With one word, entire lives are turned upside down. Just a month ago, a spot on my head was found and for the first time, I was confronted with the possibility of cancer’s foul intrusion on my life. I immediately informed my wife, consoled her, made the appointment, had the spot cut out, and then faced the 7-10 day waiting period for results after which I felt the wave of relief at the word, “benign.” In the last two months, however, several other families and friends of families in our church have not heard the word “benign.” What are we to make of this as Christians? What truths do we cling to when cancer strikes and its consequences come to the Christian?
Romans 8:19-22 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
#1 Cancer is a Corruption
Cancer is the development of abnormal cells that divide rapidly, infiltrate, and destroy healthy body tissue. It is a corruption of an original design leading to destructive consequences. The existence and function of cancer is an example of a larger global reality – we live in a world corrupted by evil. God promised the first humans that any disobedience or action contrary to his original design would result in unthinkable consequences. One sin in the Garden of Eden would lead to a curse that infiltrated our world and lives. This corruption threw creation into a curse in which it groans still today. Just as a cancerous cell spreads through a once healthy body, the sinfulness of man has spread to all men and the consequences of corruption have touched every part of creation. We all face the effects of natural, personal, and spiritual evils from storms, to car accidents, to family conflicts, to cancer cells. It is not that we have sinned any specific sin that has brought upon our personal bouts with cancer, rather it is the reality that we live in a corrupted world system where such diseases plague humanity. Cancer showcases sin’s corruption on creation.
#2 Cancer is Not Sovereign
While cancer is one of the symptoms of a sin-stricken world, it is not a symptom that goes uncontrolled. There is no spot or lump on my body or yours of which the Sovereign God of the Universe has no control. God is able to accomplish all things and no purpose of his can be thwarted (Job 42:2). “For I know that the Lord is great and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does.” (Ps.135:5-6) “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, and the plans of his heart to all generations.” (Ps. 33:11) While on planet earth, Jesus exercised all authority over sickness, disease, disability, and death itself by the word of his mouth. Jesus the Christ is before all things, and in him, all things hold together (Col. 3:17). He upholds the universe by the word of his mouth. (Heb. 1:3) All this means that if cancer comes, it is not because God is unaware or unable to stop its coming.
So what is God doing? Romans 8:28 tells us that, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:18 tells us, “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 tells us, “Though our outer self is wasting away, 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, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
As the heavens are higher than the earth so are God’s ways higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts. (Is. 55:8-9) God is doing 10,000 things that we will never know in this life through the sufferings that we face, but even in cancer we are confident that God is working to accomplish at least these two things: 1) Our good and 2) His glory. God is able to work the most beautiful and eternal good through what seems to be the most terrible present evil. He did it on the cross of Christ Jesus. Where evil seemed to prevail through the crucifixion of an innocent man, God accomplished the salvation of a guilty world. He can do the same with cancer. What sin and Satan meant for evil, God can bring about the greatest good and most lasting glory. (Gen. 50:20) In the chaos of a bad diagnosis for ourselves or a loved one, may we Christians say with the apostle Paul, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him, we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (2 Cor. 1:9-10)
#3 Cancer will be Conquered
“Deliver us from evil.” (Mt. 6:13) We Christians are the only ones who can pray that prayer with the utmost confidence that it will finally and fully be answered. We know without any shadow of a doubt that cancer will, in fact, be totally and entirely conquered. God is able to in this life work a divine miracle by the word of his mouth and thus obliterating the existence of every cancerous cell in any person’s body. He is neither limited in power nor in love to do such a work. If he chooses to do so, it is a glorious opportunity to display the power of the name of Christ Jesus in the miraculous physical deliverance of healing. Nevertheless, if immediate healing is not in the divine agenda of God’s mysterious plan, deliverance is just on the horizon. While imprisoned in Rome, Paul says, “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.” (Phil. 1:19) He goes on to say, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) For Paul, deliverance was coming by life or by death, and so it is with every situation in the Christian’s life. Cancer is conquered at the moment of passing from this life into eternal life. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet he shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (Jn. 11:25-26)
For the Christian, there is no corruption and no enemy that will have the last word. Cancer will not have the final victory in our lives, nor will it have the final victory in the world as we know it. As Christians, we hear the news of cancers sting and we look forward to the day when Jesus casts cancer into the lake of fire never to torment his beloved again. This is the end to which we look, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4) “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:52-55)
Cancer is a fight of faith. It is a fight to believe the things that you know to be true about God’s sovereign control over all things even when you do not understand his immediate purposes. It is a fight to believe that the promises of eternal glory to come will far surpass our present sufferings. (Rom. 8:18) In the face of cancer may we hold fast to he who holds us fast. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23)
(For a sermon with similar teaching on our need for deliverance from evils of this world click here.)
By His Grace & For His Glory,
Pastor Brandon Langley