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Classic Replay | When God Allows Suffering: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
December 17, 2022 3:00 am

Classic Replay | When God Allows Suffering: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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December 17, 2022 3:00 am

In this classic interview, Pastor Greg Laurie speaks with author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada about God’s sovereignty—and why He permits suffering in this world. What follows is a classic conversation that touches on Christmas, Heaven, and how we can glorify God in our broken bodies.

You'll learn about the grace and amazing nature of God, and how He can and does work everything out for good to those who serve Him. This conversation is encouraging for those suffering through hard times or who have a loved one that is going through a difficult trial. Joni shares the words that changed her perspective on everything: “God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves.”

Joni Eareckson Tada is an esteemed Christian stateswoman and respected global leader in disability advocacy. Although a 1967 diving accident left her a quadriplegic, she emerged from rehabilitation with a determination to help others with similar disabilities. Mrs. Tada serves as CEO of Joni and Friends, a Christian organization which provides programs and services for thousands of special-needs families around the world.

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Learn more about Greg Laurie and Harvest Ministries at harvest.org.

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Greg Laurie

Hey everybody, Greg Laurie here. You're listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, and my objective is to deliver, hopefully, compelling practical insights in faith, culture, and current events from a biblical perspective. To find out more about our ministry, just go to our website, harvest.org. So thanks for joining me for this podcast. Let's welcome Joni Eareckson Tada. Oh wow. Wow. God bless you guys. And I am certain that a lot of that applause was for my husband of 35 years. Applaud him.

Welcome him. I want to come down a little bit closer to. Oh here we go. This thing.

Yeah it's a little better. Well Joni thanks for coming back. You were here last Christmas remember? I cannot believe where the year has gone. I know. So fast. And you look great.

You haven't aged at all. I had a full head of hair last Christmas. You remember that? But that was a hair piece I was wearing so I stopped wearing it.

No I am kidding. But I remember that message you gave and it just impacted me. In fact what we did you gave a message to the ladies and we took your message and I showed it on a Thursday night to everybody because they said everyone needs to hear this message. Wow. And so I thought it brought such a great perspective on Christmas. But Joni if you wouldn't mind not everyone knows your story. It is hard to believe.

Many do of course but there are some who are meeting you here for the first time. And of course your life changed in 1967. You were a young girl. Unlike any young girl you loved to hike and ride horses and swim. And dive. Yeah and dive. And so you were a very active young lady and then an event happened that of course changed your life and that brings you to today where you have spent almost 50 years in a wheelchair.

50 years. You know I had mentioned I would like to dive and I guess I was a little bit cocky sitting on the edge of that raft in the water and I took a very reckless dive into what ended up being extremely shallow water. I hit the sandbars snap snap my head back crunched my vertebrae severed my spinal cord and left me without use of my hands or my legs. Now when they took me to the hospital I was so depressed so despairing. The one bright spot was going to occupational therapy because in occupational therapy they let me put a pen between my teeth.

I must confess at first I did not like having to put a pencil between my teeth I kept spitting it out and my occupational therapist kept taking it off the floor and wiping it off with Lysol and sticking it back in my mouth. When I finally got proficient in drawing because I was an artist before my accident my thought was oh God this is now my life this is it and I tried to convey all the horror and the despair the depression. My goodness I would wrench my head back and forth on the hospital pillow every night hoping to break my neck up at a higher level and thereby end my life but that picture is to me a precious memory of what God can take us from when we embrace his son Jesus. And sometimes when tragedy strikes it's like God has come and he's upset the puzzle table and all the puzzles go flying and we logical rational people that we are go scrambling desperately hoping to find all the puzzle pieces so we can quickly put them back together and make our life make sense. We want everything to fit we want everything to be tidy and orderly but wisdom I learned is not being able to put all the puzzle pieces together wisdom is trusting God even the most of the puzzle pieces go missing ain't gonna find those pieces until the other side of eternity.

But wisdom is trusting God even when life doesn't make sense. Yeah that reminds me of a story that Corrie Ten Boom told. You remember Corrie Ten Boom. Oh yes she said to me the last time I saw her when she was alive. I saw her at her funeral but anyway. She was alive in heaven. Yeah she was. She was alive in heaven. She said oh Johnny one day we're going to dance together in heaven. Yeah that Vic Dutch accent. Yes. Well the reason I brought her up is it reminded me of a story she used to tell.

Of course she went through all of her suffering in the concentration camp Revens Brook and with their sister and lost her sister and father and was released. But remember she would talk about that stitching on one side it would be I think it's scripture perhaps but on the other side it was all tattered threads with no rhyme or reason but it's sort of a picture of from our side it looks like tattered threads or a puzzle scattered. But from God's side there's a logic to it because there's something that you believe in that we all believe in or should believe in and it's called the sovereignty of God.

Tell us what we hear that phrase. What is the sovereignty of God and what does that mean to you and what you face every day. Well at first when I heard about the sovereignty of God that is that the God of the Bible is a God who whose overarching decrees govern everything that happens. At first I was frightened by that idea. It was scary because if that was the God who allowed this to happen then how can he possibly be good. Well this is idea of good but God allows all sorts of things he does not approve of. He doesn't approve of spinal cord injury multiple sclerosis. He doesn't approve of stroke. He does not approve of Down syndrome or autism or Alzheimer's. But a Christian friend shared with me 10 little words when I was first injured that changed my life. God permits what he hates to accomplish that which he loves. And the way he explained it Greg was that he pointed to Jesus at the cross. Look what God permitted. Treason, injustice, murder, torture.

How can any of that be the Father's will. And yet we're told in Acts chapter 4 verse 28 that he permitted it says that Acts 4 28 God I've got this right on the tip of my tongue. I really do.

