Quick – pop quiz: what is the Gospel? It seems a simple enough question, right? We hear about the Gospel in every Sunday sermon. We learned about Jesus’ virgin birth, perfect life, substitutionary death, and resurrection to save us through faith and repentance since we were little. Ok then, next question: do you know how the Gospel relates to whatever you’re going through right now? Or, have we become like many people today who are suffering from “gospel amnesia” – we’ve got the facts, but we’ve forgotten its immediate relevancy?
One of my former professors, Dr. David Powlison (CCEF), is a licensed and practicing counselor. He had undergone heart surgery in his fifties, and though the surgery was successful, it took over five years for him to return to full strength. There were numerous losses to his personal, social and professional life due to his recovery. He found that he would go to important counseling meetings and mediation sessions, and was horrified to find that there would be times when he could not complete his thoughts. He was paralyzed by the thought that his life as professor and counselor might be at an end – who would ever go to a counselor that couldn’t complete his own thoughts, much less help the patient? Who would hire him as a professor to teach young minds, when his own mind was clouded?
Finally, at one point in this terrifying reality of not being able to think straight, II Corinthians 12:9 dawned afresh on Dr. Powlison. When the Apostle Paul was struggling with the thorn he had received from the Lord, he pleaded with God to remove it. Instead, God reminded Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That verse pierced all the way to Powlison’s heart, and he realized, “It finally became clear to me that the foundation of my life is not what I do or the gifts that I have. [The foundation of my life] is the God whose power is perfected in weakness, whose grace is sufficient. It was as if something inside me just… relaxed, and I was able to have peace in that.” He went to sleep that night, peaceful and lucid, relaxing in the God who was bigger than his problems.
It turned out that through communicating with his pharmacist, much of Powlison’s debilitating weakness was a side effect of his medication from his heart surgery. But instead of reacting in anger or frustration, Powlison took a different response. He disclosed, “It was such a wonderful picture of God’s multi-factored love: that He would both do the deep spiritual work of rooting out the temptation to build your life on abilities, and yet at the same time He mercifully preserved some of those abilities.” God didn’t have to do either in Powlison’s life. He could have let him continue in a spiritual stupor; God didn’t have to restore his mental abilities. But God both removed the spiritual blindness and the physical hardship. The result left my professor wildly praising his merciful and glorious Savior!
What about you? Would you have wanted God to shine His light on the real desires of your heart, or would you simply have wanted all the problems to just “go away?” And looking back on it all, could you have given thanks for the crushing blow of memory loss, if only because of how Jesus used the event in your heart?
It is in times like these that our idols of comfort and happiness are exposed. We realize that we’ve had “gospel amnesia” – we still know the facts of the Gospel (that Jesus died and rose again), but we’ve lost that knowledge for how it impacts our day-to-day events! We need God to swoop in, set us free from our bondage to “what makes me happy,” and redirect us to living for Him. Our Savior doesn’t guarantee our happiness; He guarantees He’s working for our holiness. And it is that holiness that will ultimately give us the greatest joy imaginable: life in God’s presence! “In Your presence is fullness of joy! At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Let’s pray that Almighty God would make Zion a place where the Gospel isn’t assumed, but instead the Gospel is the power that God supplies to make our church grow into salvation. Let’s pray that every person, from our kids to our oldest members, and that every family, would understand how the Gospel is God’s promise to them to work in their lives no matter what they are currently experiencing. And as we learn to treasure Jesus above comfort, happiness, and anything else this world could offer, may we shine our light for all to see, that they would find the power of Jesus’ Gospel in their lives too!
Praying with you to be amazed by the Gospel every day,
Watch Dr. Powlison describe this event in his own words: