Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
For those that don't know, I was recently diagnosed with a type of cancer called melanoma. Thankfully, this trial has only served to bolster my faith. I feel fine and so far I have no evidence of this anywhere in my body since surgery. Praise God! Now, don't let the title of this article fool you. I have zero ideas that I am a good person and I am fully aware that I deserve far worse than this. Like R.C. Sproul has said, "Why do bad things happen to good people? It only happened once, and He(Jesus) volunteered." Nevertheless, the question always arises. "Why do bad things happen to good people?" This is a big stumbling block for atheists, keeping them from repenting and trusting in Jesus. This could also be an issue for those who are young in the faith. So, my hope is not only to address that question but also show non-believers God's greatness through this trial and to encourage Christ followers through trials similar to this.
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
What exactly is melanoma? Most people think that is just like skin cancer and that if you get rid of it's source you're good to go. That is simply not the case. Melanoma can and will spread to your lymph nodes or it can also spread through your blood stream to other vital organs. It is simply one of the nastiest forms of cancer you can possibly get. In the words of the melanoma specialist I have been seeing, "melanoma can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, wherever it wants." Not the most of encouraging of words. Combine that with the notion that doctors can never deem a melanoma patient "cured", and you can really have a recipe for self destruction and self pity on your hands. I mean, how can someone who has no other health issues get something so awful? Are they worse than the guy next door? Not likely the reason. The bible tells us in the Gospel of Luke, And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." We see that bad things happen and people suffer, get sick, and die regardless of whether they are better than the next guy or not. Basically we see bad things happening to "good" people. So what's the answer then? Is there one? I can assure you that there is an answer to all this but to retrieve it we need to go back to the beginning.
Genesis 3:12 The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate."
Most people in the world can't or won't accept the Genesis account of creation. Even among professing bible believing Christians you will find some who will compromise the 7 day creation(6 days of work, 1 of rest) and even try to add evolution to the mix. However in order to understand where sickness, death and sin have their roots, you have to fully commit your heart and mind to the fact that Genesis is literal and real. Otherwise, by the time you get from chapter 1 to chapter 3, you have compromised too much of God's Word to have it all make sense. As we saw in the verse above, chapter 3 of Genesis speaks of Adam's disobedience to God and how that brought upon mankind a curse. Unfortunately, melanoma is just a part of that fall of man. Romans 5:12 confirms this Genesis account of where death and sickness reared their ugly heads. "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—" I can't imagine going through this and not having an understanding of these biblical truths. With these truths and trust in Christ, you can be steadfast and say with confidence like Job, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" If you try to deal with the bad news of melanoma or any other sickness apart from this foundation of stone God has given us in Jesus, your house of morale and mental well being will no doubt crumble on a bed of shifting sand.
Matthew 5:45b For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
In everyday life we can all plainly see, whether we believe in God or not, bad and good things happen to "good" and bad people. So where does this leave us? Go back to the story of the Galileans and the Tower of Siloam in Luke chapter 13. We see this in all of it's practicality. Jesus clearly tells us that these people who had terrible things happen to them were no better or worse than anyone else. Now you may still be thinking, "if these are good people why did this happen to them?" I want for you to consider whether or not they were really good. What is the standard of good? Your definition maybe way different than mine and different than that of all the billions of other people on the planet for that matter. With billions of definitions of good we need to settle on one. So let's use the standard Jesus uses, one that's never changed, the 10 Commandments. If you've ever told a lie, stolen or wanted something that wasn't yours, misused God's name, looked at someone with lust(which is adultery Matthew 5:28), hated someone(which is like murder 1 John 3:15), dishonored your mother and father, or haven't put God first in your life then you are guilty of breaking God's Law. These sins disqualify you from being a candidate for the "good" title in God's eyes. This is the line in the sand and you want to be on the right side of the line on Judgment Day. Hebrews 9:27 tells us, And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. Ten out of every ten people will face this inevitability called death. It could be melanoma or an out of control bus. Will your definition of good be good enough on that day? Not likely. The prophet Isaiah tells us that, "all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." There is good news though. There is a way for us to be on the right side on Judgment Day. God sent His Son Jesus, fully man and fully God, to live a perfect life. Jesus died on a Roman cross for all of our sins. He rose from the dead three days later, completely defeating death so that if we repent(turn from sin) and trust in Him we can be saved from an eternity in Hell. If you've never repented and trusted in Jesus, today is the day of salvation. Not only will you receive Christ's imputed righteousness and eternal life, but when you read and obey the Bible daily you will have a clearer understanding of sin, sickness and death.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
For you believers out there who are going through melanoma, other sicknesses, or any other trial please take the above verse to heart. Be an encouragement to others around you. You have the luxury of knowing where your sickness comes from. Take the attitude of Epaphroditus in Philippians chapter 2. "for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill." He was near to death and wasn't concerned with himself as much as he was the others who had only heard that he was sick! Amazing attitude to have and one that I say with all certainty is only available to those who are Christ followers. If you are a believer and know someone is going through this please remember that blurting out Romans 8:28, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose, is not always helpful. Sometimes the only "good" that can come from something like melanoma/cancer is if the sick person and the people around him or her become more like Christ and glorify God as a result. Basically don't do Romans 8:28 without 8:29 which says, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son." Sometimes it is just better to be there and be quiet like Job's friends at first(they messed up by opening their mouths).
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
This may be hard to swallow for some (like the cottage cheese mixed with flax seed oil my beautiful bride has been feeding me lol). Just know that I write this not for my own good but for the others out there who are either lost or are going through a sickness or trial. Like the flax seed oil for me, if you fully digest what I am telling you here it will be good for you. If you've ever come to Christ for a wonderful plan or a better life, something like melanoma can be a faith shaking, deal breaker for you. That's because none of that is promised in the bible. We broke God's Law and Jesus paid the fine as the perfect substitute and sacrifice for our sins. That's the message. Just look above at what Jesus promises his followers in John chapter 16. "In the world you WILL have tribulation." Doesn't sound like a wonderful plan or a better life to me. However if you repent and put your faith in Christ because you see your sins as exceedingly sinful, knowing that the road will be full of trials and tribulations, you will be comforted that He has overcome the world, looking forward to the day you go to spend eternity with Him. You will be able to look at anyone with full assurance and say, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!"
Philippians 1:22-23 (English Standard Version)
If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.