Thursday, May 30, 2013

From Happiness to Joy, (by Martin)

Hello friends!
I just want to post something that Martin shared last week at our church. He began yesterday another round of arsenic treatment for 10 days, so please continue to pray for Him. Sorry this isn't translated into Czech- we're working on it. sending lots of love from the Hasik family-

From Happiness to Joy
(by Martin Hasik, May 26th, Faith Community Church, Prague)

I used to share about my life in two parts - first part was time before my decision to follow Christ and the second was after I made that decision. In our family we NOW talk about our life in years BC - Before Cancer, and life AD - After Diagnosis.

I am passionate about life. I like action. I like to experiment, I like to bring people together. I want to live a full life. Someone posted this on fb.

“Subject to change without notice”. That’s what I experienced. This is what we experienced as a family over the last 18 months. But I am not here to worship life, I am standing here to give a testimony of how God changed my life without notice and made me the happiest, that I have ever been in my entire life. Before I go on to tell you more, I have a reason to present a disclaimer for what I am about to share with you:

My story is nontransferable. It is an unique, special way of God dealing with me.
So far there is no need for a bone marrow transplant. I received only 16 chemotherapies, swallowed only 4000 pills, 9 liters (over 2 gallons) of poisonous arsenic was pumped into my body, experienced only hours long moments of pain, that were either temporary manageable or treatable with pills, the surprising relapse was detected at the beginning stage and I reached remission in 50 days. It might sound crazy to you, but in my world, I am like a bench warmer on the sideline compared to those who fight for their life. Please, remember at any point, that I am speaking of things that have happened over a period of 18 months and usually it was after they happened that I got to understand the lesson God wanted me to learn.

“God doesn’t heal the body without healing the soul” truly touches on my situation. More than my body, it was my soul that was in need of a healing. The diagnosis of leukemia came as an answer to a prayer. The elders of our Czech church in Prague 13 came to pray and anoint me with oil as my toothache was getting worse and so were the side effects of the pills I was taking to soothe the pain. They prayed for me and then they left. Two days later, I get the most shocking answer to a prayer I have ever experienced so far. But it was good news!! One of the strangest things about leukemia that makes it for such a deadly threat to most people is that it is not detected in time. The right diagnosis at the right time means my life was spared.

I used to live a happy Christian life. My circumstances were ideal. In a way, they were almost too perfect and it was easy to have FULL LIFE as an idol, because everything was working the way I wanted it. There is a difference between full life meaning rich on experiences, excitement, business and life that Jesus talks about in the gospel of John.  I am not immune to sin. There are invisible things that I see now that God made visible by taking them away from me.  Some of you met me as the Young Life guy. I was passionate about being on a team that shares the Gospel with teenagers. The busier I was, the more of my identity I found in my work. I would take pride in knowing how to make things happen. Give me a project, give me no money (world of non profits), if possible let me know about it last minute and- oh by the way, results were expected already yesterday! If I understand the purpose and buy into the vision, I will make it happen. Seize the opportunity, make your name and capability visible and the promotion is just a phone call away. But is that really how God grows our faith and trust in Him? It doesn’t matter if you lead just yourself, or a family, or a team at work or in a ministry, the question always is HOW do you lead. Do you lead out of obedience to God or do lead out of your own strength?

I found out that I have a few things in common with the hot headed Jewish youngster named MOSES. Read Exodus 2:10-15:   

10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, "Because," she said, "I drew him out of the water."
11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.
12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, "Why do you strike your companion?"
14 He answered, "Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid, and thought, "Surely the thing is known."
15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

I don’t like that by turning the page we learn the rest of the story. Imagine for a moment you have not heard anything else about Moses. The picture here is pretty clear. He lives in the richest family in the land, not lacking anything, enjoying his privileged life, aware of his heritage, maybe even feeling sorry for his fellow Hebrews who are in slavery. He comes down from the palace to see them. Is he coming to check on them or to even help them out? Well, if he does, here is a chance to show how much he doesn’t like the circumstances of his brothers. My brother is in trouble, no one around, lets sort this out here and now.

