Faith Is Not always Easy!

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12 NIV)

 

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My Journey With God Through Cancer

In 2012 when the doctor told me I had cancer, I didn’t fall apart. I just saw this as part of God’s plan for my life and I simply depended on God to meet my every need. He has been faithful to us. I am so thankful God gave me Linda as my wife. She has been by my side caring for me and I am thankful. I never overlook the fact that she went through a lot of mental, emotional, and physical stress as she cared for me. While I was in the hospital, sleeping arrangements were horrible for her! She slept in a chair for weeks! They called it a recliner, but it was a lousy one! She was awakened hourly as they came to my bedside to check my vitals. She continues to care for my every need. Since I don't drive, she is my “driver” and takes care of many things that I used to be able to do.

When we fell in love at 17 and got married at 18, right out of high school, she didn’t sign on to be a minister’s wife or a cancer patient caregiver. I consider her God’s gift even though I don’t deserve her. In the midst of all our physical and emotional needs we know God is watching over us. We are also facing up to the fact that we are actually getting older!

I started chemo in GA where we lived and I served a church as minister of education. My daughter, Michelle, and family were moving to Houston, TX area following a job for her husband. She kept insisting that I come to Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center for a second opinion. I’m glad I did. My new Oncologist told me, “They were right in GA, you do have stage 4 Lymphoma, but it has spread to the brain and you also have Thyroid Cancer.” At that point I told him that I know God uses doctors like him and medicine, but I also know healing power comes from God, and I believe God is going to heal me. He didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t. About 18 months later, after surgery, chemo, and whole brain radiation, the doctor said, “You are in “remission”. I told him that I call it “healed”. He still did not know what to say, so he didn’t.

I continue quarterly scans. I have graduated from a walker to a walking cane. Currently, the doctor says, “You have no Lymphoma in your body.” I get stronger every day. God is good. I know God uses doctors and medicine, but I also know healing power comes from God. I am thankful for God’s blessings and healing upon my life. I know one day my body will die, but I will live forever because Jesus is my Savior and Lord.

The fun part of this whole difficult experience has been the people I have met that I could share with them what God has done in my life and how He continues to  bless me with healing. In fact, while in treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center, I felt God brought the world to me since there are so many nationalities represented among MD Anderson medical staff,  employees, and patients.

I remember times when I would be in a patient waiting room filled with people from literally all over the world, I would ask if anyone would be offended if I prayed for everyone in the waiting area. Of the many times I did that, I never had anyone to be negative. I would pray a simple prayer, “Dear Lord, I don’t know these people, but You do. I ask that you will provide healing and comfort to them, according to your plan for their lives. I ask that You bless and strengthen their families. I trust these people into Your care. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

It was interesting how this opened the door for people to give me their name asking me to pray for them. Many names on my early morning prayer list are from the USA, UK, Puerto Rico, India, Kenya, Iran, China, Mexico, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and Ethiopia.

On one visit with my Oncologist, Linda, my wife, did not feel well, so my daughter, Michelle, took me for the visit. I got finished before they did, so I left the room. Michelle stayed to talk. The doctor looked at her and said, “Your dad is a miracle.” To me, that was his acknowledgement of my “healing”. God had used my Oncologist and MD Anderson Cancer Center to bring about my healing and I am thankful. “We put our hope in the Lord.  He is our help and our shield.  In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.  Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” (Psalms 33:20-22 NLT)

During my difficult days, I spent my nights and early morning worship times praying, singing, and quoting Scriptures I have memorized over the years. I remembered what God said to Isaiah, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

I also treasure the words of Jesus who said, “I am the one who raises the dead and gives them life again. Anyone who believes in me, even though he dies like anyone else, shall live again. He is given eternal life for believing in me and shall never perish.” (John 11:25-26a TLB)

I have witnessed God’s sustaining grace during difficult times and I am thankful for His grace and mercy. God’s sustaining grace gives me the power and energy to keep going when I am troubled and helps me encourage others going through tough times. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:12, “My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in his grace” (NLT).

For years, without setting my alarm clock, I have gotten up very early, around 4 AM for my prayer and worship time. This was my practice long before I got cancer. I decided long ago that I would never question God’s love for me. After all, He wants me to spend eternity with Him. That’s why He sent His Son to die for us on the cross, to pay the penalty for our sin and save us, if we will only ask and trust Him.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 (NIV)

After 42 years serving as a pastor or minister of education, because of physical limitations, I can no longer actively serve in a church. Because of chemo and whole brain radiation, my brain does not work quite properly and my short-term memory does not serve me well. It is hard to remember names of people I meet in church, but I just continue to smile and greet people. They just think I know what I am doing!

God has given me a new ministry of encouragement and prayer. I spend every morning in prayer for many people on my prayer list and send emails or FaceBook messages to encourage them and I always include a verse of Scripture. I’m blessed and hopefully they are blessed. I enjoy my new ministry. At least, I don’t have to worry about someone grabbing me in the church hall, telling me what I am doing wrong! I don't miss those kind of experiences, but I do miss active ministry. 

Just before retirement, I bought and fully restored a 1917 Ford Model T 3-Door Touring Car. Actually it looks like it did when it rolled off the assembly line on January 10, 1917. I drive it often in our subdivision to give it exercise and to keep the battery charged. I can also use the total restoration of my Model T as an illustration of God restoring me to Himself when I trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord when I was 17 years old.(http://downsouthwesties.com/1917_ford_model_t_3door_touring.htm)

There were days that I didn’t think I would have another day. Even my Oncologist doubted my survival. I am always reminded that my body will die, but I will live forever!  If I were to die this minute, there is no question in my mind about whether or not I will spend eternity with God in heaven. Because of that assurance, I am challenged by Paul to tell others: Paul calls us “Ambassadors” (representatives).

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul said, “Because we understand our fearful responsibility (as Ambassadors) to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others.  Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

Jesus said it this way, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

Who will you come in contact with today that needs to hear you tell them about Jesus?

Many people are living with health issues or someone in their family has health issues. Those are trying times, but regardless of what you go through, as a Christian, you can count on God’s sustaining grace.  My message to them and to myself is to remember what God said in Isaiah 41:10 “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (NLT)

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