April 21, 2017 - Alex and Katherine Jeoung with Marcel Bobe Concert

July 31, 2016 - John Piper Sermons on God's Providence

June 19, 2016 - Dominican Republic Missions Trip Report
June 21, 2015 - Father's Day
June 17, 2015 - Theology of Glory versus Theology of the Cross

June 14, 2015 - Don't Waste Your Cancer

April 21, 2017

Alex and Katherine Jeoung with Marcel Bobe Concert

On Friday, April 21, 2017, two of the members of our worship team along with their friend, Marcel, performed a concert to benefit Driscoll Children's Hospital.  The concert raised just shy of $1500 for the hospital.  Below are ten of the songs that they performed.  Be warned, the volume is not very high, so you will need to turn the volume up.

Salut D' Amour

Suite No. 3 in C Major

Allerseelen

Flight Song

Hoe Down from "Rodeo"

Prelude from Five Pieces for Violin and Cello

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Immortal Invisible, God Only Wise

Bach with Amazing Grace

 

July 31, 2016

John Piper sermons on God’s Providence

In August of 1996 I went to an Ligonier conference on the Providence of God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, God’s providence refers to his “most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions.”

I can’t remember what Dr. Sproul said that weekend, but I absolutely remember the other speaker, John Piper. It was the first time I had ever heard Dr. Piper speak, and I was hooked.

I bought tapes of the conference, and over the years I loaned Dr. Piper’s messages to many people. Then as we moved into the 21st century I started pointing them to his Desiring God website where they were uploaded. When those two messages suddenly disappeared from his site, I asked the wonderful people at Desiring God to put them back on for one day so I could download them. They did, and gladly gave me permission to duplicate them in electronic format. They also sent me a box full of another message by Dr. Piper from 1996, “Doing Missions When Dying is Gain.” I handed out all of those tapes and missions, but you can still find that on his website here:  http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/doing-missions-when-dying-is-gain

Regarding the Providence of God, the Christian life is like the Old Testament Israelites wandering through the wilderness on the way to the promised land. There are many times in our wilderness life that we face situations which just don’t make sense. If you (like me) have ever struggled with why God does what He does, we would do well to listen to Dr. Piper’s messages from all those years ago. The first one is entitled “God Glorified in God’s Providence,” and the second is “Man Satisfied in God’s Providence.” There is also a recording of a question-and-answer session with Dr. Sproul and Dr. Piper. The links are below. I hope they are a blessing to you the way they have been to me.

John Piper - Providence, Disc 1

John Piper - Providence, Disc 2


June 19, 2016

Audio Link of Missions Report given on June 19, 2016

Dear Friends –

On Sunday June 19, 2016 our missions team gave a report about our recent trip to the Dominican Republic.  Those of you who supported our trip from out of town were not able to be there, so I wanted to give you a summary of what we experienced. 

First of all, Anne-Marie, Robert, and I want to say THANK YOU for your prayers and financial support of our trip.  We truly felt like we were representing our group of supporters.  We know many of you wish you could have gone with us, but were not able.  You were very much a part of our team and we appreciate you.

  

   
Anne-Marie Gavlas, Rob Bailey, and Robert Bailey Anne-Marie with Anderson  Robert and his crew

Why the Dominican Republic? 

In 1997, Decatur Presbyterian Church (DPC) decided to go on annual short-term missions trips.  They linked up with a ministry out of Miami called “Ministries in Action” who recommended they work with missionaries in the DR.  In the early years the DPC mission teams assisted the ministry of a church near Guyamate on the eastern side of the island.  A few years later, Ministries in Action connected DPC to a missionary named Silvia Martinez who ministers in El Cacique, west of Santo Domingo. 

El Cacique is a poor village that literally does not show up on a map.  If you think you’ve found it, you probably found another place with a similar name.  The closest named city is Haina, the home of David Ortiz, ”Big Papi” of the Boston Red Sox.  The nearby village of El Cacique was formed around a garbage dump.  The local economy comes from people sifting through the dump finding food, clothes, magazines, or anything else that can be somewhat cleaned and resold.  The adults spend the day at the dump while the children are usually neglected.