It doesn’t seem to me that there is a trace of shame or guilt in Moses. He goes out the very next day. Is he expecting a pat on the back, a little appreciation and or an invitation to be their leader?  His pride and ego gets a big hit. Instead of appreciation, his brothers’ fear, what else is he capable of. They ask him ‘Who do you think you are? Will you kill us, too? Oh we know.. Everyone knows. And you better not cross paths with Pharaoh, because he knows and wants you dead.’ Is that the end of Moses’ happy life?
So Moses flees. ‘Forget the Hebrews, I was trying to help, now I am in trouble’. As he comes to a new place, where they don’t know him, he is Mr. Nice again. He comes and protects 7 sisters, who are at the local water source being mistreated by the stronger shepherds . As he helps others, he is being helped to. He settles in a new place and the past is the past.

As I said, Moses and I have a couple of things in common.
*Life circumstances are making our lives happy ones, full of relationships, rich on experiences, enjoying wealth and privileges. (For some perspective on just how wealthy you are, look at - 18.000CZK/month means top 10% of the richest people in the world. “Only” 40.000 CZK/month you are in the 1% of the richest people on earth!!!! )
*In our nature, we are not sorry for what we do, we are sorry for being caught.
*We like quick and final problem solving. Get rid of what’s in the way, lets move on.
*We serve the same God. As much as Moses and I would like to forget things of the past by running away from them, we serve God who made our life work in such a way that we can be forgiven, but things will not be forgotten.
*Until March 17th, 2013, I thought Moses was a murderer and I was not. Unlike Moses, I didn’t kill anyone. At least that’s what I thought until I heard Pastor Jake’s preaching on the commandment, ‘Do not murder’. (
I knew I wasn’t perfect, but that preaching hit me pretty hard. So NOW we share that too! Thanks Pastor Jake.

Moses got 40 years on a farm, before God invites him back. I am only 18 months into that. Long way to go.. Unfortunately, patience is not my virtue.

Maybe its because I didn’t spend too much time thinking about the big WHY? or WHY ME? questions, that I started to  pay attention to how God wanted to interact with me in a new way, that I have not experienced before. Not that God changed anything about Him, it was me who was in a different place. Trust me when I say, that I didn’t want to leave my happy life so easily. God was very patient with me, I believe even entertained and smiling as it took me another year of trying in all my limited strength to try to get my “happy” life back. I am the weaker part of our relationship and so in His Wisdom, He moves at my pace. Every month in 2012 I came to my doctor, asking him when I can go back to work. Work is what I know, it is my identity and so it makes sense that I want it back. That will make me happy.  And the answer was NO. Not yet. Even though I was on a sick leave, I still tried to do as much as possible, be available, initiate ideas and projects, have as much from my old life back, my old circumstances remind me of the old “NORMAL”. I can fight this, but give me my happy life back.

One of my friends, sent me this little book called, ‘Thy will be done.’ I got it right before my relapse in Nov 2012. It is a collection of short, but deep devotions for sick people written by two Blumhardts, father and his son, both German pastors living and serving to people from a couple generations ago. Listen to this part:

For my part, I now no longer feel it necessary to intercede in some special way for the health of others. I will still pray, but the most important thing I want to pray for is that something of God’s kingdom breaks in. Our fellowship is not based on whether or not God heals us physically. No, we come together because we rejoice in the Savior and the unfolding of his kingdom. This is what we live for, and for this we are willing to give up everything. Whoever seeks God’s kingdom first and foremost will receive everything he truly needs. When we intercede for others, we should keep our eyes on the kingdom of God, in complete joy and trust, thinking not of ourselves but of the interests of Jesus Christ. We need to stop coming to God for help for merely outer needs. Again, our fellowship is far more important in God’s eyes and far more precious than anything we might hope to gain through intercession (1 John 1:1–4). Healing is one thing, but what the Savior wants is to rule more freely among us.

If I was to say the same thing, it would take me 20 min. In my “happy life” BC, i prayed a lot, maybe even merely, for the outer needs. Prayers answered, relationships going well, projects done, things crossed off the list - happy life. Happy life is addicting. How could I miss that the I was placing more importance on the GIFTS I was receiving more than the GIVER? How much was I open to the “INTERESTS OF JESUS CHRIST”?

It wasn’t until the time of treatment after the relapse, that I realized that God wanted to do something in me and I was not listening. I wanted to beat the beast in my own strength. Can you believe that as I am pondering these things, God uses Pastor Blumhardts devotions to touch my heart again using Isaiah 30:15:
In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength

Israel as a nation was in a similar experience. They found themselves occupied by a military beast, much stronger than themselves. Not good circumstances. Not a happy life. God used a prophet Isaiah to give Israel the perfect strategy for this particular fight. If they obey, they will neither win nor lose, but they will be saved. IF in a war, don’t you want to make it out alive? I want to make it out of my battle alive. Ok God, here I am, what do you want from me?