Actually look it up Greg. Acts 4 28. You can probably read it better than I can. I should have it memorized but I think I know where you're going but I want to make sure I get it right.

Get it right because it's very important. Is that in the Old or New Testament? Oh come on. The author of the book of Acts is talking about the evil men who instigated the cross of Christ. And this is what he said about these men. You know I found the verse. For me it's like reading through a contact lens in a small print Bible. Ok.

I can do it. It's God. Oh my goodness.

We both need our glasses. The print is too small. It's impossible. Can you read it? Yeah. This is sad. Look at this verse by heart. These men did what God's power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Yeah.

Do whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done. So there you go. I mean treason injustice murder and torture. So right there God permitted something he hated. The crucifixion the gruesome crucifix the carnage the terrible crucifixion of his own precious son.

He promoted permitted what he hated to accomplish something that he loved. What could he possibly love more than his own son. What would he prize above his son's own crucifixion. Our salvation.

That's it. Our salvation. And so although the devil may have instigated the events that led up to the crucifixion. You know treason injustice murder torture. God won't have anything to do with those things in terms of his wanting or delighting in them happening. But God aborted those devilish schemes to serve his own ends and accomplish his own purposes. I like the way Dorothy Sayers once said it. God reaches down into what otherwise looks like terrible evil and he hi-yah. He wrenches out of it positive good for us and glory for himself. And so the world's worst murder becomes the world's only salvation.

Yeah. And my friend who shared those those ten little words with me. God permits what he hates to accomplish that which he loves. Said Johnny the same is true in your life. God permitted what he hated.

A spinal cord injury to accomplish something that he loves more than the hardship you are going to have to go through for the rest of your life. And that is Christ in me the hope of glory. And oh my goodness Greg I've given up trying to untangle the matted threads underneath that embroidery that you spoke about.

I've given it up. Because the whole point behind my quadriplegia is that I get to know Jesus in such a tender warm poignant personal powerful way. Oh my goodness every single morning when I wake up I think I shared this with the women when I was here the last time.

Literally I wake up in the morning and my girlfriends are running water for coffee they're going to come into my bedroom they're going to have a cheery happy hello. And there I am almost 98 percent of the time lying there with my eyes closed thinking. God I hate quadriplegia. I am so tired of this. I have no strength for this day.

I have no resources no power no energy. I cannot do quadriplegia today. But Jesus you can.

So you can I can do all things to you. So would you please be the good quadriplegic today because I cannot do it. And it is the perfect example of dying to self so that God's power can live through me which makes the smile that I have on my face when I wheel out of the front door in the morning.

It made it made a Colgate. This is a real smile hard fought for and hard won every single morning. And Greg that's the Christian way to wake up.

That's the that's the best way. That's the biblical way to wake up. Needing Jesus desperately. And I really need him. We all do.

Can't do it without him. So from the worst injustice and travesty of all time the murder and crucifixion of the very son of God came the greatest good of all time. So when we apply the sovereignty of God to our life what it is saying is you may be going through something now that makes no sense but ultimately you are going to see God's plan and purpose.

Maybe part of it this side of heaven but certainly all of it on the other side. But for now it is not so much an issue of why because you can ask that forever. And people in the Bible ask why. Even Jesus on the cross said, My God my God why have you forsaken me. But I think there has to come a point where we ask what.

As in well what do I do. And you have taken your very difficult pain and you have used it as a tool for God's glory. You have used it as a weapon against the forces of darkness and you continue to do so. And we thank you for that. Here is something you wrote. You are a very good writer by the way. Am I? Yes I have to tell you that.

Thank you. You know when you talk with Johnny it is like whatever you ask her when she speaks it is like was that just prewritten? Does that actually just come out that way from your very well organized brain or what?

You are just so articulate. But you wrote this. Quote, I knew in a vague sort of way that answers to my questions and about my paralysis were probably hidden somewhere between the pages of the Bible but I had no idea where. So there are certain passages and you already took us to one that I could obviously not read very well.

Me neither. Yeah. But I think of another one that I am sure is meaningful to you and I am sure you could add to this list and please do. But one that comes to mind is an oft quoted verse maybe not always understood Romans 8.28. Is that a verse that has brought comfort to you?

Is it a verse that initially was hard to deal with and later brought comfort or was it always a verse that was like yeah I get that? Well Romans 8.28 and ok you are asking me to quote this one too right? Well you know all things work together for good to those who love God. All things work together for good to them who love God and are called according to His purpose and then the next verse in Romans 8.29 says that all these things are fitting together into a pattern for good to conform you to the image of Jesus Christ.

That is right. And so I see that I don't know I don't want to second guess God Greg but I do think that God has permitted this accident to make me more like Jesus. He prizes in my life patience, endurance, self control, compassion, kindness. All of these things are far more important than walking. They are far more important than walking and having use of your hands. And so one of the qualities of Jesus is compassion.

Well I'm going to back up. One of the qualities of Jesus is a hatred of sin. When we say we want to be like Jesus we normally think of all those qualities I just listed but if we really want to get bare knuckles about it. The quality that is most like Jesus is his hatred of anxiety, fear, worship, prejudice, snobbery, I mean self righteousness.

These are the things that he hates. And so suffering is like the textbook that will teach you about who you really are. And I often liken my disability to a lemon that God squeezes in the morning and out comes the cranky crabbyness, the sour disposition, the peevish attitude. And when I see that about myself, oh my goodness, I say Jesus? I don't want to be that person. That was Johnny from yesterday. Please I want to be a different Johnny today. Would you make me more like Jesus and help me get rid of this sin, this ickiness in my life that is so offensive to you and unpleasant to other people.

