The True Story of Saint Nicholas…
Our Father among the Saints Nicholas the Wonderworker Archbishop of Myra in Lycia
Commemorated December 6/19
Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, and Wonderworker is famed as a great saint pleasing unto God. He was born in the city of Patara in the Lycian region (on the south coast of the Asia Minor peninsula), and was the only son of pious parents Theophanes and Nonna, who had given a vow to dedicate him to God. As the fruition of longtime prayer of his childless parents, the infant Nicholas from the very day of his birth revealed to people the light of his future glory as a wonderworker. His mother, Nonna, after giving birth was immediately healed from illness. The newborn infant while still in the baptismal font stood on his feet three times, without support from anyone, indicating by this to honour the MostHoly Trinity. Saint Nicholas from his infancy began a life of fasting, and on Wednesdays and Fridays he accepted milk from his mother only but once, after the evening prayers of his parents.
From the time of his childhood Nicholas thrived on the study of Divine Scripture; by day he would not leave church, and by night he prayed and read books — fashioning in himself a worthy dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. His uncle, Bishop Nicholas of Patara, rejoiced at the spiritual success and deep piety of his kinsman. He ordained him a reader, and then elevated Nicholas to the dignity of presbyter, making him his assistant and entrusting him to speak instructing the flock. In serving the Lord the youth was fervent of spirit, and in his proficiency with questions of faith he was like an elder / starets, which aroused the wonder and deep respect of believers. Constantly at work and vivacious, being in unceasing prayer, presbyter Nicholas displayed great kind-heartedness towards the flock, and towards those afflicted coming to him for help, and he distributed all his inheritance to the poor. Having learned about the bitter need and poverty of a certain formerly rich inhabitant of his city, Saint Nicholas saved him from great sin. Having three grown daughters, the despairing father considered to give them over to profligacy so as to save them from hunger. The saint, grieving lest the man perish a sinner, by night secretly brought him through the window three sacks with gold and by this saved the family from falling into spiritual destruction. In bestowing charity, Saint Nicholas always strove to do this secretly and conceal his good deeds.
In setting off on pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, the bishop of Patara entrusted the guidance of the flock to Saint Nicholas, who fulfilled this obedience carefully and with love. When the bishop returned, he in turn asked blessing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Along the way the saint predicted the onset of a storm threatening the ship with inundation, since he saw the devil itself having got on ship. At the entreaty of the despairing pilgrims, he calmed by his prayers the waves of the sea. Through his prayer also was restored to health a certain sailor of the ship, who had fallen from the mast and was mortally injured.
Having reached the ancient city of Jerusalem and having come to Golgotha, Saint Nicholas offered up thanksgiving to the Saviour of the race of mankind and he made the rounds of all the holy places, doing poklons and making prayers. By night on Mount Sion the closed doors of the church opened by themselves in front of the arriving great pilgrim. Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, Saint Nicholas decided to withdraw into the wilderness, but he was stopped by a Divine voice, urging him to return to his native country. Having returned to Lycia and yearning for a life of quietude, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery, named Holy Sion. But the Lord again announced another pathway, awaiting him: “Nicholas, this is not the field, on which thou ought to await Mine harvest, but rather turn round and go into the world, and there My Name shalt be glorified in thee”. In the vision the Lord gave him a Gospel of exquisite workmanship, and the MostHoly Mother of God — an omophor.
And actually, upon the death of archbishop John, he was chosen bishop of Lycian Myra — after one of the bishops of the Council gave a decisive reply on the question of choice of a new archbishop — the choice of God as directed him in a vision — Saint Nicholas. Summoned to the flock of the Church in the dignity of archbishop, Sainted Nicholas remained a great ascetic, appearing to his flock as an image of gentleness, kindness and love towards people. This was particularly precious for the Lycian Church during the time of persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Bishop Nicholas, locked up in prison together with other Christians, sustained them and exhorted them to bravely endure the fetters, punishment and torture. He himself the lord preserved unharmed. Upon the accession to rule of the holy equal-to-the-apostles Constantine, Saint Nicholas was restored to his flock, which joyfully received back their guide and intercessor.
Despite his great gentleness of spirit and purity of heart, Saint Nicholas was a zealous and ardent warrior of the Church of Christ. Fighting evil spirits, the saint made the rounds of the pagan temples and shrines in the city of Myra and its surroundings, shattering the idols and turning the temples to dust.
