by Dr. Tim Mahler 

Theme: A life centrally focused on Jesus Christ the Rock will not crumble in crisis because that person is complete.

Good Evening. I want to thank Ted Rich for inviting me to come and join you for this special evening. Before you and I become better acquainted I have some friends with me that I would like to introduce to you at this time:… I know you will want to make them feel welcome afterwards.

How many of you are disappointed that this semester is winding down to a close and summer break is around the corner? Often four month semesters can often seem like a full year. How many of you are freshman, sophomores, juniors, or seniors? You know you have been too long at college when…Let me encourage you to be fully prepared for your final exams so you do not have to find these comments written in red over your test papers:…

Ted asked me, about a year ago, if I would share a personal testimony about the reason I roll in a suv and why the soaring gasoline prices do not bother me. Since that time I have been eagerly anticipating this occasion. It is my hope tonight that each of us will have an open mind. Someone said “The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid.” So it has been my prayer that something that is presented tonight will take up residence in our long-term memory.

I wonder to start things off if you would be willing to do an exercise with me? First of all I want to ask this question: What is most important in your life at this moment? Maybe its some person, event, material object, or activity but whatever it is try to identify something concrete. Okay, hold that answer. Now when I give the signal I want you to close your eyes and stay motionless for 15 seconds assuming that is your permanent posture for the rest of your life. In other words you are blind and completely paralyzed. Then ask yourself the question again What is most important in my life? Okay go. You are pretending you cannot move or see what now is most important in your life? How many of you had a different response the second time you asked yourself that question?

Thank you for participating in that simple drill.

College is certainly a time in life where we begin to discern between what is worthless and what is valuable, where we start formulating specific goals and priorities, and where we experience the full impact of our choices. This maturing process during our college years can be accelerated through trauma. Almost twelve years ago, at the age of nineteen immediately following my sophomore year at BJU, I was riding to work one morning in a vehicle that suddenly went out of control. As a result I went through the windshield breaking my spinal column in the neck and back area and severely damaging my spinal cord in those places.

My highest injury was between 5th and 6th vertebrae of the spine’s cervical area. So I am a complete c-5/6 quadriplegic. As you are probably aware any time you severely damage your spinal cord it permanently knocks out sensation and motor function to certain areas of your body. At my level I’m unable to move my fingers, have no triceps, and from the bottom of my shoulders down I do not have any voluntary muscle movement or feeling.

Now this unexpected event drastically altered many aspects of my life:

  • My bodily appearance

Instead of standing 6’1″ with a strong 180lb build, I now sit at about 53 inches with a rather oblong shaped 135 lb slouch. But does life’s foundation rest on the attractive quality of our outward appearance?

  • My physical abilities,

The scope of my personal abilities—from the uncommon to the common—have to a degree become more limited. I’m now not able to wade out into a trout stream to fly fish, or jump up to pull down a rebound off the boards, or lift heavy furniture into a moving truck, or shovel bark chips into islands covered with shrubs and assorted plants. But also wiped from my inventory of talents are the daily living skills that we often take for granted. I am unable to get out of bed myself. I need assistance dressing, showering, rolling up inclines, and opening doors. However does the level of our satisfaction, contentment, and happiness in life rise or fall on the quantity of our capabilities and achievements?

  • My immediate agenda

After completing my sophomore year I had returned to my home state of Maine to temporarily work for an electrical contractor in my church. My plan was to work for three weeks earning the rest of my financial support to go to western Canada on a BJU summer mission team. I would routinely ride to the construction site with a coworker named Jay. Early one morning about 5:30 am, during the second week of employment I again rode with Jay to the job site. Along the way I fell asleep. Then He dozed off and lost control of the vehicle. Consequently I was thrown through the windshield sustaining the injuries that I now have. Fortunately, though the vehicle was totaled, Jay was not hurt in the incident. Does our security in life hinge on having our daily schedules pre-planned for a year in advance? In other words is our emotional stability based on the amount of control we can exert over the future?

