T he lady who spoke to me was aware that the Scripture indicates that it is 'those who endure to the end who shall be saved'; her father had been a staunch believer, but during the last two years of his life he had suffered from altzeimer's disease. Would this affect his hope of salvation?

Just then it occurred to me that many must have asked similar questions, when elderly relatives had descended into mental confusion. Where was the Holy Spirit when that happened? Again, the Holy Bible calls the Holy Spirit the 'Spirit of a sound mind' - how come, then, that people who have have been staunch in the faith can deteriorate into mental confusion? Does the Holy Spirit leave them?

These are some of the questions which Christians are increasingly asking. I answer this question by making several points which we need to be aware of;

1. The Holy Spirit is not a 'possessing' Spirit.

Occasionally Christians confuse the properties of God's Spirit with the properties of possessing spirits (or demons). We should not do that. Demons come into a disordered mind and make it even worse. They set up home there, they strive to push, to dominate, to dictate the actions of that particular individual. Demons feel a mission to influence people as much as possible, they wish to arrive at a point where they can just go in and take inner possession of people. Of course, Christians don't need to fear this, but we should also be aware of Satan's devices. Matthew 12:43-45 is a Scripture which describes the demon's desire for possession well. But we should not forget that, against this, there are an army of angels which seek to help and protect the righteous.

The action of the Holy Spirit is quite different; that Spirit seeks to guide and lead us into God's will for us, He will guide us and empower us. Yes, sometimes we say that whereas in the Old Testament the Spirit of God appeared to create, guide, lead and empower in a more external sense, in the New Testament the Spirit of God appears to be more of an indwelling Spirit within God's people; but that should not lead any to think of the Holy Spirit as a Spirit which takes possession of people, HE MOST CERTAINLY DOES NOT DO THAT.

Unfortunately, the concept of the Spirit of God as being a Spirit which takes possession of people has certainly crept into areas of the charismatic movement. All too often one finds charismatics believing that the Spirit should take possession of them, throw them to the ground, and cause them to do amazing things. Yes, the Spirit indwells believers; to the degree that they walk with God, but He does not possess - it is quite different!
Jesus compared the behaviour of the Spirit to the wind in John 3:8;

"The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit"
(John 3: 8 ; NKJV throughout)

We cannot put a lid on the Holy Spirit nor dictate where He is working at any particular point in time. This whole concept rules out any notion that 'indwelling' is another way of saying, 'possession'. The Spirit is at work throughout the earth and throughout creation, though He is mainly involved in magnifying Jesus Christ, but any notion that the Spirit of God can be 'bottled up' is unscriptural. The indwelling of God's Spirit in the believer, therefore, is nothing like 'possession'.

In contrast to that, demons are very limited in power and sphere of influence and are more interested in affecting particular and localised people and situations. Once we clear our minds of any thoughts that the Spirit possesses Christians, we find that we don't need to say, 'Where did the Spirit go?' when elderly Christians tragically succomb to mental confusion. This is the first point we need to make.

2.When the Scripture speaks of those who 'endure to the end' being saved (Matthew 24: 13), that is speaking of those who don't depart from the faith, it is not even addressing the issue of people who are prevented from walking as closely to Jesus Christ as they would wish due to illness!
To be frank, we all know that it is often much harder to pray and study when we feel really ill. But I am thinking of purely physical illnesses here, the Lord will hold no one responsible for the onset of a mental confusion which they would not have expected nor wanted. It is important to point this out because oftentimes spouses of those suffering from various forms of senile dementia, make great attempts to get their partners to continue in their former habit of Prayer/Bible Study and are inconsolable when this just does not prove possible. But they should feel no guilt! Do such people really believe that our gracious Lord is unaware of the situation?? In some way in which we cannot fully humanly explain, God has allowed for that situation, is aware of it and if the sufferer was 'in the faith' before the onset of illness will still be deemed to be 'in the faith!'

Let us always remember that - even in the best scenario - our works will save none of us! Rather, at our conversion, the very righteousness of Jesus Christ was imputed to us. We all stand under the grace of Jesus Christ, and could not stand for one moment without it!! In our disappointment and frustration at seeing those we love descend into an illness which makes concentration on the Christian life almost impossible, we should remind ourselves of this fact.

3. All of our bodies are in a gradually 'running down' state.

An important Scripture to consider here is 1 Corinthians 15: 42-44. Paul says this;

"So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body"

Paul adds more in Romans 8;

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors (a reference to earthquakes, volcanoes & extreme weather? - my insert) with birth pangs together until now. And not only they, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body"
(Romans 8: 18-23)

Like the universe, our bodies gradually 'run down'. This is something which God has simply allowed in our present state because of the decision made in the Garden of Eden. We pass - down here - through a 'vail of tears'. There is no doubt that one of the reasons that God allows this is for us to learn that physical life cannot finally satisfy. Our physical lives seem to be spent searching for what will truly satisfy, but we never seem to quite find it. We seem to constantly reach out for that fullness of joy, but even as we do so, it disappears around the corner. Sure, our lives may contain periods of happiness, yet the full joy we yearn for always eludes us. In fact, God wants us to yearn for that fulness of joy, because He knows that we will eventually learn that it is not be found on this earth while we are in our present physical 'corrupt' bodies.

There are a group of Christians out there who believe that we can have radiance of joy and health and prosperity right now, but they seriously misunderstand the message of the gospel. Quite an important part of that is learning to give up all self-confidence and to replace that with total confidence in our Saviour Jesus Christ. We need to be taking up our crosses and bearing them daily, not looking for a soft and comfortable life! Paul said this;

"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake"
(Philippians 1: 29)

We should not be surprised when troubles and afflictions come upon us, rather, we should remind ourselves that this was the lot of all the righteous people of the Bible!

It is indeed tragic when we see elderly people descend into mental confusion, especially where they might have been absolute stalwarts in the faith, but let us all take hope and courage that any such circumstances will not cut them off from the love and grace of God. Let me close by reminding us of these great words from Romans 8;

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written; 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord"
(Romans 8: 35- 39)

Robin A. Brace

I thank Heidi Campbell for suggesting that we use this lovely poem on the subject of alzeimer's disease. The poem is written by Jeanette Smith and appears on EDEN REFLECTIONS.Please read this fine poem before leaving;

(An alzeimers story)
Do not dwell on what you see,
This is not the real me.
Remember back to other days,
Before this illness, changed my ways.
My love for you will never change,
My life has just been rearranged.
In my heart you'll always be,
A very special part of me.
This I want you all to know,
If I cannot tell you so,
Through this time we are estranged,
And our lives, have been changed.
God is with us through it all,
To give us strength each time we fall.
And when I leave, it's not the end,
I'll be made whole in Heaven again.
I'll wait there on the other side,
Where we forever will abide.
Once again I'll recognize,
The faces that I idolize.
Where heartache, grief, and tears will end,
We'll be together once again.

Jeannette E. Smith
April 9, 2002




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