In the year 325 Saint Nicholas was a participant in the I OEcumenical Council (Sobor). This Council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of faith, and he stood up with the likes of saints Sylvester the pope of Rome, Alexander of Alexandria, Spyridon of Trimiphuntum and others of the 318 fathers of the Council against the heretic Arius.
Saint Nicholas, in the heat of denunciation and fired up with zeal for the Lord, even gave the false-teacher a good drubbing on the ears, for which he was deprived of his bishop’s omophor and put under guard. But several of the holy fathers shared a vision revealing that the Lord Himself and the Mother of God had made the saint to be bishop, bestowing upon him the Gospel and omophorion. The fathers of the Council, having concurred, that the audacity of the saint was pleasing to god, gave glory to the Lord and restored His holy saint to the dignity of bishop.
Having returned to his own diocese, the saint brought it peace and blessings, sowing the word of Truth, nipping in the bud defective and spurious claims of wisdom, uprooting heresy and healing the fallen and those led astray through ignorance. He was indeed a light in the world and the salt of the earth, wherein his life did shine and his word was mixed with the salt of wisdom.
Even during his life the saint worked many miracles. Of them the one accorded the greatest fame was the deliverance from death by the saint of three men, unjustly condemned by a greedy city-commander. The saint boldly went up to the executioner and took hold of his sword, already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The city-commander, denounced by Saint Nicholas in wrong-doing, repented himself and begged for forgiveness. During this time there were present three military officers, dispatched by the emperor Constantine to Phrygia. They did not suspect that they soon likewise would be compelled to seek the intercession of Saint Nicholas: it so happened that they had been vilely slandered before the emperor and were come under a sentence of death. Appearing in sleep to the holy equal-to-the-apostles Constantine, Saint Nicholas called on him to dismiss the wrongful death-sentence of the military officers who, now in prison, prayerfully called out for help to the saint. He worked many other miracles, and asceticised many long years at his labour. Through the prayers of the saint, the city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine. Having appeared in sleep to a certain Italian merchant and having left him as a pledge of payment three gold money-pieces, which the merchant found in his hand upon wakening in the morning, he requested him to sail to Myra and furnish grain there. More than once did the saint save those drowning in the sea, and provide release from captivity and imprisonment.
Having reached old age, Saint Nicholas expired peacefully to the Lord (+ 345-351). His venerable relics were preserved undecayed in the local cathedral church and flowed with curative myrh, from which many received healing. In the year 1087 his relics were transferred to the Italian city of Bari, where they rest even now (about the Transfer of Relics see under 9 May).
The name of the great saint of God, the hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas, a speedy helper and suppliant for all hastening to him, is famed in all the ends of the earth, in many lands and among many peoples. In Russia there are a multitude of cathedrals, monasteries and churches consecrated in his name. There is not, probably, a single city without a Nikol’sk temple.
In the name of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker — the first Russian Christian prince Askol’d (+ 882) was baptised in 866 by Patriarch Photios. Over the grave of Askol’d, the holy equal-to-the-apostles Ol’ga (Comm. 11 July) erected the first temple of Sainted Nicholas in the Russian Church at Kiev. Primary cathedrals were dedicated to Saint Nicholas at Izborsk, Ostrov, Mozhaisk, and Zaraisk. At Novgorod the Great one of the main churches of the city — the Nikolo-Dvorischensk church, later became a cathedral. Famed and venerable Nikol’sk churches and monasteries are at Kiev, Smolensk, Pskov, Toropetsa, Galich, Archangelsk, Great Ustiug, Tobol’sk. Moscow was famed by several tens of churches consecrated to the saint, and three Nikol’sk monasteries were situated in the Moscow diocese: the Nikolo-Greek (Staryi) — in the Chinese-quarter, the Nikolo-Perervinsk and the Nikolo-Ugreshsk. One of the chief towers of the Kremlin was named the Nikol’sk. Part of all the churches devoted to the saint were those established at market-squares by Russian merchants, sea-farers and land-goers, venerating the wonderworker Nicholas as a protector of all those journeying on dry land and sea. They sometimes received the name among the people of “Nicholas soaked”. Many village churches in Russia were dedicated to the wonderworker Nicholas, reverently venerated by peasants as a merciful intercessor before the Lord for all the people in their work. And in the Russian land Saint Nicholas did not leave off with his intercession. Ancient Kiev preserves the memory about the miraculous rescue of a drowning infant by the saint. The great wonderworker, hearing the grief-filled prayers of the parents in the loss of their only child, by night snatched up the infant from the waters, revived him and placed him in the choir-loft of Saint Sophia church in front of his wonderworking image. And here in the morning the infant was found safe by his thrilled parents, praising with a multitude of the people Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.