Remember Moses. He enters the Hebrew-Egyptian conflict two times. The first time, he was driven by his own strength and it didn’t end up well. The second time he gets in the middle of it, he enters it as a man drawn to God and he becomes a true hero who leads Israel out of Egypt.  But at that point, it was no longer about him. It was about God.

Recently, God has opened my eyes to things that were not visible to me before. It is like a spiritual “detox.” Something is in your system and it needs to be out. And something else that is outside needs to come in.
I am starting to experience the words of Jim Elliot: He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain, what he cannot loose.
I don’t have any way to know, if and when the one bad cell that might be hiding somewhere in my body will cause another relapse.  God has not spoken to me from a burning bush. We are lucky to read about the end of Moses life. I can’t take his story and make it mine. God gave us another story in the Bible and to that I can relate much better.

Do you remember reading in your Bible about Mephibosheth?
King Saul had a son, Jonathan, who was the later king David’s best friend. Mephibosheth is Jonathan’s son. As a 5 year-old boy, he is dropped by his nanny and becomes crippled for the rest of his life. And that was just the beginning of his life. The family mess gets pretty ugly.
Many years later comes a day, when King David restores Mephibosheth’s royal status by opening his palace to him and giving him a seat at the King’s table. There is crippled man at the King’s table! In this story I find more comfort and joy.
I, a crippled broken and sick man, am invited by God to share an intimate relationship with Him. The family meal is the Lord’s Supper. But I get to sit at the Kings table. It is by His love and mercy i get to experience it. I only responded YES, when the messenger came.

But do you see one difference in Mephibosheths life compared to Moses?  Mephibosheths legs were not restored, there is not a physical happy ending. He is a crippled man, but enjoying a place at the kings table. He is my new hero. He taught me that happy ending is not in restored legs, but in sitting at the Kings table. In no way am I entitled to get better.

Last 6 months I am on a journey, that still leads thru a valley, but despite the circumstances, I am experiencing JOY in my life like never before. God must be working in me, because JOY is named as one component of the fruit of the Spirit. I am learning what it means to sit in his presence. In life BC, I treated God like a 3 day visitor in my life. I knew what he has to see, where he needs to go, whom he needs to meet. There can not be a dull moment, watch out for the awkward moments of silence when no one knows what to say. That’s when I would run my mouth all the time and do all the talking. I was the one praying for all the outer things.  NOW we have a closer relationship, where words are not necessary. I can enjoy being with Him in silence, just like with those that are the closest to me and it doesn’t feel weird. 

It’s easy to worship life when things go well. In fact, it is easy to make a happy life an idol in our lives, when things go really well. When my reality became sickness, fighting for life, death no longer something that happens 30 years down the road, the idol of Happy LIFE was destroyed.

I am not fighting for my “happy life” back. I don’t want to worship life for its richness and beauty. I testify, that when those happy circumstances fade away, God’s love is the same. By getting closer to Him in need, and experiencing His presence, His Love is greater. He has a special thing for sick people.
He is fulfilling my unwritten, but much desired goals, that usually take place in a setting of perfect circumstances, that we call a HAPPY LIFE. What I wanted to have but couldn’t when I was strong, I have now, when I am weak. I don’t want the “strength of my youth” back.  I want to be drawn to God first. And that is happening.

In Him, the pursuit of happiness is replaced with JOY. As Mephiboshet was invited to the Kings table, we are invited to God’s kingdom thru Jesus Christ. Even if I will never see a burning bush or my legs will never heal, I am with David on this one:

Better than life is God’s love. Ps 63:3.  (let’s read it one more time!)

It goes well with the promise from Mt 6.33

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I hope that this will encourage you to seek more of the Giver. Don’t focus on the gifts He can give. When they stop coming, there won’t be any tragedy. Life will go on, because you trust that the Giver has a plan.

Before I close with a prayer, I would like to say from this place a big thank you on behalf of my family.
Thank you FCC for reaching out to us, embracing and welcoming us and helping us in many ways. Having you as part of our lives has helped us deal with our circumstances way above average. God is using you to strengthen our relationship with Him and to experience living in a community of believers who share this part of our journey with us.

Let’s pray.