God’s Last Enemy
As most of my regular readers know, I have been battling ALS for 24 years. I was diagnosed in 1996, just weeks after turning thirty-six. How’s that for a birthday gift? The neurologist over the ALS Clinic in Houston, Texas, told me that I had 3-5 years to live. This relentless disease progressed pretty much how the neurologist predicted it would—except for the part about my dying within five years.
Ten months after being diagnosed, because of some painful and embarrassing falls and my voice beginning to sound like I had a few too many, I was forced to resign from the job I loved as a Regional Sales Manager in the grocery industry. I finally figured out that it probably wasn’t a good reflection on the company to have a salesman walking funny and slurring his words. When I finally resigned, my boss was probably thinking, “It’s about time!”.
Mary and I took a much-needed vacation to Hawaii the month after I resigned. The day before leaving, I tripped walking across the living room and broke my clavicle. Another painful fall, but because I was alone in the room, at least it wasn’t embarrassing. I fought hard not to use a wheelchair, and I have scars to show for it. I called that a “fight of faith”, but the truth is, it was just pride. Pride is a deceptive foe who enjoys dressing up as good and godly virtues.
As I mentioned, the course of ALS went as the neurologist predicted it would. Walking and talking became a slow and deliberate process. Typing on my computer, even pecking away with one finger, soon became impossible. Even worse, I lost my ability to turn the pages of a book. That was a tough loss—no more reading my Bible in the morning or reading books throughout the day. Before upgrading to this kind of computer that uses a camera to track my eye movements, I used a system that tracked a little silver dot on my forehead. I then discovered a little online startup company named Amazon, which sold a limited selection of e-books, including the Bible, which I was able to download. I also bought a Bible software on CD. I’m so thankful for the technology that allows me to carry on.
Over the last twenty-four years, I spent a lot of time figuring out what this thing we call faith is. With a death sentence hanging over my head, I thought it was a good time to figure this faith thing out.
The first and most important thing I discovered is that I’d never have strong faith until I understood God’s true nature. We get to know God’s nature by reading His word. For example, Galatians chapter five gives us some of the characteristics of His nature and tells us that if we are Christ’s disciples, we should be becoming more and more like Him:
“The fruit of the Spirit (God’s nature) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23).
But this raises a question: if God is love, kind, good, faithful, and gentle, why did He allow me, a hard-working husband and father with two young daughters to support, to get ALS?
Even worse, my daughter and son-in-law are friends with three Christian couples who have little boys (ages 5, 6, and 7) battling cancer. What’s up with that?
For the follower of Christ, God is our Heavenly Father. If God is our Father and His nature is as good as the Bible tells us, why would He allow His children to get these horrible diseases or die in tragic accidents?
I’ve concluded that none of this is His will for humanity!
How have I come to this conclusion?
Simple. I took a peek at the end of The Book, which reveals God’s will:
“I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4).
God’s will is for no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain, and no more death!
However, for a short time longer, we are still living in a fallen world. Jesus suffered, died, and rose from the dead to end everything that is not God’s will. It’s a fait accompli—a done deal!
“The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
That’s right; death is God’s enemy! Also, everything that causes crying, mourning, and pain are His enemies too. God hates these enemies so much that He sent His only begotten Son as a sacrifice to put an end to them. This is the Good News I discovered in 1983.
If you are a follower of Christ and going through a difficult time right now, don’t lose hope, your Heavenly Father is on your side. The age of miracles has not passed. Mary and I have seen and experienced so many undeniable miracles.
You might ask, “But you’ve had ALS for twenty-four years; why haven’t you been healed?”
I don’t know the answer, but it was discovering that the Lord was in the ring fighting with me that kept me “fighting the good fight of faith.” In addition to His Spirit inside of us, urging us on, He helps us fight by recruiting prayer warriors to help hold us up. He also sends us generous people to help us with any needs we might have. He sends others to encourage us. By these pieces of help coming together, His grace becomes sufficient. What we call “our trial” is not just about us if we’re followers of Christ.
To those of you who have been in this fight with us, Mary and I are eternally thankful for you.
“When this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).