Many wonderworking icons of Saint Nicholas appeared in Russia and came also from other lands. There is the ancient byzantine embroidered image of the saint (XII), brought to Moscow from Novgorod, and the large icon written in the XIII Century by a Novgorod master. Two depictions of the wonderworker are especially distributed in the Russian Church: Sainted Nicholas of Zaraisk — in full-length, with blessing right hand and with Gospel (this image was brought to Ryazan in 1225 by the byzantine princess Eupraxia, future spouse of Ryazan prince Theodore, and perishing in 1237 with her husband and infant-son during the incursion of Batu); and Sainted Nicholas of Mozhaisk — also in full stature, with a sword in his right hand and a city in his left — in memory of the miraculous rescue, through the prayers of the saint, of the city of Mozhaisk from an invasion of enemies. It is impossible to list all the graced icons of Saint Nicholas. Every Russian city and every church was blessed by suchlike icons through the prayers of the saint.
Eastern Christian Orthodox Hymn – Troparion Tone 4
The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith,/ a model of meekness, and a teacher of temperance./ Therefore thou hast won the heights by humility,/ riches by poverty./ Holy Father Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.
Eastern Christian Orthodox Hymn – Kontakion Tone 3
Thou wast a faithful minister of God in Myra,/ O Saint Nicholas./ For having fulfilled the Gospel of Christ,/ thou didst die for the people and save the innocent./ Therefore thou wast sanctified as a great initiator of the grace of God.
For Unto Us a Child is Born… Unto Us a Son is Given!
“Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world as the light of wisdom. For by it those who worshipped the starts were taught by a star to worship Thee the Son of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Wisdom from on high.” (Nativity Troparion)
“The Virgin today gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. Angels and shepherds glorify Him, and wise men journey with a star. For a young Child is born for us, Who is the eternal God.” (Nativity Kontakion)
The above are Eastern Christian Orthodox Hymns on the Celebration of the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Dear Family & Friends,
I can not believe how quickly Christmas is approaching and another year is coming quickly to an end. As usual, I can honestly say my life is not dull and I have had another “interesting” year. I have kept quite busy more than the past several years. I have had my share of trials, and yet many of my friends and family have had suffered far greater than I. Again, I have so much to be thankful to God for. As I reflect back on this past year I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and that He ALWAYS answers prayer. I know God is faithful and is truly Emmanuel, “God is with us”. He has truly been with me even in my stumbling, my falling, my stubbornness, my foolish pride, in spite of it all… He is still with me. I can look back and see His hand guiding me, supporting me and comforting me even in my darkest days.
It has been 7 years since I left the Pregnancy Center and I am still officially considered “disabled” and unable to work a “regular” part-time job. Still in spite of the day to day changes and all the unplanned ups and downs. God is still teaching me to make the most of each day that He has given and just because I may not be “doing anything” I can still pray and worship my Creator.
I had my third year anniversary with Petco as a Dog Trainer this past October. I am the only Dog Trainer at our Petco facility and I can honestly say I get to go to work and play with dogs and meet all kinds of new people! I am also still plugging away at my other business of building websites and doing the occasional business consulting or some other odd job. I still continue to housesit (rather check in on and take care of) Jan’s 4 Cockatiel birds and take care of plants, yard, pool, and anything else while her and her husband travel off and on throughout the year.
Sometime in late January or February (I can’t remember) I fell out of a tree while trimming some errant dead branches. So I began another round of Physical Therapy and although I have two bulging discs one of which was torn, after going through Physical Therapy, my back is in better shape than it has been in years.
In March, the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation authorized retraining and education for me to attend the Animal Behavior College to become a Professional Dog Trainer (technically that is what I am at Petco) but this will in the future open doors of opportunity for having either potential growth via Petco or branch out on my own a bit more. I finished the online and book learning in August and began my externship with a Dog Training Mentor in September. I finished phase one of three before the rains and the weather permitted anymore. I hope to finish the last two phases early spring. I also hope to begin my volunteer requirements with the Shasta County Animal Control after the first of the year. When my externship and volunteer phases are completed, I will then take my final exam. I hope to continue with my dog training education in working with Shelter dogs and rehabilitating problem behavior dogs and dogs who have aggression issues.
