As I began writing the Perspectives article for this month, I paused a moment, glanced at some notes and flipped through some diary entries that I had written so far this year. I was emotionally overtaken as I began to revisit the health issues that my wife has suffered during the past 16 months or so, and how we are getting through it. While in that state of reflection, I also could see how this trial has reshaped us.
Enduring most any kind of trial is to some degree like being on a ship, tossed about in a storm. And even if we are in a good ship, built to survive raging winds and the pounding waves, nevertheless, the storm, any storm, gives us pause. Can we make it? Will things hold together? Will the crew sustain their courage, keep their faith in the ship and maintain their trust in each other?
As storms pass over, thankfully, so comes the relief. The tension on the ropes begins to relax, the crew recovers and examines the many ways in which the ship held together. They talk about how the ship endured, which waves hit the hardest, how some of the most crushing waves missed the ship and how the ropes were taut but somehow did not break. The realities of the situation are recalled and the truth and weight of it all – its influence and the elements that made the difference between victory and loss — become very clear.
I want to dedicate this article to my wife, Micki – or as I often describe her, my sweet Micki.
Micki has endured a prolonged affliction . . . issues with her heart, breathing and an old spinal injury that worsened after a fall. She has undergone many procedures, and even suffered a failed surgical procedure that had to be redone less than 24 hours after the doctors had completed the first attempt. Despite the setbacks, the pain and the weakness, she never lost hope or faith. She has stayed strong enough to inspire and comfort us all. She has, in many ways, reconstructed me personally and made me see afresh what really matters in this life.
During a particularly low moment, we had an intensely poignant conversation. Much of what we discussed was personal to us, but ultimately it was a deep assessment of the things in our lives that truly matter. We concluded that people matter. Our children matter. Our friendships matter. But in her frailty on that stormy night, Micki added one other thing to our list that struck my heart so very strongly. With conviction, she said firmly, “And . . . the Church matters!” We cried. We prayed. And that idea has clung to my spirit ever since . . . the Church matters!
God has created in us, through the baptism of the Holy Ghost, a gift that binds His people together. The letter to the church in Ephesus expresses thusly: “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:2-5).
The unity of the Spirit is worth striving for. It must be achieved. It will take love, longsuffering and patience. We will go through trials, low times, hardship and temptation. But we must endure. The body of Christ is not divided into various levels of redemption. There is only one Spirit. It matters! “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). I believe that when Peter answered the question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” he gave the answer to how one becomes a Christian — by repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin and the infilling of the Holy Ghost. Peter’s answer matters.
The Church cannot abide in disunity, dissension and discord. Christ did not offer a plan by which the members of the body may all pick and choose their own doctrines, beliefs, lifestyles, and just “agree to disagree.” Christ came that we might dwell in the bond of peace. Anything less than unity in the Spirit will ultimately lead us to confusion and chaos. It matters!
There are truly few lonelier moments on this earth than when life-threatening situations arise. In some of those lonely moments that Micki and I spent together in the hospital over the course of her illness, we were encouraged by the sweet comfort of the Holy Spirit. And, in unique clarity, we could look back over our life and ministry and without a doubt know that the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been our power and hope, and the source of all our blessings. Certainly we know we are not interested in supporting or doing anything that would destroy the love and trust that we have built in our family. And just as certainly, we aren’t interested in doing anything that would deconstruct our commitment to the message of one Lord, one faith, one baptism that connects us to the beautiful body of Apostolic believers around the world. We will not be separated from His Spirit and His anointing. And while we may be facing a wind-tossed night, He will never leave us or forsake us. The old ship of Zion will prevail – as Micki so profoundly proclaimed, “The Church Matters!”
P.S. I must add a few words. Thankfully, Micki has received good care and we believe she has received a touch from God. She is getting stronger, and has received good reports in recent days. The prayers, the kind notes, the encouragement of our children and church family has made a true difference. We are most grateful. She is still recovering and we covet your prayers for her complete healing.