Michael Beates’s book, Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace, is now available.
You can read online for free the introduction and the fourth chapter (on biblical conclusions and reflections).
John Frame writes, “”Mike Beates has been a good friend for twelve years, and I’ve observed his godly character as well as heard and read his insightful teaching. I have read Disability and the Gospel at several stages, and I recommend it highly. The church needs to be awakened to the presence of the disabled in our communities and, as Mike stresses, to the disabilities we all have as sinners in need of God’s grace. The book contains excellent exegesis, theology, and historical studies that make a powerful case. I don’t know a better place to hear God’s Word on this important matter. ”
Here is Joni Eareckson Tada’s foreword for the book:
Back in the mid-1960s when I first embraced Christ, I would tell people it was all about Jesus, but I had no idea what that meant. Sure, Christianity was centered on Christ, but mainly he was the one who got my spiritual engine started. As long as I filled up on him every morning during my quiet time, I was able to putter along just fine.
Things changed dramatically in 1967 after I crushed my spinal cord in a diving accident that left me a quadriplegic. I was frantic and filled with fear. Oh God, I can’t do this. I can’t live like this! This time I needed the Savior urgently. Every hour. Every minute. Or else I’ll suffocate, God! Suddenly, the Bible with all its insights about suffering and weakness became the supreme thing in my life. I spent hours flipping pages of the Bible with my mouth stick, desperate to understand exactly who God is and what his relationship is to suffering. It didn’t take long to find answers that satisfied. When it came to my life-altering injury, nothing comforted me more than the assurance that God hadn’t taken his hands off the wheel for a nanosecond. I discovered that a right understanding of God’s hand in our hardships was critical to my contentment. I also discovered how important good theology is.
Fast-forward more than three decades to the worldwide ministry I now help lead at Joni and Friends—a ministry to people with disabilities who anguish over the same questions I once did. As I travel around the globe, I hear, “What does the Bible say about my child who was born with multiple disabilities?” and “Why does God allow so much brokenness in the world?” My heart aches because these people often hear only silence (or experience rejection) from the body of Christ. Sadly, the church is ill equipped to answer the tough questions about God’s goodness in a world crumbling into broken pieces.
When it comes to suffering, I’m convinced God has more in mind for us than to simply avoid it, give it ibuprofen, divorce it, institutionalize it, or miraculously heal it. But how do we embrace that which God gives from his left hand? I have found a person’s contentment with impairment is directly proportional to the understanding of God and his Word. If a person with a disability is disappointed with God, it can usually be traced to a thin view of the God of the Bible.
Now you understand why I believe a “theology of brokenness” is desperately needed today—a theology that exalts the preeminence of God while underscoring his mercy and compassion to the frail and brokenhearted. It’s why I am so excited about the book you hold in your hands!
Disability and the Gospel provides exactly what the church needs today. I first met the author, Michael Beates, at a Reformed theology conference in 1992, and then, in the summer of 1993 at a family retreat that our ministry holds for special-needs families. Mike and Mary brought their five children including Jessica, their daughter with multiple disabilities. We struck up a conversation one afternoon and right away, I liked this man. I learned about his love for Reformed theology and his passion to preserve the integrity of God’s Word—yet he didn’t come across aloof and academic. Mike explained that years of raising his disabled daughter had softened his edges—here was a student of God’s Word who didn’t live in an ivory tower but in a real world with real pain.
I could wax on about Michael’s theological background, teaching experience, and degrees. But what I want you to mostly know about him is his zeal for Jesus Christ and his deep desire to reach families affected by disability with gospel hope—it’s why he’s helped us deliver wheelchairs around the world to needy disabled people, serving with us in Africa and Eastern Europe. As our ministry grew, I realized we needed someone like Mike to serve as a watchdog, helping to keep our theological underpinnings secure. So I asked him to serve on the International Board of Directors of Joni and Friends in 2000. And I wish I could adequately express how happy I am about his new book, Disability and the Gospel, because there are thousands of families like the Beates family and millions of people like me whose disabilities force hard-hitting questions about God and the church: What does a pastor say when disability hits a family in his congregation broadside? How do Christian education directors respond when autism becomes a serious matter in the classroom? How does the church get engaged with issues that impact our culture, like physician-assisted suicide? What does it take to get a congregation to recognize its weaker members as “indispensable”? In short, how do we grab the church by its shoulders and shake some sense into it about “glorying in our infirmities”?
This excellent resource by Michael Beates gives solid answers to tough questions like these and more. It is my heartfelt prayer that you will take the insights in Disability and the Gospel and use them as a guide and resource for your church family. And don’t be surprised if you see a sudden outbreak of heaven-sent power ripple through your life and the life of your congregation—for God’s power always shows up best in brokenness. And you don’t have to break your neck to believe it.
Readers also may want to be aware of a conference this fall at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis: “The Works of God: God’s Good Design in Disability.” There is a great group of speakers: Nancy Guthrie, Mark Talbot, Greg Lucas, and John Piper.