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"Small Moments of Drastic Obedience"

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“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” I Corinthians 9:24

For over 50 years, Joni Eareckson Tada has been running the long, hard race of faith. It started with a diving accident in 1967. She was 17 years old. “Well, doctors told me when I was first injured that probably I’d live maybe most 20 years pushing it. And, when he, when he mentioned those numbers, I, I couldn't even comprehend them. Ten years in a wheelchair, 20! What? You must be kidding. I couldn't imagine living without use of my hands or my legs for 10 years, but somehow, I made it to 10 and then persevering, I made it to 20, and oh my goodness, 30, 40, 50. And I look back and I think I got here from taking small steps of drastic obedience, tiny, little steps forward and a few back. Yes. But always forward, always moving forward, always pushing through the pain. And that's how I got here. That those small moments of drastic obedience end up building a lifetime of integrity, of a delight in the Lord Jesus has never dreamed possible when you were first injured. And, that's how I got here.” 

At 74 years old, she still comes into work at the headquarters of the ministry she started in 1979 called, “Joni and Friends,” located in Southern California. Written on the walls are scriptures that inspire her and her staff to fight through whatever challenges life might bring. “For me, perseverance looks like somebody coming into my bedroom in the morning and throwing back my covers and, and I’m lying there and I’m not going to find that strength for the day. And, uh, getting up, somebody blowing my nose, brushing my teeth, brushing my hair, sitting in the wheelchair, and cutting up my food and feeding me. And somehow, I have to accept that this is the 25,000th time this has happened.” 

That perseverance and faith has carried Joni through life’s challenges – including a bout with breast cancer – and five decades of ministry to people around the world. So far, she’s visited 57 countries, often accompanied by Ken, her husband of 42 years. She’s also a prolific writer and artist, detailing her life in word and picture. Has the race being run been difficult? More than most know.

“And I have to tell the Lord Jesus, 'I'm tired of this. I can't do this, but obviously you think I can with your Holy Spirit, then You're going to have to give me the help that I don't quite have at this moment.' And my life was a constant, 'Jesus, do You think I can do this? What are You thinking? I can't. So, if You think I can do this, and I’m here at this moment, You better give the strength, and the energy, and the power.' And I think that most of our perseverance and moving forward are conversations like that with the Lord. Where we don't just imagine that we are Christians, we just don't, you know, think we're good prayers or, uh, students of the Word. We actually engage God in a visceral sense. And that's what I have to do all the time. And, um, so God puts me in these situations that are impossible. And right now, I’m dealing with lung problems. And where am I going to find breath enough? And He will give it to me if I would engage Him and not pretend or imagine that I’m walking with Him, but I am really, help me take the next step. Jesus.” 

“As I look at my life, I parallel it to, um, the hardness, the difficulty, the...the pain of having to lift heavy barbells. And maybe with some believers, if they're faced with that challenge, they'll read about great barbell lifters of the past. They'll read the testimonies of bar bell lifters. They'll study barbell lifting techniques. But rarely do you put your hands to the barbell and actually lift it. And I think that's where the church is today. We know what to do. We know our Bibles. We've memorized Romans 8:28 and...and Romans chapter five about how we should rejoice in suffering, because that produces perseverance and that produces character, and character produces hope. We know that back and forth. But how many of us actually do it and live it? It's hard. It is hard. You know, Jesus came and suffered so that we may never experience hell, praise God. He has saved us. He's rescued us from hell, but He has not rescued us from hell on earth. And we're, we're going to have to go through some hellish moments. We really will. And, and what do we decide to do with those moments? Do we back away in fear, doubt, uh, do we collapse in weariness? And that's not the way we're supposed to live. God has made us more than conquerors through the grace He makes available. And can we believe that by stepping into that impossible situation and moving through it.”

“I believe the same thing I believed, uh, when I was on my feet right before my diving accident. I believed God was trustworthy, um, when I had breast cancer. But my goodness, I look back on what I said, I believed in the beginning, and I hardly recognize it. It's so much, uh, deeper, more visceral, more of, I don't know, blood, sweat, and tears. And yet to that level of, of depth of experience suffering, I’ve experienced the heights of delight in the Lord Jesus, just delight in Him. And I’m just, I’m amazed. He always shows up best when people give a taste of who He is to those who are hurting.”

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