Speaker: 
Travis Myers
Date Given: 
April 23, 2016

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.—1 Peter 1:3–9
 
Introduction
“Here I raise an Ebenezer.” Here I stack some stones of remembrance. This message is meant to be a monument to the faithfulness of God to me through Jesus Christ.
 
The Diagnosis
In March 2015 I was diagnosed with a type of cancer called B-cell follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Basically, it’s a blood cancer that turns lymph nodes into malignant tumors. There are several types of lymphoma, together making it the 7th most common cancer diagnosis for adults in the U.S. The average age at diagnosis is 65.
 
Our Shock
My wife, Susan, and I were actually relieved to finally know why I had such pain in my right flank, near my kidney, after three and a half months of various tests, x-rays, poking, pricking, and two CT scans. However, we were also in a state of shock over this news. The idea that there are cells inside of your body that have gone rogue and are working in a suicidal conspiracy to kill you is unnerving, to say the least. I was in shock because I had told myself at times that I would never have cancer, which was foolish presumption on my part. I had sometimes silently denied the possibility of it when doing something that some study out there supposedly showed is correlated with cancer rates, like eating a raw hotdog. But God’s creatures, like the human beings we are, don’t tell God what kind of disease they will or won’t get. We don’t dictate to him our future. He ultimately makes those decisions. Not us. I know that now better than ever. 
 
Susan and I were shocked by the diagnosis because she has been the sickly one throughout our 20-year marriage. I’ve always been the strong and healthy one. But now my 40-something wife was faced with her husband having cancer and not knowing the implications of that for her future. I am thankful that I now have more sympathy, even empathy for the physical weakness she endures and the temptation to frustration that physical limitations present a sick person.
 
We were also shocked by this diagnosis because I was finally nearing the completion of my dissertation, the final stage of a seven-year-long PhD program for which we both invested much time, hard work, and finances. We had many hopes and dreams for how to leverage a PhD for the glory of God and the good of his church after completing all of the requirements for it. I am a late bloomer and a slow learner. But I began a PhD program at age 36 thinking it was not too late, all things “being equal,” God granting life and preserving my mental faculties, to have at least 25–30 years of teaching and writing ahead of me after completing the program. 
 
So, our world was rocked, and our five-year family plan upended, by what my general physician called “the c-word,” cancer. And the most difficult days by far were the days of not knowing the implications of it for us, not knowing the prognosis, not knowing how bad it actually was and how much life was probably left for me (or not). 
 
There were 11 days between first hearing the word “lymphoma” and finding out 1) which kind of lymphoma it was, 2) what stage it was in, and 3) whether treatment was even an option. The valley of those 11 days was covered by the darkest and coldest shadow of death that I’ve ever experienced. Susan and I fought for faith in God with the sword of Psalm 23 each night as we lay our heads on our pillows. That was our day-ending prayer and confession, our day-ending preaching of the gospel to ourselves. While I spent those 11 days trying to prepare myself for the worst, for the potential “death sentence” pronouncement from the oncologist of a stage 4 terminal situation, rehearsing the Scripture I planned to recite to him if that was, indeed, the prognosis, I also wrestled with God over this new reality and the uncertainty of it all.
 
I finally said to God out loud one day, with a trembling voice, “I don’t want this.” I admitted it. I confessed it. I laid it out there before the Lord. It felt good to say; but it also felt risky to say, to tell God that I didn’t want what he had given me. And what came to mind almost immediately was the response from God that Pastor Jason said he heard when he admitted to God that he didn't want the pain and struggle that would come with inheriting the lead pastor position at Bethlehem: “But what if this is the way I’ve planned to give you more of myself?!” I’m so glad Pastor Jason publically shared that encounter. The Lord brought the memory of Jason’s confession, and God’s response to him, to my mind and my heart, and I, like Jason, acquiesced in that moment to God’s wisdom, to God’s authority, and to his sometimes severe mercy. That acquiescence to God’s will was a gift from God, in grace, to me.  
 
Susan and I met with the cancer doctor for the first time on the same day we were to leave Minneapolis for the Downtown Campus marriage retreat in March 2015. And we received good news to go and celebrate in Trego, Wisconsin: News that my kind of lymphoma was what this cancer doctor calls the “boring” kind. He actually said that if a person is going to have cancer this is the kind you’d want to have. It is a slow growing and relatively easy to treat type of lymphoma. The five-year survival rate is 70%. And my case was still only late Stage 1.
 