During the Spring/Summer of this past year I taught Agility classes for the Nor Cal Dog Training Club and had a great time. Also with the Nor Cal Dog Club and through my own dog training business, me and a few friends of mine did some demonstrations at some local elementary schools in April and June. We did Obedience, Agility, Flyball and Tracking demos. It was lots of fun for the dogs, the kids and us!
I have also been busy doing demos or having informational booths at various “animal/dog” events in and around my community.
In April, I had an info booth and offered the AKC Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) testing for the annual “Love Your Pet Expo” a benefit for local animal rescue groups. My Shetland Sheepdog, Dani Joy, did some Agility and Flyball demos at this event and had a great time.
In May, I participated in the Haven Humane Society’s Dog-a-thon.
In August, I did some demos with 2 other dog trainers in the area at the Open House for the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Manton (near Shingletown east of Redding). Unfortunately, Dani Joy ended up with a foxtail embedded in her chest wall and had to have surgery as it was headed to the heart/lung cavity. Thankfully, she is doing great now. Also in August, I had an informational booth with Petco at a fundraising event called “Woofstock” a benefit for a local animal rescue group.
In September, I coordinated a demo event for the Nor Cal Dog Training Club at the annual Honey Bee Festival in Palo Cedro where we did Agility, Rally Obedience, and Flyball demonstrations. My two Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties) Patrick Ryan and Dani Joy showed off their stuff in Flyball and Dani Joy got her picture in the Palo Cedro newspaper. My Italian Greyhound Skippy did some beginning Agility at the demo as well. Also in September, I went to the 2nd Annual Chico Canine Carnival, a benefit for Animal rescues in Butte County. I offered the AKC CGC testing and my dogs did Flyball demos. I was supposed to do some Flyball demos and some more AKC CGC testing for the Siskiyou Paws for Walk fundraising event that same month, but ended up coming down sick.
In October, I coordinated a dog-sport community event in Anderson called “Pawsibilities Unleashed” where we had numerous dog trainers, dog sporting activities and animal rescue groups putting on demonstrations, offering information and encouraging responsible dog ownership.
After that event ended, I resigned from the Nor Cal Dog Club. I am now also an inactive member with my flyball team the Gold Coast Flyers.
I am very focused on working at Petco, getting my education and certifications needed for being a dog trainer.
Still on the subject of dogs… over Memorial Day Weekend I traveled down to my dad’s home in El Dorado, CA and went to the “Hangtown Kennel Club’s Dog Show” where I had Patrick Ryan entered for 3 days in competition Rally Obedience (Rally “O” for short). He came home with 2 qualifying scores. He needed 3 to get a Rally Novice title, unfortunately, his owner (me) messed up – always “handler error” – and it was his best performance of the weekend and my dad and step-mom, Marti were there to cheer me on and take pictures.
In the second week of June, I went to a four day dog show in Gridley, CA and entered both Dani Joy and Patrick Ryan in Rally “O”. Dani Joy got her title in Rally Novice on the fourth day. Patrick Ryan got his Rally Novice on the first day, and 2 qualifying scores on the 2nd and 3rd day, in Rally Advance, however, like the last show, Patrick did a “star” performance but once again – handler error! So we need another show to get his title in Rally Advanced. I was still so very proud of them!
Skippy got his AKC Canine Good Citizenship while we were at the Chico Canine Carnival in September, which is his first step in any kind of event. I hope next year to enter him into Rally “O” and by the way, he is finally house-trained! Skippy will be 4 years old in March. He still has some behavioral issues to work through like “resource guarding” he thinks EVERYTHING belongs to him, the living room, Dee, the cats, the toys, the yard, etc.
Patrick just turned 10 years old this past week. He is showing more of his age and he is losing a bit of his hearing. But he is still as smart as a whip. He is now learning new tricks and I am thinking of taking up the sport of Canine Freestyle (a.k.a. doggie dancing).
Dani Joy will turn 7 years old in January and is still the live wire as ever. Although she has mellowed just a touch enough to focus more on commands and do her Rally “O” and a few tricks too!
Dee still has her 2 beautiful Havana Brown Cats, Alexandria Rose, better known as “Buppie,” and Misty Rose. They will both be 5 years after the first of the New Year. They still play and chase each other around the house like a couple of kittens. Shawn who was a rescue kitten grew into one big BOY and was terrorizing the other two so he was placed into another home.