A portion of the garbage dump at El Cacique

Silvia Martinez is a medical doctor in El Cacique.  She and her husband Samuel have an amazing ministry meeting a host of needs of the people.  Among other things, they have developed a medical clinic, a food program for the kids (often the only meal they get each day), and a school.  Silvia and Samuel have a very fruitful ministry that we are able to assist with in very tangible ways.  For example, in previous years the mission teams from DPC and other churches have built a hospital that was recently opened.  They have also constructed the school building they now use, and installed water purification systems.

The annual mission to the DR has literally changed the culture of DPC over the years in a very positive way. The main organizer for the trip is a good friend in Decatur named Carol Godwin.  Carol has a huge heart for the DR, and goes down there several times a year to plan the trip, to pray with Silvia and Samuel, and think of ways to assist their ministry.  Therefore it is an extremely well organized event.  Carol and her husband George invited our church to participate with them this year, and we jumped at the opportunity. 

What did YOU do?

Without your generous support, none of us from Texas would have been able to go this year.  And without your prayers, our work would not have been as fruitful.  The famous missionary R.A. Torrey once said, “The man or woman at home who prays often has as much to do with the effectiveness of the missionary on the field, and consequently with the results of his or her labors, as the missionary.”  We understand that intellectually, but when you go on a mission trip and know many people care and are praying for you, it helps you sense it at a much deeper level. 

Silvia and Samuel have an amazing ministry.  It is a privilege to see it in person and assist them, and that was only possible because of you.   Please continue to pray for Silvia and Samuel and their ongoing ministry.

What did we do?

One often associates the idea of construction with mission trips, and rightly so.  The more you meet someone’s physical needs, the more they will listen to your message about the gospel.  “They don’t care about what you say until they first know you care” is the way a wise football coach in Alabama once said it.  Ironically, his son was an essential member of our DR mission team.

This year the construction occurred in two locations.  In El Cacique we helped build a house for a teacher at the school who has taken in one of the children of the community who was kicked out of her home.  On Saturday we went about three hours towards Haiti, which is on the western half of the island.  There we built 8 latrines in a “batay,” a poor small village of Hatian refugees where Silvia and Samuel minister every other Saturday.  The reason latrines are so important is because there are no bathrooms in the shacks there.  If the girls want any privacy, they have to go in the nearby sugar cane fields where they are often raped.  Building latrines near the homes has dramatically increased their level of safety.

Construction of the house for school teacher (in black dress) Building latrines in the Haitian batay

We also helped with the feeding program, taught Vacation Bible School, had conferences for local men and women, and helped Silvia with some of the medical needs.  By the way, DPC will have a medical trip later in the year for physicians or those wanting to assist physicians.  Please contact me if you or someone you know may be interested.

One of the most exciting things about the trip was a conference that our team held for the teachers at the school in El Cacique.  Silvia has a goal of making it the best school in the Dominican Republic, and knowing her, she will accomplish it.  One important step is training their teachers.  Carol recruited Jill Cook, who was the Assistant Dean of Education at a college in north Alabama, to lead the teachers’ conference.  Jill was telling them about common practices in American education, all of which were new ideas to the Dominicans.  She only speaks English, but Anne-Marie lived in Costa Rica for ten years and is fluent in Spanish.  Anne-Marie is also a middle school teacher who is familiar with all the concepts being taught, so she was the perfect translator.  The teachers’ conference went so well that Silvia’s previous request for adding a 7th & 8th grade, which had been lingering, was immediately approved by the state!

What did we learn?

The last night of the trip, we were all discussing what we had learned during the week.   George Godwin (already one of the most generous people on the planet) challenged himself to quit trying to build heaven on earth.  We often see in the Bible that the things of the world are not able to satisfy us, but George’s statement put it in a new light.  This is a fallen world, and was never meant to fulfill us.  The brokenness should point us to our true home, which is in heaven.  We need to treasure the City of God more than the city of man.