The second quality I think for me at least, a hatred of sin and secondly, compassion. I talk to a lot of people with disabilities who are as disabled as I am and I'm pretty disabled. Can't do my own toileting routines, can't make my own dinner, can't cut my food, can't hold a bottle of Coke. But I talk to a lot of people like me who are disabled less than I am, some who are disabled more than I am and they're depressed. It's totally humanly understandable why they would be depressed. Oh my goodness, I was depressed for years.

It took three years for me to dig up out of that miry pit of despair. But what I will often tell people with disabilities is get up tomorrow morning and get dressed, wheel out the front door if you're able, and go find somebody in your community who's hurting worse than you are, who's hurting worse than you are. And I think that that is a sure remedy for depression, to look for other people who are hurting more than you are and help them. That's the 2 Corinthians Chapter 1 kind of, we've been comforted for the benefit of others. And it's one reason why I started Johnny and Friends, a ministry that distributes wheelchairs around the world and Bibles, and we hold retreats for special needs families both here in America and in international developing nations and yada, yada, yada. But I've been so blessed. Man, I want to squeeze every ounce of ministry effort that I possibly can out of this quadriplegic body to pass on the blessing to others. I've been given so much, you've been given so much, we've been given so much.

Find somebody else who's hurting worse than you are and make a difference for Christ in their lives. Amen. Yeah. That's right. Yes.

Yes. I read there's a 10-step cure to depression. Step number one, find someone that is worse off than you and help them.

Step number two, repeat step number one nine more times. I like that. But depression can be bigger than that.

That's a great piece of advice and something we all should do. You've dealt with severe depression. In the holidays a lot of people are depressed. Maybe it's because they expect Christmas to deliver what it can't. They expect Christmas to be the end all or maybe getting together with family. But people have broken families and they have problems and false expectations and a list of other things. But they might be dealing with depression or there might be someone here listening or watching later that has lost a loved one and now this is a marker of time that my loved one was with me last year and they're not here this year.

Or maybe they've had an event, a tragedy since last Christmas and now here they are in this place. What would you say like if someone is depressed right now, like they're in the pit and they don't know how to get out of the pit. Ok. You've given us a great piece of advice. Find someone that is hurting more than you.

How did you, or not how did you, how did you, how do you, how do you continue to climb out and be the better Johnny if you will and face each day? Well I've got two friends here. Jen and Rainey sitting over there. They were the ones who got me up this morning and got me dressed in my toileting routines and put on the lipstick. They do good lipstick and hair. Yes they do. You look great. They really do.

Yes. But they will tell you, they will tell you that because of my daily battle with chronic pain which incidentally makes my quadriplegia look like a walk in the park. They will tell you that there are times when I'm so depressed when I come to work and I quick rush by the receptionist desk and I wheel upstairs fast and I close the office door and I grab them and I say, girls, please pray for me.

I need help. I need your prayers, don't I girls? I need prayer. And I think if anyone is depressed, and I will counsel people with disabilities in the same way, try ever so hard not to be depressed alone because God never intended for us to suffer in isolation. It's why he created spiritual community.

It's why he created part of his Christian fellowship. Find somebody who will pray for you because we wrestle not against spinal cord injury or chronic pain or stroke or autism or Alzheimer's or bankruptcy or an unexpected divorce. We wrestle not against the flesh and blood of these things. We wrestle against powers and principalities who would love nothing more than to keep us steeped in depression. They would love to convince you that you're never going to get rid of that cloud of despair over your head. Well, you know what?

That's a lie. So find people who will pray for you. Earnest prayer warriors who will buckle down, hit their knees, press their hands together and plead to heaven on your behalf. And I know that there is a fabulous prayer team here at Harvest.

In fact, before the service, that's what I wanted to do. Send me out to be where the prayer is. I want to be where the prayer is. And I think that's what people who are struggling with depression need to do, or at least their loved ones need to do that for them.

Contact some good Christian friends who will earnestly, specifically, committedly pray for that individual. Amen. Yes, amen. Well, Johnny. Tell me a little bit about how you met Ken and tell us a little bit about your very wonderful marriage that God has blessed you with. Oh, the man I love him so.

He'll never know when he takes me in his arms. Anyway. That's good.

I like that. Yeah, Johnny. Okay.

Quick quiz. Who sung that and what movie? Well, I don't know that song. Oh, come on. Sorry? She said Judy Garland.

Is that right? No, not Judy Garland. Oh, come on. Barbra Streisand. Barbra Streisand and what movie?

What movie? Funny Girl. Funny Girl. Exactly. She sings.

It's the last song. Wow. And I love it. Every time I see my husband dressed in his Brooks Brothers shirt.

Yeah. Heading off to church in the morning, Sundays. Sometimes he'll open the front door before I pass him by.

Oh, my man, I love him so. My husband and I were both in our 30s. I liked being single.

I was in my early 30s. He was single as well. And we were at both attending John MacArthur's church.

He was away one Sunday. And so there was some visiting pastor who was preaching. It wasn't you.

Yeah. Because the sermon was boring. So we know it wasn't you. Excuse me. The sermon was. And, you know, it's Sunday. You don't want to be sitting there being bored in the Lord's house. And so I asked the Holy Spirit, OK, so then you haven't heard some boring sermons, huh?

They have. Yeah, right. Anyway, the Holy Spirit nudged me and I thought, you know, I got to do something that honors God during this hour. And so my eyes fell on the back of this man's head who was sitting about five or six pews in front of me, didn't know his name, didn't see if he, you know, was wearing a wedding ring or, you know. But I just felt compelled to pray for him, which I did for the balance of that sermon. I prayed that, oh, my goodness, if he had conflicts at work, they'd be resolved.

