GOD and Jack Johnson
An Incurable Disease, a Relationship with God and Living In God’s Reality
There may be no better example of how to bring the power, peace and promise of Christ into today than with the provocative story of Jack and Susie Johnson. With nowhere to go, at the edge of a cliff , the couple consciously chose to hold the hand of God and jump; an act that lifted them up so that God could use them to teach others to fly.
There are two stories within this tale; the reality of the flesh and that of the spirit with the saga beginning in January of 1995.
The Reality of the Flesh
“You’re HIV positive,” the doctor told Jack. Shortly thereafter tests proved Susie had the disease as well. Fortunately test results were negative on Jordan, the couple’s twelve year-old son and Brook, their eleven year-old daughter. Still, the seemingly inevitable physical, emotional and financial consequences of impending AIDS were well known to the couple.
For the next several months Jack’s health sustained. Then in June that same year his condition escallated into full-blown AIDS and his health rapidly declined. During the next two and a half years he was hospitalized seven times. His CD-4+ count (CD-4+ is a certain type of white blood cell which can measure the decline of immune health) dropped from a normal of 800,000 to a low of 35,000. He contracted Pneumocystis Pneumonia and suffered a horrible allergic reaction to the sulfa drugs used to combat it.
After surviving that he developed CMV (Cytomegalo Virus, a disease common to many AIDS patients), which attacked the retina of his eyes virtually blinding him. Intravenous tubes used to medicate him became infected and while trying to replace the tube doctors punctured one of Jack’s lungs.
A body builder and successful farmer, Jack’s formerly healthy body dropped from a vigorous 215 pounds to 140 pounds. Sores invaded his mouth and lips making it painful to speak and swallow. Even when he could talk he was often too weak to complete a sentence and most of the time he was too weary to walk the short distance from his recliner to his bed. All of this time Susie was caring for Jack, their two children and home, watching her husband wither and die — witnessing what seemed to be her certain future.
Today Jack is a healed man. Sitting comfortably in his favorite chair he is relaxed, a picture of perfect health. “Healing is a process we are still learning,” he explains smiling the slow, knowing grin of a man who has been to hell and come back. “The first step in that process was to make some tough decisions.”
The Spiritual Reality
Jack’s first choice.
“My first reaction when they told me my diagnosis was ‘Huh? What?’” Several days later, while driving to their mountain cabin Susie recalls, “Out of the blue Jack matter-of-factly said ‘I’m going to beat this. I’m going to do it by trusting in the word of God.’”
That statement quickly turned into a commitment when Jack and Susie had their first meeting with the pastor of a local church, Leon Lothman. “Spiritually I just met them
where they were,” Lothman recalls. “First thing I told them was ‘you are not going to die.’” Committed to the world of the Spirit and the Word of God, not the world of the flesh and humankind, Leon explained that people often look at a terminal illness as something hopeless. Yet, when you go to the Bible you find that God will walk you through an illness and it’s really not hopeless at all.
He told the couple that they didn’t have to be afraid. Together they read the 23rd Psalm and Leon showed them that, while the famous passage talks about the valley of the shadow of death, it doesn’t talk about death. It talks about God being with you. “I told Jack that was where he was going, through the shadow of death. And, I told him God would be with him.”
“People often weaken God’s healing promise by underwriting prayers with ‘if it is
your will God let me be healed.’ But we do that because we don’t know what God’s will is,” says Jack. To know God’s will you have to live it, put it first, abide in it so He can abide in you. (John 15:4-7) If you’re in the Word of God you’ll know that it is God’s will for a believer to be healed and to glorify God.” (Isaiah 53:5; Psalms 103:3) “No where in the Bible,” he adds, “does it say that God doesn’t want you to be healed. In fact, healing is everywhere in the Bible!”
Jack believed this and stood on it. This meant that he committed to the reality of God forgoing the reality of the world; the doubts of the medical profession, the fears of family and friends, and the publicity of the media. Jack and his family made a commitment to believe the promises of God. “If we rely on God,” adds Susie, “we can’t rely on ourselves, our time-table, and our world too. It’s a choice and we had to go all the way.”
