Published May 13, 2014

Paul's Epistle...
"Be Encouraged!"

Joni Eareckson Tada, despite her well-known quadriplegia, has an amazing ministry. If anyone would have reason to be discouraged in life, she would certainly qualify. But although she's been confined to a wheelchair since a 1967 diving accident, God has given her a thriving international ministry to other quadriplegics and wheelchair-bound individuals — and to the rest of us, as well.

Joni was the keynote speaker recently at the National Day of Prayer observance here in our home area of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. And her message was all about encouragement for Christians today.

"It seems Americans have become demoralized with the sweeping changes that we have seen with our religious liberties, the institution of marriage, with the sanctity of life and the escalating national debt. Americans are uncharacteristically pessimistic right now.

"But I know something about times of great turmoil and times of wanting to throw in the towel. I've had 47 years of great pain and turmoil. But I am here to tell you there is no reason to be pessimistic."

Joni told about her school years, before the accident, when she played as an attack wing in school sports. She said when they were winning, they were excited and felt unstoppable. But if they were ten points behind, they would "feel discouraged, feel ‘what's the use, we'll never win...'" So, she said, they felt like throwing in the towel.

"It's exactly the same way in life," she explained. "Our attitude depends on our perspective. And so many Christians have a ‘loser's attitude.' But the Bible says we should have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. He, ‘for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.'1 Friends, with an attitude like that, when we know that God is on the throne, trials become not just an assault to be withstood, but they become an opportunity... God has already won the victory and Jesus is already on the throne..."

A changed attitude fosters a changed life. "Having a perspective like this, life becomes inspiring – not in spite of the troubles, but because of them."

When you realize this, you can pray more fervently. "Don't slack off from praying. Be faithful. Know that your prayers have power with God2... No matter how small or tired you feel in prayer, your prayers, no matter how faint, can shape the destinies of nations. And if they do that, they can help shape the United States of America..."

Joni cited an Emory University study which found several characteristics of Americans in general – which, it turns out, are characteristics of Christians, too. "We Christians will never be defeatists. We don't smirk at our immoral culture. We don't sequester ourselves away. This is no time to get cranky that our country has been hijacked away by radical politicians. This is a wonderful season – to pray confidently for our country and to influence character and culture. Others may whine about the triumphs of evil, but not the followers of Jesus. We know better. We know how He endured the opposition of sinful men and we should follow in His steps."

How do we do that? By serving others. "We give the people the Gospel. We shake His gospel salt, tell the good news. We serve in our neighborhoods. We endure opposition courageously. We're the ones who have the message and the method to change the heart of our nation and the soul of our society."

Here, according to Joni, is the key: "The greatness of following Christ is never in success, but always in service. Jesus came not to be served but to serve.3 And what an example He's given us."

"Whether we win or lose the culture war, we nevertheless – to the end – witness to the way of truth and justice and compassion. We do not own this culture. We do not rule it. Instead, we serve it. Serve it with conviction, compassion, joy and mercy for the good of mankind and the glory of God, so that the skeptics and the cynics and the unbelievers will know that we are Christians by the love that we have for one another4 and for our Savior and for our communities."

The bottom line? Joni says, "Take a quick attitude check. If you find that you may be a little pessimistic about the way things are in [our nation] and around the world, first examine your own heart. You cannot have the attitude of Christ unless He is sitting on the throne of your own heart."5

If you understand this, "Christian, you need to be salt and light, shining with the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don't be pessimistic. This is the time to be incredibly optimistic... Let us serve this culture, because ... victory is within reach. The scoreboard makes it clear – God is on His throne."

And there could be no more encouraging news.

- Paul

1. Hebrews 12:2
2. James 5:16
3. Mark 10:45
4. John 13:35; Ephesians 1:15
5. 2 Thess. 3:5; Colossians 3:15

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