If there were problems with his family, they would be resolved. I prayed that he would remain morally pure. I prayed that if he did not know Jesus, there might be something in the sermon that this guy was saying that might rescue him out of his sin. And by the time the benediction was over, I almost wheeled up to this man to tell him, you know, guess what I did for you.

But I thought that would look awfully pushy. So we happened to be introduced to mutual friends about two or three months later, and literally the first thing I said to Ken Tada, where are you, Ken Tada? Are you over there?

He's right there. The first thing I said to Ken, stand up, Ken, because I want them to see you. The first thing I said to that man was, turn around and let me see the... The first thing I said was, turn around and let me see the back of your head. I know you, I said, and then I proceeded to tell him what I had done.

I prayed for him, and we ended up marrying about a year and a half later. Wow. Yeah. How long have you been married? Thirty-five years. Thirty-five years. Wow.

Fantastic. Well of course Christmas is here. We know because of the poinsettias.

Is that how you pronounce it? Poinsettias. And all around us are the signs. And when you were here last time you did such a great job sharing so many important things. And I thought you did a fantastic job explaining, you know, what Christmas should be. And I think we sort of so romanticized this story. I am talking now about the nativity story itself. That maybe we miss the real raw profound meaning of it. You know because we see Mary and Joseph bathed in blue light and the animals are bowing reverently and you know the stars in the distance and the wise men are there. They probably weren't even there.

They came later. But you know we have this romanticized image and I think we have missed what really happened when God came to this earth. And you said this last time because ultimately of course Christ came to go to the cross. You said the cross is God's taking on flesh and blood and saying me too. I understand.

I identify. I am God with you. After all I am Emmanuel God with you. So share a little bit about how you see Christmas and what we might be missing in this season.

Well think about it. I mean when Mary and Joseph took that 60 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem it was no girl scout hike. I mean this was a rocky rugged road three day journey Mary nine months pregnant jostling and jogging on a donkey and you know having to turn by the dirt road to let other caravans go past and then in the dust which they are eating they continue on their journey. They get to Bethlehem.

There's no room at the inn except that they are told there is room in a stable. And so the Son of God does not enter human history with trumpets blasting and red carpets rolling. He doesn't enter with pomp and circumstance.

He gets himself born in a stinky stable on straw in a splintered wood manger from the very onset of his life. He was identifying with our weakness. You don't think God understands. He does. He gets it. He resonates with your weakness.

He owns it. And I think that sometimes we forget that when Jesus was born. This was the one man born to die. This was God's way of saying the war is over. The war is over. There is no longer enmity. You'd be better explaining what that word means than I would. Enmity. How would you say enmity is? Well opposition to God even hating God. Right.

Opposing God. Yep. The enmity is over.

Yeah. There is no enmity. No longer between God and man. And Jesus, when he was on the cross, he bore all of the Father's white-hot wrath against your sin and mine. He absorbed it. The apple of God's eye turned brown with the rot of our sin.

He was steeped. He was soaked in our sin. And the stench that must have arisen to the Father's nostrils, no wonder God the Father turned his back on his own son. Which means that God the Father has no more anger left for you and me. No more white-hot wrath. No more enmity. No more judgment. It was all taken care of at the cross, which Greg makes me love Jesus so much.

Oh, if I don't love him enough. Yes. If you find that your soul is dry and cracked and you find that your spirit is not warm with devotion to your Savior, you think about those things that Greg and I just talked about. About how Jesus absorbed the wrath of the Father so that all he has left for us is forgiveness, mercy, love, tender loving-kindness, compassion. What a Savior. What a Savior. Hallelujah.

In fact, you know, that is such an exclamation point. I don't know about you, but my heart is just filled to overflowing just thinking about that. We've got to, as a corporate group, praise God for it. So sing with it. Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King.

Let every heart prepare Him room. And heaven and nature sing. And heaven and nature sing.

And heaven and heaven and nature sing. I love that. Yes. You know. We should do a record together. Oh no. I've got the title. I've got the title. Beauty and the Beast.

What do you think? You know my favorite verse in that wonderful carol is the third one. No more let sin or sorrow grow.

Nor thorns infest the ground. He has come to make His blessings known for as the curse is found. Isn't that good news.

Wow. There is some great theology in those old Christmas songs. A lot of people miss it. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail incarnate deity. You know please His man with man to dwell Jesus our Emmanuel.

Man just those words are you know they are biblical. Absolutely. I am going to sort of shift gears now. Talk about a subject you have written a book on and I wrote a book on it. My book isn't as good as your book on the topic but we both love the subject heaven. Oh my goodness.

Yes. I mean and you know so in your book called Heaven Your Real Home you write this. I love this. Just 30 seconds in heaven. Well atone for all the heartache and hardship you went through. Probably just a second or two you will look out in your rearview mirror and you will see earth like a half forgotten dream and suddenly you will be home.

I love that. Earth a half forgotten dream and suddenly you will be home. You know Johnny when you get to heaven you believe your questions will be answered and what do you think it will be like and I am sure you have thought about this. The moment you enter heaven and see heaven for the first time have you ever just you know you have such a vivid imagination. You are an artist.

You speak so eloquently and write. Just what do you think it will be like when you first enter heaven? Ok. Do you know the movie Castaways? Have you all seen that movie Castaways Tom Hanks?

Oh yeah. The theme music. When I hear the theme music play to the castaways this is going to sound silly. I can see the pearly gates slowly open. I can see my dead form rise. I can feel the strength of resurrected legs holding up my glorified body and I take gentle steps and you got to go find the theme music to Castaway and listen to it because it is awesome and that is what I sense. It is like this marvelous sense of wonder and Greg just earlier today I was reading Philippians 3.20.