Perhaps you have entertained these same questions because you have or are experiencing some traumatic event during this college phase of your life. Maybe it’s a financial strain, an academic struggle, a broken relationship, or a health crisis. Where is the meaningful substance of life found?

Most students on college campuses and the majority of Americans in general are absorbed in how they look, what they accomplish, what they own, and what people are saying about them. But let me ask you some questions. Embellish: Did those pair of Nike air sneakers really cause your stature to significantly rise in the eyes of others? Does using a shampoo like Pert Plus or a deodorant like Speed Stick really enhance your social life? Are you still floating on a cloud because you earned an A in Calculus last semester or is the thrill fading away? Where do all these superficial pursuits of life lead? This path leads to a nagging discontent, to perpetual disappointment, and to a life-long quest for a fulfilling happiness.

You and I can even climb the six-rung ladder of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of motives and still never reach an optimum wholeness or a satisfying completeness in our lives. We may have all of our physiological needs met for food, oxygen, and water. Then we may pull ourselves up the rung of safety and security. After successfully reaching this level we progress to finding companionship. In other words, we search for love and the sense of belonging. Finally we stretch out and step onto the final three rungs of achievement: competence, self-fulfillment and enlarging our understanding. What is the final result of attempting on our own to gratify our natural drives? Emptiness. Why? Listen to how God describes Himself in:

Jer.2:13 “For my people have committed two evils; First they have forsaken (left behind, abandoned) me (now listen to God’s self-description) the fountain (spring) of living waters and Second hewed (dug) them out cisterns (a receptacle cut out of clay or rock lined with plaster to store rain water wells or pits; what kind of wells or pits?), broken cisterns (ruptured, crippled, crushed well, pit), that can hold no water

So God describes Himself as an ever-bubbling spring that sustains life. However His chosen people, the Jews, willfully left Him behind for other gods or ruptured cisterns that could not hold water.

App. The answer to our restlessness and dissatisfaction with life is not jumping on a natural food diet, finding the guy or girl of our dreams, or securing a job that pays a six digit annual salary, becoming well liked by our peers, or completing our college education. The solution is found in partaking of that Life-sustaining Spring.

Ex. The Lord again reveals through the prophet Haggai that the Jews were in poverty though they were laboring hard to satisfy their daily essentials. “Ye have sown much and bring in (harvest) little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you (yourselves), but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag (a pouch, a bundle, a purse) of holes (pierced through with holes). Why is this self-effort of the Jewish people so fruitless and only leads to more need and want. “Because (the Lord says) of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house” (Haggai 1:6,9b). The reason lies in the fact that the Jews ignored God.

Why is God indicating that the foremost need you and I have is Him?

The God of heaven unveils in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that “He hath set the world (eternity) in their (mankind’s) heart“. What does this mean? The God of eternity has implanted within each us a need to be connected to Him. He has purposely wired us so we cannot obtain lasting satisfaction, until we hook up to His Person. God is the control power unit of life and until we become directly plugged into His person, inside we will feel half-empty, deflated, and the less-than-full.

When I became a quadriplegic at the age of 19 and the doctor conveyed to me that I wouldn’t walk again, my life was not devastated, derailed, or dead-ended. Why? Because at the age of nine I realized that without Jesus Christ God’s Son I was facing eternal damnation. My nature was wicked and God’s nature was holy. My practice was stained with sin and God’s practice was steeped in purity. I was totally incompatible with the God I needed. So I bowed my head during an invitation in a church service and I followed the conditional promise in Rom.10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved“—saved from a sin nature, God’s wrath, and eternal destruction. In essence, I was placing my trust in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work of death, burial, and resurrection. At that moment I was “in Christ“. God Himself in the person of His Son was joined to me and I was permanently linked to Him. God declares in Col.2:10 “And ye (those that are in Christ) are complete in Him (Christ). So I knew as a pre-teen where I had come from, why I was here, and where I was going. Though ten years later I was lying paralyzed on a hospital bed my life was still in tact. Why? A life centrally focused on Jesus Christ the Rock will not crumble in crisis because that life is complete.