Jack’s Second Choice
Leon, members of the Johnson family, their good friends and their church family began a long and consistent process of loving and encouraging Jack, Susie and their children. With this support Jack and Susie began to read the Bible but, for Jack, it was a duty. When anyone would ask him if he were studying The Word he’d say, “Why? Why do I have to do anything? It’s all given to me. Right? I’m believing!”
For Jack this was one of the toughest parts of the process. “I thought,” he says, “this belief thing was a simple deal. But, you’ve got the doctors telling you medical stuff and your body and the pain … it’s all what we hear, see and touch coming to us through the flesh. It is simple but it is not easy.”
Jack stubbornly and persistently relied on his belief, so much so that for nine months he refused to take medicine or go to the doctor. During this time he lost over 60 pounds and became so withered and weak that he could not move himself from his recliner to his bed, two feet away. And, he still wasn’t enthusiastically into the Word. Though he’d memorized plenty of healing scripture that rolled around in his head, hour after hour Jack did not really want to read the Bible. “A lot of times,” says Susie, “I’d ask ‘what are we doing wrong?’ I became so intent on trying to figure that out that I couldn’t see that I was trying to work for the healing. Really God was trying to show me that it was His relationship with me that we needed to work on. All the Bible reading and other stuff comes naturally when we work our relationship with God directly.”
One morning Jack had to crawl from his bedroom to the bathroom and wouldn’t have made it without Susie’s help. “I told Susie ‘you’re not going to do this anymore.’ And, I thought to myself, ‘I can’t handle this illness myself. I give up. Take me to the hospital.’”
At the hospital Jack recalls thinking “Welp, that’s the way she goes. I can go be with God now.” Jack is a saved man and doesn’t fear death. At this point he’ll tell you that it would have been much easier to let the disease run its course and to die. But then he read Deuteronomy 30:15-19. There the Word of God commands life because a long full life committed to God glorifies God. Jack consciously chose to live.
Standing on the Word
Choosing to live was difficult, not only because Jack was in so much pain and so weak but also because he was so alone in his belief that he would live.
Standing on The Word is tough. As Susie puts it, “Even within Christianity our belief wasn’t the most popular thing.” For example, the Johnsons had ministers and concerned people come to their home to prepare them for death. One of the things that bothered Susie most was when well-meaning people would send the couple mixed signals. “Here we were hanging on by our fingernails,” she explains. “We were trying so hard to go with this and people would listen and nod their heads and say ‘uh huh’ but their voices and faces were full of doubt.”
Meanwhile Jack was greeting family and visitors saying, “ Thank God I’m healed!” “They’d look at me like I was crazy” he grins. “But I believed it and I understood that I had to step out on faith and stand on The Word of God.” (Rom. 10:8-10; Psalms 18:21)
“Sometimes I felt really stupid telling people that Jack was healed, especially when he looked so weak and sick,” Says Susie. “But I found this verse that says God will not put a believer to shame. I took that promise and claimed it.” (Rom. 10:11)
In October of 1996 Jack had digressed to the point of total incapacitation. Shriveled to a shell, he fell into a coma. After being rushed to the hospital Jack came to but the doctors told Susie to spend every moment possible with her husband because each moment could be his last.
Jack’s breathing was labored. His energy was gone. He recalls lying in the hospital consciously making himself breathe each breath. Jack was consciously aware that death stood before him. The words of the 91st Psalm rolled over and over in his mind. There were no distractions. “I kept talking to God saying ’Lord, I know what you son did for me on the cross. I know your Word says I’m healed. I know your promises never fail. I don’t believe the doctors, I don’t believe the medical reports, I don’t believe my friends. I believe you, God and you say I’m healed! Your words stand forever and it is on the name of Jesus dear Lord that I rest on these things.”
