Global Media Outreach, and through other “fields,” I spread the Gospel message. Other than trying my best to make the “Good News” message as understandable as possible, I have no control over or responsibility for the response of the reader. “You can lead a horse to water…”
“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:16)
In this parable of the Sower, Jesus also explains that several distractions and diversions hinder the message from being received and growing inside the hearers. These same distractions and diversions are also the enemies of perseverance in the follower of Christ. You might have heard the phrase, “The world, the flesh, and the devil.” That phrase often used sarcastically, is a summary of the hindrances that Jesus lists in this parable.
The disciples didn’t understand this parable about a person casting seed the first time they heard it, so Jesus had to sit them down and explain it. It’s kind of funny to me because I can so relate to the confusion disciples.
(Jesus explains) “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God…”
(The first group hears the message) “…then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.”
(The second group hears the message) “…when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.”
(The third group hears the message) “…and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”
(The fourth group hears the message) “…these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” (Luke 8:11-15)
Notice, only the fourth and final group perseveres.
This is the difference between churchgoers and disciples of Christ. It certainly does apply to first-time “hearers of the word,” but also to those who so proudly saw themselves in the fourth group. Are you “holding firmly” (to the “seed”)? Are you “bearing fruit with perseverance?”
While reading the Bible or when praying do you ever find your thoughts wondering or find yourself worrying? Yeah, me too. Go back and read what “destroyed the seed” in the first three groups. I bet you’ll find every wondering thought that is trying to destroy your daily devotion. Among other things, discipleship is a daily battle of the thought-life. We have to stay focused like those in the fourth-group. This is perseverance.
Two-decades of being imprisoned in my body, unable even to speak, I’ve learned that I didn’t need a body or even a voice to be a disciple of Christ – being a disciple is a matter of the spirit and soul (mind, will and emotions) of man.
This kind of God-given and daily renewed kind of perseverance includes grace, joy, peace, hope, and strength to get us through the most difficult of trials and temptations; even the temptation to give up, the strongest of all temptations while in the midst of a trial.
“But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.” (Mathew 24:13)
I know that trials are a tough way to learn about perseverance and hope, and the strength of our faith. I wish there were an easier way, but only “…tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…” (Romans 5:4-5)
This is Unshakable Hope.
If you feel you are on the wrong road, go back to the foot of the cross and begin again. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve found myself taking wrong turns too many times even to remember. I went back to the cross, and Christ accepted me every time. If He accepted and forgave this pathetic creature, I know He will accept and forgive you.
“God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them. We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” C.S. Lewis
As you might have guessed, I’m still alive. Except for the brief moments I died in 2015 (it was incredible), this latest case of pneumonia was the closest I’ve come to going home. It’s now been eleven days since pneumonia tried to take me out, and, while lying in bed in pain and gasping for during the first six days, I felt like God was giving me a choice to stay or go. I had no fear, just the opposite, I had to fight the excitement of being released from this pitiful excuse for a body.
I chose to stay because I’ve been working so hard on writing a book and desperately want to finish it. Maybe only my family and friends will read the book. That is fine with me; it would have been more than worth the effort for me. This is a goal I have; it’s something to make me persevere.
I’m still on hospice; our bedroom looks like a hospital room. But I feel great, or, at least as great as a guy that’s had ALS for twenty-two years can feel. The hospice nurse told us yesterday that my lungs are clear, and, I know it’s TMI, but my kidneys are functioning great. She was able to yank out the catheter yesterday morning so, except for my feeding tube, I’m completely untethered.
I was diagnosed with ALS just weeks after my 36th birthday. The neurologist explained to Mary and I that I had 3-5 years to live and most of that time I would be voiceless and confined to a wheelchair. He was right about everything except the living 3-5 years part.
My 40th birthday was a big deal, not just because I was turning forty, but because I was still alive.
As I sat in my room studying the Bible and reading books, the years clicked. I tried my best to keep an active role as the father of our two beautiful daughters, Lauren and Leah. I would type simple Bible studies and life lessons that we would read and discuss over dinner. It wasn’t the father-role I had envisioned, with me playing basketball in the driveway, teaching them to drive and walking them out on the football field when they were on Homecoming Court.
The list of things I couldn’t do as a non-disabled father increased as the years clicked by. My hair became grayer and grayer. My 50th birthday was a big deal. It was the best birthday I’ve ever had. I was so thankful that God allowed me to live to see my little girls grow into beautiful women.
I was born October 5th, 1960. Which means – Today is my 58th Birthday!!!
Please don’t feel bad if you forgot to send me a gift. But if you’re feeling guilty, click the link below and make a small donation to my Go Fund Me Account 🙂 Just kidding, I don’t even have a Go Fund Me Account.
A simple “Happy Birthday” in the comment section will do. Please be patient with me in replying to your comments. I’m still building up my strength and, it’s my birthday weekend!
I so appreciate your continued prayers. It’s inexplicable, but I literally felt the prayers of family and friends suspending me in the darkest hours of this latest trial. Mary and I both felt this, as we have so many times before.
Thank you so much!
God is good!