Now, I had planned to glorify God by reciting 1 Corinthians 15:55–57 after receiving the expected sentence of death: “O death, where is your victory?!” Etc. Hearing good news, I didn’t know what to say to the doctor in response! I just eeked out what felt like an inadequate “Praise the Lord” as I looked at the doctor. Then Susan and I hugged. The 70/30 odds seemed good enough, though not great(!). The oncologist seemed confident he could cure me and I knew things were still in God’s hands. God would decide to heal or not, to make treatment effective, or not. While Susan drove us to the marriage retreat I phoned our loved ones to inform them that six months of chemotherapy and a spot of radiation after that were supposed to take care of the tumor. 
 
Cancer treatment was not easy. There was a setback at one point that threw me into despair again. We had to change from the first kind of chemotherapy to a different one because the first one, the one that researchers developed from mustard gas, became ineffective. I was so ready to be done with chemo after six months of infusions, insomnia, and fatigue. But the tumor had started to grow again. So three more rounds were prescribed, with stronger medicine. During the final three months, I experienced even more mental and physical fatigue, some new joint pain, hair loss, slight nausea, and my immune system was even more seriously compromised. These three months were a new season of uncertainty. Would this chemo work? We asked God to make it so.
 
During treatment we were encouraged often by knowing that Christians in several parts of the world, on every continent except Antarctica, actually, were praying for us. Some of these were brothers and sisters in the Lord whom we are blessed to know very well and others whom we don't know at all. We found that amazing: There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one global body that cares for itself. Of course many of you here at Bethlehem were also crying out to God on our behalf, you let us know you were praying for us, and we felt loved by God through that, through your care and concern. Thank you for loving us like that. If for no other reason, it is good to be needy to experience the love of God through the need-meeting provision and prayer of his people.
 
Susan and I are happy to report what many of you here have already heard—that God chose to heal me. We found out two weeks ago that God has used the treatment, the crazy technologies, and the mind-boggling expertise of so many medical professionals to slay the tumor. It is now benign. I am in remission. We thank the Lord.

The Trinitarian Shape of Our Hope in God

Of course, what Susan I wanted much more from God than his healing of my lymphoma was that he would sustain our trust in him through this season of suffering and uncertainty, whatever the medical outcome. Prayers to God that he would “Satisfy us [each] morning with [his] steadfast love, so that we would rejoice [in him] and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14), or something to that effect, were the prayers that mattered most to us. Physical healing is only temporary. We are still gonna die someday, sooner or later. Those who die without faith and hope in Christ as their Redeemer face never ending consequences far worse than cancer or widowhood: They face God’s righteous judgment forever in hell. And that is what we all deserve. It is what I deserve. Having cancer temporarily is much better than what I deserve to endure forever as someone who has sinned against almighty God. That is simple “gospel logic.” That simple yet glorious logic of “the gospel” leaves no room, no argument, for unending protest over life’s painful experiences.
 
The Lord had mercifully prepared Susan and me for this trial by building sound doctrine into our hearts and minds gradually over the course of the last two decades. What a gift we didn’t deserve! God has blessed us with biblical teaching about his total control of all things, on one hand, as well as his absolute goodness in all things toward every person who loves him and has been called by him into his forever family. The reality of suffering poses no problem for the compatibility of those two truths. In fact, our souls have been undergirded and given peace in this circumstance of having cancer by God’s promise to work all things in our lives, including lymphoma, to make us more like his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. What a sweet comfort knowing that has been to us.
 
Before I share with you five things that Christ my Great Physician has diagnosed in my heart through the gift of lymphoma, I want to point you to the Trinitarian theology of suffering that the Holy Spirit has breathed upon to sustain our God-given trust and hope in Christ during this trial. 
 
1) We have a Father in Heaven who proves his love by way of hard things.
 
