“I don’t wanna go to rehab, I said, ‘no, no, no.'” (Amy Winehouse)
(Rehabilitation: To restore to a former condition or status. To bring or restore to a condition of health). (Hebrews 12:12 – Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”)
Anyone who has ever experienced rehab following a surgery or an illness would probably find themselves agreeing with the words of Amy Winehouse’s song, “They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said ‘no, no, no.” Rehabilitation, albeit a necessary process for healing, can be a painful and uncomfortable one. When I was in my late twenties, I had knee surgery to remove a piece of bone that had broken off in my knee, caused by a bone disease I was born with. The surgery went great, but it subsequently left me with a hole in my knee where that bone used to be. Following the surgery, I was given a set of crutches to help me get on my feet again, and then immediately scheduled to begin rehabilitation therapy. I had two choices. I could walk around on crutches the rest of my life and not get any stronger, or I could go to rehab and strengthen my weak knee. My doctor advised me if I didn’t strengthen the muscles around that hole in my knee, I might end up walking with a slight limp. Hebrews 12:12 gives us the same advice. “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”
When that bone broke off in my knee, it crippled me. I couldn’t bend my knee, so I couldn’t walk like I was supposed to walk. Like me with my knee, we were also born with a disease and crippled by it, only our disease caused us to have a hole in our holiness. The disease in us needed to be repaired also, and just like me, we needed a top-notch surgeon to do it. Fortunately for us, God sent us one. Making me whole again was the goal of my surgeon. He didn’t operate on me just to leave me a cripple. God didn’t save us by his grace just to leave us one either. Randy Alcorn, Founder and Director of Eternal Perspectives is quoted as saying, “Grace is too amazing to save us from sin’s guilt only to leave us under its cruel tyranny.” We need rehabilitation after receiving God’s grace if we are to “walk as Christ walked,” which is the goal of God’s grace. (1 John 2:6). It won’t be easy, but it beats walking through life with a limp. Following my surgery, it was just easier some days to use the crutches and rely on them to bear me up, than to subject myself to the rigors of rehab. Only when I submitted myself to the prescribed rehabilitation did I begin to grow stronger and overcome the weakness of that hole in my knee. If I had just received the surgery, without the rehabilitation afterwards, I would have been healed of what caused my injury, but unable to progress in my healing. I would have constantly been relying on my crutch to enable me to stand in my healing, but unable to move on and walk in it. After redeeming us, God immediately entrusts us to the rehabilitation of the Holy Spirit to restore us back to health again. God never intended for us to use his grace as a crutch to enable us to simply lean on. We were meant to move forward in his grace and to “work out” our salvation. Not work for it, because we’ve already received it, but to work out what we have received, as in work-out. Pardon the pun, but God intended for us to do some resistance training!
In Philippians 1:6 we are given the assurance that, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” We have been given the Holy Spirit as our rehabilitation therapist, and he will continue to carry his work on to completion in us. Just like my rehabilitation therapist, he won’t stop working with us until we reach his desired level of healing for us. Philippians 2:12 further instructs us to, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” A good therapist will give you both the motivation and the training to get stronger. The Holy Spirit, as our therapist, does the same, but we must submit ourselves to him in obedience and commit ourselves to do the work he instructs us to do. While I was in therapy, I tended to favor the areas of my knee that were weakest, but my therapist wouldn’t let me get away with that. In fact, those were the very areas he concentrated more heavily upon. There were some bad habits I needed to stop doing, and some good ones I needed to develop. We have areas of weakness in our lives that we tend to favor also, but the Holy Spirit won’t let us get away with that either. Like my therapist, he knows the only way for us to overcome them is to stop favoring them, and concentrate our efforts upon correcting them. The desired end of grace is to repair that hole in our holiness, but it’s going to take rehabilitation to get us there. To refuse to go to rehab is to refuse the purpose of the surgery. The surgery cannot fully benefit us if the desired end is not met. Leaning on the crutch of God’s grace won’t enable us to walk in it. Leaning on a crutch was not the desired end of my surgeon for me and it is not the desired end of God’s grace for us either.
The Apostle Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “So run, that ye may obtain.” Obviously, God’s grace, like my surgery, desires for us to move forward afterward that we may “obtain” the fulness of its benefits. We are encouraged to run in progressive holiness, not simply stand still in positional holiness. Paul then goes on to inform us of his own spiritual exercise regime, saying, “But I keep my body, and bring it into subjection – I buffet my body – discipline it – and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit.” In other words, Paul did some resistance training. The grace of God is the surgery. Learning to walk in God’s grace is the rehabilitation of the Holy Spirit after surgery. The two go together. You cannot fully benefit from one without the other. In 1 Timothy 4:7, Paul encourages us to, “Exercise yourselves rather unto godliness.” After being told by my surgeon that my knee might give me some problems in the future, I became somewhat of an exercise fanatic. I am totally convinced that I owe the strength of my knee today to years of diligent exercise. Today, my knee is almost completely restored to its original state of health. I still have that hole in my knee, and from time to time it reminds me that it is there, but I can only imagine the condition my knee might be in today, had I not gone to rehab and continued strengthening it. That hole in our holiness is always going to be there, and it might give us some problems in the future, but “exercising ourselves unto godliness” is a sure way of strengthening ourselves against it.
Much like my doctor when diagnosing the condition of my knee, Kevin DeYoung, author of “The Hole in Our Holiness,” makes the observation that, “there is a hole between our love for God and our love for godliness” and he attributes our “not really caring that it is there,” as being the reason why we remain crippled by it. I agree. By ignoring our condition, we become accustomed to it and we begin to accommodate it. As we become more and more accustomed to it, we hardly notice the limp is there anymore, and when we do notice it, we just reach for the crutch. We find it much easier just to lean on the crutch of God’s grace after the surgery. We want what Christ has saved us from more than what he has saved us to. We want the surgery, without the rehab because as Kevin says, “Almost everything is easier than growing in holiness,” because, “Holiness is just plain hard work and we’re often lazy,” and “We like our sin and dying to them is painful.” In other words, we don’t like rehab. Ephesians 5:15 cautions,”Look carefully then how you walk!” That’s sound advice. When we examine our walk, would we say we’re walking like Jesus, or are we walking with a limp? Are we favoring our weaknesses and just giving in to them, or are we making the effort to grow stronger and overcome them? Are we just content to lean on the crutch of God’s grace, or are we “pressing on toward the goal,” to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us? (Philippians 3:12,14). Just like me after my surgery, we really only have two choices. We can strengthen the hole in our holiness by going to rehab and “exercising ourselves unto godliness,” or we can live the rest of our lives with a limp. But if we are going to progress in the healing our heavenly surgeon provided for us and desired for us to have, we gotta go to rehab. In the end, we’ll be glad we did! I think if Amy could talk to us today, she would tell us, “If they try to make you go to rehab, don’t say no, no, no, just go, go, go.” Thanks for the tunes Amy!
(Lyrics by Amy Winehouse)
“They tried to make me go to rehab
but I said, ‘no, no, no.’
Yes I been black
but when I come back, you’ll know, know, know
I ain’t got the time
and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
he’s tried to make me go to rehab
I won’t go, go, go
I don’t ever wanna drink again
I just, ooh, I just need a friend
I’m not gonna spend ten weeks
Have everyone think I’m on the mend
It’s not just my pride
It’s just ’til these tears have dried
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab
but I won’t go, go, go