This is the first blog I’ve written since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Someone told me that one in six men will have prostate cancer in their life. It’s the most prominent cancer in men, as breast cancer is in women. The last few months have been, to say the least, an emotional roller coaster. The “C-word” takes your breath away. It brings a new normal and a fast learning curve. Learning that you have it leads to discerning what kind of treatment is best for you. Listening to countless stories of other men who have been diagnosed with the same thing and are living active lives is encouraging.
The encouragement from the saints has been amazing. The prayer cards, timely messages, and countless other cards have all arrived at our mailbox with positive, prayerful thoughts. Never underestimate why being a part of a church matters. The church is a family and family rallies in times of trouble. The phone calls, texts, and emails from pastors and other leaders outside of Sherwood always come at the right time. I’m blessed to have fellow laborers around the country who are lifting us up in prayer.
This is a test for our family – my immediate family and my church family. For my immediate family, especially Terri, they will see the daily ups and downs of going forward with treatments and praying for God to cure and heal my body. For my girls, they deal with it from a distance with concern and care not knowing every moment or every thought. For the church family, the test will be staying faithful to the mission and call. When Paul left Ephesus, he sent Timothy to make sure they were staying the course. Our staff will do a great job during this season of treatment.
Almost immediately after discovering the cancer, we began to look for the best possible treatments. We wanted God to clear a path that seemed “good to us and the Holy Spirit.” I’m grateful for early detection, and I also want an early, aggressive strategy of dealing with the disease. We believe we’ve come up with God’s preferred plan for our lives as we move forward.
I’ll be taking a medical sabbatical to address the issue. I’ve enlisted several dear friends as well as some staff to fill the pulpit during this time, as I am not sure I would have the strength to take treatments and preach three times on Sundays. Again, this fall is going to be incredible. We have multiple opportunities for the church to be the church in our region. I remember the first time I took an extended sabbatical. The staff got very intentional and the church actually grew during that season. I’m asking God to do the same thing again.
In Isaiah 45, there’s a powerful story in the life and history of Israel. It’s a story that reminds us that God is large and in charge. He’s running the show. If He can run the universe, He can handle the events of our lives individually, corporately, and as a nation. In this chapter, God revealed that Cyrus was “His anointed” – a pagan king, a Gentile dog. But, he was chosen by God to do the will of God. It’s a reminder that God is ruling over the affairs of men. Nothing is random or coincidental in our lives. Everything is either the result of choices we’ve made or is the hand of a sovereign God pruning, molding, and making us into His image.
In Isaiah 45:9 we read, “Woe to the one who quarrels with His Maker.” I find that to be one of the greatest sins of God’s people. What’s God doing? Why is He doing this? How can He use this? To be honest, it’s easy to become emotionally hooked and start reacting in the flesh when things don’t fall into place the way you imagined. Over and over Isaiah records these words, “I am the Lord, and there is no other,” and “I am the Lord who does all these.” God was saying, “I’m God, and you aren’t.” What we don’t like is when God says He is the one who “is causing well-being and creating calamity” or “forming light and creating darkness.” We want sunshine and no rain, but expect a harvest, flowers, and a beautiful yard. We want a prayer a day to keep the devil away, but the devil doesn’t leave us alone.
Most of our heroes in the Bible went through suffering, pain, and adversity. But they are heroes because they never lost their faith (although more than one questioned what was going on). God doesn’t mind the questions. He can handle them. What He is looking for is believers who stand on the promises of God. God is faithful in the days when things are calm and in the days when the storm waters are churning.
Here’s what I’m asking God to do: I want the Father to be glorified in all this. As I look back on 2018, I look at the sermons God led me to preach from John 13-16. The secret is abiding. The Father is glorified and we bear much fruit when we abide in the vine. The branch is simply to abide.
• Pray that God gives us incredible moments and opportunities to testify of His love and grace. Every day we need wisdom, grace, and strength.
• Pray that God will guide the doctors and their staff as we ramp up our treatments to an aggressive level. Pray that we will exhibit the life of Christ in us and through us.
• Pray that the focus of our church will be on Christ first and foremost. Pray for the men who will stand in the pulpit in the coming weeks that God’s power would be on them. Sherwood is an incredible body of believers and you have prayed us through multiple crisis moments in our lives. I’m praising God in advance for being a part of a praying church.
• Pray that, if it is His will, God will completely heal my body through the hands of the doctors and the hand of the Great Physician.
• Pray for me as I try to write another book during this time of treatment. My desire is to take the series Are You Ready for a Miracle? and turn it into a new book.
I believe the key is the PRAYERS of the saints, the POWER of the Spirit, and the WISDOM of the medical team. We are walking through a valley. We are not and will not wallow in it. There are still mountains to climb and ministry to do.
My mentor Vance Havner had three prayer requests. You can pray these for me as the Lord brings them to mind:
1) An extension of time (2 Kings 20:1-6)
2) An enlargement of my coast (1 Chronicles 4:10, that out of this would come greater, more fruitful ministry impact)
3) An endowment of power (2 Kings 2:9, that the power of Christ would be evident in all I do)
Thanks for praying,