November 30, 2015

Don't Waste Your Cancer & Our Youth

Recently, I had learned that one of the members of the congregation where I pastor has been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and it was quite disheartening to learn this too.

In the parsonage where my family and I live, there is evidence of Dennis Reeves' handiwork throughout the house because he and his wife Linda helped to lay the flooring down throughout the house.  Not just in the parsonage, but in the homes of other people too.

His handiwork goes even further because Dennis has been passionately serving the Lord Jesus Christ, teaching a Sunday School class here at the church and he's also done what he and Linda could, to the best of their ability, to help others get out of the rut they've been in and turn their lives over the Lord and live for Him as they have.

About 2 weeks ago, Dennis was asked to lead in prayer before our senior adult Sunday School class Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner and his prayer was so deeply heartfelt.  He said how thankful he was for so much of his life and how God has used him for His glory and now he just wanted to be used even more by Him in his current circumstance.  He said that he just wanted to know Him more now, more than ever before too.

That following Sunday, during our worship service we had a time for prayer and he and his wife walked up to the front and had 2 of our other members to pray for them.

Within in a matter of a few seconds there were a number of others who surrounded them, to lift them both up to the Lord, for strength, comfort and for the will of God to be done in their lives.  

Are we praying for a miracle for him to be healed?  You bet we are.  Will we be disappointed if God doesn't heal him, but allows the cancer to run its course and bring him home?  Sure.  But God's will is more of what we want for both of them and either way, God will be glorified and praised.

Yesterday though, Dennis came to church using crutches because the cancer has begun to affect his lower torso making it very uncomfortable to walk.

During the service yesterday morning for a time of prayer, Dennis and Linda walked up again to the front, to have people pray for them.  What happened next completely astounded me.

Our youth ministry has been growing and there has been a stirring within them for their peers, to pray for them and it is evident that God is doing a great work within each of them, conforming them into the image of Jesus Christ.

Well, all of our youth got up from their seats yesterday and surrounded Dennis and Linda like it was a big hug from God and they prayed for God's strength, mercy and grace upon the life of this couple.

I was amazed at the selflessness of these young people to pray for this older couple, but their action also revealed their confidence in God too.  They believe that He heals even today and they know that there is no one else but Him in whom they can trust.

The picture above is not of our youth gathering to pray around Dennis and Linda on Sunday morning, but it does give you a sense of what they did for this couple.  And what a display it was to the rest of the congregation too that these young people believe God and they are trusting in Him that His will would be done, for His honor and glory.

Since, I learned about Dennis' diagnosis I remembered that John Piper had written a short booklet titled, Don't Waste Your Cancer and wanted to read it, to help me offer some encouragement to Dennis and Linda.  But I know that the best offer of encouragement that I could give to them won't come from quoting something from this book to them, but to let them know that we are praying for them on a daily basis.

The book Don't Waste Your Cancer was written when, "On the eve of his own cancer surgery, John Piper writes about cancer as an opportunity to glorify God. With pastoral sensitivity, compassion, and strength, Piper gently but firmly acknowledges that we can indeed waste our cancer when we don’t see how it is God’s good plan for us and a hope-filled path for making much of Jesus."

The booklet is available as a free PDF from the Desiring God website and you can also purchase the paperback, or read it on your Kindle.

Here are a few personal highlights from the book that I'd like to share with you and hope that they may be encouraging to you, to drive yourself into a closer relationship with God, as you go through your own trial with cancer.

  • So the groaning of our cancer has a double meaning. It means that sin is horrible, and it means that glorious freedom is coming.
  • Labor pains mean that something wonderful is coming. That’s what our cancer means. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Don’t misinterpret your own groanings. Don’t waste the witness of your own cancer.
  • What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it, or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design.
  • That means the diseases we still bear are not a curse. They have been transformed from a punitive pathway to hell into a purifying pathway to heaven. We are not cursed. As hard as it is to feel this, we believe God is not withholding good. He is doing good.
  • The aim of God in our cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.
  • Satan’s and God’s designs in our cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy our love for Christ. God designs to deepen our love for Christ. Cancer does not win if we die. It wins if we fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean us off the breast of the world and feast us on the sufficiency of Christ.
  • What a waste of cancer, if we read day and night about cancer and not about God.
  • That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.
  • Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are.
Please keep Dennis and his wife Linda in your prayers.

Shalom my friends.

This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
Psalm 119:50, ESV

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