But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Messiah. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Messiah Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Messiah and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Messiah, the righteousness from God that depends on faith… Philippians 3:7-9
Paul precedes these words with a list of his previous accomplishments: he was a ‘Hebrew of Hebrews,’ a Pharisee, blameless before the statutes of the law. As I wrote last week, at the Jaffa base we are studying the book of Acts and we glimpsed Paul’s previous life firsthand through the death of Stephen. But years later he writes to the Philippians these strong words: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Messiah.” Such a radical reorientation is the work of the Holy Spirit; a supernaturally changed heart and not just moral restraint stemming from human piety.
What is beautiful is that Paul was coming from a traditional honor-shame, religious background, and he concludes that his own righteousness–the work of his life–was rubbish compared to the righteousness of God, which is Jesus. All of his life’s treasure was poured out when he encountered the true king on the road to Damascus. As the parable of Jesus told it, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Imagine the people at the market seeing this man sell all his belongings, it would have looked crazy! But if asked why his response would be that he has found something worth all of this and more. “How can anything compare to the treasure I have found?”
Do we understand this? Does it change the way we live? Jesus constantly went after the idols in people’s hearts. Paul idolized the law and religious observance; for the rich young ruler, though he kept all the commandments of the law, it was money that sat on the throne of his heart; for the Samaritan woman at the well her worth was found in men.
But Jesus is the rightful sovereign of our hearts, and every born-again believer comes to a point where they see the things that they’ve trusted to be their righteousness, what has been the treasure of their hearts, and then they see Jesus. And like Paul, the Holy Spirit works in us to say it is all rubbish compared to the worth of being found in Messiah. If He is our treasure then our hearts are with him, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
As we bring our prayer and supplications to the Lord, may we pray in light of the great high priest who is interceding for us before the throne of God; He is our advocate, our justifier, our righteousness.
As the corona restrictions begin to be relaxed here in Israel, things are going back to normal. This means that instead of just Georgia and me going to the hospital, now other staff can go to appointments and we are now allowed to go to the wards to visit the children.
Yesterday Mimi enjoyed a visit from Colin and Ruth. They came back saying how good it was to see her again. Mimi was all smiles during this time, and they reported that a prayer of her mother has been answered. For most of her hospitalizations, Mimi has been terrified of all doctors and nurses, but currently she does not react with fear when seeing them, she is stable in her peace and happiness even when they come into the room.
Mimi had a CT scan today which was difficult to interpret, but showed there may be a problem with her pulmonary arteries, which is what the doctors suspected initially. Please pray for God’s timing for her next appointments; many that were postponed because of COVID are now being scheduled so there are not many open slots available on this short notice. We can pray and be confident in God’s plan, as he is working for the good of those who love him, and although Mimi is just two, she does indeed have a sense of His presence. The kingdom of heaven belongs to ones like her, after all.
The setback in appointments also affects two-month-old Ahmed, who is staying with us in Jaffa instead of going back to Gaza to be in a three-week quarantine. It may be that his surgery date will have to be delayed. Soon, God willing, his mother will have permission to come and wait with him here until they can do the surgery, and his aunt who is with him now will go back to Gaza. It has been very nice to have a Gaza family stay with us in Jaffa. It’s not so often possible as with Gaza so close the families can go directly to and from the hospital.
Along with Ahmed’s aunt, there is another Aunt from Gaza who is devoted in love to her nephew. Hassan, who had surgery a full week ago, was finally extubated today, praise God!
This is wonderful news and an encouragement for his aunt who is steadfastly by his side. His oxygen remains in the mid seventies with extra support, but the doctors are hoping that in the following days this goes up.
Yet another Gaza child, Ziad, is still intubated, so please keep praying for him. I got to visit him and his mother yesterday, which was easily one of the best parts of this week. He had a fever this week and therefore did not have an interventional catheterization as was previously planned, but maybe next week this will take place.
When I was with her yesterday we prayed for Ziad, and one thing that came to my mind and words that I spoke was that his life is so worth fighting for, even when it looks bleak, even though he has many problems, his life has inherent value and is worth saving. So the same Lord who made the lame walk and gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, we ask you to work in Ziad’s body to heal him, make a miracle of his life in the name of Jesus. Give his mother joy and confidence in you.
Lastly, I want to ask you to pray that God would open up a way for a 24-year-old man, Alaa, to have heart surgery. In the middle of December I was surprised to find that our coworker Yousef and I would be driving to the border to pick him up for an echo appointment. Rarely do we work with adults, as we mainly focus on pediatric cardiological defects. But Alaa had heart surgery at Sheba in 2004 and the family reached out to Shevet for further needed intervention that cannot be done in Gaza or the West Bank. In January Alaa had a consultation in which the doctor said he needed to have the complex Bentall procedure to replace his aortic valve, aortic root, and ascending aorta.
God has given me a burden for his case and I do believe it was by His divine orchestration that I went to the border that day with Yousef to pick him up. As we waited in the hospital he told me about his life in Gaza, his job, his wife and his young son. I want for him to have a long life ahead him as a husband and father. Please pray that God would open a way for him to come through Shevet for treatment. Because he is an adult, we will need to find more finding for Alaa’s surgery than normal. It is not only children who need help but adults as well, and Jesus ministered to both. I pray that in a few months I can look back at this email and see how God, from beginning to end, was faithful in carrying out his purposes, and that we are instruments of that. Without him we can do nothing. He sets his treasure in jars of clay.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
God bless you,
Alena for Shevet Achim