Winning the Prize

Filed in Charles, Christian Walk, chronic illness, Encouragement, faith by on January 31, 2014

hopelessI found myself in a position that I thought the Lord was really moving things forward with our ministry back in October. I know that He was but the circumstances that have occurred since then leave me questioning everything at times. I am left with the question sometimes of how can I move forward?

Right after we got back from our Oklahoma trip where we had successful speaking events in that we really felt the Lord at work, we had an exhibit at the Tennessee Baptist Convention in Chattanooga. This required more travel and hotel stay that is really tiresome and exhausting for me. On the day we left to come home, I felt that I was getting a cold. In fact, I even said to Spring that I thought we should stop in Nashville at the hospital. This statement of course was half way tongue-in-cheek. The next day I woke up much more sick. A respiratory infection is very dangerous for me in my condition. After I woke up and had even made the decision to go to Vanderbilt, Spring and my caregivers kept getting horrible looking “stuff” out of my chest and throat using machines.

The story gets worse.

We wait for hours in the Vanderbilt emergency room for doctors to realize what is going on with me. I am admitted to the Medical ICU and my temperature keeps rising. The next thing I know, in the early morning hours, I wake up with my heart beating out of control, and physically and emotionally feeling ways I had never felt before. Then my body goes into shock. My blood pressure drops so low that I become terribly drowsy for the rest of the day and hardly know what is going on as the ICU team tries to turn everything in the other direction. Spring is so upset not knowing whether I will even live or not. Finally, they try something that works and my blood pressure starts going back up. When I become aware of everything again, I realize that I have to be weaned off the medicine they gave me to increase my blood pressure and slowly increase my regular heart medications over a time period of two-three months. I was completely taken off my regular heart medications. After I came home and as I am dealing with heart weakness and still very much respiratory distress from the cold virus, I develop serious sinus infection. I go to a local ENT to find that it could be a life-threatening fungal infection that could require major facial surgery involving permanent removal of the involved facial bones. He sent us straight to Vanderbilt for further evaluation and possible surgery. His last words as we left his office were, “keep the Faith.”  I thank the Lord that the Vanderbilt physicians were able to rule that out fairly quickly and without an invasive and risky biopsy in favor of a typical bacterial sinus infection that is familiar to everyone. However, it was a serious infection that required two weeks of IV antibiotics to recover. As I face weeks of recovery, life becomes very discouraging.

This starts the process. Not only had I been sick for six weeks, I am having to stay in our home for another six weeks and even to this day to keep from being exposed to the flu and more colds which would be life-threatening for me again. At this time, I am having terrible reactions to any type of scent on my caregivers, which is causing severe respiratory and even cardiac distress at times. We are having to face week after week of low staffing that is causing Spring to provide most of my care which is very tiring for her. My routines seem to be getting longer and more tiring each day.

All of these physical conditions and situations are affecting everything in my life and my ability to actually live life. I still have two incompletes from the classes I was taking last semester at Southwestern. I find that I am unable to start another class until summer. We are hardly able to get anything done with the ministry that God has called us to. On top of everything else, I have had very time consuming issues related to our business that I have had to attend to. Life just seems like too much. It is beginning to affect my relationships and how I react to things. I find myself questioning everything in life and even my closest relationships.

Having said all of this, how have I been able to continue with life through it all?

How can I find the perseverance to move on?

How can I find the ability not to give up on relationships?

How can I find the ability not to give up on God’s call on my life?

I have been able to live through all of this because of all the prayers and support of friends and family and most of all the support I have had from Spring.

How do I keep from giving up, from not thinking that I can continue with a life serving the Lord?

As I was reading in the devotional time that I try to take each day, I was reading through 1 Corinthians. I read in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 about Paul’s perseverance. I found so much encouragement in these verses that I know I must keep fighting and I know that the Lord still has purpose for my life that I must keep pursuing.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27 ESV)

So I think about the discipline that I have to have to win the race – to continue with God’s purpose for my life. I really become convicted about not becoming disqualified after preaching to others. I become convicted to live the life that I tell others about. Through this set of verses I am given the courage to try to live more like Christ even in the hardships. Although I am constantly tempted to say things that I shouldn’t and to think things that I shouldn’t – things that could stop me from going forward with the life that God has called me to. I know I can’t do those things and still be worthy of the calling that God has given me. These verses give me the courage to live a life in a way to win the prize.

Each time I am tempted to live in defeat, to think a negative thought about someone, to say something I shouldn’t, to give up….

I know that God has greater plan for my life and I must continue on to win the prize.   

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  1. Jimmy Smith says:

    Charles,
    I just read your January 30th post about your ministry, your health and your relationships. Sounds to me like in your Bible reading in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 God answered all three of your doubts and fears. The running and winning of our race in order to bring glory and praise to God is what we are called to focus on. Its all about bringing him praise. All of us who knew about your condition in the hospital brought praise and joy to God when we lifted you up in prayer believing God had a great purpose for you and Spring to fulfill. And he does. I am more convinced of it than ever. May God continue to bless you and confirm your calling each and every day! I love you both!!