Sunday, March 1, 2020

Spiritual Arthritis

Dr. Victoria Moots

What is arthritis? It is a physical condition that affects the joints causing pain, stiffness or swelling. It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. because it affects the normal functioning of the body. Arthritis can affect us both physically and spiritually. I am going to discuss the joints in the natural body and how arthritis affects them so we can better understand the spiritual.
How is a joint constructed? It is not just bone against bone. There must be cartilage which acts like a cushion between the bones. Joint fluid, called synovial fluid, lubricates and allows free movement without friction. A joint is held together by ligaments. Muscles and tendons around the joint stabilize it and allow it to move and act like a lever to perform work.
We are joined together in a specific manner (fitly joined together) for a purpose physically and spiritually. Eph. 4:15,16 says, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying (building up) of itself in love.”
What is that which every joint supplies? It is the synovial fluid and the cartilage, the lubricant and the cushion.  The joint fluid represents the Holy Spirit that flows in the body of Christ. The cartilage is the cushion between the bones in the joint that keeps them from rubbing against each other and causing pain.
Do you sometimes feel like you are that cartilage that is always being squeezed? God may be using you as a “peace maker” to avoid friction between two other members in the body. No wonder the scripture says, “Blessed are the peace makers!”
Joints are wonderful when they work properly. When they don’t, we call that arthritis. I Cor. 1:10 describes a healthy joint: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions (friction) among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together (no deformity, no ligament tears, not bowlegged, or knock-kneed, no disabling pain) in the same mind (the mind of Christ)…”. The mind of Christ is to do the will of the Father and not insist on our own way, no arguing or complaining.
Verse 11 gives us a picture of an abnormal unhealthy joint. Paul states it had been declared to him that there were contentions among them (inflammation, impaired mobility, creaking, popping, groaning, arguing, friction in the joints). Believe me, an arthritis joint will complain to you when you try to make it move and do something. In fact, it can be quite noisy. This is true in both the natural and spiritual.
We are joined together in the physical and spiritual body by joints to allow the body to move and do work and stand. Without joints the body would be rigid and unmovable. Arthritis affects the function of these joints and therefore the whole body. Satan cannot destroy the body of Christ, so he tries to keep it from being able to function smoothly by causing divisions and contentions among its members.
What are some of the symptoms of arthritis, and how does it hinder us physically and spiritually? Due to painful joints in the hands and shoulders, it may be hard to even perform your basic activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing or even feeding yourself. Knee and hip pain would impair your ability to walk, and especially to run, and would also increase the risk of falling. If you fell it would be difficult to get back up. Even getting up out of a chair may be a challenge. Back pain would affect your ability to carry things or to stand or sit very long.
How about spiritually? Would we be able to don our spiritual armour as described in Eph. 6 or to even be able to stand fast against satan? Or grip our sword which is the word of God? How would we “lay hold” of eternal life if we lost the function of our hands? What about “walking in the light” or “running the race that is set before us?” How could we bear one another’s burdens (or even our own)? Those things would be impossible based on our own abilities; but, praise God, there is help available from the Great Physician!
There are 2 main categories of arthritis:  Degenerative and Inflammatory.
Degenerative arthritis is called osteoarthritis and is the most common type. It occurs with age and overuse of a joint or previous injury. It is sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis. Due to years of over work the cartilage at the end of the bones wears out, and the ligaments become frayed and tear resulting in an unstable joint and pain from bone rubbing against bone.  It also causes creaking and popping that can be felt and sometimes heard audibly.
Spiritually it is also from over work. Yes, we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works but our works must be according to the Holy Spirit’s leading and not according to our own zeal. We cannot add anything to the work of salvation, because it was finished on the cross by Christ who loudly proclaimed, “It is finished.” The works that we do now will be for the purpose of glorifying Christ and that leaves no room for boasting.
Let us consider the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Martha became irritated with her sister Mary, who was sitting at Jesus feet and listening to His word, while she was left to try and prepare a meal for Jesus all by herself. She became so upset she went to Jesus and complained to Him,  wanting  Him  to  tell her to get up  and  help  her. Jesus didn’t want  a  dinner, He  wanted fellowship and still does today. Sometimes churches or individuals become so overzealous in trying to do things for God that they have no time to spend with Him.  There is no time left to listen to that still small voice or to sit at Jesus feet and rest and take in the word of God.
Being overly concerned with good works can cause friction between members of the body of Christ. Martha was suffering from spiritual arthritis. Jesus informed her how to cure her arthritis: She would need to cease from her own works even as God did from His and enter into rest as Mary had already done (Heb. 4:10).
Stephen, in his sermon in Acts 7:51, calls the religious people “stiff necked: “Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.” He boldly diagnosed them with spiritual arthritis.
Arthritis causes a stiff neck physically and spiritually. It is hard to bow your head with a stiff-neck. It is also hard to look up. We need to bow to the will of God and “look up” for our redemption (deliverance) is drawing nigh. You can also get a stiff neck from looking back too much. We are to forget those things that are behind and not keep looking back.
Inflammatory arthritis occurs when your body’s immune system becomes over active and starts attacking your own tissues in the joints instead of the bacteria, viruses and other foreign bodies that invade the system.  This results in red or painful inflamed swollen joints which can eventually lead to joint destruction if not treated.
It can be triggered by certain medications, viruses, toxic chemical exposure or for unknown reasons. The bacteria that causes strep throat can trigger an auto immune response if the disease is not treated which attacks the joints, heart or kidneys. We call this Rheumatic Fever.  The classic example of inflammatory arthritis is Rheumatoid Arthritis and even occurs in children. Age is not a factor.
Constant exposure to the toxins of the world (one of Satan’s tricks) is one of the important spiritual triggers.  Satan is seeking to devour us. We become so entangled with the affairs of this life and the pleasures of this world that there is no time for church or Bible study. Our love for the Lord and the rest of the body of Christ begins to grow cold. Spiritually it manifests itself when one member of the body becomes inflamed against another for any reason or due to unconfessed sin. 
Gal. 5:14,15 instructs us, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; But, if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” This is joint destruction which impairs the function of the body and causes pain. One member becomes inflamed against another due to lack of love.
Gal. 6:1,2 tells us that if a man be overtaken in a fault, we are to restore him in love and bear one another’s burdens. We are to build up, not tear down or destroy.
Eph. 4:25-32 admonishes us that we are members one of another and that we should not give place to the devil when we are angry. The devil causes bitterness, wrath and uncontrolled anger between members which leads to joint destruction.
David said in Psalm 6:2,3 “….heal me for my bones are vexed; ….my soul is also sore vexed,” (Sore and inflamed). He had unconfessed sin in his life. He was healed when he repented.
What are some situations that can make the pain of arthritis worse? Sitting too long causes stiffness. The Bible never says, “sit still and see the salvation of the Lord.” It says “stand” or “walk,” “walk in the spirit.”  But over work without taking time to rest will cause a flare up of joint pain and swelling. Jesus would often leave the crowds of people and opportunities to minister to them and find a quiet place alone to commune with His Father.  We must remember to do the same.
Cold also causes stiffness. Our hearts become cold if we forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

Continued next issue – Part 2