Conquering Cancer through Faith in Christ Excerpts
A LOVE TEST
"Then God said, 'Take your son, your only son Isaac whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering" Genesis 22:2a
The word 'love' is mentioned 697 times in the Bible. This verse happens to be the first. The Bible says God never tempts; that is, tempts us to sin. But, He does test. What a strange and dramatic test He gave Abraham! We're familiar with tests from God in His allowing us to acquire cancer. Abraham never knew how God was going to complete this 'test,' but He did believe Isaac was going to be OK. Abraham says to his servants in verse 5-"Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We worship and then we will come back to you." How does this story/test relate to our test with cancer?
Though Abraham didn't know how God was going to do it, He trusted in God and His love that both he and his son would return. As it was, God provide a lamb in Isaac's place just as He provided Jesus in ours. As we go through the test of cancer, we don't have any guarantees we're going to not die from it (soon or later). Yet by faith, we trust in God's love that in some way, He will see us through. Death (from this world) remains a given (unless Jesus comes first!). But the bottom line is, through God's love He who lives and believes in Jesus will never die.
Dear Jesus, You said those words-"He who believes in Me will never die" to Mary at the resurrection of her brother and your friend, Lazerus. Lord, we believe. Help us in our 'tests' and unbelief, in Your Name, Amen.
DON'T BE SURPRISED Psalm 66:10
"Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed." 1 Peter 4:12-13
"Alright students, I want you to close your books and take out a sheet of paper!" Remember pop quizzes!" The teacher gave no warnings! You were either prepared by doing your homework or you simply unprepared by not doing it! Cancer can be like a pop quiz! It's something of a surprise and catches us unprepared. Without a doubt, it's a test. Remember some of the real tests we went through? Biopsies. CAT scans. PET scans. MRI's. Ultrasound. Bone marrow taps, just too mention a few. I had a number of esophageal stretches as well as my least favorite-a nerve test (a series of electric shocks to various parts of my body at different decibel levels to test my nerve reactions). Not fun!
God gives tests. To us, many of them appear as surprises! But He says, "Don't be surprised." Jesus knew His purpose of the cross long before He hung on it. Yet He chose to do so for our sakes. His love continues to surprise and amaze us! Nobody ever said that by being a believing child of God we'd be exempt from such surprise tests as cancer. Rather than saying, "I'm shocked/surprised this cancer happened to me!" By faith (God's gift) we say, "wow, I'm still able to rejoice!" Now that's surprising! But...as we again consider God's love, we're not surprised at all!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for for providing me the wherewithal for all life's tests and trials, in Jesus Name, Amen.
MORE THAN CONQUERORS
"In all these things we are more than conquerors through He (Jesus) who loved us." Romans 8:37
Wouldn't it be wonderful if someday we could read a headline, "Cancer Conquered! Cure found!" But the fact remains cancer continues to physically conquer the lives of millions. Our text says, we (you and me) are (present tense) more than conquerors! Yet while we're in the midst of our struggle with cancer, we can sometimes feel more like the conquered than the conqueror! Like Job in the Old Testament, we can become consumed by our condition and circumstance. Also like Job, questions can arise. For me, some questions were: "Is this it?" "Is this the end?" "Is this punishment for doing something bad?" "What's God's will in all this?" "I feel so weak, so helpless!" "God, are you really here for me?"
Our answer is found in Jesus and the cross. In the cross, Jesus has conquered the devil, sin, and death for us. Praise God, it's brought us forgiveness, life now in His Spirit, and the promise of eternal life. This assurance and the peace it provides is ours; even now and especially during our personal struggle with cancer. Being a conqueror of anything is a great blessing. However, we're 'more than' conquerors! More than cancer, more than the sin that so easily entangles us, and more than fear and death itself! Through faith in Jesus (God's gift), we'll forever remain more than conquerors!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Your great and powerful love which You bestow on us making us more than conquerors in all things, in Jesus Name, Amen.
WHERE YOU LEAD
"Where you go I will go. Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." Ruth 1:16b
Carole King wrote a song back in the early 70's entitled; Where You Lead. Some lyrics include-
If you're out on the road, Feeling lonely, and so cold.
All you have to do is call my name, And I'll be there in the next train.
Where you lead, I will follow, Anywhere that you tell me to.