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.—Hebrews 12:6–11
 
You see, Christian: Suffering is proof that God loves you and wants you to be holy. Suffering proves that God is your Good Father in heaven who is giving you more of himself: a sweeter, more poignant taste of his grace as he proves your status as his true child. If the only beloved Son of God had to suffer, so will we suffer who are sons and daughters of God through him. God is training his children, through pain, to become more like their eldest brother, Jesus. We will not inherit the hell we all deserve. Instead, we will receive one day the never-ending experience of perfect righteousness, peace, and love: eternal pleasures at God’s right hand forevermore.
 
Suffering is no cause for the Christian to doubt God’s parental compassion, his absolute goodness, or his sovereign control of our lives. In fact, a younger sister in Christ who has suffered much more greatly than I have stated this truth so eloquently, and with a wisdom beyond her years because of her suffering. She wrote to us: “God loves us too much to allow us to go through life unscathed.” The first time I read that it took my breath away.
 
The second aspect of a Trinitarian hope when suffering was especially encouraging to Susan:

2) The sinless Son of God is our sympathetic high priest who cares for us.

The prophet Isaiah wrote about the Son of God, the Messiah, whom we call King Jesus:

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.—Isaiah 53:4

Christian, Jesus has put his own shoulders under your very sorrows. He knows the particular weight of each thing you are bearing right now. You can bring your weary body to him and find rest for your soul. You can cry out to him; you should cling to him; because he cares for you. 
 
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.—Hebrews 4:14-16).
 
No sin nor temptation, no weakness nor struggle, that you can confess would shock or bewilder this tender high priest! He will neither snuff out the smoldering wick of weak faith nor mow down the battered reed of a weary soul. He wants to help you. And he is able to, like no one else can.
 
About 15 years ago, now, Susan and I heard a young Russian Christian woman share her testimony. After recounting each difficulty in her life’s story, and there were several, she would sweetly say, “Jesus knows.” I’m ashamed to say that a few times since hearing her story I’ve repeated that, “Jesus knows,” in a slightly mocking way and as a kind of inside joke with my wife. But now, through the gift of lymphoma, I’ve been rebuked by God, because he is my good Father in heaven. I think I now know the Lord a little better, more like she did, way back then. I can now say with that sister, in greater faith, greater hope, greater love, and a little more maturity because of my suffering, “Jesus knows.”
 
3) The Holy Spirit’s evident strength in our weakness points us to the fact that we have indeed been reconciled to God and reborn; and that we will, therefore, be resurrected by that same Spirit in us when Christ returns.
 
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.—Romans 8:11
 
Eternal life. To our mortal bodies. Bodies that die.
 
The Apostle Paul elsewhere so aptly deemed these bodies “jars of clay.” The Spirit of God is himself the divine power at work in our weak selves. Our various sorts of suffering as creatures in a broken world enable us to feel in our “inner person” the soul-strengthening grace of God at work in us. The Holy Spirit’s “felt presence” in us assures us of our own future resurrection to new life with bodies that will never die again, never even suffer at all. Better yet, we will live forever without sin in a New Heaven and a New Earth joined forever as one place for God’s one global people to dwell together with him in the fullness of joy. An we will behold God and his beauty with our own immortal eyes.

He who raised the Lord Jesus [i.e. God the Father] will raise us also with Jesus and bring us … into his [own] presence ... [Therefore,] we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away [perhaps by way of cancer], our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison [to the suffering], as we [consider primarily] not … the things that [we now see] but … the [precious realities] that are unseen. For the things that are seen are [only temporary], but the realities that are unseen [will last forever]—2 Corinthians 4:14–18

 
That means, Christian, for you and for me, death will not be the end of our stories. Take courage.
 
Now, I want to briefly explain five things God exposed in my heart through the gift of lymphoma, things he diagnosed and wanted me to know or know better about myself. Realizing these things inclined me toward him, his people, his word. These things drove me to lamenting prayer, toward crying out to God in a manner pleasing to him while good for my soul. 