We are citizens of that place. Citizens of heaven and we eagerly expect a savior from there. Not just expect a savior.

We eagerly I love that adverb. Eagerly expect a savior from there. The Lord Jesus Christ who has brought everything under his control will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body. But please don't be thinking Greg that I am most looking forward to the body that works. I'm looking forward to the glorified heart. I want a heart that no longer tries to twist the truth. I want a heart that doesn't hog the spotlight. I want a heart that doesn't always want to try to get its way. I want a heart that is quick to give credit to others. I want a heart that is not anxious or fearful about the future. I want a heart that trusts God and is instant in obedience and absolute in its trust. That is what I want.

I want a glorified heart. So every single morning as I like to say I get actively engaged in my own sanctification. Oh God.

Like I said earlier I don't want to be the Johnny I was yesterday. Tell them what sanctification means. Okay. You're the theologian. I'm asking you. I like the way you say it better than I do. Oh gee. If you say it it will be eloquent.

If I say it it will fall asleep. Well okay. Well when we come to Christ we're justified right? Yes.

We're justified. It's a one time event. The gavel is banged and your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. But it's a little like Congress passing the Clean Water Act. Because the next day you can't go out to the Los Angeles River and drink clean water right? That's right.

It's going to take a long time for that Clean Water Act to kick into gear and make the Los Angeles River flow sweetly so that you can drink from it right? Well that's sanctification as colloquially as I can explain it. It's then taking that justification. We're justified before God. Thank you Jesus. And then we work it out. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling the Holy Spirit tells us. Make your calling and election sure.

Do you have doubts about your salvation? Start obeying God. And if you don't know where to start obeying God how about Philippians chapter 2 verse 14 which says do everything without complaining.

There you go. That's a good place to obey. That's a start. You can start living the will of God tomorrow morning by purposing to go through the day in fact the rest of your life without complaining. And as you do you will have obeyed and God will transform your life. You'll change. You won't be the same Mary or Joe or Bob you were yesterday.

You'll be a different person. Because that's what it means to behold the glory of God and be changed from glory to glory to glory and to become like Him. That's a wonderful thing sanctification.

And if you don't know much about it I'm sure Greg's written about it so you ought to read about it. I love the way you put it. You know you quoted the verse.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Then it goes on to say for it is God that works in you both to will and do if he has good pleasure. And the phrase work out is interesting because it's a phrase that was used to describe going into a mine and getting the gold out. So it's like the gold is there like your analogy the clean water act.

It's been passed but now we have to apply it. And so it's like work it out which means carry it to the gold. Not work for your own salvation. It's a gift from God but work it out. And it relates to heaven.

Yes. Because as Jonathan Edward once said this is my favorite all time quote from Jonathan Edwards who is America's premier theologian. In the 17th century he's one of America's actually one of America's greatest thinkers. And this is what he said.

Every day. I'm colloquial. I'm making this in the vernacular.

You know I can't speak 17th century English. But what he was saying was every day you and I have an opportunity to stretch our soul's capacity for heaven. Because everything we do down here on earth has a direct bearing on our capacity for joy and worship and service in heaven. I don't want to be quote least in the kingdom of heaven. The Bible talks about people who will be quote least in the kingdom of heaven. I don't want to be there. And I do not want to diminish my eternal estate.

I want to build toward it. Lay up treasures in heaven about it. Because I want to experience the fullest that I possibly can of joy and worship and service in heaven. But it all is linked it all depends to the degree that we trust and obey God down here on earth.

And Jonathan Edwards went further. He talked about these various degrees in heaven. Some of us will have joy the size of a thimble. Others like Billy Graham might have joy the size of a super tanker.

Others might have joy the size of a bathtub. But we're not going to be envious of each other in heaven. Because all of our capacities will be absolutely filled to overflowing.

And we will be so delighted to enjoy each other and our savior. So don't jeopardize your eternal estate. We only got once to go around in life.

Only once. Don't jeopardize it. Heaven's going to be a long time.

And as C.S. Lewis said this is merely the title page of the real story that's about to begin on the other side of your tombstone. So don't risk it.

Don't jeopardize it. Trust and obey and in so doing increase your capacity for joy and worship and service in heaven. Which in turn means you can cast more crowns at Jesus' feet.

Hallelujah. Yeah you know we talked about the afterlife. I mean maybe we should call this life here the before life. It's so brief compared to eternity that lasts forever. And in Colossians 3 Paul tells us to set your mind on things that are above.

And it's interesting because it could translate out think very carefully about these things or a very simplified translation. Think heaven. But then the objection is well they're so heavenly minded they're no earthly good. And my response is well some people are so earthly minded they're no heavenly good.

Yes. You know what do you think and you've already touched on it but like so when we hear we should seek the things that are above or think heaven. You know how can thinking about heaven and contemplating what Scripture teaches about heaven affect us in life on earth?

How does that work out practically? Well I think a good rule of thumb is before you make a choice. Before you let those biting words slip your mouth. Before you complain or gossip. Before you choose an immoral path. Stop and think. Would you want the movie reel of that to be shown in heaven?

Wow. Would you want that to be shown in heaven about you? I don't I don't I want to present to God as much of myself that is his as is possible in the sense of my sanctification. In the sense of Jesus in me.

I want to see more of Jesus in me. And so just think twice before you choose an immoral path. A snarky path. I love that word snarky. Snarky. That's how I am in the morning when I wake up. Snarky. And I hate that.