If you need, you need me to be with you, I will follow where you lead.
It's fair to say God doesn't need us, but we need Him. However, there's times we'd rather be the leader than the follower. We like to be the one calling the shots and then, if we find ourselves over our head to say, "OK Lord, you can take it now!" Thus, instead of having a God who leads, we have one who follows; one in the background waiting for our beckon call. In our fallen weakness and/or in our struggle with cancer, we try to maintain our self reliance to the last straw. One remembrance; to take that wheel chair ride or to walk? We don't want to be dependent on anyone. Ruth didn't need Naomi, but Naomi needed Ruth. Yet, out of her great love, Ruth stayed with Naomi, which turned out the best thing for her as she came to know God. It's that kind of love and devotion Jesus had for us by going to the cross in our stead. He knows what's truly best for us. By faith, we let go and let God. What peace and blessing we find in His leading and our following.
Dear Heavenly Father, lead me Lord, and help me let go of my pride and selfishness, and let you lead my life, in Jesus Name, Amen.
WE'RE NOT ALONE
(Elijah): I'm the only one left...(God): Yet I reserve 7,000 in Israel 1 Kings 19::14b, 18a
"Depressed!" has become a common way for people to describe their feelings when they experience various levels of stress, frustration, or sadness. The American Medical Association defines depression as "an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things." Elijah felt alone. Though coming off one of the greatest victories of his life (defeating 850 false prophets in a pray-off as to whose God was real and superior), Elijah now found himself having to run for it! If the height of depression is despairing of one's life, Elijah was there. (1 Kings 19:4)
Sometimes we can feel just like Elijah. It can seem as though no one, not even the closes ones to us, knows the pain and struggle we're going through. It may seem (or be even be true) that people don't want to come around anymore because they just don't know how to approach us now that we have the c-word. That can cause the adding of the d-word to our problems! God never left Elijah alone nor does He leave us alone either. We find great peace in His objective promise; "Never will I leave or forsake you." Other men of God; David, Job, Paul, have had similar feelings. Regardless the degree of how low or alone we may feel, the fact remains...with God, we're never alone.
Immanuel (God with us), thank you for your constant presence and peace in our lives, in Jesus Name, Amen.
WEAK BUT STRONG
"That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10
"God helps those who help themselves." Sounds like something from the Proverbs or at least, somewhere in the Bible. But don't bother trying to look it up there because you won't find it. Still, those words have elements of truth and wisdom. Yet, if we were to think that it's because of our effort God helps us or that we're so strong, we'd be badly mistaken. Jesus once said, 'Apart from Me you can do nothing."
Remember those weakest times of our treatment? What you did before without a second thought now became an effort. Just prior to my cancer diagnosis, I ran, lifted weights, swam, played racquetball, tennis, city league baseball, and watched carefully what I ate and drank. However, I was so weak during my radiation and chemo therapy, my wife had to drive me and open the hospital door for me. She also carried the load of work I normally did around the house. Weak, and in many ways helpless! However, I found that in my weakness I was spending more time in prayer and becoming evermore closer to God. What God allows to make us weak, He also allows as opportunities for us to be strong. He does so that we may come not only to believe, but to trust and rely upon Him rather than ourselves. Praise God!
Father, thank you for making me stronger in things that are truly most important, in Jesus Name, Amen.
THY WILL, NOT MINE
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" Matthew 6:10b
We're born with a will of our own. From that first slap on the bottom ("Waaaaaa!"), we begin to exercise that will! We use that cry often the first couple years when it comes to wanting something to eat or our diaper changed! Come the 'terrible twos,' we have that word 'NO' down pat! As teenagers, we test the will of our parents and see how far ours can go. As adults, we still like to exercise our will but by then we've figured out we don't get a choice when it comes to paying our taxes, or when to let the dog out, or holding the remote! Nor do we have a choice when it comes to getting cancer.
Acquiring cancer would never have been a part of my will. I doubt if any of us would have chosen to experience the pain of radiation or surgery, the nausea of chemotherapy, or the side effects that go with any or all those treatments. Regarding my cancer and the Lord's will, two verses came to my mind: Hebrews 12:6-"The Lord disciplines those He loves" & John 9:3-(after being asked who sinned this man or his parents that he was born blind, Jesus says-) "Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But this happened that the works of God might be displayed in his life." Either way, God loves us and His will is serving as a blessing, not only to us but to those around us. Praise God!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Your good and perfect will and help me in my weakness to pray 'Thy will be done, not mine, in Jesus Name, Amen.
