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How a 10 minute conversation in 1980 impacted my life

On the 10th March, the Northland branch of Christian Fellowship for the Disabled (CFFD had a picnic at which Colin Pyle shared the following message.

I count it a privilege to be asked to speak to the Christian Fellowship for the Disabled. The reason I say that it's a privilege, is because Christian disabled people have had a big impact on my life. Let me explain why.

In 1980, while I was training to be a Baptist Minister in Auckland, I helped pastor the New Lynn Baptist Church. One day a lady named Mrs Everton came to speak at a women's meeting at the church. She was a quadriplegic (paralysed from the neck down). I didn't hear her speak at the meeting, but I spoke to her for about 10 minutes after the meeting and I noticed a radiance and a joy flowing from her.

Bev Everton

She said an astonishing thing to me. She said that the best thing that had ever happened to her was getting paralysed in a car accident, because before the accident, she had been a nominal Christian. You know -- she went to church occasionally, but had no personal relationship with the Lord. Now she had found Christ and was full of joy.

I found it hard to accept what she was saying. How could she say that the best thing that had happened to her was the car accident causing her to become paralysed? Was she lying? No! The fact was that there was an undeniable sense of joy and peace in her life. Here I was, healthy and well, training to be a minister, and I didn't have that joy flowing from me.

I had read about Joni Eareckson in America, who had become a quadriplegic, and how her life changed. She too had found Christ to be very personal and there was a radiance and joy in her life. Well, for years I wrestled with this issue. How could people who were totally paralysed have such a joy about them? In recent years I think I have discovered the answer. I am now 58 years of age, and 18 years ago at aged 40, I became a diabetic.

I was devastated at the time. Why did God allow me to become a diabetic? Here I was pastoring a church and God allowed me to get diabetes. I'm not saying that God caused it, but He allowed it. Now having diabetes is nothing compared to what most of you have to go through and I wouldn't want to change places with you. At lunch time, Rodger here in the wheel chair, told me about the awful bed sores he gets if he sits in his wheel chair too long. Diabetes, however, changed my life for the good.

For years I struggled with this issue: why did God allow me to get diabetes? Then, about two years ago, I was going on my early morning walk and was suddenly flooded with a deep sense of joy because God allowed me to get diabetes. I am still grateful that God allowed me to get that horrible illness.

Why would I say such a thing? Because before I got diabetes, I was working hard in the church, trying to be a successful pastor. I wasn't trusting God very much. I was trying to get my self esteem & joy from being a successful pastor. I was more concerned about what people thought of me than what God thought of me. I was making an idol out of the church, and I was overworking, not really trusting God. I was having a Quiet Time every day, but that time was usually rushed as I had "more important" work to do.

As I have said -- I became a diabetic and it was a shattering experience. Diabetes is in our family and I had seen uncles die with it. I decided to buy an exer-cycle to keep fit because I knew that if I was to live an average life span I had to keep fit. I hated exer-cycling, but I kept doing it for many years. I only exer-cycled for about 15 minutes a day and it was like 15 minutes of torture. After a few years of this exer-cycling, I began memorising Scripture, learning verses from the Bible while I exer-cycled. And that 15 minutes of torture became like 5 minutes of pleasure. In the past, I had disliked memorising Scripture, but now I began to love it. My Quiet Times in the morning also became a joy. I felt that the Lord was actually speaking to me from His Word and impressing things on my mind.

Eventually, my exer-cycling went from 15 minutes to one hour a day and I loved it.

Nearly three years ago, I faced another crisis. My knees and hips began causing me much pain and I thought I might eventually have to have knee and hip replacements. I was devastated because memorising Scripture and exercising had become such a joy to me, and now I wouldn't be able to do it.

After a while, I tried going on a walk each morning, and, to my delight, my knees didn't hurt. I now memorise Scripture as I walk and it has become the highlight of my day. I spend one & a half hours walking, memorising Scripture & praying, and thoughts come to me which I am sure is God speaking to me.

As I have said, one morning about two years ago, while I was on my early morning walk, I was flooded with this deep joy because the Lord had allowed me to get diabetes and my whole life was changed as a result of it. For the past two years this sense of joy and peace has mostly stayed with me.

You might ask - Is what I am saying Biblical? Some Christians would say that if God's blessing was on my life, I would not have got diabetes in the first place or I would have been healed. I point to Scripture. In Galatians 4:13-15 the Apostle Paul said this to the Galatian Christians: "As you know it was because of an illness that I first preached the Gospel to you -- Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead you welcomed me as if I was an angel of God, as if I was Jesus Christ Himself. What has happened to your joy? I can testify that if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me." And so one of the greatest Christians who has ever lived got ill and became almost blind.

Paul had wanted to preach the gospel in another place, probably more towards Greece in the West. But because of an illness, he was forced to stay in Galatia and preach the Gospel to them. Galatia is in the area of modern day Turkey.

Some years later, false teachers were teaching these Galatian Christians that they were not really saved unless they observed certain Jewish laws. Therefore, Paul wrote this letter to them. Paul says to these Galatian Christians that when he first preached the Gospel to them, they were so full of joy they would have torn out their own eyes and given them to him if they could have done so.

We know that Paul later spent years in prison and he wrote some of his letters to churches from prison, but because he was almost blind, he got others to do the writing while he dictated the letters to them.

In all of Paul's letters, a deep sense of gratitude and joy to Jesus comes through, because he had been saved, and he had come to know the Lord in a personal way.

You know -- today, there is much anguish and heartbreak in society. Although we live in a wonderful country, we have one of the highest suicide rates in Western World. Marriages are busting up everywhere and family life is in disarray. I tell people that the answer to all our problems is Jesus: that we need to focus on him and make Him the centre of our lives.

And I say the same to you. Some of you have to face awful trials every day. I wish you could be miraculously healed. I believe in healing, but in the mystery of God, I don't know why some are healed, but others are not.

But I do believe this: no matter how much you are afflicted, the Lord can give you a sense of joy and peace. Therefore, I would encourage you to allow the Lord to be part of your life. Spend time in His presence by meditating on His Word, memorising Scripture and talking with Him in prayer.

I would like to finish with what Jesus said to the Apostle Paul in 2nd Corinthians 12 v 8,9. Paul was struggling with an affliction and three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away. The Lord didn't take it away but He said this: "My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness."

After I had shared this message, Jacqui Gardner (Coordinator of Northland CFFD) spoke about Bev Everton, saying that she had died last year, having lived much longer than the usual life expectancy of someone in her condition. Jacqui, who is almost blind, went on to say that she had lived with Bev for three years and that Bev had been such a help to her. Jacqui said that Bev greatly influenced many people for Christ because of the radiance and joy of her Christian faith that she had until the day she died.

Now Jacqui later gently told me that I must have got it wrong about Bev being "nominal" before she had the accident. Jacqui said that before her accident, Bev's life was filled with activity. She worked hard in her church, involved in all sorts of things, but she never had that deep joy in God.

From what Jacqui said, I concluded that Bev was probably a bit like me before I got diabetes - filling her life with church activities in an attempt to get joy and purpose in her life.

Postscript we have been delighted recently that the "Rodger" mentioned in this message had begun attending our Thursday group and has started having Quiet Times.

- by Colin Pyle

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