I want to talk about how my friendship with Jack changed my life and his. I first met him at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa around 10 years ago. We were both seated in front of Lessie, the sign language interpreter, for the 9:30am service, since both of us were deaf and needed the help. Eventually we got to talking and I found out that he lived in Fountain Valley like I did, about 20 minutes away. I offered to drive him up and back Sunday mornings. Then we began going out to dinner on Fridays then to the prayer meeting. We often had lunches on Saturdays and attended the matinee now and then together. In this way, our friendship took form.
My friendship with him changed me. I was always very interested in the process of God’s formation of Christ in me, so I saw one opportunity after another for change as the years went on. Jack was disabled in various ways, mentally and physically, and this made him slow. This aspect of him brought out irritation, impatience, and frustration in me, which I seldom experienced with others. I eventually saw these effects as not of Christ but of sin, and was able to recognize them and die to them, then accept God’s power to be patient and helpful. This took time to recognize, and accept His saving power. When we don’t understand how God works, we misunderstand His power. Colossians 1:11 tells us that His power is seen in patience and joy during hardships. We misunderstand when we think His power is supposed to get rid of the hardships or get us out of them! No, He uses the hardships to form us.
Another area of change occurred with my driving style. I used to drive fast when starting up, and stop quick. That meant that when Jack put his Bible up on the dashboard, it would go flying at the first turn. I thought, “Why does he put it on the dashboard for? When is he going to learn?” Then the Lord asked, “Is that love?” I acknowledged it was not, and began driving more carefully. If I wanted to be more like Christ, I needed to consider changing my ways to act in consideration for others. In every case, when God changes a person, it is always to be more like Him, who above all is love.
Jack was overweight for a long time. He also seemed to imitate what I did. Sensing this, I began eating more salads and drinking water instead of soda at our dinners. Jack began to do the same thing. I realized the power of a positive example. Giving up my bad traits, dying to them, allowed God to show me and Jack a better way to live.
Early in our friendship, I was fastening the seatbelt for Jack. Then the Lord showed me that if I did everything for him, when will Jack learn to fend for himself? I explained that to him and he began fastening the seatbelt himself. He would attempt it for a minute or so, before it clicked, wearing him out. Eventually, several months later, he was able to click it in place within seconds. He had a large smile of victory again and again when he did this. Of course, I learned patience during all these times, for I did not want to drive anywhere until he was buckled in.
Every time I picked up Jack for dinner, he told me where he wanted to eat. Eventually that changed and he began asking me where I wanted to eat. He learned to be more considerate of others.
One of the ways he changed was in the area of trusting God for his deafness. He could not understand why God would not heal him. He was quite despondent about this. I explained my perspective. I had an iron-clad promise from the Bible that when the Jesus the Master Physician came back, He will raise us from the dead, completely without sin, and we will never again know disability, aging, or the pangs of death. I was absolutely convinced of this and was content to wait.
Just think of yourself sitting in the waiting room at the hospital waiting to be called. You don’t jump up whenever you see a nurse and say, “Why don’t you heal me now?” We understand we have to wait our turn, then go to the doctor, he asks questions, determines what remedies are available, and sends us on our way, then we wait for the medicine to take effect. That’s how it is now; we wait for the Lord to establish the fullness of His kingdom and all the healing effects will take place then. Eventually Jack was able to stop bringing up the subject over and over and have peace.
He would bring up Bible passages picked up from the preachers on TBN to argue that he should be healed now, especially when it came to having faith to be healed. I explained to him once that if he was trying hard to have enough faith to be healed, he was not trusting in Jesus, but was putting faith in his faith! He was believing in himself and his efforts, not in God. I saw the light dawn in his eyes, then a peace descended on him. After that, he did not bring up these issues as much as he used to.
Jack’s faith was very simple. I know of plenty of people of faith who are trying to find enough reasons, enough proof for what they believe in that they never get around to actually believing God and enjoying the blessings of that trust. Think of the disciple Thomas, who couldn’t believe until he saw physical proof. Jack just believed. He had many questions that got him down, but in the end, it all came down to just believing God. Most people undergoing his trials would give up, get angry, or get cynical. Jack just kept believing. “He who endures to the end shall be saved,” Jesus said. That described Jack perfectly.
In Matthew chapter one, the angel told Joseph to name the baby Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins. Jesus means God is Salvation. If we don’t understand the role of Jesus as a Savior who saves us from sin, then our theology will be lopsided. If we think He is a cosmic genie, or a healer, or a person who is supposed to make us rich or get us out of hardships, then we’ll be left with a lot of questions, or even turn into cynics when He doesn’t do as we think He should.
But if we see Him as a Savior from sin, then we’ll experience change and power flowing through our lives when we acknowledge our sin, confess it and turn it over to Him, then let Him work to change us. In our trials, we naturally want Him to change others or change the circumstances. That’s not how He works. He changes us. Acknowledge your frustrations with people, your stresses, anger, and so on – all of it is from sin, not from the love of God flowing through you. We don’t need to let our stresses over difficult people cripple our lives.
Jesus makes the difference in those who yield to Him, who acknowledge their sins and work with Him to overcome them. When we see the perfect Man dying on the cross for sinners, then we really see how broken, how badly disabled, we all are, because we would be upset by bothersome people. I’m so glad God brought Jack into my life. God used this simple person as an agent of change to transform me. Jesus used the weak to make me strong.