Jonathan Raymond photo 3

What does rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have to do with holiness? RA is an auto-immune disease that we inflict on ourselves over time. It is occasioned by sustained high levels of inflammation due largely to diet and stress. I have RA: stage four, severe. I first became aware of it nearly six years ago. I didn’t know I had RA, but I knew I had a problem. My finger and wrist joints were hot and puffy with increasing discomfort. The doctor (GP) referred me to the specialist, a rheumatologist. Blood tests confirmed it. I had RA. I asked if it could be healed. The answer: “No.” Could it be arrested? Again, “No.” Slowed down? “Maybe.” Well then, what’s the long-range prognosis? He said, “You will be in pain everywhere, all the time.” That was grim! It didn’t take long for the prognosis to come true. Within two years I was in pain in every joint of my body all the time and functionally crippled. The alternative care of a naturopathic physician helped to a degree, but I remained in decline. I retired from my forty year career and returned to the States.

With time life got better. I had earlier obtained a second opinion and treatment plan from a world-class rheumatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Eventually I connected with a first rate rheumatologist at the Lexington (Ky) Clinic with a similar plan.  Under his care for the past two years, I am now nearly without pain, highly mobile, active, and blessed. The prayers of friends have been an important part of a rather remarkable recovery. However, continuing health and wellness is contingent on obedience. I’ve got to be obedient to the medical treatment and take my meds on schedule. I must avoid particular foods that set off inflammation (gluten and cow dairy food products and sugar in the form of carbohydrates and in pure form). Inflammation is the culprit. It is where the RA began and built up over years of a high sugar, high carb diet, and a high stress occupation.

When I disobey my medical and dietary requirements, I get in trouble. Pain jumps up and bites. That’s where RA and holiness connect, around the idea of obedience and wellbeing. When I go off my routine of being in the Word, prayer, fellowship with other believers, worship, loving others in practical ways, and other means of remaining in the presence of God, I struggle with my faith. I am vulnerable to temptation. My faith begins to dissipate. I become self-centered, narcissistic, and not much fun to be with. When faithful to what is physically and spiritually required, I thrive. I experience an amazing quality of life.

Jesus said, “I have come that you might have abundant life.” (John 10:10) He also said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5) So, an abundant life is contingent on disciplined obedience, doing what is required and necessary for health, wholeness, and holiness. The way of holiness is God’s abundant life intended for every believer. It is life in his presence and filled by his presence. It is the fruit of the Spirit in the likeness of Christ, the restoration to his likeness. Jesus also said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15). Holiness is a matter not only of discipline, but of devotion in love of God, neighbor and self. Thanks be to God for grace, his amazing grace both full and free!

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