Do We have Heart Disease?
For almost 50 years I have attempted to diagnose physical illness and disease by examination and asking lots of questions. Answers to my probing questions helped me to evaluate the problems that caused people to come to the hospital emergency department. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are rampant in America and are leading causes of death and disability. Each of us has been touched by disease or injury as we have suffered personally or with friends and loved ones, sometimes being left disabled or even dying. As I get older and a long medical career is mostly behind me, I think more about the reality that ultimately the only disability or death that truly matters is spiritual, not physical, and that sin is the only disease that eternally separates us from God.
The diseases of the body are in some ways like sin in our lives. Physical weakness, which can lead to illness, can often be prevented by proper diet, regular exercise, healthy lifestyle habits, and maintaining a healthy body weight. When I relate this to my spiritual health, I realize that regardless of my effort, Jesus is the only cure for spiritual illness. However, what we feed our minds and the activities in which we participate can either help prevent spiritual weakness and disability or increase our frailties. A diet of Bible study and listening to God, meditation on His word, prayer, and worship can help protect us from succumbing to the lies and deceit of Satan. On the other hand, a diet filled with empty calories such as unwholesome music, radio, movies, television, books, or magazines can lead one into sin. Choosing as our closest friends those who are seeking to honor God with their lives or choosing those whose interests are purely worldly also impacts us for the better or the worse. There are activities that I would compare to exercise that can strengthen or weaken our relationship with God and our Savior Jesus. Some strengthening activities might include: regular attendance at Southeastern for Bible classes and worship on Sundays and Wednesdays; involvement with men’s and women’s ministries; being committed to a small group for study, fellowship and service; attending Christian conferences and college lectures; various Bible studies and video series, Christian radio and television; serving in various ways at Southeastern such as teaching, serving at Pit Stop, in the pantry and benevolence, in the nursery, meals and kitchens, building and grounds maintenance, sports ministry, Divorce Care, Grief Share, Arms Wide Open, sight and sound, preschool, youth ministry, mission trips, visitation, Kids Praise, Christian Legal Clinic, and numerous other ministries. These and many other things can help us learn to live a healthy and disciplined lifestyle, allowing God's Holy Spirit living in us to transform us day by day into the person we were created to be.
Even as we try to do the right things to maintain or improve our health, things happen to sabotage our plans and activities. Life happens. Accidents happen. Like the traveler in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we can "fall into the hands of robbers" through no fault of my own. I must realize the urgency and importance of my relationship with God. Perhaps there is a silent killer lurking within our spirit. That is how heart disease, diabetes and cancer work. No one sees it or knows it is there. It is hidden, just waiting to disable or kill us. In our spiritual walk, we can be sabotaged by any hidden sin if we fail to be honest with ourselves, our friends, and God and to be on guard against the schemes of the Evil One. As I read Romans 7 this week, I was comforted as Paul reminded me once again that although I may often lose some battles, the victory over sin is already guaranteed when we submit to the lordship of Christ.
Heart disease is often fatal. Diabetes and cancer can take away our health and lives. We know this life will end. But the issue that demands our constant and uninterrupted attention is spiritual disease. Now that's a battle I'm glad I don't have to fight alone!!