Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
My Personal Cancer Journey
On Friday April 30, 2010, while returning from a meeting in College Station, I received a call from my doctor that my biopsy was positive for cancer. After several weeks of tests and meeting with multiple doctors, I had cancer surgery on July 15. During that surgery they discovered that I also had bladder cancer. On September 29, I had a second surgery to treat it.
The first thing I read after the initial news was an article written by John Piper on February 15, 2006 on the eve of his cancer surgery entitled: Don’t Waste Your Cancer. My comments are based largely on this article and my specific experiences since that Friday in April.
Everyone Will Face Significant Trials.
At some point in your life, you will encounter significant trials, temptations and tribulations which will probably include cancer in you or some loved one, or some other life-changing disease. Don’t limit my comments to cancer, because they apply to any trial we will face.
According to Dr. Piper, the first thing we need to do is to differentiate joy from happiness. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, Joy is a glorious and triumphant state not based on current or past circumstances.
Happiness, in contrast, means enjoying pleasure from the gratification of appetites or desires. The pleasurable sensations derived from the gratification of sensual appetites render a person temporarily happy. To be in any degree happy, we must be free from pain both of body and of mind.
How to Respond with Joy – Worship
When cancer or some other major illness happens, you have the choice to whine or to worship. While the correct choice is obvious, it will be a lot harder than it sounds on paper when it actually happens. If you want to become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, then you have to know how to not waste your cancer.
John Piper goes on to explain many ways in which we can lose our joy in the face of this difficult trial. We must look at at our trials through the lens of biblical truth.
You will lose your joy if…
- you do not believe that your cancer is allowed by God. Romans 8:28
- you refuse to face, or become consumed with the death of your human body. Ecclesiastes 7:2, Psalm 90:12
- you grieve as those who have no hope. I Thess. 4:13
- spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
- you let your cancer drive you into solitude and self-pity instead of desiring to minister to others. Phil. 2:26-27
Do not live in fear of future trials, but be prepared.
In today’s sermon, I would like to share how the Lord helped me come to grips with these truths and many others during my personal journey with cancer. You may or may not have faced any life shattering trial or tribulation in your lives, but rest assured that you will.
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No trial has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tried beyond what you can bear. But when you encounter trials, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure them.1 Corinthians 10:11-13
~ Paul Ikard, Deacon at Koinonia Church