Learn to hate those things about yourself. And if you think you don't have those things in your life. Ask your husband or wife. I'm serious. I'll tell you.

Ken will tell you that I have told him sweetheart. Would you please point out in my life things that you think I need to change. There's areas of my life that I'm sure I'm blind to. Would you point out to me things I need to change.

And keep short lists with the friends and neighbors and co-workers that you have. If you offend them. Make it right. I have told rainy I think on a couple of occasions rainy. That was the wrong thing of me to say I am so sorry. I regret it. It was thoughtless of me and not only thoughtless it was rude. Would you please forgive me. And the result of that is that rainy and I are better friends. We're better friends.

So those are just some practical ways I think that you can get ready for heaven. Amen. I love that Johnny. You know Johnny has written a new book called A Spectacle of Glory. God's light shining through me every day.

And you know when you listen to her just the profound insights are incredible. And this book is filled with them. And so tell us a little bit about this book.

Did it just come out. And this is sort of a devotional. You would read a page or two every day a few two and a half pages.

Right. It's a 365 page devotional. I wrote it for my friends in 2017. And you can either I think maybe get it here at the bookstore or you can order it at johnnyandfriends.org. Can I tell you about the title. Please.

The title is A Spectacle of Glory. When John Owen. Excuse me. John. John Owen. Was it John Owen or John Newton. John Newton. It was John Newton. OK. Now I need a theologian to tell me which one it was. Probably John Newton. He wrote about how Moses in Exodus Chapter 3. When he was shepherding the flock of his father in law Jethro.

Jethro in the desert. He turned aside and he saw a bush that was a flaming bush. It was the presence of the great I am. And he noticed that the bush was burning. And yet it was unconsumed.

And in Exodus Chapter 3 it records Moses saying. Let me turn aside to see this strange sight. Christians who suffer yet suffer graciously. Who have a godly response to their suffering. Who limit the complaining.

We are like burning bushes unconsumed. The chronic pain. The quadriplegia.

The inability to walk or run. Can't hold things with your hands. I want people to look at me and say. Why is that burning bush not consumed. Why are you not consumed by your trials Mrs. Tada. And it's a strange sight. But like Moses I think it sparks curiosity. And not only other Christians but among a cynical and skeptical world. People see Christians not complaining all of their suffering so greatly. Let me find out what this is all about.

That girl's God must be amazing to inspire that kind of loyalty. That's what I want people to think. When they see my smile in an elevator. You know I can't do a lot in an elevator. I can sit in my wheelchair and sing Amazing Grace or from it. And there are people and I'm singing.

Humming Amazing Grace. But they can connect the dots. And so everywhere at all times. You know we're on display.

People watching. And we can either dishonor the playwright. And ad lib our lines and do something stupid. That stains his reputation.

And makes him look really bad. Or we can live obediently. Trustfully. Kindly. Compassionately. And it'll make your neighbors.

Your co-workers look at you and think. OK. Why. Why is this person not complaining. His wife just suffered a massive stroke. He just got the diagnosis of cancer.

Her husband just walked out of her. Why is she smiling. I want to know about that. So that inspired the title. A Spectacle of Glory. We are all spectacles of God's glory. As we obey him and trust him.

Yes. You know in Paul and Silas are thrown in prison. The Bible says at midnight they began to sing praises to God. And it says the other prisoners listened.

It is interesting in the original language. They listened with pleasure. They probably never heard a concert in that prison before. And then of course they were treated cruelly by the jailer.

But then an earthquake came. And the jailer being a Roman guard knew the penalty. He would be put to death for losing his prisoners. Paul said don't do yourself any harm.

We are here. And then the jailer said, sir what must I do to be saved. And it is Paul and Silas effectively earned the right to their suffering to reach that man. And he was moved deeply. He was a hard man. And you know when you take your pain and you use it for God's glory and we all take whatever pain we have in life and we have different kinds of pain.

Some absolutely more than others. But every one of us is going to face pain. We are going to lose loved ones. We are going to have setbacks. We are going to have things happen that we had not planned for. But we have to just take that platform and use it as you say in your book as a spectacle of glory.

Right? Absolutely. Now you have a Bible project you have worked on as well. Tell us about that because that sounds really interesting to me. Well you know you have been hearing me quote a lot of theology. I am no theologian.

I don't have master's degrees behind my name. You are a theologian all right. Well you are sweet to say that. But when I was first injured I had a lot of questions for God and I did not know the answers. And so my Christian friends who were counseling me were in over their heads. And so they connected me with a young man named Steve Estes. I have co-authored several books with him. He was only 17 years old. But he knew the Bible like the back of his hand. And I peppered him with so many questions and every Thursday night for a full year he counseled me through God's Word. And before you know it, before the year was out there were like 50, 60 other young people coming to my living room wanting to listen to what this young man had to say. By the way he is a father of eight children, a grandfather of I don't know how many grandkids and pastors of a thriving booming church in Pennsylvania. So he is a remarkable man. But anyway I always hoped that I might be able to work with a Bible publisher to craft a special edition of the Word of God which would be people's Steve Estes.

I wanted a Bible that would be the same kind companion that I had to show where the hope is, where the encouragement is, where the insights are about God's sovereignty and what about depression and what about miraculous healing and what about chronic pain? How can God be good but allow so much suffering in the world? Come on, who sets the world's agenda? Is it the devil or is it God?

And what's the relationship there? Tough questions. So this Bible answers them. And there are answers. Yes, suffering is a mystery.

