Real Empowerment

The pastor and health.

Jay Sloop, MD, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist, was, at the time of this writing, Health Ministries director of the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, headquartered in Spokane, Washington, United States.

Wonderful love relationships exist that enrich our lives. Yet, only a few of these are powerful enough to alter our behaviors permanently. The love between a par­ent and child is a powerful bond that begins with the unique connection between a mother and her unborn child, then extends to the father after birth. Episodes from these parent-child relationships replay in our heads for a lifetime and profoundly affect how we make and change our lifestyle choices.

I was talking with my friend, Randy, about the rocky relationship he was having with the church he attends. He’s been doing a lot of thinking about this. Randy’s father was an evangelist and alcoholic. When Randy was 13 years old, his dad abandoned the family. His late teen and early adult years were turbulent ones in which he, too, became an alcoholic.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) finally helped Randy attain sobriety and, for many years, AA became his church. His wife, Gail, recognized a need for important changes in key aspects of their lives, including their spiritual needs and a faith they could share. They decided to return to church. Then Randy’s painful “father image” got even worse.

At church, he heard about a heavenly Father who loves and saves sinners. However, in the next breath, he was also told that the same Person leaves sinners burning in hell forever. He could not understand the love in all this.

In AA, the “Higher Power”—what­ever we might conceive Him to be—was at least able to help Randy maintain sobriety. The Divine Being discussed at church was at that very minute taking terrible vengeance out on those who had made the wrong choices. The human picture of Randy’s biological father (in spite of its flaws) and the church’s picture of the heavenly Father were in conflict and were anything but helpful to his peace of mind.

Our heavenly Father longs for the closest kind of connection with each of us, but He faces huge challenges. He has many enemies who believe they are His friends. Their understanding of Scripture portrays God to be an awful tyrant. As they spread their misunder­standing about God’s character, many believe them. Without knowing what the Bible teaches about this topic, many easily conclude, “If that’s what our Divine Parent is like, we are better off keeping our distance.”

All the while, God keeps reaching out, hoping we will fall in love with Him and the truth of His love and integrity. When Randy learned what the Bible teaches about God’s plan to end all pain, suffering, and sin, he realized that God was Someone he could relate to, trust, and love.

How are Randy and Gail doing today? Even in the heat of a Texas summer, they can be found walking each evening. They are making amaz­ing progress, including consuming many more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. What an answer to prayer! Tobacco, alcohol, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor nutrition are all issues they are giving to God.

They still face challenges in these changes and in their spiritual growth as well. But as Randy says, “God continues to bless and open my understanding day by day. I have learned by experience that faith moves mountains—even mustard-seed faith, and this is a matter of where we place what faith we have. I have learned to place my faith in my heavenly Father. I have learned there are difficulties that come ‘not out but by prayer and fasting’ ” (Matt. 17:21).

What about you? Are you finding unhealthy habits hard to conquer? Could you use some genuine help? When we trust our heavenly Father, as is our privilege, He will reveal to us the truth of who He really is and who we really are. A love relationship with Jesus empowers like nothing else on earth. This is motivation like no other, and it remains continuous as long as we prize this precious relationship.

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Jay Sloop, MD, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist, was, at the time of this writing, Health Ministries director of the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, headquartered in Spokane, Washington, United States.

November 2013

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