Our newest addition arrived at our home Wednesday afternoon, December 9th, via an animal rescue group from the Burney/Fall River Mills area. They brought to our home a 10 month old male pup named “Bingo” who is ¾ Australian Kelpie and ¼ Queensland Heeler. He is a FOSTER dog that I am helping to rehabilitate so he goes with me to Petco and helps me teach my dog classes. He came from an elderly man who had beaten the dog and threw him outside in 6 below zero weather. He had no fenced in yard in the mountains and the dog was often found running along the side of the roads and freeway. He was terribly mistreated and the rescue group had been trying to get the man to surrender the dog to them for quite some time. The rescue group paid to have him neutered in November and he got at least a Rabies shot, but hadn’t had any other vaccinations. He was starving for love and attention and terribly neglected. He is very smart and learns commands very quickly.
It is a delight to work with such a sweet dog. It is also sad to see him belly crawl and cringe and the slightest movement that reminds him of his mistreatment. He had never been on a leash, been in a crate and stayed outside most of the time. He is now wearing a harness and is walking on a leash beautifully, is crate trained, knows several basic commands and gets along with all the other animals except Skippy and Buppie, who don’t like him, but Bingo is smart enough to stay out of their way.
I will keep working with him at least through January and see him through his second set of vaccinations and get him ready for adoption, with nice manners when he is ready to be placed again. We have since renamed him, “Christmas Beau Ty,” and call him “Beau Ty.” It seems to fit him perfectly. There are many offers for a home for him coming in when I am at work.
My private dog training business has been primarily focused on private lessons with one-on-one training with the dog and the dog owner. It has been challenging and very rewarding. I created a new website just for my dog training business it is www.k9keltsdogtraining.com
I have had only one new website job which was a barter/trade deal for some furniture. So I now have a new sofa, loveseat, 6 foot bookcase, and a futon that folds out to a double-bed. Their website is www.salesdirectsofamattress.com
If you are looking for some unique gifts for friends or family or for yourself… check out my website at www.kieranna.com and look under web design and/or web portfolio and take a look at some of the sites I’ve built. I am always looking for new websites to build.
My roommate, Dee, continues to be completely disabled due to her back injury and constant Fibromyalgia pain. However, she has over 20 penpals that she corresponds with on a regular basis including a couple of ladies in prison. Her youngest son Joey got married this past year and lives in Colorado. Her oldest son, David and his wife Crystal, were recently medically discharged from the Army and have moved to Red Bluff, just 15 minutes south of us. So Dee is pleased to have at least one son close to home and his 4 boys live in Redding with their mom. Her middle son, Tim, is still not in any contact with her and she rarely gets pictures or notes from his ex-wife about the other 2 grandchildren. It breaks her heart, so please pray for that situation.
I know longer attend St. Andrew’s Serbian Orthodox Church, but I occasionally attend St. Nicholas Orthodox Church of America. I am trying to become more of a regular attendee, however, I often work nights and find it very hard to get up in the morning… (I never was a morning person anyway and now it is more difficult).
In June & July my sister traveled to Ireland and then to Israel for research work for Westmont College where she is a Professor of Communications Studies.
My Dad is still the Pastor of El Dorado Community Church and Marti, my step-mom still runs their bookstore, in El Dorado “Books-n-Bears”.
In August, my family (Dad, Marti, Deb & Keith) and I (and 3 Shelties, mine and my sister’s) went on our annual family vacation but this time it was in some connected cabins along the Russian River. We had lots of fun canoeing, fishing, playing games and walking along the beach and visiting the little tourist shops around the area.
My youngest brother Matthew Jason Dunn is a singer/songwriter/dancer and is loving his life! He recently moved to a beautiful new home in Aptos, CA.
During the last part of October I came down with a stomach/intestinal virus and so did Dee. It was awful, but nothing like when I came down with the Swine Flu over Thanksgiving weekend. As it went through its course, I then came down with a secondary respiratory infection a mild case of pneumonia. So I was off work for 8 scheduled days… so my dog training schedule went haywire… but I am back at work and things are getting back on schedule.
I have entered another technological phase of our world of text messaging and social networking. So I am on FaceBook, MySpace, ZooToo, LinkedIn, Classmates.com, and a few others that I don’t remember. So if that is your thing look me up.
My life is interesting, changing and I am changing and growing. I am still gradually gaining some of my health and hope to continue getting well. I am also constantly reminded the reality of life is about getting old and our journey towards eternity; this is earth and not heaven. What really matters is how we lived in light of eternity and our relationship with others and with God.