We can't understand all the answers. But there are enough clues in the Bible to help make clear God's intentions, God's heart. So the Bible is called The Beyond Suffering Bible and there's a graphic of it out there published by Tyndale and we at Johnny and Friends worked six years on this particular edition of the Word of God. It is for people who suffer. It's especially for people with disabilities, mothers and fathers of kids with special needs and their caregivers. It's a great Bible for caregivers.

So if you're looking to give a Bible to someone who's gone through a recent bad medical diagnosis, a botched surgery, whatever, this would be a good Bible to give. Sounds great, Johnny. You know, let me do kind of a lightning round.

This little bit from the sublime to the ridiculous now. These are just real simple questions like Johnny, Eric, and Tada. What is your favorite color? Really? You have a favorite color? I love blue.

That's my favorite color. Really? Yes. Blue on blue.

Heartache on heart. Okay. Every question you're going to ask me is going to have a song attached to you. Yeah, I have songs too.

Yeah, I have songs too. She wore blue velvet. Blue moon.

You saw me standing alone. Yeah, that's a good song. I like that.

That's what I want. Okay, favorite food. We talked about food in the back room.

It's like Mexican Italian. You like sushi. What do you like? Well, I love sushi. Love sushi, yeah.

I love sashimi because I'm from Maryland. I like oyster stew and all that good stuff. I love my mother's crab cakes. Crab cakes are good.

I love them. My wife loves crab cakes too. Yeah, and we even order the $36 a can jumbo lump crab from Crisfield, Maryland.

It takes a mortgage payment to pay for in my opinion. But you know, when I really want to taste my mother's crab cakes, I order big time from Gelson's. Yeah, good. So what makes you laugh? My husband. Peace.

The girls who get me up in the morning, they're all nodding their heads over there. I mean, he comes into the, sometimes he's wearing the minion eyes, you know. Sometimes he does this very silly impression of Dr. Yamaguchi.

And we won't go there because it's kind of ethnic and racial. But you know, he's Asian, so he can get away with it. But my husband really makes me laugh.

He's got a great sense of humor. What makes you sad? A wasted life.

Yes. I know some people who are wasting their lives, and they have so much. So much to be thankful for, so many material blessings. But they've either turned away from God and are not believers, not followers of Jesus, or they are followers of Jesus, but they've chosen a carnal path. And you know, I'm of the persuasion of Hebrews chapter 12. I'll tell you, Greg, when I was in high school, I named Christ as my savior.

I accepted Jesus at a Young Life weekend retreat, and I was involved in a Bible study and doing great things. But on Friday night, in the backseat of my boyfriend's car, it was another story. And so I felt terribly guilty. Oh, God, I'm so sorry. But then, what do you know, I confessed my sins on Sunday morning, and next Friday night, it would be a repeat of the same old thing, until I had dug myself into slavery, and it was impossible to break free of sexual sin.

Couldn't do it. And so in April of 1967, after a sordid date with my boyfriend, I came home one Friday night, threw myself into bed, sobbed into my pillow. Oh, God, I'm going to go away to college in just a couple of weeks, and I know, I just know what I'm going to do there, because my boyfriend's going to the same college. We're just going to sleep together, and I'll take birth control pills, and I'm going to make a mess of stuff. I'm such a hypocrite.

I don't want to be, though. Please, Jesus, do something in my life to turn it around. And then I broke my neck three months later. Was God dealing harshly with me?

I thought so in the beginning. I mean, I was outraged that God could take a prayer so seriously. Why did you take that prayer so seriously? And I spat things out at him like, okay, if that's the way you want to be, I'm never going to trust you with one of my prayers again.

That's it. But I realized what I was doing is digging myself into another cycle of slavery, bitterness, and there's nothing worse than a bitter spirit. So I can look back and see that my diving accident, and you may disagree with me, you may think it makes God look harsh, but I believe it was an example of Hebrews chapter 12. A father loves the child that he disciplines.

If the child is not disciplined, if a wayward, rebellious child who names his father as his father is being disobedient and unruly and rebellious and stiff-necked and stubborn, a loving father will reproof and correct that child and bring about discipline. That doesn't mean that God is punishing us. It's not retribution, like throw her in jail and see how that feels.

There, slam the door, throw away the keys. No, but it is punishment in the sense of discipline and restoration. Not retribution, but restoration. God restored me through this accident, and oh, my goodness.

I often, at least about three or four times a week, I'll be sitting at work or I'll be in my house, and Ken will be just so wonderfully supportive, and I'm sitting there saying to myself, actually I'm praying, Jesus, oh, Jesus, thank you for allowing my broken neck. Man, you were such a wise God. I didn't like it at the time, but you were so good and so wise. You did what you have done. You brought such peace into my heart and set me free of sin.

Bless you, and it's just a constant wellspring of praise to my Savior because of what he's done in my life, and I think it's discipline. You might disagree. Others might disagree, and you're free to disagree, because who really understands God's purpose as an intent? He had perhaps maybe other things on his mind, maybe. When I read Hebrews 12, I think no.

I think that it's discipline. Yeah, I mean, we'll know when we get to heaven. My son, Christopher, died in an automobile accident eight years ago, and he had a conversation with his brother, Jonathan, and Jonathan was struggling with drugs, and Christopher had come through that and had recommitted his life to Christ, and he was talking to his brother, and he said, what's it going to take, Jonathan, for you to kind of come to your senses? And the next day Christopher was in heaven, and that's what it took to bring Jonathan back to Christ. So I don't look at that and say, okay, God took Christopher to bring Jonathan to a place of recommitment. I look at it more like God took Christopher in his sovereignty, in his will.

