A few weeks ago I counseled our Sr High youth at Iowa Regular Baptist Camp as I do every year. This year however, was going to be special. This would be the first year that the brand new gym would be open for summer camp. I’ve been looking forward to this for years and now the time had come. As one of our members at church says, “Sr. High camp is the pinnacle of the summer camp experience and I happen to agree with this. One of the reasons I would give such a hearty amen to that statement is because I love basketball. Even at the ripe old age of 31, I still like to think that I give the younger guys a run for their money. Sr. High brings lots of good basketball players who get to test out their skills against other campers and counselors. Needless to say, its a good time.
Well, on Tuesday morning of Sr High camp I got to test out the new gym for the first time during pickup basketball. At 31 many guys I used to play with have hung it up already but I was still feeling great like I could do this for another 10 years. In fact my goal has always been to play at a decent level until my boys are old enough to play along with me. God has blessed me with a lot of health and for that I’ve been thankful. Though I’ve had several fairly minor ankle injuries, I’ve had healthy knees all through high school, college and post-college playing. I have always feared the knee injury but knew that it would likely come for me one day and knee injuries to heal like most ankle injuries. Well that day finally came on Tuesday morning of Sr. High camp. As I dribbled the ball up the court on a fast break, I veered to the side to avoid the defender who had stopped in front of me to slow me down. As I cut to my right, out of my peripheral vision I see another defender who was chasing me from behind. In that split second, he collided with me and his knee hit straight into the side of my knee as I was attempting my side step. This caused my knee to buckle in and I crumpled to the ground.
It’s really crazy how fast your mind moves in those instances because I felt the sharp and shooting pain immediately in my knee and my mind filled with fear and anger. Fear because I knew that the dreaded knee injury had finally caught up to me. Fear because I had no idea how bad it was. Fear because I had imagined a future where I could still run with my teenage sons instead of having to just watch them. Anger because I didn’t want to deal with all the pain and inconvenience that a knee injury would bring me. In that moment I hit the ground all these thoughts had already gone through my mind and I immediately slapped the floor and yelled “frick!” at the top of my lungs. I’m not defending my use of this euphonism, in fact I’d condemn it. (Largely because it sounds far to similar to another curse word.) This was just the outward sign of my flesh reacting. I think we can all understand this response. However, within half a second, in my mind I said “thank you Lord.” Just like the anger was an involuntary response, so this inner show of gratitude was involuntary. I asked myself why I was saying “thank you?” It was because God had given me 31 years of healthy knees and that is far more than what many others get, and second, because God is sovereign and He is good and He has promised to make even this work out for my good and His glory.
You see, the first response of fear and anger was my flesh and immediately the Spirit comes to correct and fight my flesh. What were the means the Spirit used? It was the truth of His Word that had been ingrained in me. The truth that all good gifts come from above and even the gift of good health, something that I don’t deserve had been given to me for so long and God was good. And the truth that even in the suffering I was going through He would be good. And the truth that however this injury would affect my future God would not only make it good, but that He had planned this in his perfect will to work out for my highest good and His glory. These are the truths that the Spirit flashed before my mind in just a few seconds. It was as if He simply said, “trust me.”
Does that mean that I was immediately over the pain and loss? No, I still had many moments of failure where I let my fleshly anger have the victory. However, throughout the week of limping around the camp, I was constantly reminded of the goodness of God despite my circumstances. Of course I realize that so many reading this have gone through such things and even things that are far worse. I do not tell this story as if this is the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I know that it is not. The truth is I’ve had a really good life. An easy life. But even in the little suffering and the big suffering, God is good. And our biggest suffering is not the pain and loss that we experience during this life. Our biggest suffering is that which is brought by the reaction our sinful hearts of flesh. We are far to often unable or unwilling to say like the Apostle Paul in Romans 8 that “I consider the sufferings of this present time are unworthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us.” It is so hard for us to lift our eyes and set our mind on things above and not on things on this earth.
Though this is often true, it is the Spirit who uses the truth of His Word to cause us to embrace the promises of God. Promises that the pain we are experiencing doesn’t compare to the joy and pleasure we will experience with God. Promises that the joy and pleasures that we can experience on earth don’t provide the ultimate joy and satisfaction that will be experienced when the believer sees Him face to face. So please use my telling of my experience with the battle of flesh vs Spirit to cause you to prepare for your own battles by walking in the Spirit and filling yourself with truth and surrounding yourself with people who will point you to the Spirit.