Thoughts and Reflections
In a world that remains starved for heroes and leaders, in a world that is saturated by debates and opinion polls, I remain comforted in knowing the Bible continues to point beyond “us” to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Today, the ultimate question remains not, “What is the answer?” It is “Who is the answer?”
I have heard it said, “You never lighten any load until you feel the pressure in your own soul.”
It is an undeniable fact that AIDS has and will continue to force many to make hard choices, choices that will clearly reveal what kind of people we are choosing to be. Prayerfully, I continue to hope more and more people will pause and resolve to follow Jesus, who willingly took risks, crossed barriers, touched lepers, and met freely and frequently with the despised. Clearly, Jesus understands the human needs of understanding, acceptance, trust, compassion, forgiveness and touch.
Over these past 30 years of my new life in Christ, I have shared numerous times the heart-wrenching fact that all those I once ran with are now gone. To this day, their names, faces, their laughs, haunt me. I clearly and vividly remember a phone call with my closest and dearest friend just before he passed away with AIDS. He remained in San Francisco long after God had transported me back to Bakersfield in 1985 when and where everything in life changed. The last thing he said to me during a phone conversation was, “Phillip, we don’t understand what has happened to you, but whatever it is, keep it up.” I continue to be haunted by waters.
Every person knows or will know at least one individual infected by HIV/AIDS. That means every church in the United States and around the world will come face-to-face with the on-going tragedy. It has been said, “Give me one good reason why I should care?” With regard to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, there are millions of reasons to care.
In my personal travels to churches of all denominations, when I share where we remain in the global crisis with regard to HIV/AIDS, those in attendance are shocked to hear present day facts. I, for one, will continue to hope and pray that Christians will play a more vital role in turning back the tide of this pandemic. I truly believe, in this moment, God has called us to respond. God has given us Biblical principles to halt HIV infections and to bring hope to those whose lives have been devastated by this deadly disease. The Church can be a powerful tool in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and ministering hope to those infected.
When I meet people with HIV/AIDS, it doesn’t matter to me how they got it. All that matters is that they are human beings whom God loves so much and asks us to love too. Ultimately, we must talk about HIV/AIDS. Why? Because this about people and not just an issue. In the name of decency, true compassion, humanity and the sanctity of life (all life), the truth cannot and must not be ignored or suppressed with what continues to unfold regarding HIV/AIDS. Peoples’ lives are not made better physically, psychologically, spiritually or socially – as a result of ignoring or unwillingness to talk about a real, true crisis of our time.
HIV/AIDS is a disease that impacts real people and their loved ones who must learn to face this together, because no one can face it alone. People facing HIV/AIDS do better when they know what to expect on the journey. They do best when they don’t have to find their way alone. The journey begins with “talking about it.”
Without fail, every individual and every family member I have ever met impacted by HIV/AIDS asks: “How do you get through this?” What they are really saying is, “I don’t know how I’m going to survive this.”
I pray that you will see “no one except Jesus” (Matthew 17:8), holding out His arms to assure you of His love and understanding. He alone can meet your needs, wipe away the tears, heal the wounds, comfort the hurts, and cleanse.
With HIV/AIDS comes the very real resolution of emotional issues such as anger, loneliness, guilt, humiliation and fear.
- When you are afraid…”The Lord is my shepherd…” (Psalm 23)
- When you need a reminder of God’s love…”For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16)
- When you need peace…”Peace I leave with you, My peace…” (John 14:27)
- When you need hope…”Now hope does not disappoint…” (Romans 5:1-5)
- When you’re wondering where is this headed…”And God will wipe away every tear…” (Revelation 21:4)
I believe in order to earn the right to tell people how to find God’s love; you have to model for them first what it is.
Are we, God’s people, not compelled to share His love with others? Personally, I can’t think of any group that needs to experience His love more than people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Jesus would listen to them, laugh with them, and weep with them. He would always be with them. Their fathers and mothers might forsake them, but He would never do that.
Outside the context of faith in a living God who shares our sorrows and carries us through them when we reach the end of ourselves, do we really have anything of substance to offer anyone? However, when we choose to keep walking by faith, we continue learning the truth of the Apostle Paul’s words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Many, many years ago, long before my own diagnosis of being HIV positive in January 1993, I embraced and stood upon the above Scripture as I do today. When I was told I was HIV positive by my doctor, I was in no shape to drive home. Thankfully and gratefully, a dear friend picked me up and drove me home.
Today, I still remember clearly saying, “I don’t want to go through this.”
My friend asked, “Phillip, how will you use this for Jesus?”
“But I have AIDS, what can I do?”
“Phillip, AIDS does not and will not limit God.”
There is no doubt, no question, God has provided many opportunities for me to share my experience with others. He has taken the tragedy of an AIDS diagnosis and turned it completely around into a powerful tool of His grace and mercy. God has been and continues to be so good to me. Truly, I am the recipient of…”With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:16)
While HIV/AIDS is seen by many as a disease of death, it can also teach how to really live. Indeed, God is bigger than all of life’s problems and troubles. He is bigger than AIDS. HIV/AIDS has taught me that if I will submit my life, my frustrations, my problems, my worries and fears to God on a daily basis, He is faithful to meet all my needs and I am able to “boast about my sickness that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 11:30)
I, for one, remain determined to continue raising visibility and openness about the disease as a way of reducing the stigma and calling the Church worldwide to a Christ-like response to the heartbreaking faces of AIDS. The need and the opportunity remains great for the Christian community to take the lead in responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis with conviction and compassion.
Christian, you are uniquely qualified to bear witness to the world that the One who defeated death offers us the principles and the power to defeat HIV/AIDS. Your prayers and your participation can make a difference in the lives and eternal destinies of millions of men, women and children.
Today, there remains a world crying out for hope.
Jesus continues to call His Church worldwide to respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic through a message of Christian hope and compassion. HIV/AIDS is not the end.
Through faith in Christ – it can lead to a very new beginning.
From All of Us at His Way Out Ministries…
To each of you who continually bless us by your encouragement, ministry participation, financial support, offerings and prayers, we remain truly grateful. Bless you for enabling us to speak His truth with love and integrity.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Pastor Phillip Lee
His Way Out Ministries
Member of Restored Hope Network
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, the I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is tested.” Martin Luther