February is American Heart Month. How appropriate since February is also the month of Valentine's Day, celebrating the heart's favorite emotion -- LOVE. Well, this year American Heart Month takes on new meaning because the "love of my life" had a heart attack six months ago. So the last six months have brought lots of changes to both of our lives, but especially his. And cardiac rehab has been a big part of these past six months. As many heart patients know, cardiac rehab takes a village...
It has taken a village of medical personnel. There were the paramedics who responded when we called 9-1-1; the doctors who did the heart cath; the nurses who cared for John in the hospital; the physical therapists and technicians who exercised and educated him so he could find his "new normal"...and the list goes on and on.
Then there were the neighbors, family, and friends who prayed, jumped in to help, and emailed, facebooked, called, and sent cards with words of encouragement. There were also fellow heart patients, past and present, who empathized and spurred John on.
It has taken all of these folks using their expertise, gifting, and care to enable John to recover from a "widow-maker" level heart attack. Now he can live in relative good health for as long as God ordains. We thank God for the village He's provided.
All of this makes me think of the village the Lord has provided for our "spiritual cardiac rehab."
Through our personal heart relationship with the Lord Christ, we have received a new heart and new spirit, so we are complete in Him.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you....And I will put my Spirit within you... Ezekiel 36:26-27
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2Cor 5:17
But while we are living in our broken humanness on this earth, we need our minds, affections, and wills continually renewed. And in God's eternal plan in Christ Jesus, it takes a village...the Body of Christ, the community of believers, His church.
Our minds get darkened by the enemy's lies. Our affections get wooed by the "sweet-talkin'" world. Our wills are weakened and pulled away from God and His ways. And all of this even while we have the indwelling life of God in Christ through the Spirit.
Oswald Chambers (July 12, My Utmost for His Highest) says it well:
THE SPIRITUAL SOCIETY "Till we all come . . unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Ephesians 4:13
Rehabilitation means the putting back of the whole human race into the relationship God designed it to be in, and this is what Jesus Christ did in Redemption... The rehabilitation of the human race on Jesus Christ's plan means the realization of Jesus Christ in corporate life as well as in individual life.
Jesus Christ sent apostles and teachers for this purpose - that the corporate Personality might be realized. We are not here to develop a spiritual life of our own, or to enjoy spiritual retirement; we are here so to realize Jesus Christ that the Body of Christ may be built up. Am I building up the Body of Christ, or am I looking for my own personal development only?
The essential thing is my personal relationship to Jesus Christ - "That I may know Him." To fulfill God's design means entire abandonment to Him. Whenever I want things for myself, the relationship is distorted. It will be a big humiliation to realize that I have not been concerned about realizing Jesus Christ, but only about realizing what He has done for me.
So our growth in Christ not for our own spiritual "pleasure." We all need each other for our "spiritual cardiac rehab" on this earth.
How does this work?
- Connect to a community of believers who know and love the Lord, His Word, and His people. Today, there are many options: from small groups to house churches to mega-congregations; from contemporary & casual to formal and even liturgical. The important thing is...where does GOD want you. No matter what you choose, it won't be perfect. As one Bible teacher I know used to say, "If you find the perfect church, don't join it...because you'll ruin it." :)
- Give to & receive from others in the body of Christ. I love the story in John 13 where Jesus washed His disciples feet. Most of us immediately get the lesson that we are to "wash each others' feet" by serving them. But tucked in that passage is the added lesson that we need to let our feet be washed by our brothers and sisters. When Peter protested about the Lord washing his feet, Jesus responded: Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. John 13:8 It dawned on me one day when reading that verse that perhaps part of what Jesus was saying was...if you don't let your brothers and sisters serve and minister to you, you are rejecting ME..."no part with ME!"
- Use whatever gifts the Lord has given to build up one another and glorify God and His grace.
One of my favorite Bible words is "manifold." It means various, multi-colored, variegated (like yarn), multi-faceted (like diamonds)...and it's used in my favorite verses about spiritual gifts:
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
So each of us is a "facet" in the brilliant diamond of God's glorious grace when we serve in the fulness of the Spirit in the gifting He's given us. What a privilege! And what a protection as we walk through this sin-cursed world.
Don't try to do it on your own, dear brother and sister. We need each other in the Body of Christ! As a friend once said when going through some dark trials in his family, "The Body of Christ is at its best when a believer suffers!" Why? Because we are part of each other. And the Lord's multi-faceted grace ministers through His people!
If you would like to read and study further about spiritual gifts, look at these passages:
1 Cor 12:4-31
Be sure to note what the goal or purpose (anticipated outcome) of the gifts is in each of these passages. Our unity in diversity is a beautiful thing to behold!