Psalm 73:23-26

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Not too long ago, I heard news which shook me. A friend of mine, on a trip to Israel, had suffered a stroke while in Jerusalem. He is a godly man, not much older than me, who was instrumental in my conversion to Christ. He is also a wonderfully gifted man, a giant of the faith, author of many Christian books, eloquent speaker, with a sharp, incisive mind, leader of a group of Christian brothers who have left all for the sake of Christ and his service. But to many people, he is known most of all as a gifted composer of songs which he shares in his beautiful lilting voice, and are now sung by thousands of Christians every week all over the world.

In the aftermath of his stroke, his once prodigious memory was lost, his sharp mind was dulled, but perhaps most devastatingly, he lost his gift of music – no longer able to play the stirring notes that once flowed from his guitar, no longer able to compose songs that lifted hearts in worship, and no longer able to inspire others with his strong soulful voice. He was once asked by his despondent friends how he felt about losing this gift. Amazingly, he responded, “If the Lord took it away, it must not be important to Him. I am content.”

This, to me, was astounding! God had showered my friend with many incredible gifts and he had built a reputation by his faithful use of those gifts. But…he was not defined by his gifts or his reputation. His strength may have failed; his gifts taken away; his ministry changed. But his identity is secure: Child of God! His inheritance endures: Co-heir with Christ! His heart’s desire remains: Christ alone!

My friend’s response to trial and loss convicts me. I have built a reputation on the things I do well, as a physician at work, as well as my other skills and abilities. Many times, I find myself tempted to find my identity in what I do rather than who I am – a sinner saved by grace and adopted into the family of God through the finished work of Christ on the cross!

Father, we know that you do not promise us happiness in this life, but rather, seek our holiness. In your sovereignty, all may be taken from us: our health, our job, our gifts, our reputation, our family, our friends. Help us not to build our lives on these, so that we may be able to withstand the storms that life will bring us. Set our hearts on Christ alone, that He might be our refuge and strength and our portion forever!

“O my soul! Claim nothing as your own. For you, there is God and God alone!” From the song God Alone! Written by my brother-in-Christ, John Keating

– John Baron