PASTOR RICK'S BLOG  

Jul 26

My Death and Life Story

 

On Valentines Day 2006 I awoke early in the morning to a massive pain in my chest. It felt as if an elephant was sitting on my chest. After several minutes of resistance I reluctantly told my wife to call 911. When the paramedics arrived they gave me a little pill to put under my tongue. Instant relief! But I knew something was radically wrong.

“Heart Attack” was the first words I heard the Doctors say when I arrived at the hospital. Sure enough after a battery of tests I was diagnosed with having an enlarged heart. My heart was about to burst. I was quickly put on a helicopter and flown to Phoenix Arizona for emergency surgery.

While flying to Phoenix I remember thinking, “Man, I don’t have time for this. I was in the midst of planting a new church, coaching football, raising three kids, loving my wife and a million other things. Yes, I thought I was going to die. I remember thinking, “God please let me see my wife and kids one more time.”

Graciously God granted that request. What happened next was the greatest challenge of my life.

The recovery process was much more difficult than I ever imagined it would be. I was told that 50% of open heart surgery patients suffer from severe emotional and physical issues after open heart surgery for up to two years. I was one of those people.

I realize this is raw but this is exactly what happened. My emotions and decision making became erratic. I struggled mightily with depression and anger. One day my son Rickey came up to me after football practice and said dad, “what is matter with you”? I remember saying to him, “What are you talking about”. I had no clue. I had changed 180 degrees for the worst. I was losing weight. I was tired all the time and pretty much just existing. After making decisions that I had no business making I moved to North Carolina.

I thought going home would help me find peace and security. But it only served to enhance my depression and frustration. However God is so gracious!

A friend referred me to a Doctor who took the time to listen to my concerns and frustrations. He said, “ Rick your brain is turned upside down. You need a new brain”. I quickly agreed. (LOL) So he gave me some medication to help massage my brain. I had been very reluctant because of my pride to take any medication. I thought I would just tough it out.

But it seemed that God had other plans. It was time for me to just stop, look and listen for awhile. So one day in the late spring of 2007 I was driving down the road and IT HAPPENED!! Freedom came in an instant.

My brain cleared up. The fog was gone. I could think clearly again. I remember stopping and calling Jean and with tears in my eyes I said, “Jean I am free, my brain is clear, crystal clear, “ I am sorry I have been an idiot. I love You.” I did the same with my kids when they got home from school and football practice. They all said, dad it’s ok, we still love you. I even told our dog Shelbee I was sorry. She just wagged her tail and licked my face.

Then I got down on my knees and said, “Lord God, I am sorry for not trusting you,"Lord, what are You saying to me? What do You want me to learn from all of this”.

This is what he revealed to me and as Paul Harvey used to say this is the rest of the story.

I realized the adverse stuff in life is God’s way to advance spiritual growth in His children. This life principle led the Apostle Paul to say:
“All things (or stuff) work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28 NKJV).

This is a conditional promise. It is for God’s people. For the person who doesn't care about spiritual growth or a relationship with the Lord, there's no guarantee that all things will work for good. After all, "good" may refer to character development or a faith lesson that results from adversity— someone who does not love God or care to know Him probably wouldn't consider such benefits positive. But the Lord values these things far more than wealth, prominence, health, and many other blessings we cherish.

I had to re-learn the Romans 8:28 principal so I could teach it to others. Therein lies the purpose of this blog. To help someone else who is struggling with the same issues.

Romans 8:28 does not promise that a believer who loses his job will get a better one. The blessing may lie in his coming to a greater understanding of what it means to trust God daily.

I learned that the reason so many of us struggle with adversity is that we often don't understand God's perspective and priorities. As you read about the lives of biblical characters, you will notice quickly that their stories typically don't end with "and they lived happily ever after." Moses died in the desert outside of the Promised Land, Paul was probably beheaded by Nero, and most of the disciples were martyred.

Are we to conclude from these examples that God has no interest in the happiness of His children? No! We are told that heaven will be a place of great rejoicing. But God wants far more for us than a trial free life. The happiness God desires for His children is a state of well-being that reaches deep into our souls as we mature spiritually.
If we don't keep the Lord's priorities in mind, we will find trials more difficult to handle. We will tend to blame God for our stuff and become bitter. Instead of seeing adverse stuff as a tool God uses for our benefit, we will see it as something He does to us.

When our priorities are ease, comfort, and pleasure, we have little tolerance or patience in difficult times. Rather than see our circumstances as part of God's plan for our lives, we will consider them unwelcome interruptions.

But when we allow the Lord to shape our priorities, adversity can take on a whole new meaning. We learn to see it as an integral part of what God is doing in our lives. We begin to understand that suffering sometimes leads to greater joy and peace. We no longer panic and assume God has forgotten us. Why? Because according to Romans 8:28, He is in the process of bringing another blessing into our lives.

Mature spiritual men and women emerge from stuff excited about what God has taught them. Carnal thinkers, on the other hand, often end up bitter and angry with Him. They are quick to point out that "all things don't work together for good," conveniently ignoring the second half of the verse, which focuses on God's purpose in the life of a believer.

The Bible gives us plenty of reasons to believe that the Father could erase all difficulty from our lives with just a word. He is God and He can do anything He desires. But my heart experience tells me that He chooses not to work that way. God is in the process of teaching believers about His faithfulness, goodness, compassion, and holiness. From His perspective, our spiritual growth is more important than our ease, comfort, or pleasure.

Listen, the Lord allows stuff in our lives to teach us how to rely on Him and to learn to love him more and more. We won't necessarily welcome difficult times. But if we understand why God permits trying circumstances, we can face trouble with the assurance of His love and mercy and live exactly what God's word says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus".

Walk Worthy in Peace
Pastor Rick

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