Thank you friends. Thank you. And I am so happy to be here with you this morning to share my happiness, my gladness, my joy in the Lord Jesus. But I tell you I wasn’t really very joyful what was it a month or two ago when on the cover of Newsweek magazine in big black bold letters it was announced, “The Decline and Fall of Christianity.” It painted a pretty bleak picture of Christians relating in a world of economic turmoil, drugs, the disintegration of the American Family. It even painted a pretty bleak of picture of people like me. Now a day’s society thinks that a person like me, a paralyzed person, a quadriplegic makes a perfectly reasonable, rational choice if he or she wants to end his life. They look at me and they think well she’s better off dead then disabled. It’s a different world then when I first injured myself and now as in times never before we need wisdom, don’t we friends? Wisdom for living, not just surviving, but living joyfully and with great gladness in a world that is experiencing so much turmoil, so much wickedness, so much heartache. Now I don’t pretend that forty-two years qualifies me to expose a lot of wisdom, but when you’ve lived those forty-two years as I have in this wheelchair without use of your hands or use of your legs, paralyzed, then you’ve got something to say especially if you’re smiling. You’ve got a key that can help others unlock sense out of their seemingly senseless suffering.
So I hope this morning to share a couple of nuggets from a lifetime of wisdom and that first nugget, well how can I explain it? I guess I experienced it this morning when I woke up. It’s how I wake up about seventy-five, eighty percent of the time. I always hear the front door click open and I know my girlfriend is in the kitchen, she’s running water for coffee and she’s going to get ready to get me up, bathed, dressed, sit up in a wheelchair, brush my teeth, brush my hair, blow my nose, get me out the front door. She’s here to help me get up. Instead I am lying in bed in the bedroom, door closed and this is what I’m thinking: oh God I don’t have the strength for this. I am so tired. Oh Lord, forty-two years in a wheelchair, paralyzed, quadriplegic; I have no strength for this, I have no energy for this. I can’t do this, Lord God. I have no strength for a smile for this woman who’s going to come through the bedroom door in just a moment and I’ve got to give her a smile and Lord I don’t have a smile. I’m so tired; oh God I can’t live this way. Have you ever woken up feeling that way? Welcome to the human race.
And so then I pray, Lord, I might not have the strength, I have no energy but I have You and I need Your energy. I need Your strength. I can’t do quadriplegia, Lord, but I can do all things through You as You strengthen me. So God please give me Your smile. I have no smile for this woman, but You’ve got a smile. May I please borrow Your smile? And not but a moment goes by and I have a smile. It’s already a miracle. I’ve experienced a miracle before seven-thirty a.m. when my girlfriend walks through the door and I can smile. Not in spite of my paralysis but because of it. My paralysis has driven me every single morning to the cross of Jesus Christ where I tell Him how much desperately I need Him. And so that smile is already hard fought for and hard won by early morning. That’s the first nugget of wisdom; begin your day needing Jesus Christ desperately.
The second nugget of wisdom is when I go out the door. I go out the door with a goal and that goal is to live my life that day looking, really searching for God’s purpose for my life. I’m alive today there must be a reason. Lord Jesus, what is Your mission today? And so I go out the front door with Philippians chapter three, verses eight to ten in my heart and that verse says basically I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. Now we all want to know Christ don’t we? Sure we do. And we all want to know His power, the power of the resurrection. But not many of us want to know the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. Oh we’ll follow Him to the beach where He preaches a sermon boat side, and we’ll follow Him to the pastures where He preaches about lilies of the field. And oh yes we’ll watch Him as He blesses the children. We like to picture Jesus, sweet, approachable, mild mannered, blessing children but not many of us want to know the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.
And so God, bless His heart, forces us down the road to Calvary where we are not humanly inclined to go. It is not our natural inclination to go to the cross every day. And so God gives us suffering. Like a sheep dog, it is. A sheep dog snapping at your heels, driving you down the road to the cross where otherwise you might not normally go. You’re driven there by the overwhelming conviction that you just have nowhere else to go and so God permits the broken heart. He permits the broken home. He permits, He allows, He ordains, He plans even the broken neck until we become broken and bent down, down for the count, decimated, we are driven to the cross, oh God I need You. And that is where we become like Him in His death. Do you know what that phrase means from Philippians chapter three? To become like Him in His death is to daily take up His cross and die to the sins that He died for on the cross. You die to fears and anxieties of the future. You die to sins of resentment or fudging the truth, or manipulating others, or that itchiness to get your own way. You die to those things. You die to anger, you die to unbelief and worry. And that’s what it means to become like Him in His death daily taking up your cross and following Him, the one who bore His cross dying to the sins that we experience every day.