Five things in my heart that God mercifully exposed (or diagnosed) as he taught me to lament through the gift of lymphoma:

1. Fickleness
It’s been about 10 years since the Lord first showed me a dangerous pattern in my life: I will desire something good. Then ask God for it. I make an effort to obtain it. Then I get the thing because God gives it. Then, that thing doesn’t measure up to what I thought it would be. So I want something else instead. And I’m disappointed with God for the thing as it actually is and for giving it to me, though I asked for it. I have even, tragically, resented God for my disappointments. In that resentment I have treated other persons, even God, with passive aggressiveness, hoping to hurt them. Rather than humbly trust the wisdom and goodness of God in giving me such disappointments as soul medicine that he, in his omniscience and love has prescribed for my holiness, I have stiff-armed him, held him at a distance, given him the silent treatment while not listening to him for awhile. Does that sound familiar to any of you? I hope not; but if it does …
 
Ask yourself: Are you allowing God to have the last word with you in your disappointment? Or are you always getting the last word with him in your complaint? Because that is the difference between mere grumbling (keeping the last word for yourself), which leads you away from God, and godly lament which leads to reconciliation with him and restored hope. The psalms of lament show that God desires our raw honesty with him. So complain to him. Express your disappointments. But God’s word has much to say about his trustworthiness and his good purposes toward you at all times. Let him respond to you. Don’t close your ears to him. Don’t close your eyes to the Scriptures. Don’t isolate yourself from brothers and sisters who would speak the truth in love to you. Return to the Word that is able to calm and correct you.
 
Cancer was a disappointment so much larger than any previous one in my life. But it wasn’t something I asked for. God used it to stop me in my tracks, in the midst of my agenda for my life, to teach me to trust him and his decisions for my life, better. Through this training in righteousness, I believe I’ve grown in childlike faith.
 
2. Fear
I have a master’s degree in Biblical Studies. I have a decent understanding of all the wonderful reasons the New Testament poses for why the Christian need not fear death. I have affirmed for 22 years now the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection. I also know that the Bible says if Christ was not raised, if the purported resurrection of Jesus is only a myth or a hoax, then Christian people are to be pitied as the biggest fools this world has ever known. 
 
One night during that 11-day-long very dark valley between diagnosis and prognosis, I was unexpectedly afraid because I was unexpectedly doubting what I’ve always known to be true. Feeling at the precipice of a great divide between this life and whatever unseen place comes next, I questioned the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. How do I really know that he was raised, so that I can be confident I, too, will be raised like him to eternal life? How do I really know that at death my soul won’t slip away into some kind of nothingness and I cease to exist?
 
By God’s grace someone was with me that night to whom I could honestly articulate that doubt. By God’s grace that person was my wife of 20 years. By God’s grace I actually shared my fear and doubt with her. She simply said, “You know the reasons we believe that Christ was truly raised.” She’s so helpfully direct at times! She spoke from her awareness that I’ve been banking my whole life, day by day, month by month, year after year, on the claims and teachings of the New Testament writers. And she knows that I’ve had a seminary course in apologetics.
 
At Susan’s urging, in that oh-so-brief-but-frightening crisis of faith, I called to mind the abundant evidence and reasonable arguments for the reliability of the New Testament documents as true eyewitness testimony to Christ’s resurrection. And I thought of the hundreds of millions of Christians in a multitude of cultures—African, Asian, Latin American, European, Slavic, and North American—who affirm with confidence and joy that Christ was raised, is reigning today, and is at work among them. In that frightening moment, when death felt so near to me and so palpable for the first time in my life, the reality of the Resurrection became more than a doctrine to believe but, for the first time, perhaps, a heart-felt hope to buoy and ballast my faith.
 
One of my colleagues at Bethlehem College & Seminary has been very keen to the kinds of suffering I might be going through, physical and otherwise, because his mother died of cancer not long ago. Shortly after my diagnosis, he emailed me a few things that he has found comforting in the midst of his own grief. One of these has been a source of great comfort to me as well. It’s the first question and answer in the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, a fantastic document written by two young, genius, 20-something German university professors of theology who must have known their Bibles very well, their Savior well, and who must have been familiar, as pastors, with the questions asked by 16th century Christians facing death. Its truth is timeless:
Q. 1. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him. 
Christian, Christ owns you, body and soul, in life and in death. Though your body and soul be separated for a time when you die, Christ will have them. Your soul will be in his safe keeping. 
 
3. Filth
While I was still in shock over the diagnosis, my fight for faith was largely a fight against self-pity. God spared me from resenting him over this (and I’m so thankful for that), but it took awhile for me to stop grieving the loss of my beloved goals for the future. I had to give up a sense of entitlement to a future. That entitlement to a future was an idol I hadn’t noticed much before having cancer. 
 
