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Lessons in the school of hard knocks

May 4th, 2017 / By: Jim Richards | Executive Director / comments

On May 4, 2016, I had an aortic valve replacement and an aneurysm repair. During the immediate time of recovery and over the past year my journey has allowed me to learn some new truths and reinforce some old ones.

1. Death is certain. The Bible says, “it is appointed for men to die once” (Hebrews 9:27). We know it. We preach it. But the reality of death is often pushed from our consciousness. Life gets moving so fast we cease reflection on the fact that life will come to an abrupt end one day. As sobering as it is, I need a constant reminder that mortality is just around the corner. Life is like a vapor. It appears for a little time then it is gone. Whatever I am going to do for the Lord Jesus needs to be now.

2. Health is a gift. In God’s sovereignty he chooses to allow some people to suffer physically. Others have little pain or disability. God’s grace is on display in both cases. I have returned to better physical condition than I was before the surgery. I am able to run three miles, three days each week. I lift weights and do specific stretching on alternating days. Age brings its challenges, but many people are not able to do strenuous exercises. One day my health may not allow me to do these things. Every day with the strength to be physically active is a blessing.

3. God’s grace enables me to live each day in his power. When I was lying in the hospital bed, my total dependence was on God. This is true every day whether I’m facing a trial or whether I’m working at the office. The Holy Spirit’s presence should be something we sense continually. He is with us. He empowers us. He comforts us. When we are helpless, the Helper is there.

4. Time is required to see results. The first month after surgery I was greatly limited in what I could do. I did have a walking regimen. Soon, I began walking on a treadmill and riding a stationary bike. It was well over six months after surgery before I even attempted to run. Eventually, I was able to do virtually whatever I wanted to do. God works on his timetable. In spiritual matters it is no different. We need to wait on God to show himself mighty in the situations of life. We are to do what we know he wants us to do and leave the rest to God’s timetable.

5. You can always learn lessons. We never get to the place where we know it all. We never arrive. We are always on a journey. An essential quality for spiritual vitality is to have a teachable spirit. Some lessons I have had to relearn. It is never pleasant to repeat a test, but God’s gracious favor has allowed me to enjoy his blessings even when I fail. 

Being in my 65th year is almost incomprehensible for me. I don’t consider myself an “old” man, but I suppose I am. If God gives me 20 more years, I want to be a life-long learner. Join me in letting the Spirit of God take the Word of God and teach truth through the circumstances of life. We can then be the comfort and coach to those who embark on their own learning experiences.