What Does It Mean To Be Made Whole by Charles Stanley?
All the passages below are taken from Charles Stanley’s book “The Blessing of Brokenness,” published in 1977.
When many people think of wholeness, they automatically turn to matters of health, sickness, injury, or death. Wholeness, however, is a matter of harmony—body, soul, and spirit. It is living in such a way that all facets and aspects of our lives are interrelated in a health-giving, sound, and resilient way.
When God breaks us, he does so with the purpose of putting us back together again—better than before, and ultimately, so that we might be whole.
Paul prayed a wonderful prayer for the Thessalonians in which he spoke of wholeness: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
We can always trust God’s purpose for us to be wholeness and multiplication, not fragmentation or diminishment.
WHOLENESS INVOLVES ALL OF OUR BEING
Let me share several key principles with you about wholeness. First, we must recognize that we have three aspects to our being—spirit, soul, and body.
The body is the way in which we relate to our environment. We have five senses—we smell, see, taste, hear, touch. We live in a physical shell that allows us to interact with the physical world.
We have a soul—a mind, will, emotions, conscience, and consciousness. We cannot see the soul, but we each know that it is part of us. The soul is our means for relating to other people. We have an awareness of ourselves in relationship to others. At the soul level we can laugh with others, love others, and receive love from others, or we can be jealous, angry, and bitter toward others. We choose with our will and mind how we will act in the world—and largely, how we will act toward other people.
We also have a spirit—the inner person. With the spirit we relate to almighty God.
When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they had perfect bodies, perfect souls, and perfect spirits. God placed them in dominion over the physical world, and they lived in perfect harmony with each other and with God.
God said to them about one particular tree in the Garden of Eden, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
They ate, and they died. But what died immediately in that act of disobedience? Not their bodies, because they remained alive for hundreds of years. Not their soul, because they still related to each other and to their children. What died was their capacity to relate to God spiritually. Paul wrote: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2).
Our sinful state is a state of inner death. A person may do very well in the physical realm, and even do quite well in the soul realm, but unless a person is in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, he is dead in the spirit realm. Only a believer in Jesus Christ has the potential to be a whole person because unless the spirit is made alive in Christ, the spirit facet of a person is out of sync with the rest of his or her being. We cannot be whole if we have only a good body and good relationship with the physical world, and a good soul and good relationships with other people. To be whole we must have a cleansed spirit and a good relationship with God.
The Bible says that when we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. This Spirit of God allows our spirits to be united with God’s spirit. Our spirits come to life because he is life! When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we are given a sensitivity to God, an awareness of him, and a living relationship with him. That relationship allows us to talk to him and him to talk to us. We are open in new ways to understanding the Word of God and to receiving guidance and direction from the Holy Spirit. We also are more sensitive to sin and to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Our spirit has been born anew—we have a new spiritual life!
Here’s the problem. The unbelieving world knows nothing about the divine spiritual life. They think they are spiritual when they follow a form of spiritual ritual or get into the metaphysical realm, but that is not godly spirituality. Any spirituality apart from the Holy Spirit is spirituality rooted in evil. Mostly, however, the unbelieving world doesn’t care about spiritual things. The world’s philosophy is, “If it looks good, get it. If it feels good, touch it. If it smells good, have some of it. If it tastes good, eat a lot of it. If it sounds good, keep listening.” The world lives by its senses and appetites.
We all have appetites. We have an appetite for beauty—we like to look at beauty and experience it. We all have appetites for food, for water, for sex. We also have appetites related to the soul—we have a need for love, a desire to grow, a longing to learn. We have an appetite for independence and freedom to move and to express ourselves. But as long as a person is without a relationship to God, these appetites run according to their own power. They degenerate into what the Bible calls the “lusts” of the flesh—a voracious greed for all that appears good in the physical and soul realms. Appetites run amok cause many of the problems we see today in relationships, in businesses, in society at large.
The believer in whom the Holy Spirit dwells is one who has a new “control system” in place. The Holy Spirit puts all of the appetites, desires, and impulses of the flesh and soul under the command of the spirit. The divine order for our own creation—spirit over soul over body—is reestablished. When that happens we can experience wholeness.
The rebellion, therefore, that keeps us from being whole is a rebellion of the spirit. The things that stand as obstacles to our being made whole are ultimately things in the spirit, among them
• lack of trust
For the Lord to bring us to wholeness, he must deal with the areas of our lives that keep us from wholeness. They are at the heart of what separates us from the fullness of God’s desire for us.
WHOLENESS IS MORE THAN SKIN DEEP
The trouble many people have is that they don’t see the spiritual principles involved in the various situations and circumstances they encounter on a daily basis. Even though they have been born again in their spirits, they continue to live—by force of habit and also by force of will—according to old patterns. They see things only on the surface, and they respond to life superficially.
When we begin to see life the way God sees it, we see that life has an ever-flowing spiritual undercurrent. All of life flows from the spiritual dimension. Our desires and ideas and emotions are motivated by the spirit and flow through the soul for expression through the body. Every act of relating to others—what we say, what we do, who we see, and why—has a spiritual dimension and purpose. In fact, everything we do in the physical, mental, or emotional realm has a spiritual component to it.
When we regard our own brokenness, our natural tendency is to look only on the surface. Our society uses different forms of the word break to describe brokenness at the circumstantial or relationship level.
