As he was breathing in the breath of oxygen that gives him life, he struggled. It was as if his body didn’t want it! That life giving thing that would cure him of his disease. What? His body didn’t want it? Madness! Every breath of life taken was met with resistance from his own body. The sickness wasn’t going to go down without a fight and he knows this. He keeps sucking in the life-giving oxygen. Faster and faster as he tries to fight this overbearing and overwhelming sense that he is about to pass out. Weeks turned to days, days turned to hours, hours turned to minutes, minutes eventually turned to seconds. With each breath of oxygen from this life giving vine the disgusting, ugly and despicable disease fought back. Eventually, he could not hold it any longer and the dam broke. Tears with a mixture of sadness, anger, disappointment and mostly relief started streaming from his eyes. He couldn’t understand this. Why is this so hard? Besides, the doctor promised that this treatment was a breeze! Walk in the park. “This yolk is light!” he says. Strange thing to say, but that’s what he said…
This was me at the Oxygen 2014 conference. The crescendo at the last day, the 3rd last sermon and the last song… The story of the sick man above is me and how I felt all through the last few weeks culminating at the end of the Oxygen Conference today.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved every minute of it. Not only the sermons, the electives or the workshops, but the intense and fruitful conversations with fellow brothers and sisters as we debate, learn from each other and soak in together the Word and God like sponges. At least that was the case for me. Ultimately, all I could do is fall like a heap in front of His cross.
“I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. … For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. …
… I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people,… in toil and hardship, …apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. … I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it … I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth … So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
(Excerpts from 2 Corinthians 11:16 – 12:10, ESV)
I suggest you go read the full passage. But I can almost print this version out as my prayer. This is my prayer right now.
We can’t all be madmen and fools right? Right? 2,500 of us at this conference. 500,000 of us in Cambodia. Millions of us in China. Thousands dying in Iraq. All through history. I’ve met engineers, specialist doctors, IT professionals (me), university professors, mums, dads, really really smart people! All coming together, love this God and got transformed. We can’t all be mad enough to spend money, time, use our brain cells and our energy to come to this conference? Right? To come to this conference to cry like sooks. On our knees all the time. Raising our hands to the sky.
Why? Because we love God. That’s why. But why bother? Can’t we just love God at home? No! Or should I say “Far be it so!” We gather, we cry, we plead, we learn, we stress, we argue all because, at least in this case, we want to recognise that none of us are righteous and free of the need for help. We want to strongly recognise that we are all broken and need help and not as self-righteous as we or others think we are. Secondly, and more importantly, we gather because we want to so strongly “love our neighbours”! We bother because we want as many people as possible to know about this redeeming love. We want people we love to understand that the only way to true life is through Jesus. We toil, cry, ache and kneel because of firstly Jesus and then you. Yes, you. We love you too.