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Part Five

Bud Miller- Cancer Survivor

I heard a preacher talk once about what it really means to be a cancer survivor. I have remembered it and can make a direct connection to Bud.

This term is very common now days. The term cancer survivor is the thought that you had cancer at one point and you were able to live through it. You are a survivor. You won, cancer lost. This would lead one to assume that if you had cancer and died then you are not a cancer survivor. You lost and cancer won. As much as I want to celebrate someone living through cancer, I want to disagree a little with the term. If you had cancer at one point, it doesn’t mean you’ve won anything. I promise you, you will still die at one point. If you have cancer, and live, but you don’t treasure God- then you have lost. If you face cancer and in doing so leads you to treasure God more than living, more than anything in this world, then you win- whether you live or die. You are a true cancer survivor.

Watching Bud breathe his last breath was hard. It was painful to watch. However, Bud’s ultimate hope in life was placed in God. He survived. He beat cancer. Bud was the type of person who was strong and stood by his ways no matter what. If he felt he was right-well…good luck going against him. Then he fell in love with Jesus and all that changed. Because of that, the moment he breathed his last breath he was immediately with the presence of God. That’s beating cancer. That’s being a true cancer survivor.

Christ healed him. The cancer slowly and destructively ate away his body- but Christ healed him. He eternally healed him which is the only healing that really matters. He will one day heal all of us who put our trust and faith in Him and we will see His face! More than anything, I long for this day!

J. I. Packer said, “It is often the case as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest when the Cross is heaviest.” This is so true. Never have I felt more love for the grace of God, than seeing Bud’s life restored. Seeing a stubborn man, one that I love so dearly, give his life to Christ- and then to experience him being painfully taken away in such a short amount of time.

I know Christ is sovereign, I know the glory to come, I know that in order to truly survive and be satisfied one has to give his life to Jesus. With this knowledge this should change our entire perspective of our existence. More than I want anything on this earth, I want God’s name glorified. If it means pain and suffering remain, then it remains. It is more important to show God’s glory. That should be forefront in everything. How can I show God’s glory at work? How can I show God’s glory at Walmart? How can I show God’s glory when I am diagnosed with cancer? How can I use this suffering and pain to show God’s glory?

Limited Perspective

Why did Bud have to get Cancer? All the never created memories we are missing out on. All the things that will happen, that I will wish he was there for. Something that really gets me is Naomi and Chiza. Chiza will never know his pap while alive on this earth. Will Naomi remember? Will Naomi remember how he would spoil her, and treat her like the world most precious princess?

Why did Bud get cancer? Why did a family lose their daughter from drowning in the bath tub last week? Why did a woman I know daughter in law give birth to a still born child? If you ask these why questions looking for a cause you will be left feeling empty. If you ask why by submitting to a purpose, you can be lead to fulfillment. What is God’s purpose? God uses suffering in different ways at different times. This is evident all throughout the Bible as well as personal stories. We have to be careful though trying to pinpoint the exact motive of God and trying to answer this question. Look at Job from the bible. As far as we know, he never finds out about the conversation that God and Satan had at the beginning of the book. He doesn’t know the purpose of God in his suffering. God had a purpose, but Job didn’t know it.

 

The following is an excerpt from the book Radical:

“I met a brother from the Batak tribe of northern Sumatra in Indonesia. He told me the story of how his tribe had come to know Christ. Years ago a missionary couple had come to his village to share the gospel. The tribe was 100 percent Muslim. Talk about sheep in the middle of wolves. The tribal leaders captured this missionary couple, then murdered and cannibalized them.”

Imagine being that first missionary couple. Did they have family back home urging them not to go because they thought it was too dangerous? Regardless, they knew getting this unreached people group the message of Jesus was important. It was worth ultimately their life. It cost them a brutal death. Of all the deaths possible, cannibalization has to be one of the worst ways to go. Hearing the above story, you might be asking, why God, why? You might be thinking these people experienced a brutal death for nothing. You have a limited perspective. You have a man perspective. Read what happens next:

“Years later another missionary came to their tribe and again began sharing the gospel. The tribal leaders recognized that the story he told was exactly what the former couple had shared. This time they decided to listen. After they listen, they believed. Within a short time, the entire tribe was converted to Christ. This believer told me that today there are more than three million Christians among the Batak tribe of northern Sumatra.”

When we experience pain and suffering we have a limited perspective. We have an earthly perspective and this is how we will perceive our suffering. Those missionaries had no idea how God was going to use the Batak tribe’s evil act to lead to over three millions souls being saved. When we walk though pain and suffering our perspective will always be limited. We may not understand for years, or we may never understand. We have only an earthly perspective.

I heard it explained once this way, “Our greatest need is not an explanation from God but the presence of God. We have a God who is with us and never leaves us. We are not alone, God is with us.” That is so comforting. Even though our perspective is limited, even though we may be confused, we know that we have a God who will never EVER leave us.

“With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?” Tozer.

Well what do we lack? God is infinitely wise. We need to trust him, even in the dark. When it seems that nothing makes sense in our life we need to remember that God is infinitely wise and he is infinitely powerful. God-infinitely wise, infinitely powerful, always with us- hold on to that.

Habakkuk 3: 17-19
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

When we get the news we’ve been dreading to hear, more than healing, and more than answers- God is enough. God is sufficient. He is present, He is good, and He is our treasure.

