Against All Odds, God is Still Working

By Pastor Tim Johnson, Distinguished Alumni of the Year

“A 1% chance of new growth . . .”

That was the prognosis of my podiatrist for a new toenail after examining my big toe for the first time.

No real surprise.  I mean, I had injured it almost five years before while visiting one of our church plants in Colombia.  Five years of stubbornness, and procrastinating, and infection had left this toe not only a mess, but with little to no chance of recovery.

Let’s just say, the first words from my doctor’s mouth when he saw the toe was, “Whoa!”  And he’s been seeing ugly toes for about 25 years.

Almost with a sense of resignation, he prescribed a growth compound to apply to the toe twice a day.

So I did.  Every day.  For the last eight months.  Morning and night.  Against the odds he gave me.  Against any real medical hope.

Appointment after appointment, I would go in, have the toe worked on (I’ll spare the details . . . you’re welcome!), and he would say the same thing:  “Probably a 1% chance of new growth . . .”

Until the last appointment a few weeks ago.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a podiatrist so excited and full of joy as I did when he exclaimed, “There’s new growth!  There’s a nail!’

There, small and almost imperceptible, was a sliver of pearl-white nail beginning to emerge from under the skin.

The podiatrist was so thrilled that he even called in one of the nurses to witness the miracle.  He later told me, “I spend all day long with the negative consequences that I seldom see the positive.  This is worth celebrating.”

That was almost six weeks ago.  Since then, the toenail has continued to grow and with its opalescent quality, stands in stark contrast to what had been there for almost five years.

“A 1% chance of new growth . . .” was the prognosis.  The reality is that in less than a year, that toenail will be the best-looking nail of the 10!

Since my days at Asbury, I have tried to embrace a “Kingdom” perspective.  The understanding that God can be seen working in all things if we but open our spiritual eyes to see.

As I walked out of that last toe appointment, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind this verse:   “Then a shoot will spring from the stump of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”  —  Isaiah 11:1

From the “stump” of that ugly toe has come forth a “spring.”  There was a 1% chance of “new growth.”  I was reminded of that stark reality each appointment. 

But even under the cover of that prognosis, there was a different reality.  All the while, a new growth was in fact forming and growing.  Until even my podiatrist had to celebrate it when he finally saw it.

I know what we’re talking about is only a toenail.  But isn’t the principle the same, whether we’re talking about a devastated marriage, a cancer diagnosis, a prodigal’s salvation?

Whatever the situation, whatever the “1% chance,” isn’t God always working behind the scenes to bring forth new growth and fruit . . . if only we have the faith and eyes to see it?

I’m pretty sure the “experts” of the day would have given Jesus less than a 1% chance of walking out of that tomb alive three days later.  But as always, God was working even then to bring forth “new growth” in the midst of death and loss.

I pray we are reminded . . . even through a toenail . . . of that Kingdom perspective.  And that we will embrace the spiritual eyesight to believe in the new growth even before we actually see it. 

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