One day I was looking out the window and saw a man slightly hunched over and slowly crossing the street. He looked to be about 70 years old. He was unkempt, with scraggly white hair and a beard. His clothes were faded and worn. I assumed he was homeless. In that neighborhood, he very well might have been. I thought to myself, or, actually, I put this thought to God: Why would you, God, waste oxygen on that person and take the life of someone who is trying to live his life for you and for the good of your church? Why would you give that man 70 years of life, which he has obviously wasted, and cut my life short when that God-glorifying career for which I’ve prepared so long and hard is just starting to get off the ground?! 
 
God was merciful to me. He should have struck me down right then and there for those hideous thoughts. After that filth manifested itself in my mind the Spirit of God immediately convicted me of all the false doctrine I had just articulated. Oh me of great theology! In my heart I was a heretic. Wasn’t that man made in the image of God like all human beings are and therefore worthy of my respect regardless of anything else that is true about him? Isn’t that man, like any other human being, a potential recipient of the saving grace of God and the Spirit’s renovating work in his life, like I have experienced? Am I not a sinner and as undeserving of the oxygen I breath as any other sinful human is undeserving of it? Where was my God-like love for this poor man? Where was my compassion? There wasn’t any. Only self-pity, as if cancer was an excuse for it; as if cancer is an excuse for heart heresy! I could only ask God to forgive me. And I believe that he has. Because Jesus died for my sins. And God’s word promises, “If [I] confess [my] sins, he is faithful and just to forgive [my] sins and to cleanse [me] from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). 
 
4. Fragility
Cancer is the malfunctioning of cells in your body; the basic building blocks of life gone wrong beyond your control. As the pain from an undiagnosed tumor in my side made me weary, and then, after diagnosis, the treatment itself dragged me down, I was reminded that “I am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). I was reminded that “all flesh is grass,” and that “grass withers …” (1 Peter 1:26-27, citing Isaiah 40:6, 8). I could feel my frailty like never before. Fatigue brought on by chemotherapy and radiation meant I could do much less than I was used to doing and wanted to do. I had to put writing projects on hold. Susan and I put life on hold as we simply couldn’t make plans for the future until we knew the outcome of treatment. Would we be buying a house, or planning a funeral? We had to be open to either option, even as we prayed for healing.
 
Both physical fatigue and chemotherapy itself had adverse effects on my cognitive functioning. As a child, teenager, and young man in his twenties, both before and after becoming a Christian, I found far too much confidence and significance in my intellectual abilities. They were an idol. But the creaturely limitations and fallen brokenness of both my body and mind were well highlighted by treatment. I had to accommodate even more limitations. And that was humbling.
 
Not only have I been humbled and quieted before the Lord in physical and cognitive weakness, but this experience exposed psychological fragility as well. Susan alleges I’m a hypochondriac, and having cancer has, ironically, proven it! I’m very psychosomatic. Before two separate PET scans I felt pain in my neck, armpit, and other places where I know there are lymph nodes. I was pretty sure both times the scan would reveal the cancer had spread. But they did not reveal that. It had not spread. And knowing that fact apparently made the pain disappear. I am an unreliable source for what is going wrong or right with my own body. I need the perspective of an Authority outside of myself (with knowledge and skill I don’t have) to assess me, diagnose, prescribe what I need, and perform for me what I can’t do for myself to heal me. Does that sound familiar, Christian?!
 
An emotional sensitivity is the final kind of fragility I want to note. However, it wasn’t so much exposed as created by this experience of cancer. Several times since the diagnosis, and especially when I was weakened by treatment, I’ve been moved unexpectedly to sobbing that I can barely control. It has happened when I’ve seen or heard reference to another person’s illness, tragedy, or loss, such as when I saw a poster for childhood MS on an entrance door to a Culver’s. I can’t fully explain what I’m feeling. It seems to be an overwhelming sense of God’s superlative tenderness and kindness to me and others, though we deserve wrath, combined with a sense of grief over our condition as sinners, weak and wounded, sick and sore. 
 