We also experienced first hand the reality of true poverty.  We had all read about it.  Many of us have been to places like the DR before.  But unless you’ve been there recently, the harsh reality is not fresh on your minds.  Many of the children were playing outside while wearing no clothes.  Some of them are literally slaves within their own family.  They have no possessions, yet I’ve never seen a more joyful group of people than the Christians who live in the DR.  Saturday I was building a latrine alongside a physician from Birmingham.  As we heard the families playing Spanish Christian music and singing along at the top of their lungs, we longed for the same joy.

Perhaps they realize more than we do that the promises of God are mainly for the next world, not this one.  We really are pilgrims just passing through this world.  Simon Kistemaker said, “Believers know that this earthly scene is transitory and their heavenly home abiding.  Therefore, they fully recognize their temporary stay on earth and long for their eternal dwelling in heaven.”  We were not made for Texas or Alabama or the DR, but for a city with foundations, whose designer and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). 

I could go on and on about what we experienced, but one thing I should add is that it was a pleasure seeing the body of Christ working together as one.  There were six denominations represented on our team of 24, all with the same goal of showing the love of Christ through word and deed. 

It was truly a blessing to be a part of God’s amazing work in another culture.  God is doing incredible things through Silvia and Samuel.  Please continue to pray for them, and let me know if you are interested in participating on next year’s trip.

In His Grip!

Rob

 

 

 

 

June 21, 2015

Hello friends –

Today in our sermon we are talking about the end of Ephesians 4, and the goal of walking side by side with one another meeting each other’s needs.  Paul gives us a list of things (corrupt talk, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice) which break down community.  He also gives a list of positive things that enhance community (being kind, tenderhearted, forgiving).

There is a wonderful sermon by Tim Keller on 1st Corinthians 3 that goes hand in hand with this idea.  It helps us to find personal joy in the Lord, so we can focus on the needs of others. 

I would like for everyone in the congregation to hear Dr. Keller’s sermon.  So in light of Father’s Day, I want to challenge you fathers and heads of households to play this for your families sometime during the month.  It’s a 40 minute investment of time, but will be well worth it.  Here is the link:

http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sites/sermons2.redeemer.com/files/sermons/Blessed_Self-Forgetfulness.mp3

I hope it will bless you and your families the way it has blessed us.

Thanks,

Rob

 

 

June 17, 2015

Theology of Glory versus Theology of the Cross

Hi again.  It looks like people have been reading “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”  It is thought provoking and it challenges us to think about ultimate questions like how does the goodness of God mix with the suffering in this world.  So here are a few thoughts that could help us think through that issue.

Way back in 1518, Martin Luther stated his opinions about suffering in what is known as the Heidelberg Disputation.  Luther compared two views – a Theology of Man’s Glory versus a Theology of the Cross.  Here are the highlights:

The Theology of Man’s Glory: it is our default mode.  Its what we naturally think of when we hear “God is Love.”  In other words, God is there to make us happy.  Being a Christian will make your life better, healthier, wealthier.  The theology of Man’s Glory is totally man centered, is flattering to man, and applauds man’s good efforts.  The theme of the Theology of Man’s Glory is “God helps those who help themselves” (which is nowhere in the Bible).

On the other hand, Luther (and I) believe the Theology of the Cross.  It is God centered.  It is offensive to man.  Everything in this world is created for God’s Glory, not ours.  Being a Christian does not mean we will be successful in the world’s eyes, but it does mean you will suffer like Jesus suffered.  Whether it be cancer, infertility, loneliness, heartache, the death of a loved one.  But in that suffering, we know Jesus better, and that’s ultimately what we were created for.  The theme for the Theology of the Cross is “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).  So Jesus reveals Himself most of all on the Cross, and those who follow should not be surprised when we face suffering too.

Why would a good and loving God create something so horrible as cancer?  There is no logical explanation, other than the fact that SOMEHOW it brings Him glory.  God is the perfect Father.  Lets compare Him to an earthly dad who has to make a controversial decision.  Which scenario brings the dad more joy? 