"...there was given to me a thorn in the flesh; a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me,'My grace is sufficient for you." 2 Corinthians 12:7b-9a
Thorns hurt. Those who have ever worked or dealt with roses know you have to be careful in handling them so you don't get stuck. Jesus was forced to wear a crown of them. He took both the pain and shame in our stead that we might be forever forgiven. Paul had a 'thorn.' Whatever that thorn was, Paul asked 3 times the Lord remove it. How many times did we ask the Lord to remove our cancer thorn?
The Bible says, God answers all prayer in Jesus Name according to His perfect will. In a sense, God never says "No" to us, but rather what He said to Paul-"My grace is sufficient for you." That's not always the answer we want to hear especially when that thorn is really hurting. Yet, God is answering all our prayers and even prayers we don't pray. The Bible also says the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness by interceding for us in 'groans that words cannot express." Therefore, we praise God when He says, 'yes' or 'wait a little while' or 'my grace is sufficient' to our prayers. For we know that in all our prayers, God will answer with what's best for us and just what we need.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace which not only provides all my needs but goes beyond my understanding, in Jesus Name, Amen.
"Then the Lord said to Satan, have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil" Job 1:8
C.S. Lewis once wrote, "God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience, and shouts to us in our pain!" Maybe that's why our pain has a way of getting our attention quicker than the other two! Needless to say, God had Job's attention. Losing his children, possessions, and painful sores all over his body, Job quickly cried to God out of his pain.
Looking at C.S. Lewis's statement from a different angle, God can also whisper in our pain and we immediately hear Him. Why? Because by faith (God's gift), we hear His still, small voice. Along with faith, God gives us the gift of patience. It's interesting, we often hear of the patience of Job, yet that word 'patience' is not mentioned once in his book. Job's patience was witnessed in His remaining ever faithful to God all during his ordeal. Sometimes our patience runs a little thin when we're sitting with that chemo needle in our arm or while lying on the radiation table or in the operating room, or sick and weak on our couch. Yet God remains ever-faithful to us. We hear His still, small voice saying-'Lo, I am with you always.'
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing love and your gifts of faith and patience. Help me in my unbelief and impatience, in Jesus Name, Amen.
TAKE A PILL
"Shout for joy, to the Lord...Come before Him with joyful songs...Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever" (Psalm 100 excerpts)
Pills, pills, pills! There seems to be a pill for just about anything! Pills for headaches, nausea, pills to relax, help you sleep or wake you up! I recall times during my treatments when I wasn't the most pleasant person to be around if you know what I mean. I'd often throw parties; pity parties, and invite one person, me. "Woe is me!" was my central topic of discussion. Sadly, even though I invited only myself it seemed everyone around me got drawn in as well. My wife would say, "take a chill pill, Dear!" Metaphorically speaking, I found one better than that! Praise pills! They're all natural, that is-to those who believe in God. They just naturally enter you and start to work immediately when instead of looking at your navel, you look up! Taking the focus off oneself and simply praising God is pure, good, and Godly natural medicine for our soul! One of my favorites was the simple little doxology hymn-'Praise God from whom all blessings flow' based on the Psalm above (and tune-the old 100th)! What's nice too, is we never have to worry about the dosage! There's no such thing as taking too much!
Rejoicing amidst suffering! Who else but God could make such a pill!
Praise be to You O Lord, for when I am weak You make me strong. In You I find that peace that goes beyond my understanding taking my sad and making me glad. Thank you in Jesus Name, Amen.
"God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear" 1Cor.10:13-14
There's an old Negro spiritual that has the lyric, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, nobody knows but Jesus." That lyric reminds me of the true story of one Joseph Merrick, a.k.a. 'The Elephant Man.' Joseph's mother died at age eleven and his father abandoned him. He was taken in by carnival workers where he worked as a side (freak) show. Eventually, Joseph was even abandoned by the carnival. He was later befriended by a doctor Frederick Treves to whom Joseph intimated-"Nobody cares! Nobody can understand what it's like for me, not even you!" However, in time 'the Elephant Man' found a friend in Dr. Treves; one who cared and tried 'to know' him.
