A Hidden Treasure in Arthrogryposis

This past week was a blessing for the guys from our church who went to the Desiring God Pastors Conference in Minneapolis. But for me, there was an added blessing – here it is: I met a spiritual gladiator. A man full of Christ-like courage, humility, faith, and perspective on life. But you would not think so by worldly measures of a man. For privacy reasons, I’ll call him Ron and keep the particulars of the story out (you’ll understand the reason for privacy shortly).

We were walking back to the hotel through the skywalk, coming from the convention center, when I noticed a disabled man walking slowly in front of me, headed in the same direction, who also was attending the conference. In just a few seconds my pace would overtake him. I went past. And not more than 30 ft ahead of him now, I knew the Lord wanted me to speak to him and to know his disease and what it means to him. So, I did a 180 and introduced myself, and he to me. As I was now walking beside him, looking more closely at the effects of his disease, I noticed his curved wrists, ankles, and elbows. His joints were literally bent – all over. I said, “Ron, I don’t know exactly why I turned to speak with you, but only to know your disease and whatever you would like to tell me about your disease and your life in Christ.” He said, “I have arthrogryposis.”

He explained the disease to me. But what came next truly captivated my attention. “Ivan, I own an insurance business and because of my position I travel frequently to a city and meet with powerful men in suits, men with big egos. I have board meetings with these men and men in my company. But because of my disease, they think I’m harmless.” Ron stopped speaking. I was struck wild with amazement. “What do you mean?”, I asked. He boldly replies, “Because of my disease, they let their guard down around me. They don’t see me as a threat.” As Ron shared a real story with me, where he shares the gospel with these power-men who have no idea how helpless and cowardly they live their lives behind their money, their posturing, and their lies, I laughed with awe and said, “You’re a Trojan Horse with the power of the gospel inside of you.”

“Yep,” – Ron replies with a tone and a grin that matches Psalm 2:4. (see, I don’t want to blow his cover, hence the privacy)

Dear suffering saint, is this how you think about your life? In fact, if you know Christ, this is your life if you have eyes to see. All of us have a brokenness, a weakness, an intentionally, designated “thorn in the flesh” given to us by our Lord so that his “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). This is why Ron could boast of his weakness “so that the power of Christ may rest” upon him (vs. 10).  For all those who are in Christ by faith, your life is like a priceless diamond in a tobacco spittoon:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that  the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:7-10).

As our bodies waste away, we put the life of Jesus on display. How? By the way we put our hope in knowing Christ as gain. The more the body falls down, the more glorious and radiant becomes the priceless gospel – shining brighter and brighter for all to see. This should come as no surprise to those who have put their trust in Christ. Do we not see the “wonderous cross” as Jesus’ body falls down? Do we not see the gospel most clearly when we behold Christ’s crucifixion? Yes! And this is the same for the Church. By faith, as you “let kindreds go, this mortal life also,” the life of Christ becomes so illuminated that we can’t even see you for the blinding, glorious light of Christ.

Oh what amazing grace is available for you?! Christ is your life. Let the stories of your broken and weak life proclaim the gospel – for it is the power of God’s grace.

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