had passed since the pain in the side of my face first appeared. A CAT scan
showed no sign of a tumor. Visits to four specialists still left the reason for
my pain unknown.
Now I was lying in a hospital bed waiting for the results of an MRI. The hours waiting for the test results seemed like an eternity. When the doctor finally came, the look on his face told a serious story. He said, "Bob, you have a tumor in the side of your face. Most likely, it's malignant, and we need to schedule a biopsy."
My whole world came apart in an instant? How long did I have to live? What were the people of my new church going to say? How do I tell my family? After a few minutes, I gathered my thoughts and began to ask the doctor frank and important questions about the future, many of which he could not answer until after the biopsy.
After the doctor left the room, my wife and I talked and prayed together. We asked God for a full measure of His sufficient grace to see us through whatever lay ahead. A few days later the result of the biopsy and further testing showed the cancer had spread throughout the lymph nodes in my body.
Would God's grace be sufficient? Did He not promise, "My grace is sufficient for thee, my strength is made perfect in weakness?" In so many unbelievable ways, God is providing my needs. The Lord has kept His promise. Each day He has taught me many new lessons. Let me share with you some of those wonderful lessons.
God uses people who have already experienced His
comfort to comfort us.
First, there is Mabel, my wonderful loving wife
who loves the Lord. She has been a rock, encouraging me through God's Word and
her prayers on my behalf. Her own experience with cancer five years ago has
enabled her to meet my emotional needs.
God provided two wonderful congregations to support me. One is First Baptist Church, Perkasie, PA, over 4,800 miles away. After thirteen years as their Pastor, I resigned to accept God's call to Sterling Baptist Church, Sterling, Alaska. The people of First Baptist have called, written, prayed, and started a fund to help meet my financial obligations. Their love for me, their former Pastor, has touched my heart. The second is Sterling Baptist, a church I have pastored for three months. The people have opened their hearts to me. They demonstrated their loving concern by ministering to me and helping meet my financial needs.
Paul said, "blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."[i]
He also said, "Yet I suppose it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and your fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants."[ii] I have learned to thank God for the Epaphrodituses God sent my way. Those who imitated Epaphroditus came in many different forms. I have a wonderful Christian family that has been faithful in praying and calling. All of my children wanted to come be with me, but only my son Tim was able to come immediately.
He helped me through the early days of dealing with my cancer. My family's confidence in God helped build my confidence in the Lord.
There were the cards from friends and strangers assuring me of their prayers and concern. Pastor Ron Schrock, Grace Baptist Church, Anchorage, became a Pastor to Mabel and I. His church provides free housing for us when we are in Anchorage for treatments.
I continually thank God for the hundreds of churches that are a source of great strength through their prayers. Some received special offerings to help us meet our medical obligations.
Finally, there was the encouragement that came from the special friends who called to pray with me. Many of them also assisted us financially.
2. No matter how many people ministered to you, there are times of loneliness only God can meet. I am so thankful for His promise, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."[iii] My Lord is the One who quiets my fears. His presence brings peace. He holds me in His arms when no one else can meet my need.
3. There are moments when I don't feel like praying or reading my Bible. I cannot count the times when the spirit was willing
but the flesh was weak when it came to my quiet time with God. Mabel encourages
me by spending countless hours reading God's Word to me. She spends time
singing the great hymns of the faith. As a result of Mabel's efforts, I was
able to say with the Psalmist, "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies,
as much as in all riches...I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not
forget thy word."[iv]
Regularly, the Deacons of Sterling Baptist meet to pray with me. They pray for God to strengthen my weak body so I will be able to preach each Sunday. God is blessing the preaching of His Word. Never in my ministry has there been such a great evidence of Holy Spirit at work in the lives of God's people.
4. God is in control of my life, nothing happens but by His will. I thank God for the many promises that exhibit this truth. One such promise is, "There hath no temptation taken you but such is common to man: God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it."[v] As I studied the lives of men like Jonah, Joseph and Job, God encouraged my heart. It was wonderful to see the hand of God at work in their lives and to know the same God is working in my life.
5. Pain focused my attention on the goodness of God. In my mind I recalled the numerous times I commented on Romans 8:28 as being God's design to provide for our good and God's glory. Now I continually quote, "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" as a reminder of His goodness to me.
6. During times of discouragement, I have a tendency to lose sight of the brevity of my pain. After each chemotherapy treatment, there are many painful side effects. These side effects bring about periods of discouragement when my focus is only on my present circumstances. The Spirit of God continually reminds me that "Our light affliction, which is for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."[vi] The Psalmist reminds me, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."[vii]
7. God provided opportunities for me to minister to others during my seasons of pain. Often I reflect upon how my experiences with cancer will open doors of opportunity after my cure. God is reminding me of the need to look for open doors of opportunity while going through my treatments. One day the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart through, "and Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."[viii] He reminded me that Christlikeness means to put the needs of others before my own needs.
I am totally dependent upon God in the midst of my
trials. I am tempted to trust in my prayers, not in the God to whom my
prayers are directed. Arthur Pink wrote, "Prayer is not so much an act as it is
an attitude of dependency, dependency upon God. Prayer is a confession of
creature weakness, yes, of helplessness. Prayer is the acknowledgment of our
need and the spreading of it before God."[ix]
Pink's statement helped me realize I was and am totally, completely helpless and
dependent upon God. Jesus said, "for without me ye can do nothing."[x]
I know that as I continue through this valley in my life, I am not alone. The Lord promised, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me."[xi] The Lord goes with me. His grace is sufficient in my time of need. Each night as I go to bed, I thank God for His presence and for the many people He is sending to minister to my needs.
What does the future hold? I don't know, but my Lord knows. I am in the process of chemotherapy with an excellent chance of remission, confident that my Lord will continue to provide all my needs. Many of those needs My Lord will meet through His people. My prayer is that God will be glorified by His wonderful demonstration of His matchless grace in my life. (Robert Flatt, Baptist Bulletin, July 1992)
P. S. It has been 16 years since my struggles with cancer and God's grace still is my strength. I praise Him for my cure and trust this article will be helpful to all who must travel this same path.
P. S. S. In 2007 I was diagnosed with a second cancer. After undergoing surgery, it was determined that my cancer was encapsulated and the area around the cancer showed no signs that the cancer had spread. Therefore no further treatment was recommended. God grace is still sufficient.
2 Corinthians 1:3,4
[ii] Philippians 2:25
[iii] Philippians 2:25
[iv] Hebrews 13:5b, 6
[v] Psalm 119:14,16
[vi] 1 Corinthians 10:13
[vii] 2 Corinthians 4:17,18
[viii] Psalm 30:5
[ix] Luke 23:43
[x] The Sovereignty of God, Arthur Pink, Baker, p178
[xi] John 15:5b
[xi] Psalm 23:4