Don’t Waste Your…(Cancer, Heart Attack, Accident, Stroke…!)

Minneapolis pastor and author John Piper, wrote on the eve of his prostate surgery, “Don’t waste your cancer. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.”  A whiff of fatality is a great gift, because it gets us thinking about death while we still have the opportunity in this life to do more than to mourn our sins and wasted time and bemoan our current condition.  Piper goes on to write, “You will waste your cancer if you think that beating cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ…You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.”  The information we can use is the good news of Christ, because our attitude toward that affects everything. Piper also said, “You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before…Pride, greed, lust, hatred, impatience, laziness, procrastination…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.” 

     Illness can be just what the doctor orders to focus our attention on what really  matters, on that which counts for eternity.  The Psalmist wrote: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy word…It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes…I Know, O LORD, that Thy judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me” (Psa. 119:67,71,75).  It seems that, because of the weakness of our old sinful nature, we need frequent reminders of the emptiness of the temporal world about us and the value of that which will last for eternity.  Could God exempt Christians from suffering and pain? Obviously He could, but that would not fulfill His purpose of conforming us to the image of Christ, as we see in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “And we know that God cause all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” (Ro. 8:28,29).    The “all things” of which Paul wrote include not only good things such as health, gainful employment, a nice home and family, good friends, etc, but also bad things (health issues, loss of jobs, flooded houses, family problems, strained relationships, etc).  For us to become more and more Christlike, it takes the difficult things along with the good.  Just as David said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy word” (Psa. 119:67).  When  things are going well, we have the natural tendency to depend on our own abilities and circumstances rather than upon God.  We lose our hunger and thirst for righteousness. We become spiritually apathetic and complacent. Evidence of this is seen when you compare the average Christian in say, China, with those in the United States. Suffering, whether it be through accident, illness or persecution, helps us get our focus on God and brings us into a closer, more vibrant, more exciting relationship with God.
      And, one of the by-products of that is not only that we experience more joy and more of the abundant life that Jesus promised (Jn. 10:10), but that we also become much more of a witness and blessing to those around us.  We had the privilege this past Saturday of visiting a couple in the hospital in Kalispell (90 miles from Libby). They were part of our church family at Three Lakes where we pastored. Several weeks ago, Judy had a major stroke and after being ministered to in our local hospital was sent to Kalispell where she could have intensive rehab for about a month. Her husband, Jim, is allowed to stay in the room with her as her caregiver.  Jim and Judy have been very active folks, loving the out-of-doors, hunting, etc.  They also often did special music for us at church, Jim on his guitar and singing, and Judy on the bass. They love the Lord and love to share their faith in Christ with whomever God brings into their lives. It would be easy for them to be angry and depressed with their current situation but just the opposite is true. They know that God has them right where He wants them and they are sharing Christ with nurses and patients. Jim has his guitar with him and they get folks together and he plays gospel songs and witnesses to them of God’s love and forgiveness.  Just down the hall from Jim and Judy’s room, is a lady in her 80’s who also suffered a major stroke and is going through rehab.  Jim had painted Judy’s nails for her one day, so decided to go ask this other stroke victim if he could do her nails for her. As he worked on her nails, he gave his testimony and shared the gospel of Christ with the lady and her daughter who was also in the room. On Sundays Jim puts Judy in a wheel chair and takes her to a church service in the area.  We came away from our visit with Jim and Judy greatly blessed. They were not “wasting” the stroke that Judy suffered. They are growing closer to the Lord and drawing other people around them to Him as well.  That is what it is all about!
     John Piper concluded his comments about his experience with prostate cancer with this challenge: “You will waste your cancer (stroke, accident, heart attack…) if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ. Here is a golden opportunity to show that He is worth more than life. DON’T WASTE IT.”  Amen!!
 
                                                                     Forever His,
                                                                                Pastor Dave
 
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About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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