· We say that a person’s health is “broken” if they are exhausted or have a serious breakdown.
· When a couple severs their relationship, we say that they “broke up.”
· When we suffer financial loss, we say that we are “going broke.”
Very often, when we are broken, we limit our perspective on brokenness to the physical or emotional realm.
The more important questions to ask in times of brokenness are these:
· What is happening in the spiritual area of my life?
· What might God be desiring to do in my relationship with him?
· How might God work in this time of brokenness to restore me, renew me, remake me, and remold my relationship with him?
· How might God work in and through this situation or circumstance to bring me to greater wholeness?
These questions bring us squarely back to the purpose of God: a total trust relationship with him so he might use us as whole men and women, strong in spirit and completely obedient to him and subject to his leading.
God’s purpose is always accomplished ultimately at the spiritual level. Outer circumstances may or may not vary. They certainly change only according to God’s timing. Our role in times of brokenness is to submit not only to what God desires to do in our lives, but also to his timetable. Wholeness may not come quickly or easily, but it is worth the wait!
WHOLENESS TAKES TIME
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
When we find ourselves broken, we must be very careful not to attempt to predetermine either the methodology or the timetable for our own recovery. God will reveal his plan and purpose to us step by step. Very rarely does he give insight into the total plan he has for us. We are called to trust him day by day by day.
It may very well seem to us that we are wasting away daily, but if we will look beneath the surface to the inner work God is doing, we are actually growing and being strengthened day by day.
I’ve seen this happen countless times, very often as people struggle with terminal diseases. Their outer bodies literally seem to waste away. And yet, if they are willing to turn to God and to submit completely to him and trust him with their lives, an inner beauty and spiritual strength begins to develop that far outshadows and far outweighs anything happening in the physical realm. Sometimes their bodies are healed physically, sometimes not. But the far more important thing for eternity is that they be healed in their spirit. When God is at work in our spirits, we must recognize openly that the most valuable facet of our being—truly the eternal facet of our lives—is being strengthened, nourished, and refined. That is the dimension of wholeness that truly counts.
We also must recognize that no matter how long we struggle, our time of trial is only momentary. Even if we have an affliction or time of brokenness that lasts for years, even decades, what is that compared to all of eternity? No mathematical calculation is possible between finite time and infinity. We are wise to keep perspective—what we are experiencing in outer circumstances and situations will one day change. What is happening on the inside of us, in the realm of our spirit, is what has the potential to last and remain unchanged.
Paul tells the Corinthians to fix their eyes on what is unseen. That’s good advice for us, too, at any time we are broken. No matter how bad things may look, if we submit our lives to God, he is at work creating something good and something lasting. He is making us whole, beginning in the unseen spiritual dimension of our lives. He is putting things back into their proper order: the spirit first, the soul second, the physical third.
A number of years ago, I pushed myself to the point of serious physical exhaustion. My physician prescribed rest—not just for a week or two, but for as many months as necessary. My associates agreed, and I went to a small island where I had nothing to do but walk the beach and think and pray. That was too much rest! I found it much more therapeutic to return home and to become a “carpenter’s helper” to the men who were building my home. Gradually I began to return to my activities as a pastor on a part-time and then full-time basis.
During those weeks and months, I not only found my physical strength returning, but I also gained a new perspective on my life and my work. I faced some tough questions. Was I going to relinquish authority to my key staff members and allow God to work in them and through them, or was I going to burden myself with every decision and the details of every program? Was I going to take time off to rest, or keep a seven-day-a-week schedule? Was I going to learn how to relax and play, or was I going to be an all-work, no-play person?
The real issue was one of trust. Was I going to trust God or myself?
Some six months after I first went away to rest, I entered the pulpit one Sunday morning and said to myself, “I’m back.” My energy was back, my perspective was right, and most important, my relationship with God was deeper and richer.
The lasting aspect of that experience was not physical. I still get tired and need rest. The lasting impact wasn’t solely in my relationships. I still tend to take on too much and work too hard. The real lasting impact of that experience on me was that I came to a spiritual realization that God is not the copilot of my life; he’s the pilot! I yielded total control to him.
The real benefit of those months was that I learned to rest in God. I learned how to relax in his will and let him unfold before me his plan and purposes. I put myself into a position where I now allow God to nudge me in my spirit so that I recognize when I need a break or need to let go. My life is not mine; it’s his.
WHOLENESS GLORIFIES GOD
In eternity, you and I will be God’s trophies. We are the trophies of his grace; the trophies of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection; the trophies of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Our purpose is to bring him glory. Our greatest glory lies not in what we can achieve and do on our own, but solely in what we allow the Lord to do in our lives so that we bring him glory. We can never know greater satisfaction or have any greater acclaim than to lay our crowns at his feet and to be presented to him as a work in which there is no shame, fault, flaw, or darkness.
We often lose sight of the fact that this life is preparation for the life to come. In this life we are going to school. The process is one of learning and growing and developing. It is a process of becoming. And when we yield to God’s purposes, the process is one of becoming whole. When my will is eventually saddle-busted completely, then I belong heart, soul, mind, body, spirit, and everything to him. When that happens, my life is totally and completely his responsibility. I am his to do with as he pleases. And that, my friend, is when the excitement in life truly begins! [54-64]