I don't know why. I know God's in control. I know God loves me. I know I'll see my son again, but despite this tragedy, just like what happened to you, that was tragic, but despite the tragedy God has brought honor and brought Jonathan to himself and touched so many other lives, and though we miss our son so deeply we see that he can, well as you say here, it can be a spectacle of glory. And you know I think another thing, Johnny, I think that God looked at you and a young woman, yes you were going the wrong direction, but he saw a vessel that he could trust with his glory that would have integrity and would walk with him and would honor him. And he said, I am going to put her in a place. You have heard the expression, if you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he didn't get there by himself.

Right? So God, you know people would listen to your testimony if you stood before us as a healthy lady, but because you are in the place you are in you have been able to bring honor to the Lord in an amazing way. So we thank you for that and not wasting your pain and being a blessing to so many, including me. I talk about you all the time. They know that. They know I talk about you. You are one of my heroes of the faith. You are.

No question. Well when you get to heaven, Johnny, what would you like to hear the Lord say to you? My husband, see I have never talked about this or said this anywhere, but he has a favorite name for me. Gee, Gigi. It is because my sister, when I was a little girl, called me Jonathan Grundy, born on Monday, Christmas on Tuesday, blah, blah, blah. Jonathan Grundy. He heard my sister recite that little poem and he kind of picked up the Jonathan Grundy and it is JG and then it became Gigi. I have often told my friends that when I get to heaven I want to see Jesus and have him walk up to me tenderly and put both hands on the side of my cheek and say, Welcome home, G. Welcome home, Gigi. Oh my goodness, I get tears in my eyes even thinking about it. But then I hope he says, Ken, you are going to have to help me here. I am so sorry.

I have quadriplegic lungs and they don't work real well. But I hope that, don't be alarmed, don't call 911. Just to help me. Okay, now you have got to set me up, sweetheart. Okay, there you go.

That's it. Thank you, hon. I am my best audio visual aide.

She was. Then I want to hear Jesus say, Well done. Well done, Johnny.

You were trustworthy in a few things. Now I am going to put you in charge of ten cities. Yes. Say, No thank you. I will just take a little, you know, my little message.

But I want to hear those words. Well done, good and faithful spirit. Amen.

In your book, Heaven Your New Home, you write this. About our new bodies. No more bulging muscles or balding tops.

I am happy about that. No varicose veins or crow's feet. Remember this. No more cellulite or support hose. Forget those thunder thighs and highway hips. That was my nickname in high school.

What was your nickname? Thunder thighs. Oh.

Well you know because I was so good on the lacrosse team and the hockey team. Okay. So no more thunder thighs and highway hips. Just a quick leap frog over the tombstone and it is the body you have always dreamed of. Fit and trim.

Smooth and sleek. Wow. Well written. And that is our hope.

And let me just close with this question. Johnny someone is listening to you right now and you know maybe they are disabled. Maybe they are facing a tragedy.

Maybe everything is kind of going well relatively in life. But the biggest problem of all is that sin that separates us from God. They see you talking about your faith in Jesus and how He gives you the strength for each day and the hope that you have of heaven, the hope that we all have. So someone that is listening to you right now wonders how can I have that faith?

How can I have Jesus in my heart in a way have a relationship with God like Johnny has? What would you say to that person? Well if you have come tonight dragged here by your elbow by your Christian friend and you weren't sure you wanted to come but you have been sitting there and the things that Greg and I have been saying have warmed your heart. You know there is something that has the ring of truth in what we are saying and your heart is being warmed.

It ain't me. And it is not Greg talking. It is the Holy Spirit. God is bending over backward to bring you home. And there is no better time to come home than at Christmas. So I would just encourage you to certainly celebrate the advent of Jesus, a baby in a manger. But remember that the cradle always leads to the cross. Look at the cross of Calvary and see a Savior who has rescued you already from your sins. All you need to do is trust Him in it and believe Him for it and invite His Holy Spirit to sit on the throne of your heart as you confess your sin and say Jesus I don't want to follow my old way of doing things. I don't want to be the stiff neck stubborn person that my husband knows I am.

Not for me. I want to change. I want you to change me. Give me new life in you. And then give me the power to wake up tomorrow morning trusting you in a fresh new way. And you'll be on your way home when you put your hand in the hand of Christ. For those of you who are Christians, perhaps God is calling you to rise to some new fresh level of confidence in Christ.

You are tired of a mediocre Christian walk. You want to rise to a new level of trust and confidence in Him. Get in the practice of getting actively engaged in your own sanctification every single morning. Be intentional about the way you live tomorrow. Think about the choices you're making.

Think about the words before they come off your tongue. Die to the sins that He died for on His cross for you. That's what it means to become like Him in His death. Daily pick up your cross and die to the sins that He died for on His cross for you. And my goodness, your soul will be so much better bonded to the heart of your Savior. Your heart's going to get beating in rhythm with His. And before you know it, His joy, because He shares His joy on His terms. And His terms call for us to in some measure suffer as His own son suffered when He walked on earth. So get your heart beating in rhythm with His and before you know it, His joy is going to spill over heaven's walls, splash up in your heart, ever fest out to others in an ecstatic encouragement, a river of encouragement, and then rise up back to the Lord in a fountain of praise. Don't you want to live that way? Don't you want to live that way? Oh my goodness.

The world would be turned upside down. Hallelujah. Amen. Let's thank Joni Eareckson-Tada for being here tonight. God bless you, Joni. Thank you, Joni.

Hey everybody, Greg Laurie here. Thanks for listening to our podcast. And to learn more about Harvest Ministries, please subscribe and consider supporting this show. Just go to harvest.org. And by the way, if you want to find out how to come into a personal relationship with God, go to knowgod.org. That's K-N-O-W-G-O-D dot org.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-17 07:52:23 / 2022-12-17 08:17:31 / 25

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