The Blog of Pastor Mike Wilkins
"The long run" referred to in the title of this blog is, in the first place, the many years Mike Wilkins served as West London's solo pastor, and then its Senior Pastor, since he and his wife Deb moved to London (and this church) in 1984.
In these past few years (beginning November 2011,) Mike's various health challenges, particularly a serious and ongoing case of cancer, has added another layer to the "long run" metaphor, and lots to blog about. Mike is currently on an extended Sick Leave, but generally worships with the church family on Sunday mornings.
With the publication of a book he wrote in 2016 entitled "Glory in the Face" (now available electronically and in paperback from Amazon.ca, and other online venders), Mike has just launched a new website, which will serve as a sort of scrapbook for readers of the book, with relevant background photos, for example, of That Last Final Solo Canoe Trip in May, 2011, as well as additional information about the book, and--coming soon--a new set of blog posts, mostly about the peace of God and the joy of the Lord and the face of Christ and the strength to face anything. You'll find the new website now at www.gloryintheface.com.
Jul3WedJuly 3, 2013
As I was saying (on June 20: "How I am doing. Really."), day after day, I lie on the Tanning Bed, (face down, etc.), becoming more and more a man with a certain glow. It is now Day 18 in a series of 28. As the Radiation Persons work on what's wrong with my nether parts, I myself work up at the other end of me. As I was saying, I start this work by quoting Psalm 16 to myself. It begins, and so I begin, like this. "Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” It's a great opener because it's a great statement of faith in God's willingness and ability to see me through this experience.
Moments later, I am at verses 5 and 6. "… you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places…"
True confession. I find that quoting these two verses with conviction calls for more faith than does verse 1. And here is why. I am a man with a problem. A big problem. I've got cancer. Verses 5 and 6 point out to me that the great big External Beam Radiation Thing making all the noise and doing all the work is not the only big thing in the room. There is also a Sizeable Elephant. From my point of view (But mind you, I am lying face down with my face in a large cloth-covered doughnut of a thing), the Elephant in the Room is the fact that I am asking God to preserve me from a problem that God COULD have prevented me from getting in the first place, but DIDN'T.
So what about verses 5 and 6? I think they are painting an Old Testament picture of the Promised Land being divvied up to individual Israelites by the casting of lots (Roughly equivalent to the rolling of dice). What the psalmist is saying is that he likes the property lines he's received and that he credits God, not anyone or anything else, for getting him such pleasant places to live and work in. From where I lie, this means that WHERE I lie, day by day, and WHY I lie there, is not a random detail having nothing to do with God's plan for my life, but rather an intentional detail loaded up with significance and purpose. [Jumping from one Psalm of David to another, we read David saying to God, "You search out my path and my lying down (My lying down. Aha!) and are acquainted with all my ways (Not none, not some, but all my ways!) … in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."]
What we have here is an Elephant Not To Be Ignored. The Bible never explains that some thing that has happened (To me, for example) was not supposed to. It never says that what happens to an actual human being (Me, for example) was never supposed to happen but just couldn't be prevented. It never depicts God sending condolences or making apologies or saying "Oops." What the Bible DOES say, over and over again, in many different phrases, is that "whatever the Lord pleases, he does in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps."
Of course, a question comes to the mind of any thoughtful Elephant Observer. "What possibly could be the significance and purpose in some guy (Me, for example) getting cancer?" In this case, the obvious question is followed promptly by a biblical answer. "Those who love God and are called according to his purpose are predestined to become conformed to the image of God's Son" and "the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." These are policies to which I cannot object. I don't think I ever assumed that my becoming Christlike would involve tiny little tweaks to my character. I don't think it ever seemed to me unlikely that God would find it appropriate to discipline and chasten me. I think that the longer I live, the more I get the point of such biblical statements as "Before I was afflicted I went astray … It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes."
So there I lie, day by day, arriving once again at verses 5 and 6. And what I have come to see is that the faith expressed in those two sentences is the Elephant Gun we have been issued. The fact is, there is a Sizeable Elephant in every troubled person's room. We all have our stuff. (In other words: I've got cancer. What's eating you?) It's one thing (and a great thing) to be able to trust God to preserve us in, and to get us through, our troubles. It's a more foundational great thing to be able to trust God about the fact that we got INTO our troubles in the first place. And when we let the Word of God be our guide and we come to understand and to believe that God has his reasons for having things go the way they go, we learn to "count it all joy" when we "meet trials of various kinds." That's the way James wrote about in the New Testament. The Old Testament's King David, on the other hand, said the same thing this way (to conclude Psalm 16),"Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."