I pray that this year will be one of renewed hope and commitment in your own journey towards eternity and walking with God.
Thank you for being in my life, for being who you are, for being a blessing, for praying for me, and the privilege of me praying for you.
Much love, hugs and prayers for you and your family.
God’s Blessings to All of You this Christmas 2009
By God’s Mercy & Grace – Kieranna Kathleen
Suffering, Sin, Sickness & Death Thank you for your prayers for my myriad health problems. I appreciate you sharing the scripture verse you quoted, Isaiah 53:4 and 5: “surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows. Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted, but He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him. And by His stripes we are healed.” I do believe that God can and does heal people. This verse is often quoted as well as many others that to many mean that God guarantees a healing if we only proclaim it and have faith. This is not always the case and especially when it comes to anything from God. This part of scripture in complete context talks about the suffering of the Lord and healing us of sin, transgressions, iniquities, and restoring us into a right relationship with God. I do believe sometimes sin and the devil can cause affliction and bad health. However, not all affliction is from sin or of the devil, or even lack of faith. When I look at the complete Bible, there are numerous examples of suffering even for the righteous. In many passages of Scripture it reminds us there will be suffering in this life which God allows us to go through. Some of the suffering is for only a time, some is for this life time, but all suffering, illness and even death will be taken away. Christ conquered sin. Does this mean that since Christ conquered sin, we are no longer sinful? I am sure you would agree that although we have been forgiven of our sins both past, present and future, it does not mean we are any less sinful and we don’t need to confess and repent of our sins or that we are without sin. So as we live out each day, we sin each day and then we need to repent and confess our sins so that we might be healed of our sins. Christ conquered death. Does this mean that since Christ conquered death that we will never die? In one sense, yes, our soul will never die. In the other physical sense, our body will die unless we are blessed to be alive at the glorious Second Coming of Christ. Although Christ conquered death and the grave does not mean that we will not experience a physical death and experience the decay and corruption of a dying body. Christ conquered sickness. So now I ask the question, does this mean that since Christ conquered sickness that we will never be sick? Could there be another meaning? Just like in sin or in death Christ conquered all these things it does not mean that we will be “saved” from all these things. One might say that sin is our own fault and that might imply that we can live a life of perfection because Christ lived as a man and He lived perfectly. However, very few people will ever attain perfection and be without sin even after becoming born again. So is sickness from sin? As I said before that some sicknesses are from sin, but then just because a person is healthy does that mean they are without sin? I am sure you would agree that there are many healthy people that are very sinful people. Likewise there are many healthy people who have no faith at all in God, or a god, and are even atheist in their beliefs. So then we have to realize that sometimes God allows sickness comes in to our lives for the testing of our faith and for to bring glory to God in the midst of our trials, tribulations, sufferings and illnesses. We only need to look at the life of Job in the Old Testament and see how a righteous man is put to the test and although we get the glimpse into heaven and see the conversation between God and the devil, Job had no idea and neither did his wife. Yet we see Job suffering patiently and trusting God with his well-meaning friends offering counsel that maybe he didn’t have faith or their must be some sin his life that God was punishing Job. Yet, then we see God rebuking Job’s friends and never giving an explanation for Job’s suffering but instead declares His Glory to Job and reminds them and us, that He is God and will do as He pleases. We can never make demands of God, we are at His mercy. His will and purposes extend beyond our present vision and this present life. We all have to die sometime in our life (unless the Lord comes). Death is unavoidable. It is not a question of whether or not we will die, we will all die. The question becomes “how will we die?” We will all die from our bodies finally giving out or by some other means. Our bodies from the time we stop growing up are then on the decline and decaying. Death is the final step. I also mean that both physically and spiritually. Even after Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus had die again later on in his life. When Christ healed the paralytic, He first said, your sins are forgiven. The Pharisees were in an uproar because they said only God can forgive sins. Christ answered so that they would know that he had the power to forgive, He then healed the man. Christ healed many people but not all people. Those He healed were also “saved”. All of His healings were to demonstrate that He was truly God in the flesh. Throughout Church history and even throughout the New Testament in the lives of the saints of God, illness, suffering, trials and tribulations came to test their faith. The Apostle Paul reminds us that whom the Lord loves He chastens. Jesus said, “in this world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” Earth is not our home and these bodies are still living in a polluted and sinful world. Oftentimes sickness and illness are used by God to build our faith and draw us closer to Him. It is a great testimony to praise God in the midst of the storms of our life and glorify Him and say like Job, “though He (meaning God) slay me, yet will I trust Him” and again Job says, “for I know that my Redeemer lives and I will stand with Him on that day (meaning the day of judgment)”. Through sicknesses and trials we are reminded that this is earth and not Heaven and that Heaven is truly our home and we have the Eternal hope that all sorrow and sickness and tears will be wiped away. I will close with these passages of Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3 -7: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, Whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 5:10-11 “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Please pray for me as I pray for you that we both may glorify God in all things.