1)  The child does not like it, so he analyzes it to death until either he has sorted it out to his own satisfaction or storms off in disgust.  Or,

2)  The child doesn’t understand the decision, but embraces it in total trust that even though it makes no sense to him, it makes total sense to his dad, and he is OK with that.  Obviously, the second one pleases the father more. 

The book of Job (right before Psalms) plays this out.  Job and his wife lost everything, including their children, and at the end of the first chapter he responds by worshiping God anyway, saying “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  The next verse says, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”  He glorified God in the midst of horrible suffering. 

Did God have a right to allow the suffering in Job’s life?  If you believe in a Theology of Man’s Glory, you would say NO!  If you believe in a Theology of the Cross, you would say YES!  In fact, Satan had not even considered messing with Job until God suggested it in Job 1:8 “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”  Where was God in the midst of Job’s suffering?  He was there from its inception!  

The Theology of the Cross did not come naturally for Jesus’ disciples 2000 years ago.  They were planning for glory while Jesus was planning for the Cross.  It doesn’t come naturally for us either.  Compare the popular Christian songs now (about Glory) with the richest hymns of history (about the Cross).  Our culture has put up a firewall against suffering, whereas Christians in previous centuries realized we were created not for this world, but for the next, seeing themselves as aliens and pilgrims headed to a better place (heaven).

The only answer to “Why does a good and loving God create/allow something as horrible as cancer” is that SOMEHOW it brings Him glory.  Even though it makes no sense to us.  The real question is how do we respond?  By trusting Him anyway, or by demanding that He makes us happy.  We worship a sovereign God who not only controls all things, but also redeems all things.  That’s why we can cling to Romans 8:28, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Humans think they prefer a religion that delivers success.  But trust me, hurting people are not helped by a Theology of Man’s Glory.  “Trust Jesus and all your problems will go away.”  Yeah right.  We need to realize that this is a broken world.  Life isn’t easy on this earth, but we have an opportunity to walk through our pain with a Savior who has suffered for us and can relate to us.  That is where we gain comfort, in the Cross.

 

 

June 14, 2015

“I am now a blogger.”  Those are words I never expected to say.  But this is going to be the greatest summer of my life, so I want to share the journey with you.

I have the pleasure of standing where one of my heroes stood less than 10 years ago.  John Piper faced cancer, and the night before his surgery he posted these memorable words.  David Powlison from CCEF later faced the same disease, and added more helpful comments. 

I’ll shut up now and turn it over to them.  It will take a few minutes to read, but I pray their insights will nourish your soul the way they have mine. 

Rob 

 

Don't Waste Your Cancer

[Editor's Note: Our friend, David Powlison, of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, who also was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, has added some helpful expansions to John Piper’s ten points. Indented paragraphs beginning with "DP:" are written by David Powlison.]

I write this on the eve of prostate surgery. I believe in God’s power to heal—by miracle and by medicine. I believe it is right and good to pray for both kinds of healing. Cancer is not wasted when it is healed by God. He gets the glory and that is why cancer exists. So not to pray for healing may waste your cancer. But healing is not God’s plan for everyone. And there are many other ways to waste your cancer. I am praying for myself and for you that we will not waste this pain.

DP: I (David Powlison) add these reflections on John Piper’s words the morning after receiving news that I have been diagnosed with prostate cancer (March 3, 2006). The ten main points and first paragraphs are his; the second paragraphs are mine.

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.

It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. 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. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.

DP: Recognizing his designing hand does not make you stoic or dishonest or artificially buoyant. Instead, the reality of God’s design elicits and channels your honest outcry to your one true Savior. God’s design invites honest speech, rather than silencing us into resignation. Consider the honesty of the Psalms, of King Hezekiah (Isaiah 38), of Habakkuk 3. These people are bluntly, believingly honest because they know that God is God and set their hopes in him. Psalm 28 teaches you passionate, direct prayer to God. He must hear you. He will hear you. He will continue to work in you and your situation. This outcry comes from your sense of need for help (28:1-2). Then name your particular troubles to God (28:3-5). You are free to personalize with your own particulars. Often in life’s ‘various trials’ (James 1:2), what you face does not exactly map on to the particulars that David or Jesus faced – but the dynamic of faith is the same. Having cast your cares on him who cares for you, then voice your joy (28:6-7): the God-given peace that is beyond understanding. Finally, because faith always works out into love, your personal need and joy will branch out into loving concern for others (28:8-9). Illness can sharpen your awareness of how thoroughly God has already and always been at work in every detail of your life.