Sometimes we can feel we're all alone and think, "Nobody loves me or nobody knows (including my spouse, and/or family or closest friends) my trouble!" But Jesus knows! The Bible says, "But we've One who's been tempted in every way, just as we and without sin." He's been there! Jesus suffered for the sin of every person who's ever lived. Not only does Jesus know suffering, but He knows exactly how we feel. As our all-knowing, loving God, He comes to us in our pain. He brings His comfort and peace; a peace beyond our understanding; a peace that no one else can give. Yes, God knows! And....with Him we're reminded of another song-"What a Friend We Have in Jesus."
Jesus, thank you for taking our burdens as You give us rest, in Your Name, Amen.
God Knows the Heart
"We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to God's purpose." Romans 8:28
Lance Armstrong is the seven time winner of bicycling most grueling and prestigious event, the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong is also a cancer survivor. He has survived testicular cancer that metastasized to his brain and lungs. Surprisingly and almost unbelievably, a couple of his Tour de France victories came while after his episode with cancer. Often, you hear people pointing to such accomplishments and though giving glory to God they say such things as, "If you believe strong enough, God will do the same for you!" But what if in God's infinite wisdom He wills not to heal you the same way or at all? Does that mean your faith wasn't strong enough?
I have a Pastor friend who suffered tongue cancer and God chose to heal him (he's cancer-free-Praise God!) and return him to his public ministry. As of this writing, I remain unable to return to the public ministry of which God called me. Does that mean my faith is less strong? God knows. But I know that God doesn't love me or any of us less because of the size of our faith. I'm thankful God continues to use all of us to His glory regardless of our physical conditions. God knows our heart better than any earthly Doctor (or Theologian), and His promise remains; "In all things (including cancer), He's working good for those who love Him and are called (as we, His believers are) according to His purpose.
Father, thank you for Your presence and peace even in our darkest hours, in Jesus Name, Amen.
"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you."Matthew 6:33
How can I forget?" Those are words we often tie to our precious 'first-time' memories. They say there's a first time for everything. I recall some of mine; my first kiss, my first car, my holding our first child, to mention a few. Do you remember some of yours? What about the first time we heard we had cancer? Precious memory? Still, how could we forget? I distinctly remember my Doctor telling me; "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that lump in your throat is not swollen glands, it's cancer. The good news is we think we can get it all." That led to a whole lot of other 'firsts;' receiving chemo, radiation, throat surgery, esophageal stretches, M.R.I.'s, CAT scans, just to mention a few. In our best first times as well as our worst first times, God is there for us. He promises us the words above. In our fear and confusion of cancer for the first time we have a place we can go. God is our source of strength, peace, and guidance for all our first time experiences and for all that lays ahead.
Father, we love because You first loved us and gave us your Son that we would know the way, the truth, and the life, in His Name we pray, Amen.
A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
"And Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see." 2 Kings 6:17
One of my favorite stories from scripture is the one of Elisha, and when his servant sees the army of Aram. The King of Aram put forth an order to his army to capture Elisha. After finding out he was in Dothan, this army surrounded the city. That's when Elisha's servant says to Elisha, "The army with horses and chariots have the city surrounded. What're we going to do?" Elisha wasn't rattled at all. He simply said, "Don't be afraid, there are more of us then there are of them!" The Bible doesn't record any further conversation but rather the words above. However, if I may editorialize, I could see the servant saying something like, "Ah, Elisha. I just looked outside and there are thousands of them and only 2 of us!" What the servant couldn't see (until the Lord opened his eyes) was that between them and the troops were many more angels, chariots, and horses protecting them.
Jesus says He is with us always. Either that's true or He's a liar. If our eyes could be opened like Elisha's servant we'd see Jesus in the room with us as we're getting our radiation, or our chemo, our our surgery. We'd see Jesus upon waking up in our recovery room. We'd see Jesus those many times we prayed alone asking for his healing. His promise is He answers all prayers in His Name. The time is coming we're going to see everything we've asked for!
Lord Jesus, you once said, 'Blessed are those who don't see and yet still believe.' Thank you for my faith. Help me to see what my human eyes cannot, in Your Name, Amen.