“Oh, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.” (Phillips Brooks).
The life of a Christian is lived in the field not learnt in the classroom and it is true that faith is grown when it’s actively tested. In Daniel 11:32 we read that those who know their God are strong and do exploits. A.W. Tozer in his book ‘The pursuit of God’ says “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in one.”
If my sharing of our life experiences, and some of our vulnerabilities in life will benefit others, then so be it. I have just come from my fourth blood test following an aggressive prostate cancer discovered in November 2013. My blood count results have been consistently stable at ‘0’ for over one year now.
I wrote the following in December 2013 – soon after my diagnosis:
On returning home from a Swaziland church ministry time, my urologist contacted me saying “Your histology confirms prostate cancer.” I would not have believed it. Until recently doctors turned to social welfare benefits if they were in my employ! I don’t even take aspirin for headaches! Sixty-four years of age and feeling so free, enjoying serving a God of such love and power, helping and ministering where opportunities open to us. With a small band of friends supporting us, and an amazing church under which we serve, we were feeling that we were at the pinnacle of our ‘calling’ in God. Now this! As I have processed this I have two major concerns.
- My family and close friends. When news like this hits them there is a very deep emotional reaction. No matter how strong our faith. I hear in my daughter’s voice the strain of being strong for her dad while he tells her of the prognosis. Followed shortly by her making plans to leave her husband, in Cape Town, for a short while to be with me. For my son, I hear the steely change in his voice and he rises up to confront this mental and emotional challenge. I am incapable here of talking of my wife and how we work and talk this through together and the options we face, trusting God all the time through the process. This woman means more to me than life itself. Then I fear to tell many of my dear friends because I don’t want this to ‘hurt’ or confuse them. There is not much I can do with all of this but to walk it through with those who love me.
- However, my main concern is how ‘poorly’ people deal with these things theologically and how this throws such confusion into our lives and erodes our faith. I DO NOT want this medical diagnosis, given to me, to be used as a tool, neither to doubt God’s goodness nor to weaken anyone’s trust in Him. If anything, this should cause us to be militant against the evil that is the author of this, and to worship God who gives us His grace and ability to face trials and difficulties. All the time continuing to trust Him for healing and life, and the abundant life He brings. Let me make clear from the outset, in case I may be misunderstood later, that I am fully convinced that God heals and that His desire is that I walk in Divine health. I will trust Him until the end, and my time on this earth will only finish when this body has run out of energy. I do not anticipate being sickly on my death bed, but to be entirely spent, having served and trusted my God – the Lord Jesus Christ – whom I love with a passion. I see this sickness as a distraction, and another difficult mountain to climb, but I am going to take out every giant – and their cities- as I climb this mountain. I will win this battle, and even if I don’t, I will go down trusting and believing God with every fibre of my being. (Daniel 3:17-18) So don’t misunderstand what I am about to write!
I do not want to be the cause of discussion where the God I am passionate about is questioned as if He is the guilty party, or His goodness is doubted. In confusion, or when people are suffering, they often lash out – or question God. It is incomprehensible to them that He could be good yet tolerate evil in His universe. So some will deny His existence, or because of their incorrect belief, reason God to be what He is not. You are wrong and dishonor God. Rather doubt your doubts than ever doubt the goodness of God. God is not the guilty party. You may not agree with my theology, but this is how I see Scripture. So if you will indulge me, I want to cover – as briefly as I can – my theology in this. I wanted this to go out with this horrible news, just to ensure that ‘my battle’ is not turned by those confused in their faith, to blame or accuse God. In whatever time I have on this earth I am determined to fulfill Gods call to man and that is to repossess for Him all that was lost by man at his fall. (Gen 3). I cannot say I understand all the theology on healing in this, but I can categorically say that God is good and completely faultless.
God made man a free moral agent. Man used his choices badly and consequently his fall has affected us all. It was at this point (Romans 5:12) that sin came into the world and death (and sickness) and has invaded God’s creation ever since. God gives life, satan is the one who has come to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10) Man had been given ‘dominion’ over this planet but that dominion was claimed by satan after man surrendered it to him. This I see from the following scriptures.
1 John 5:19. “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
John 16:6. “… because the ruler of this world is judged.”
2 Cor 4:4 “… the god of this world …”
Mat 3:8-9. Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, and said that he would give them to Christ if He would bow down and worship him.
From these Scriptures I am convinced that the whole world is in control of the evil one and God’s people are called and commissioned to redeem, for and with God, that which man lost. (Matt 28:18-21).
If God is in control, how can this happen?