2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Numbers 23:23). “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

DP: The blessing comes in what God does for us, with us, through us. He brings his great and merciful redemption onto the stage of the curse. Your cancer, in itself, is one of those 10,000 ‘shadows of death’ (Psalm 23:4) that come upon each of us: all the threats, losses, pains, incompletion, disappointment, evils. But in his beloved children, our Father works a most kind good through our most grievous losses: sometimes healing and restoring the body (temporarily, until the resurrection of the dead to eternal life), always sustaining and teaching us that we might know and love him more simply. In the testing ground of evils, your faith becomes deep and real, and your love becomes purposeful and wise: James 1:2-5, 1 Peter 1:3-9, Romans 5:1-5, Romans 8:18-39.

3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.

The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.

DP: God himself is your comfort. He gives himself. The hymn “Be Still My Soul” (by Katerina von Schlegel) reckons the odds the right way: we are 100% certain to suffer, and Christ is 100% certain to meet us, to come for us, comfort us, and restore love’s purest joys. The hymn “How Firm a Foundation” reckons the odds the same way: you are 100% certain to pass through grave distresses, and your Savior is 100% certain to “be with you, your troubles to bless, and sanctify to you your deepest distress.” With God, you aren’t playing percentages, but living within certainties.

4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.

We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.

DP: Paul describes the Holy Spirit is the unseen, inner ‘downpayment’ on the certainty of life. By faith, the Lord gives a sweet taste of the face-to-face reality of eternal life in the presence of our God and Christ. We might also say that cancer is one ‘downpayment’ on inevitable death, giving one bad taste of the reality of of our mortality. Cancer is a signpost pointing to something far bigger: the last enemy that you must face. But Christ has defeated this last enemy: 1 Corinthians 15. Death is swallowed up in victory. Cancer is merely one of the enemy’s scouting parties, out on patrol. It has no final power if you are a child of the resurrection, so you can look it in the eye.

5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.

Satan’s and God’s designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And to know that therefore, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 3:8; 1:21).

DP: Cherishing Christ expresses the two core activities of faith: dire need and utter joy. Many psalms cry out in a ‘minor key’: we cherish our Savior by needing him to save us from real troubles, real sins, real sufferings, real anguish. Many psalms sing out in a ‘major key’: we cherish our Savior by delighting in him, loving him, thanking him for all his benefits to us, rejoicing that his salvation is the weightiest thing in the world and that he gets last say. And many psalms start out in one key and end up in the other. Cherishing Christ is not monochromatic; you live the whole spectrum of human experience with him. To ‘beat’ cancer is to live knowing how your Father has compassion on his beloved child, because he knows your frame, that you are but dust. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. To live is to know him, whom to know is to love.

6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.

It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2). What a waste of cancer if we read day and night about cancer and not about God.

DP: What is so for your reading is also true for your conversations with others. Other people will often express their care and concern by inquiring about your health. That’s good, but the conversation easily gets stuck there. So tell them openly about your sickness, seeking their prayers and counsel, but then change the direction of the conversation by telling them what your God is doing to faithfully sustain you with 10,000 mercies. Robert Murray McCheyne wisely said, “For every one look at your sins, take ten looks at Christ.” He was countering our tendency to reverse that 10:1 ratio by brooding over our failings and forgetting the Lord of mercy. What McCheyne says about our sins we can also apply to our sufferings. For every one sentence you say to others about your cancer, say ten sentences about your God, and your hope, and what he is teaching you, and the small blessings of each day. For every hour you spend researching or discussing your cancer, spend 10 hours researching and discussing and serving your Lord. Relate all that you are learning about cancer back to him and his purposes, and you won’t become obsessed.

