by Mike Ratliff
 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV)
My friend Jon Cardwell put me on the list to receive a pre-publication copy of his new book Christ and Him Crucified. I received it on Friday from the publisher. Some of you may know, but some may not, that Jon suffers many of the symptoms of ALS, which is often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease. His symptoms started when he was serving as Pastor in Scammon Bay, Alaska. Because of the severity of the onset and the need to have a proper diagnosis, he had to leave the flock he loved. He is now serving as a Pastor of a church in Alabama. When I think of my friend Jon, I am reminded of a sermon I heard from Steve Lawson at the 2010 Shepherd’s Conference in which he exegeted Job Chapter 1. The message was titled “The Invisible War.” In this message, Dr. Lawson shows that God uses adversity in the lives of his people to make them broken vessels, who humbly walk with a limp before him, dependent upon him, not in love with this world, but wholly dependent upon him for everything.
In the Prelude to Jon’s book, on pages 2 and 3, he shares an encounter with some people from Alaska who have come to visit him in Alabama. They want him to to come back. They asked if they could pray for him to be healed of his ALS symptoms. Here is his reply.
“Dear sister.” I smiled at her, then to Felix and Gemma, then back to her, “I appreciate your coming to pray for me; and I believe that all healing is from the Lord so if God chooses to heal me, then so be it. Moreover, I’m so thankful to God that you all would want me to come back to Scammon Bay. Scammon Bay is more our home than anywhere else on the planet. Yet, I want you to understand that if this disease means that I will die soon, I’m not just ready for it, I’m looking forward to it; because if I die it means, just as I’ve been teaching the congregation here, that I will soon be in the presence of Jesus and there is absolutely nothing better. I will behold His face and I will not look to the left or to the right; and as much as I love you, I will not be thinking of you. My every thought will be for Him and toward Him.”
After I read that the first time, I took the book to where my wife was and read that paragraph to her through tears. She only nodded. She understood too. In our study over the last several weeks (or is it months?) haven’t we seen that the mark of true Christianity is that we love one another? Also, we are not in love with this world or the things of this world, but we have taken up our crosses and are following our Lord. We are walking not in arrogance, but in humility always ready to give an account of the hope that is within us.
Our Lord is faithful, therefore, we are called to a level of faithfulness that the world does not understand. Just read Foxes Book of Martyrs and how so many Christians were mercilessly killed for refusing to deny their Saviour. A careful reading of the Book of Revelation shows that that time may be coming upon the Church again. In any case, the following is from Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning devotional for December 11th. Enjoy and be blessed.
“Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”-1 Thessalonians 5:24
Heaven is a place where we shall never sin; where we shall cease our constant watch against an indefatigable enemy, because there will be no tempter to ensnare our feet. There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest. Heaven is the “undefiled inheritance”; it is the land of perfect holiness, and therefore of complete security. But do not the saints even on earth sometimes taste the joys of blissful security? The doctrine of God’s word is, that all who are in union with the Lamb are safe; that all the righteous shall hold on their way; that those who have committed their souls to the keeping of Christ shall find Him a faithful and immutable preserver. Sustained by such a doctrine we can enjoy security even on earth; not that high and glorious security which renders us free from every slip, but that holy security which arises from the sure promise of Jesus that none who believe in Him shall ever perish, but shall be with Him where He is. Believer, let us often reflect with joy on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and honour the faithfulness of our God by a holy confidence in Him.
May our God bring home to you a sense of your safety in Christ Jesus! May He assure you that your name is graven on His hand; and whisper in your ear the promise, “Fear not, I am with thee.” Look upon Him, the great Surety of the covenant, as faithful and true, and, therefore, bound and engaged to present you, the weakest of the family, with all the chosen race, before the throne of God; and in such a sweet contemplation you will drink the juice of the spiced wine of the Lord’s pomegranate, and taste the dainty fruits of Paradise. You will have an antepast of the enjoyments which ravish the souls of the perfect saints above, if you can believe with unstaggering faith that “faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”
Soli Deo Gloria!