Don’t put me in a box Don’t label me at all Don’t try to figure me out Don’t put me on a pedestal Don’t put me in a category Or give me a personality test Don’t send me to a psychiatrist Or a psychoanalyst God’s the one that made me And he’s not finished yet He knows all my tomorrows And He knows every one of my regrets Lord knows He knows my secrets More than I can ever admit He knows the deepest part of me My heart’s too complicated for a simple fix I’m not the Rock of Gibraltar Cause sometimes I can crumble Stumble, cry and fall But when it’s all over I’m still standing tall … God loves me like I am
This is an excerpt of a letter sent to a young man in prison struggling with his appeal process to reduce his sentencing time in prison. But I thought I would add it to my blog and maybe encourage someone else although we may not be in prison… we all have our “prisons”, “deserts”, “wilderness” experiences.
These are thoughts after spending over 20 years in ministry and missions work about learning patience and truly waiting on God’s perfect timing. Some of the things I desired for a certain ministry or mission to take place often took years and I was often frustrated things didn’t move faster than I would have liked, but God’s timing is always perfect. I would often remind myself that it is not the end result but the process of growing in the journey closer to God. God is not so much concerned about what we do for Him as to how our relationship is growing with Him.
I am reminded about Moses spending 40 years in the desert tending sheep a time of preparation and drawing closer to God. Then there was David who killed Goliath and later became King, but he spent many years in the wilderness tending sheep and facing his own battles learning to trust God to direct his paths. Elijah spent 3 years in the wilderness in a time of drought being fed by ravens and living in a cave. There was also John the Baptist growing up from childhood in the desert until the time he was to reveal Christ to the world by baptism. Saul who met the Lord on the road to Damascus and became the Apostle Paul spent 14 years in the desert drawing close to God before going out and doing missionary work. The Apostle Paul spent many years in and out of prison and many of his letters or epistles as they are called in the Bible were written while he was in prison. While the Apostle Paul was in prison, his life so reflected Christ that many came to salvation because of his witness in prison – even the guards.
Outside of scriptures there are numerous great people used by God to do great and mighty things who spent years in a wilderness or desert of some sort. John Bunyan who wrote one of Christianity’s classic books, “Pilgrim’s Progress” wrote it while he was in prison for several years.
So let me encourage you with some scriptures from the Apostle Paul:
Philippians 2:5-10: ” Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 4:4-14 ” Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.”
The final verses are ones out of 2 Corinthians 4 that I especially took heart in when in difficult times: “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God… But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
I am always reminding myself that God’s most important work is in our hearts and not in our ministries or what we do for God. That we are to work out our salvation, meaning that we are to constantly work on our heart to become more like Christ in whatever situation we are in and trust God to work out His perfect timing and plans for our lives.
My other favorite verses are Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
And Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
So our life takes many turns and often not the way we planned but looking back it is God’s perfect plan and we can see his hand in all things. Even when we have made mistakes, done things we are not proud of, been disciplined by the hand of God (sometimes from the law, sometimes from man, but it is all from God), God is working on our character, our personality and our hearts to form us into the very likeness and image of Christ so that our light will shine without and shadows and the water that flows out of us will be living water purified and not stained.
So consider this time in “prison”, as a time in the “wilderness” or “desert”, a time where God has set you aside to draw you closer to Himself and to reveal Himself to you in a deeper way.
It is a time of examining our hearts and seeing how much we are truly willing to sacrifice and to “die to self” for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of Christ.
We cannot see or make plans for the future, we have to make the most of today and make sure our hearts and minds are purified and holy before God so that if today or tonight he decided to take our life and call us home we are ready.
May you ponder on these rich nuggets of gold that I have learned from God in my own “wilderness” experiences. I wish you blessings from heaven dear brothers and sisters in the Lord.