Softly, yet suddenly, in an instant and in an eternity Jack was flooded with a warm understanding of God. He knew then that believing was not accepting and while he needed to believe in God’s promises, what God wanted was for Jack to accept them. “I laid there in awe,” Jack recalls, “at the sudden understanding that everything comes from God. Everything we are, all that we have — the desire to learn, the desire to do anything — everything comes from God. And he has given it all to us for no reason except that he loves us. It’s all right here,” explains Jack. “We just have to accept it.” It’s as though someone put a huge perfect diamond on a table in front of you and said, ‘take it.’ there’s no catch—no pay back, no guilt, no effort. Take it! That is accepting.
Filling with a love for God that can only come from understanding God, Jack realized then what it really meant to give the glory to God. (Psalm 118:17) “I knew at that moment that if I died people would say, ‘Well you know ol’ Jack was brave. He gave it a good go.’ But,” he adds, “If I lived people would know it was God and the glory would go to him!”
Jack doesn’t know how long the revelation continued but it ended with a feeling of integration, as if a cacophony of silent notes were brought together into a perfect chord of union. “I knew God had healed me!” he says. “Before I believed, but now I knew!” Jack experienced his healing then closed his eyes and slept.”
What Healed Jack?
Hours later he awakened, refreshed in body and renewed in spirit. He was excited, and as quickly and clearly as possible he assured Susie that he was healed and told her about his revelation. Next he asked for a Bible. “He hasn’t taken his nose out of it since,” laughs Susie.
“That’s because I understand it!” Jack exclaims. “It’s not a chore to read anymore – it’s a joy! It’s like food, I have to have it!”
It took a while before others shared in the Johnson’s excitement. While Jack was reading his Bible and testifying to his healing, his medical records reflected no change and gave no encouragement. Several weeks after Jack’s revelation a new three – drug combination called a “cocktail” that is given to some AIDS patients was introduced to Jack. Still things looked worse than ever. Jack contracted illness after illness all associated with the AIDS disease. He endured surgeries and a medical debacle yet, to the Johnsons, all outward signs of his illness were irrelevant because they knew Jack was healed. Finally in September of 1997, a little less than a year after his revelation, Jack began to grow in strength. His blood count steadily increased and amazingly his CD-4+ count started climbing.
Today, Jack Johnson is a healed man. Some think it was the medicine or the doctors. Others believe it was Jack’s will. Jack knows it was God.
“How was I able to decide to live when all I wanted to do was die? Time and time again, how did I live when, medically speaking I should have died? How was I physically able to step out on faith before I began the medicine? The bottom line is that everything – everything comes from God” says Jack.
In a letter to the Johnsons, author and healer Kenneth Hagen told the couple that God doesn’t care where you get your healing as long as you give the glory to God. If you picked up a ball you could say your hand did it, or that your muscles moved your arm which moved your hand or even that your brain moved your muscles that moved your arm then your hand. But then what are you going to say? Everything comes from God.
Jack’s Life Has Changed
Before the diagnosis Jack was a self-disciplined, structured, successful body-builder and farmer. Well-liked and an integral part of his community, he had a lovely family and, as he puts it, “things looked good.” But all Jack’s accomplishments came from his will and effort. Today, from crops to politics Jack gives it all to God. He doesn’t worry or force and seldom gets angry. He is much less structured often “going with the flow.” His priorities now are his relationship with God and his family. “Things just don’t bother me,” he says. “I know now what’s important.”
Adds Susie, “Our marriage is better. Our relationship with our children is better. And, I don’t look for happiness anymore. I know joy and joy,” she explains, “is an energy that comes from deep down inside me.”
There’s so much more to being a Christian. It is a different reality
(I Cor.26,7) where God comes first and He takes care of life. “You see,” explains Jack, “the world couldn’t help me — only God could.” The focus of the trauma enabled Jack to see God by using his promises. To benefit from his promise of life Jack had to commit to his will which meant committing to His world. You commit to God’s world not by studying it, understanding it then trying it. It’s something you believe first then do, then know. What you do shows what you believe. (Mark 11:23) “God’s world and the reality of all its promises is right here in front of us,” says Jack. “We just have to believe it and want it badly enough to live it until we become it!”