 

Asking the Right Question

Yes God is sufficient. Yes He is always with us. Yes He is good. Yes our perspective is limited. But in times of pain and suffering we will still have questions flood our thoughts. What is happening? Why is this happening? Is God present in my pain? We have addressed some of these questions a little, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy not having them. I have referenced Job a lot. Job is extremely helpful in understanding suffering. I admit, it can be a tedious book to read, but one that is so helpful. All of these questions that we have in suffering Job has at some point in the book. The point of Job is not to answer these questions. It’s not answering any what, when, where, why questions. The question it is answering is who. Who is the God that is behind all of this? Who is the God that is sovereignly determining all these things in Job’s life?

All of that is answered in Job chapters 38-42. The whole book is leading to these chapters to show some of who God is. I mentioned that Job can be tedious to read…I feel it is…but I also am in awe of the beauty of these chapters. We see God proclaiming His omnipotence. He is the master of the deep, light, darkness, snow, hail, lighting, constellations, clouds and dew. He is the Creator of all and their Protector. God’s amazing power is contrasted with man’s amazing weakness. Job sees that his affliction is permitted by God, so that man may see God in his entire splendor. They are really humbling and powerful chapters. I encourage you to pause reading this right now and read those chapters.

If, in our suffering, we want everything to be fixed, to go back to how it was, to have the treasures we enjoyed on earth back with us, then you will not find the question of who satisfying to you. You will still be left empty- even if you get those things restored to you. But, if you goal is to know God- if you want to know God more than anything else- even life- if it is our longing and desire to know God, then you will find this answer very satisfying.

That is not how most people perceive pain and suffering. Most people only desire everything to be ok. The answer found in Job will not satisfy you because it doesn’t explain the questions you are asking. You are asking the wrong questions.

When the goal of our lives is knowing God, God Himself, then- finally- suffering makes sense because in your loss of things you find a deeper and deeper treasure and love in God. If you are like the former, only wanting earthly treasures back, and not the latter, wanting to know God more deeply, then you will find an endless and unsatisfactory pursuit of pleasure and materialism that ultimately will never provide lasting pleasure. When we find our treasure only in God then suffering and pain make sense and drives us to see who God is…we will ultimately experience a deeper treasure than we ever could have imagined. We will ultimately find real satisfaction. So which would you rather have?

That is the whole point of Job 38-42. Job has a revelation about God. God reveals to Job that His power is great. It is incomprehensible for us to grasp the depth of this. Job goes through all these questions he has before chapter 38. The what, when, why, etc… In chapter 38 we see God respond. He responds to Job with a question, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” Job has been asking question after question. Rather than address those questions God ask a question back. Then says this, “Dress for action like a man; I will question you and you will make it known to Me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you understand.” What goes on after that is a list of over 65 questions that God asks Job. Job is struggling with questions about his walk through suffering and God basically says “I’ve got a bunch of questions for you.” Why is God doing that? He is making Job realize how little he knows about who God is.

Talk about a humbling experience. Job learns that God isn’t just his creator, He is his sustainer. Question after question Job realizes how God is sustaining everything. The power of His sovereignty is on full display through these questions. These chapters reveal that creation doesn’t resolve around us. Everything revolves around God. Everything was created for His glory.

Again, from the previous part of this blog, you can also see how the limited perspective had to be hard for Job. We, as readers, see the whole picture of the victory of God in Job.

Now this part is fascination. Things start to connect. I already wrote a part on the sovereignty of God. You can see how it beautifully ties in here. Satan tries to attack God’s people. Satan’s allowed attempt to attack God actually acted to accomplish God’s purpose. Wow. By the end of Job you see that not only did Satan need God’s permission to do all these things, but everything done actually accomplished the purpose of God. Satan was used to accomplish God’s purpose. This isn’t an isolated example either. There are examples all throughout the Bible. God is in complete control over every detail. We already addressed before why this is so comforting.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What is the end result of Satan tormenting Paul? He is not weaker, he is stronger. God displays His sovereignty again.

Another example is when Steven is stoned in Acts 7. Satan had to be jumping up and down with excitement. Steven stoned had to be a bad thing for God, right? Surely God couldn’t use that to meet His purpose. Read the next chapter in Acts. The Church flees to Judea and Samaria. The good news of the gospel explodes. Satan tried attacking the church by killing Steven and threatening persecution- God uses that for church growth. Let’s keep tally- God a billion and counting…Satan 0. Every attack Satan uses against the people of God ultimately fails, and serves to advance the Kingdom.

“For as soon as God’s word becomes known through you, the devil will afflict you and will make a real doctor of you and will teach you by his temptations to seek and to love God’s word. Did you hear that? Satan, the devil, teaching you to love God’s word. For I myself, oh, my papists, many thanks for so beating, pressing and frightening me through the devil’s raging, that they have actually turned me into a fairly good theologian, driving me to a goal I would have never reached before.” Martin Luther

Satan really has no power at all. Story after story in the Bible we see Satan’s attacks actually leading to the salvation of many. It happened thousands of years ago, and it is still happening today.

Nothing can stop the purpose of God. That doesn’t mean when we experience pain and suffering that we breeze through it. No, It’s hard. I experienced pain with Bud’s death but in reality there are far, far, worse levels of pain and suffering. There are unimaginable levels of pain that would be excruciating to walk through. We can’t always understand the why, but we can always focus on the who. We hold onto God’s sovereignty, accept we have a limited man perspective- but rejoice that His purpose will never ever fail. God knows the whole picture, and his knowledge is unlimited- unlike ours. When we experience pain we do not have our trust in some impersonal, blind, and weak entity. We are trusting God who has unlimited power, who is all knowing, and who is personally merciful. Oh the mercy shown towards each one of us.

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