I think it also includes a deep sense of gratitude for God as the One who extravagantly fills this broken world with delightful things that showcase his amazing love and mercy: sunsets, song birds, medicine, a good movie, taco taxis on Lake Street, deep fried cheese curds, creamy frozen custard, and the company of friends new or old. These “common graces” all shine more brightly to me, not less, in the light of God’s “saving grace.”
 
I have a deeper sense after having lymphoma of my dependence upon God as the giver and sustainer of my health: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
 
5. Faith
The first chapter of 1 Peter is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.
 
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.—1 Peter 1:3–9
 
The Apostle Peter is saying here, in verses 6 and 7, that fiery trials in the life of a Christian are “necessary,” they are something prescribed by God to “prove” the “genuineness” of our faith. Verse 3 says that God has “caused us” to be born again. Our faith was a gift from God. Verse 5 says that God is guarding us for our future salvation “through our faith.” That means he is sustaining our faith, the faith he has given us to begin with, so that we don’t fall away from him. 
 
In the midst of the fatigue and pain and uncertainty, and sometimes fear that I was experiencing, God astounded me, time and again, that he had, indeed, begun a good work in a wretch like me. A faith sustained, despite a fiery trial, has strengthened my assurance of salvation. Every time I have felt affection for God, or his people, or desired to share the gospel with a nurse or technician (which is not a natural desire), I’ve been pointed to the miracle of my faith. Every time my heart has been stirred by Christ-exalting lyrics in a song, I’ve taken that as proof of the Spirit’s saving work in me. In that I can rejoice, always.
 
Conclusion
A friend in our small group introduced Susan and me to the song “More Than Conquerors” by Rend Collective. That anthem has stoked our faith during cancer treatment. I especially like the line about Christ being the “power in our veins.” Lymphoma, a blood cancer, is not the defining power in my veins. Chemotherapy is not the defining power in me. But Christ is, Christ in me, the hope of glory.
 
Because of the gift of lymphoma, Susan and I are more certain than ever of God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for each other. God has even miraculously encouraged other Christians through observing our own fight for faith, which has in turn encouraged us every time one of those people has let us know about it. 
 
We would never have chosen this trial for ourselves. We don’t wish cancer on anyone else. But because of what God has done for us and others through this trial, we would not trade it away.
 
God is faithful. His mercy is great. His promises true. Put your hope in him and hang on for the ride of your life as his child. The resurrected and returning King Jesus will provide all that you need to persevere in faith. He is reigning over your life, and he is “way worth” this ride, no matter how rough it gets. Your life, your suffering, your lamenting in the Lord … is never wasted.
 
 
Sermon Discussion Questions
 
Outline
  1. Introduction
    • The Diagnosis
    • The Shock
  2. The Trinitarian shape of our hope in God
    • We have a Father in Heaven who proves his love by way of hard things
    • The sinless Son of God is our sympathetic high priest who cares for us
    • The Holy Spirit’s evident strength in my weakness pointed me to the fact that I have indeed been reconciled to God and reborn; and that I will, therefore, be resurrected by that same Spirit in me when Christ returns
  3. Five things in my heart that God mercifully exposed (or diagnosed) as he taught me to lament through the gift of lymphoma
    • Fickleness
    • Fear
    • Filth
    • Fragility
    • Faith
  4. Conclusion
Main Point: God is faithful. His mercy is great. His promises are true. Put your hope in him and hang on for the ride of your life as his child. The resurrected and returning King Jesus will provide all that you need to persevere in faith. He is reigning over your life, and he is “way worth” this ride, no matter how rough it gets. In the Lord, your life, your suffering, and your lamenting is never wasted.
 
Discussion Questions
  • What fire is God currently using to prove the genuineness of your faith?
  • With this trial, what is God exposing in your heart that would cause you to look to him for help or forgiveness?
  • Are you allowing God to have the “last word” (so that you are lamenting in your complaint and not merely grumbling)? 
    • If not, why not? 
    • If so, what attributes of God, redemptive acts of God, or promises from God for his children are most comforting to you and hope-giving during this trial?
  • How can your small group pray for the work of God in your soul as he relates to you as Father in Heaven, Sympathetic High Priest, and/or Fruit-Bearing Spirit of the Resurrection in you?

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