The word cancer causes our heart to quiver when a doctor affirms that it is in the body of one we love or in our own body. Little does it matter if assuring words are spoken in regard to its cure. Once treatment has allowed one to be cancer free, the ear is always attuned to the terrible pronouncement that it has returned and is alive again. And when that happens it remains disconcerting. Cancer sometimes seems to run in families, as doctors are always interested in family history when checking for it. Also one’s work history, environment and even diet is a matter to be considered when looking for the disease. Yet, some contact cancer when these factors seem to have little effect when the disease shows up. Cancer invades the bodies of the rich and famous, the poor and unknown, men and women and even little children, infidels and Christians, skin color is not protection against it, and while we cannot—must not—discount the power of prayer, it does not prevent it nor take it away. It is strange how people react to a cancer victim. I have heard people say, “well, if you must have cancer the kind you have (or place where you have it), is the best kind to have.” What (?), does that mean! I can tell you one thing that does not sound the same to a person who has contacted cancer, as it does to one who is cancer free. Others react as if you now have one foot in the grave, which is not too consoling to the person with the disease. In discussing cancer some have long contended that a cure could be found, but the government keeps it a secret because of the money involved. Think about that—people in government get cancer too. Seems to me under such circumstances the “secret would get out.” The treatment for cancer is sometimes as physically painful and devastating as the disease. The mental anguish is often equally as terrible. Loved ones feel helpless trying to deal with a cancer victim, which heaps more pain upon the one afflicted with it, knowing the pain in the loved one’s heart has been brought about by the affliction he (she) has. Cancer seems to have the upper hand on its victims. There is no doubt about it—cancer does cause life changes. Not only does it often change ones physical appearance it also changes what we can and what we cannot do. The very attitude about life is transformed in a person with cancer. In extreme cases one is told the number of weeks or months of life expectancy, in others every moment of life is lived by a clock, as the affliction must continually be cared for. People (even those close to the person with cancer) seldom understand just what is taking place on a daily basis. There is nothing good about cancer.
However, as all consuming cancer may be and as controlling as it can be over one’s life, there are some things that cancer cannot do, there are some places that it cannot invade, there are some attributes it cannot control. Cancer is like sin in many ways, therefore, as we consider these things about cancer think of these in regard to sin because there are some things that sin cannot do. Cancer and sin are limited in many (if not most) of the important things in life. What is it that cancer cannot do? I don’t know all of these, therefore, I cannot list them all, however, there are some things that we can know. Because these are important we should place them in our mind and hold them dear.
CANCER CANNOT CORRODE FAITH
Speaking of God’s power to save being in the Gospel, Paul adds “For therein (the Gospel,) is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17). The righteousness of God does not refer to the fact that God is righteous as it is not the purpose of the Gospel to reveal that fact. It was accomplished by the Old Testament particularly the Law. The Gospel, however, is the result of God’s revelation of His means to save mankind. The way a person is made righteous is by submitting to the Gospel (see Rom. 6:17-18). A righteous person is a forgiven person, a justified person. If we had never sinner we would be justified by our own works, but having sinned we must be forgiven to be justified; the Gospel has the power to accomplish this for all. So, the Gospel revealed is “the faith” that we obey, the faith that we walk by (II Cor. 5:7) and the faith that we contend for (Jude 3). It goes without saying that cancer cannot corrode the faith revealed by God.
But, Paul goes on to tell us that our belief or faith in the Gospel—God’s power to save is necessary. It is “faith” God’s revelation unto “faith” obeyed. Diseases (including cancer) are often used by Satan to dissuade people from obeying the Gospel or to continue faithfully serving the Lord in trying times. Yes, the question does arise, “why me?” A person of faith soon comes to ask instead “why not me?” Being a Christian does not exempt us from the ordinary trials of men as long as we live in a fleshly body. “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and he sendeth rain on the just and the unjust” (Mt. 5:45). While cancer gnaws away at the organs of the body it cannot corrode faith living in the heart that controls the thoughts, words and action of those who are in Christ.
CANCER CANNOT SHATTER HOPE
Hope and faith are distinct, yet, they are intertwined. One is lacking in faith if he does not have hope. One is void of hope if he is without faith. The letter to the Hebrews declares, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for.” (11:1). Substance is a compound word made up of stance with the prefix sub added. Stance means “the way a person stands.” Sub is to “go below, under or beneath.” Therefore faith is that which is under our standing in hope. Without God’s word we have nothing to stand on—we are left in a hopeless position. Thus from faith (God’s word) unto faith (what we have accepted by believing), we have hope. It is true that people who trust in materialism and the things that pertain to this life are left hopeless when cancer strikes especially in its most devastating form. John declares, “the world passeth away and the lust thereof,” eternity holds out no hope for the people of this mindset. But he that “doeth the will of God abideth forever” (I Jn. 2:17). When cancer strikes, one of the most powerful and a precious weapon of the Christian is hope. Immediately it comes to the forefront. Before the extent of the cancer’s effect is known, before the diagnosis is decided, while the physical man trembles in the shadow of the disease, hope lifts the spirit. There are blessings that belong to the Christian in this life (something that unbelievers fail to grasp and understand). Christianity is about eternal things. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to the abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively (ASV living) hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Pet. 1:3). Christians have a “living hope.” Notice we have been begotten again to this hope by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This reminds us of man being placed in Eden with the promise of living forever by being able to eat of the tree of life. However, by eating of the forbidden tree that promise was stalemated. Death came upon the human race. Jesus’ resurrection renewed the ability of man to live forever in bliss. We again have that hope through the new birth. Thanks be to God for this “living hope” which cancer has no power to shatter.