During the first year after my injury I didn’t need to progress through the five stages of mourning: shock, denial, anger, guilt, and depression. Why? In part because I had a competent medical staff attending to my physical needs, dedicated parents who daily provided me support, but most importantly because my relationship with God’s Son had not been altered in anyway through this unanticipated incident. Practically speaking this meant when everyone had left my bedside there was still someone there—Christ—the One who promised that He by no means would desert or abandon me (Heb.13:5). When my body became spent, my emotions spongy, and my thoughts shaken I could rest on Christ the everlasting Rock, as the prophet Isaiah describes Him (Isaiah 26:4) who provides lasting stability. When I lacked foresight and the capability to plan for the future my Lord and Savior said “I will guide thee with mine eye” (Ps.32:8).

A life focused on Christ will not crumble in crisis. If we have placed our trust in Jesus Christ—God’s Son as our sin-bearer and sole-master then we have entered into a special relationship. The Bible portrays this relationship in real life images. Jesus Christ becomes our personal shepherd leading, protecting, and sustaining and we become an individual sheep of His flock. He is the vine and we become a branch that receives nourishment, stability, and purpose from Jesus Christ. He is the foundation and we become a stone that rests squarely on Him. Jesus Christ is the giving, self-sacrificing groom and we become His Bride. So can we not see that God is showing us that a life in Christ is the comprehensive life system; Christianity is the only correct and complete worldview.

Since my injury my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has over and over again shown Himself to be a guiding Shepherd, a nourishing vine, a stabilizing foundation, and a faithful groom. Within less than a year after my injury He cleared the way for my family to relocate to Greenville, SC. Then He removed the barriers and provided me the strength to finish an undergraduate degree in Bible and a master’s degree in Bible. Then five and a half years ago he opened the door for me to be part of the pastoral staff at FBC. Finally He uses this wheelchair as a platform for ministry.

This blessed experience is not just reserved for me but is also available to you this evening. Christ summed up in His own words what possessing eternal life, having your sins forgiven is all about. In His High Priestly prayer in John 17:3, Jesus defined eternal life. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The verb know is an experiential knowledge. So to possess eternal life means you are linked in a relationship with the Godhead to learn through experience the majestic truths that He has already revealed about Himself in His Word. What am I learning as I walk with the person of Christ? One lesson I am still learning is found in the command and conditional promise found in Proverbs 3:5.

Trust in the LORD with all of thy heart and lean not to your own understanding“. This command entails two actions. First to trust or place our confidence in the LORD with all of our inner man. Second to not lean or put any weight in our own understanding, our faculty of reasoning, our intellectual process of problem solving and decision making. In short Christ is demanding complete dependence from the person interlocked in a relationship with Him. Following this command is the conditional promise: “in all thy ways (every decision and undertaking in life) acknowledge Him (not just a casual nod but seeking to know His character and His ways) and then the LORD promises to direct thy paths“. So I am learning experientially that the LORD is actively breaking down my independent spirit so that I will rely upon Him not only in the huge crises of life but also in the routine minutea of life.

Maybe tonight you are like Dave Taylor, a 34 year old quadruple amputee from Ocean City, NJ, who is searching for a way to cope with His injury. He writes in a recent periodical “I’m trying to grapple with whether spirituality can maybe compensate for the limbs, for the life I’m missing. I’ve gotten into the habit of going to the theology section at Barnes and Noble to buy books on Zen. …I’m just trying to find some spiritual connection so I can deal with this life as it is, with this body, with this lump, as I call it. Maybe there will be a spiritual connection that will give me an answer. The answer tonight for Dave and all of us in this room is a personal relationship with God’s Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said in John 6:35, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. I am here tonight to testify to you this evening that a life focused on Christ will not crumble in crisis because that life is complete.

All textual content on this page taken from the “Are You Hurting” tract by Dr. Tim Mahler.  For additional information e-mail Truth for Trials Ministries.