As for me, I think we baffle ourselves when we ask a question that way. We confuse control and sovereignty. God is Sovereign and all men will be held accountable, to Him, for their actions and decisions in life. As to the issue of control, we muddy the water here. Say I lend you my car for one year, giving you free and unfettered use. Even though it is my car and I am ‘sovereign’ over it, I have allowed you use of it – and hopefully to not abuse it – but you will return it to me and you will be held accountable for what you have done with it. You have ‘control’ over it for the period you have use of it. So God gave man this control, and man then handed it over to satan. God is all-powerful and He is Sovereign, make no mistake about that. He created a world that was good (Gen 1:31), it was man that messed it up, misusing his freedom of choice. For order to remain in the world, God would have had to continue to keep everything completely under His control. In other words, we would have been robots, and if that was so then love could not exist. There can’t be love if there is no freedom. C.S. Lewis says “If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible… free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. Love is more important to God than a perfect world… God does not control; no much more He wonderfully loves.
So we live in a world full of evil and sickness, and being Christian does not make us immune from these attacks. But being Christian gives us the strength and fortitude, in Christ, to fight and to make a difference. I have no doubt that sickness is satanic oppression. (Notice I did not say possession). In Acts 10:38 Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil. In Luke 13:16 Jesus speaks of a sick woman bound by satan for eighteen years. God has not lost any of His power, nor ultimate control, but He limited the use of His power (control) for a time. God doesn’t intentionally cause bad things to happen, nor does He necessarily want it to happen. God can’t prevent man from doing bad things or making bad choices, and at the same time give them the freedom necessary for them to choose to love Him, and each other. People make bad decisions that propagate disease and hurt, accidents and bad things, but because He cannot prevent them without taking away freedom. He permits them because even He, God, has no alternative.
Evil, disease and sickness then doesn’t come from God. It comes, and breeds, from wrong and rebellious decisions in this world. In other words mankind is guilty for the condition of this world, and Christians are called to change that – not blame God! Satan is the author and propagator of all the ills this world faces, and men, innocent or rebellious to God, are affected in some way or another living in this fallen world. Whilst satan is the originator of the worlds ills, mankind must take responsibility for their propagation.The advantage the Christian has, is God leads them through it.
I am fully convinced that life and death are in the power of the tongue and I will continue to speak life over and into my body. But I will not deny the reality of what I am facing. Don’t imply when I speak of my condition that I am ‘claiming it!’ I’m not claiming it, I’m experiencing it! It is ‘claiming’ me and I will resist it with all that is within me! Most evangelicals recognize the error, even the absurdity, of Christian Science which denies the reality of ‘matter’ and sin and sickness. Yet these same ideas are sometimes couched in warm evangelical terms, and many fall for them. When I speak of it I’m not claiming it, just identifying it. Together with my friends and family I will fight it with prayer, the Word of God and positive confession, but it would be foolish to deny its reality
Asking the right question.
Interesting, isn’t it, that all God says about the evil and pain in the world, is that it is inspired and perpetuated by satan. When saints of old, and man today, question “why” -God does not often answer. He gave no answer to Job and his friends. Nor to the disciples in John 9. In Luke 13 Jesus does not tell them why the just and the unjust died. BUT what He does ask is where they stood in their relationship with Him. The ‘why’s’ God will answer one day. For now the question must not be ‘Why Lord’ nor ‘How can this be’ but ‘what now Lord?’ What must I do IN this situation so that God may be glorified, His kingdom established and that good may come from it. (Rom 8:28)
I believe that God is my creator, and as such can heal and restore me. I believe that He is my healer (Exo 15:26) I believe in healing in the atonement (Isa 53) and yet I also understand that we will only receive the fullness of all that Christ attained for us on His return. The best clue I have into how God feels about human pain and sickness, is to look at Jesus. He had compassion and healed. He did not tolerate sickness or death when it crossed His path. 75% of the gospels show Him restoring and setting mankind free from the bondage of sickness. Wherever He went He changed events to match the will of His Father. Christians are commissioned to do the same things Jesus did, but we will not have the faith and confidence to do them if we have even a tiny notion that evil things may be the will of God or caused by Him – even for a greater purpose. (Psalm 115:16) C.S. Lewis. “There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by satan.”
Any discussion of the unfairness of life, of sickness and suffering must begin with the fact that God is not pleased with the condition of the planet either. The history of the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, is the story of God’s pain to restore His creation to conform to Him. This sickness may cause me to slow down for a season, but it inspires me to rise up with some militancy and fight this, with my friends and family, with every weapon God gives me. I recognize satan’s attempt to destroy my life, and I will seek God’s wisdom, medical’s expertise, prayer and the help of those who come alongside me, to fight this, giving God glory in the process. Many have been healed of this, some have succumbed, but as for me – I will climb this mountain, sword in hand shouting “For the Lord and for Ian.”