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Sermon 4/3/05 – New Vision (Terri)
Deuteronomy 33:27

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New Vision (Terri)

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

Terri Schiavo, brain-damaged, but loved, is gone from this world.  In the United States, the debate raged, but the U. S. Courts sided with her husband and her feeding tube was removed.  Some wanted her to die so she would no longer suffer.  Others didn’t want her to suffer, but at the same time wanted her to live.  Very few had “no opinion.”  A central issue was her wishes.  Apparently, before her injury, she mentioned that she did not want her life to be sustained artificially.  She did breathe on her own and lot of the debate centered on the feeding tube that was taken away.  She died of thirst and lack of food.  “Where is God in this?” is the question of some and the answer is in today’s Bible verse: He was there with her, as He is with all who have suffered or will suffer in this life.  He's there for YOU right now!

The furor over Terri raised a lot of questions about the quality of life.  Many wondered: SHOULD a person continue to live when they are facing a lifetime of extreme difficulty?  And a related question is important: WHO decides whether or not we live or die?  Does an off-hand remark give anyone the right to kill?

You may recall the Director of “New Vision Ministries,” Howard Burdick, who has been legally blind since he was a young boy, after surgery on his eyes did not succeed.  Howard runs a “medical lending closet” giving out crutches, canes and other equipment to those who need such items, but cannot afford them.  He and another man dress up as clowns and go into hospitals where they cheer up the patients.  He runs a weekly church service in a convalescent home.  And he is God’s gift to Friday Study Ministries.  Howard, an ordained pastor with a Masters Degree in Christian Education, has prayed about joining our Church On The Net, and if approved by our Board, he will be our “Minister of Abilities.”  Howard believes that those with “disabilities” often have great abilities that others don’t understand and they are capable of providing “New Vision” to the rest of us.

I teach in a convalescent home on a weekly basis also, and both Howard and I have come to the conclusion that those with disabilities often “see” life from a better, more complete perspective than those the disabled call “Able Bodied Persons.”  When someone receives Christ, he or she is “gifted” by the Lord, and the process through which the Lord enables His loved ones to utilize those “gifts” for the benefit of others, often includes suffering.  We need the hard-won perspective of the “disabled,” and we need – them.

As Howard points out, we should LISTEN to those with disabilities.  The SITUATION of Terri Schiavo spoke to us, even though she could not speak.  God allows disabilities, and provides offsetting abilities to those who have them.  Note, by the way, that ALL of us are going to be disabled if we live long enough.  It’s called the “aging process,” which was invented by God so that we would at last ALL see our need of Him.

Life isn’t easy.  And who can better understand and comfort others in their distress than the one who has suffered?  Many times the “disabled” are unable to work.  Most think they would “love it” if they didn’t have to work every day, but a lot of those in the “disabled” community would like to work if they could, and many do just that.  Those who don’t work, Howard points out, have a unique opportunity – They often have TIME to pray!  God loves their prayers! – and He answers them!

Suffering is the strange, unexpected “gift” from God that NOBODY really wants, but God in His wisdom, shares it with many of His loved ones.  Scripture says: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).  And as Jesus informed His surprised disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).  At our weekly Sunday Fellowship, I asked a man who has been a paraplegic for a year and is suffering from blood clots and other difficulties, if he thought of his wheelchair as a “cross?”  His answer was an emphatic “Yes – this chair IS my cross!

When we were in Phoenix, a couple of weeks ago, I asked Howard, Director of New Vision Ministries - what would his life have been like if he was “sighted?”  His response was that he did not know, but we agreed that suffering DOES change us, often for the better.  The person who has suffered is deepened by the suffering, the limitations, and boundaries God has placed around them.  Would Howard have such a passionate need to help those who are disabled, if he were not disabled himself?  The man in a wheelchair who was paralyzed a year ago, wants to start a business providing low-cost medical equipment to the disabled – Would he have considered such a business before his injury?  My wife, Genevieve, lost her first husband, Bob, to cancer, and after his death, she started a national organization (the Agent Orange Widows Awareness Coalition – AOWAC) to reach out and help other widows who have suffered similar loss.  Would any of these people have interests like they do, except for the suffering in their lives?  Very likely not!  We often have to lose OUR way before we find the Lord’s will for our lives.

No matter WHAT the experts thought about Terri Schiavo’s ability to think and feel, she and her parents experienced suffering.  She was ALIVE and her body felt pain just like yours and mine.  What was the PURPOSE of all that?  Why did her relatives suffer from the moment she became disabled?  WHY do such things occur?  The honest answer is that we do not truly know, except we do know this: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).  He was WITH her, and He is with ALL who simply TRUST in the Lord.  He’s there for YOU, right now.

We heard many discussions about Terri, as to whether or not she would have elected to live if she had been able to speak.  But few addressed God’s will, that He leads some to suffer in His Name.  He has indeed called many in that way.  Some say “yes,” but many draw back, offended by Him.  Dr. Daniel Wallace wrote this: “Taking us through suffering, not out of it, is one of the primary means that the Spirit uses today in bringing us to God.”  And we need the Lord far more than we need to escape the troubles of life.  Let’s pray:

Lord, we do not fully understand suffering, but we do see in our Scripture for today, that You are there with us in our sorrow.  Enable us to believe in You, Lord, no matter WHAT happens.  Yes, we do ask for a new vision about life, especially that we may learn to TRUST in You.  And Lord, bring PEACE to all who loved Terri.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
First Church On The Net
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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