CANCER CANNOT CRIPPLE LOVE
This is not about emotional love that is dependent upon circumstances, nor is it flittering love that is hot one day and cool the next. It is about the love that is constant and is without condition. The kind of love a normal parent has for his children, love that grows as good and bad times are shared, love that exhibits itself under trying circumstances, love that demonstrated itself and is easily seen and detected, love that can be learned, love that has no boundaries that limit it, love that is dependable and unwavering. Love has everything to do with the Christian and the life that is embraced. A person who learns about the love that God has for him as a sinner requites that love through obedience. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16). “So loved” exemplifies the degree of God’s love. The Apostle to the Gentiles reminds us of the same truth. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom.5:8). It has been said, (I think rightly), that “God loved us when we were unlovable.” Once that is realized we willingly love God in return. “We love him, because he first loved us.” (I Jn. 4:19). When circumstances are such that we suffer, there is no flinching from the tasks before us. Cancer (or other ailments) cannot—do not, keep us from doing to the best of our ability to serve and glorify God and His Son Jesus Christ. The Christian continues to march himself to the assembly when the saints gather in worship and praise. The Holy Scriptures remains a constant reminder of heavenly bliss and solace. Thanking God in prayer for the blessings enjoyed is practiced daily. Why? Love propels us onward. More than ever before the importance of living a life that prepares us for the prepared place takes control of our heart driving us to be what we are to be according to God’s word. A prepared people for a prepared place is Biblical. Cancer is week compared to the love of God in the heart and life of believers. Cancer cannot cripple love.
CANCER CANNOT REDUCE ETERNAL LIFE
Cancer has shortened the prospective years of many upon the earth. Families have been heart broken, churches have been anguished, and communities have been driven to mourning and building monuments. Hospitals and medical facilities have been erected for the singular purpose of caring for cancer patients. Charitable organizations feverishly work soliciting funds for research to eradicate cancer from the face of the earth. Much to our chagrin it has taken the life of too many children. Sometimes it appears that the well wishing and work of everyone ends in a dead end street. All that being said, cancer cannot take away nor diminish by a single moment eternal life. Jesus promised, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (Jn. 11:25). Can cancer destroy the body? Absolutely. Can cancer destroy the soul? Absolutely not! Although Jesus was not speaking directly of cancer, His words are applicable. “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt. 10:28). Believers have the thrilling promise, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life,” (Rom. 6:22). We all know that cancer can take our physical life, but it can take nothing from the life we have in Christ.
CANCER CANNOT DAMN THE SOUL
At first glance it might appear that this is a repetition of the previous statement. However, there are two points I wish to make clear here. First, Cancer cannot stop one from obtaining the remission of past sins. Sin condemns the soul, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The blood of Christ takes our sins away, meaning that we must contact His blood. This begins when we believe Him to be the only begotten Son of God, whom God gave to save us (Jn. 3:16). This faith impels us to reject sin and turn toward the Savior with a heart of trust. The Scripture calls us to repentance (Acts 17:30). Being sorry for our transgressions is not enough. We are called upon to acknowledge our belief in the Savior, stating affirmatively that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). At this point we are still left groping, as there has been no contact with the death of Christ where He shed His blood. This is accomplished in baptism (Rom. 6:3-4). At this point our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16). Cancer cannot stop one from obeying the Gospel to receive the remission of past sins. Secondly, Cancer cannot stifle faithful service to Christ “be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
CANCER CANNOT SILENCE COURAGE
People desire to find heroes. Everyone from a sport’s figure to politicians is proclaimed heroic. The smallest almost mundane deeds are presented to us as courageous. Some of the most courageous people I have known are those stricken with cancer. Some face sure and sudden death, others must endure indescribable daily pain. And there are those so medicated that they are not themselves. Still others watch as their babies suffer under the grip of cancer—these are heroes—unsung for sure—but heroes. While we stand on the sidelines helpless “weeping with them that weep” (Rom. 12:15), I am amazed at the courage that cancer did not and has not taken from them. God help us that a cure for cancer may soon be found.
Barney Owens 1603
Making good judgments comes from experience.
Experience comes from making poor judgments.