I once met a man in Ghana when we were delivering wheelchairs and when I met him he came crawling up to me on his hands, dragging his legs behind him. And he said to me “oh Joni, welcome to our country where God is so much bigger. He’s bigger Joni because we need him more.” Isn’t that the truth? We have so much in this country; we are so blessed. It’s why we take wheelchairs and bibles around the world. We have been blessed so much in America and so we take these wheelchairs, large and small, to children and adults with disabilities in less developed countries where we give them and we give the love of Jesus and we give bibles and we give the gospel. The good news.
We want people to recognize that they need to be driven to the cross every single day to discover God’s purpose and mission for them that day. And you know who the really handicapped people are? Do you want to know who they are? They are the ones who do not recognize their desperate need of God. The really handicapped people are the ones who, well they hear the alarm clock go off in the morning, they throw back their covers, they jump out of bed, they scarf down breakfast, they give God a quick tip of the hat of a quiet time and then they rush out the front door on automatic cruise control. Do you know if that’s you, God is against you?
James chapter four, verse six says: God opposes the proud. Other translations say He resists the proud, He’s against the proud and the proud are those who live life by themselves. But He says oh but we give grace, grace up on grace to the humble and who are the humble? Those who recognize their desperate need of God, their empty handed spiritual poverty. Even Jesus Himself said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Who are the poor in spirit? Those who come to Jesus every day in empty handed spiritual poverty asking Him to show them the reason for living that day. Because we’re all richer when we recognize our spiritual poverty.
Friends, we are all stronger when we acknowledge our weaknesses. So need God desperately, need Him urgently, go out the front door asking for the purpose for the day and that will be the biblical way for you to live. It’s the only way to live, it is the Christian way to live.
One last other nugget of wisdom; when I go out that front door I know that God is going to show me very wise things about Himself, about the people I’ll encounter and about the mission for the day. But ultimately wisdom is not seeing everything from God’s point of view. Wisdom is trusting God even when you can’t see things from His point of view. For instance, I know that one day I’m going to jump up out of this wheelchair, go to heaven dance, kick and do aerobics. I can’t wait. Philippians chapter one tells me that we eagerly await a Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ who will transform these lowly bodies, yep this one; this paralyzed one. God is going to transform this lowly body to be like His glorious body. Isn’t that a wonderful truth from God’s word? Yes! We’re not going to be spacey spirit beings, no! We are going to have bodies that work, hands that can feel and touch and hold and hug. For the first time ever, I’ll be able to hold my husband and feel it, really feel him.
And you know what I hope I can do when I get to heaven? I hope I can take this big old clunky wheelchair. Now I know that’s not in the bible, that’s not theologically correct, but if I could if I, I would put the wheelchair right over here, set it right here, okay? And then I’d stand up and walk over with my new glorious body, I’m so excited, and I’d be right next to Jesus standing right here. And I would hold His nail-scarred hands and say to Him Jesus thank You, thank You for rescuing me. Thank You for giving me Your salvation as I laid my sins at the foot of Your cross. And Jesus I’m not sure exactly why You had it in Your plan that I should break my neck. Because You see that wheelchair over there? Well Jesus You were right when You said that in this world we would have trouble. That thing was a lot of trouble, a lot of trouble. But Jesus, being in that wheelchair forced me to be close to You. I mean the weaker I was in that wheelchair, the harder I leaned on You, Lord Jesus. And the harder I leaned on You, the stronger I discovered You to be. And oh Lord God, I don’t think I ever would have understood how precious Your grace, Your strength really is were it not for that clunky thing.
So Father thank You, Lord Jesus bless You. Holy Spirit I’m so grateful for the energy You gave each and every day. And now Jesus if You want, You can send that thing to hell. I don’t know if that’s in the bible either. But I do know this: I do know this that after forty years of living, no forty-two, believe me, I’m not going to lose count. After forty-two years as a quadriplegic, I can say that my own suffering was God’s way of giving me an ice cold splash in the face to wake me up out of my spiritual slumber. This wheelchair got me seriously thinking about the Lordship of Christ in my life. It deepened my prayers. It gave me a buoyant happy hope of heaven. It caused me to care about other disabled people with a passion that drives me around the world to deliver wheelchairs and bibles. It helped convince this skeptical, cynical world that there are more important things in life then walking. There are more important things in life then having use of your hands.
First Peter chapter two, verse twenty-one says: “To this you were called because God suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow Him in His steps.” And so Lord Jesus I want to follow You in Your steps. I want to carry my cross daily and not complain because, Lord Jesus, You have shown me that heaven is real and so is hell. This wheelchair has taught me that You, the man of sorrows, are also the Lord of joy. You are the ultimate answer. You have given me such a passion for Your gospel and Lord Jesus it just wouldn’t have been possible had I been on my feet. And Lord, You are ecstasy. Knowing You is beyond words. The worth of You is more precious than diamonds and silvers. It is worth anything, Lord Jesus, to be Your friend. And friends do you know what? You don’t have to break your neck to agree. God bless you on this happy morning and thanks for listening. Thank you.