7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.

When Epaphroditus brought the gifts to Paul sent by the Philippian church he became ill and almost died. Paul tells the Philippians, “He has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” (Philippians 2:26-27). What an amazing response! It does not say they were distressed that he was ill, but that he was distressed because they heard he was ill. 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.

DP: Our culture is terrified of facing death. It is obsessed with medicine. It idolizes youth, health and energy. It tries to hide any signs of weakness or imperfection. You will bring huge blessing to others by living openly, believingly and lovingly within your weaknesses. Paradoxically, moving out into relationships when you are hurting and weak will actually strengthen others. ‘One anothering’ is a two-way street of generous giving and grateful receiving. Your need gives others an opportunity to love. And since love is always God’s highest purpose in you, too, you will learn his finest and most joyous lessons as you find small ways to express concern for others even when you are most weak. A great, life-threatening weakness can prove amazingly freeing. Nothing is left for you to do except to be loved by God and others, and to love God and others.

8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.

Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don’t waste your cancer grieving as those who don’t have this hope.

DP: Show the world this different way of grieving. Paul said that he would have had “grief upon grief” if his friend Epaphroditus had died. He had been grieving, feeling the painful weight of his friend’s illness. He would have doubly grieved if his friend had died. But this loving, honest, God-oriented grief coexisted with “rejoice always” and “the peace of God that passes understanding” and “showing a genuine concern for your welfare.” How on earth can heartache coexist with love, joy, peace, and an indestructible sense of life purpose? In the inner logic of faith, this makes perfect sense.

In fact, because you have hope, you may feel the sufferings of this life more keenly: grief upon grief. In contrast, the grieving that has no hope often chooses denial or escape or busyness because it can’t face reality without becoming distraught. In Christ, you know what’s at stake, and so you keenly feel the wrong of this fallen world. You don’t take pain and death for granted. You love what is good, and hate what is evil. After all, you follow in the image of “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” But this Jesus chose his cross willingly “for the joy set before him.” He lived and died in hopes that all come true. His pain was not muted by denial or medication, nor was it tainted with despair, fear, or thrashing about for any straw of hope that might change his circumstances. Jesus’ final promises overflow with the gladness of solid hope amid sorrows: “My joy will be in you, and your joy will be made full. Your grief will be turned to joy. No one will take your joy away from you. Ask, and you will receive, so that your joy will be made full. These things I speak in the world, so that they may have my joy made full in themselves” (selection from John 15-17).

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.

Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).

DP: Suffering really is meant to wean you from sin and strengthen your faith. If you are God-less, then suffering magnifies sin. Will you become more bitter, despairing, addictive, fearful, frenzied, avoidant, sentimental, godless in how you go about life? Will you pretend it’s business as usual? Will you come to terms with death, on your terms? But if you are God’s, then suffering in Christ’s hands will change you, always slowly, sometimes quickly. You come to terms with life and death on his terms. He will gentle you, purify you, cleanse you of vanities. He will make you need him and love him. He rearranges your priorities, so first things come first more often. He will walk with you. Of course you’ll fail at times, perhaps seized by irritability or brooding, escapism or fears. But he will always pick you up when you stumble. Your inner enemy – a moral cancer 10,000 times more deadly than your physical cancer – will be dying as you continue seeking and finding your Savior: “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is very great. Who is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose” (Psalm 25).

10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12 -13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.

DP: Jesus is your life. He is the man before whom every knee will bow. He has defeated death once for all. He will finish what he has begun. Let your light so shine as you live in him, by him, through him, for him. One of the church’s ancient hymns puts it this way:

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger
(from “I bind unto myself the name”).

In your cancer, you will need your brothers and sisters to witness to the truth and glory of Christ, to walk with you, to live out their faith beside you, to love you. And you can do same with them and with all others, becoming the heart that loves with the love of Christ, the mouth filled with hope to both friends and strangers.

Remember you are not left alone. You will have the help you need. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Pastor John