I am coming to you
And I say these things
While I am still in the world
So that they may have
My joy made complete in themselves.
– John 17:13 (JNT)
There are very few people you meet in life who you can point to and say that you can see the joy of their relationship with the Lord every time you see them – every time, over many years. For me, one of those few is Stan.
The very first time I met Stan many years ago, he was sat in a wheelchair at a church doorway, wearing the biggest smile on his ruddy-face. He introduced himself to me and right away we struck a cord with each other because we are both ex-pats. We had a short but great chat sprinkled with lots of laughter. As it was time to go into church, I leaned over and lay my hand over his hand resting on the arm of his wheelchair to say goodbye. It was for me an electrifying moment – I clearly heard (for the first time, but not the last time) a command: “Ask if the elders have laid hands on this man and prayed for him.”
I was so stunned, I couldn’t move. In an instant I thought I was losing my mind. It seemed like I was caught in slow-motion – these things didn’t happen to someone like me – the command was repeated: “Ask if the elders have laid hands on this man and prayed for him.” Now I was scared. As my mind tried to wrestle with all the thoughts of the possibilities about what was happening, I heard an answer to one of my unspoken “What should I do?” questions: “Say, the elders need to lay their hands on this man when they pray for him.”
I let go of Stan’s hand and told him I would see him later. I think Stan knew something happened, as I left him with a puzzled look on his face. I spent most of the service distracted by thoughts on how I was going to approach the pastor. Then I found myself in the line of people who take the time to speak to the pastor on the way out. Every time someone else would join the line behind me, I would slip out of the line and get behind them, so that eventually I was the very last person to stand before the pastor. We knew each other and so the pastor greeted me by name. I wasted no time and asked him, “Do the elders lay hands on Stan when they pray for him?”
The pastor was surprised by the question and began to explain how the elders always prayed for Stan, just as they prayed for everyone in their community with health problems. I asked him again, “Do the elders lay hands on Stan when they pray for him?”
Now the pastor visibly tensed up and with a look of exasperation (I have been known to exasperate a number of people) explained how they always prayed for Stan at the elders’ prayer meetings but no they didn’t actually lay hands on anyone because that’s not how they did things although they knew a number of churches did “that type of thing”.
My nerves got the better of me and I started to shake and I know my voice was quivering as I looked him straight in the face and repeated what I heard, “The elders need to lay their hands on Stan when they pray for him.”
Perhaps it was the intensity in my voice (I can assure you that the rest of me was as weak-as-a-kitten) but the pastor backed away from me and said tersely that they were praying for Stan and they would continue to pray for him but they weren’t going to subscribe to something that happened to be a popular thing to do in ‘charismatic’ churches. He turned and headed out of the sanctuary. I left shaken by the whole experience.
Within the year, Stan lost the lower half of one leg due to health problems. Later, he lost the other one to the same thing. He has had many serious illnesses over the years but through them all, Stan has never lost the joy of the Lord and I know that His Joy is being made complete in Stan.
Recently, just as I had finished my prayer-time, I was urged to go back into prayer and pray for Stan and his wife and another couple. I hadn’t thought or heard about Stan in a long while and I hadn’t seen him in years (I was traveling and living in other cities). I really didn’t think much about why I was praying for these people, I just obeyed the direction to pray – during that time, I saw Stan’s ruddy face filled with the biggest smile, and overflowing with joy; I cupped my praying hands around that lovely face. Later that day, I was told that Stan had had an operation and was in ICU and the situation was dire. I prayed again. The next day I was told he had rallied, was off life-support, sitting up and able to talk. I know many people were praying for Stan – I like to think that collectively we were all laying hands on Stan and holding onto his joy.
Yes, I was disappointed in one man’s response and that was very difficult for me to deal with on a personal level but I have never been disappointed by Stan’s response to great adversity – he has the joy of the Lord, he lives the joy of the Lord, and he is the joy of the Lord. I hope that in your lifetime you will meet a ‘Stan’ and be reminded:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking
But of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
Because anyone who serves Christ in this way
Is pleasing to God and approved by men (Romans 14:17).
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him
So that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
Out of the most severe trial
Their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty
Welled up in rich generosity (2 Corinthians 8:2).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trial of many kinds . . . (James 1:2).
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances
For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
The Lord is coming!