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An encounter with cancer

 

Beresford Update (March, 2015)

Dear Friends,

This could very well be my last update, and I am extremely thankful to say that it is for the reason that I am doing so well and not, as might well have been, that I only have a short time to live. I want to therefore thank you all again for your love and prayers that helped us through such a difficult time.

It is now pretty much a year ago to the day that I received the original diagnosis that I had a tumour, and it is also just under two weeks before we resume our usual travels to America; the latter being, for me, the real evidence that the former has been truly overcome. Indeed, even though I have been given the medical all clear and the itinerary has been finalised for several weeks, I think I will only believe we have actually beaten this thing once we are on the plane. Outside of my relationship with the Lord, and of course Belinda and Bethany, there is little of more importance to me than the work of teaching God’s Word and looking after people spiritually that He has called me to do (no, not even Star Trek!), and nothing speaks quite as loudly to me that I really am getting back into the saddle than to resume our regular trips Stateside that just a year ago had to be cancelled indefinitely.

The Sword of Damocles obviously continues to hang over me somewhat, and one is aware that, having had cancer, one is statistically more likely than others to get it again. But that said, the statistics for my own situation are very much in my favour and extremely promising, and I am reminded that even those who have never had cancer before can equally discover, as did I those twelve long months ago, that now, suddenly, they do. Nothing changes the simple fact that, as the Lord’s people, our times are in His hand. Not cancer, not anything! And of course I actually have an advantage over those who have never suffered it before because it is no longer to me a dark and terrible unknown to be just irrationally feared. I have known the Lord’s peace, blessing, and even joy, through it. Not, of course, that I would be blasé should it recur, and neither that I wouldn’t mind if it did. Of all the things I desperately don’t want to ever happen to me, getting cancer again remains very close to the top of the list. But my advantage is that having actually been through with the Lord, I can truly say that going through bad times with Him is so much better and more pleasing than going through good times without Him.

I am also back to strenuous exercise and am already doing about 70 per cent of my pre-illness regime, with my daily early morning fast walks going well. It is strange to think that just a couple of months ago merely walking slowly for a half a mile on the level was a real trial for me, the slightest incline requiring that Bethany had to actually push me from behind. (I don’t know which were loudest, hers and Belinda’s squeals of laughter or my panting and wheezing!) So all in all everything is well with us and we are thankful.

I thought, as a final gesture, that I would pass on some lingering thoughts regarding what I have been through and which pertain to my Biblical namesake Job, because the more I look back on the last year the more I hope and pray that I didn’t just waste it. Indeed, I can identify with Job in numerous ways, not least of all because his response the disaster he went through was, “What I greatly feared has come upon me.” And I, as do most people, greatly feared the prospect of getting cancer, and then, as with Job, had my fears actually happen to me. Not that Job went through what he feared because he feared it, of course not! And neither did I get cancer because I didn’t want it. After all, if fearing something caused the Lord to conclude we needed to go through it merely because we feared it, then life could never be long enough for all the disasters and terrible things we would need to have happen to us. No! Job went through what he did not because he feared it, but because Satan had challenged the Lord over the fact that, in his opinion, sinful men and women could never love Him for Himself alone, but only for the good things He gave them. Or to put it another way, Satan maintained that those who follow the Lord do so for purely selfish reasons, thus rendering nonsensical, and even sin-bound, His redemptive purposes. What the Lord did in order to show the devil that he was wrong was simple, He allowed him to bring disaster on Job and watch him continue to follow Him, indeed, to follow Him in even deeper ways, as a direct result of the trials, such faithfulness demonstrating that a man could indeed love the Lord for Himself alone, and not merely for the blessings He bestows. And though broken and beaten and unhappy in the extreme, Job’s love for the Lord shone through as he not only didn’t curse the Lord, as even his rather unhelpful wife suggested he do, he rather declared, “Though He slay me yet will I trust him.”

And that, for me, is one of the great declarations in scripture from the lips of a sinner. That Job, sinful though he was, could have so known and loved the Lord that he could honour and praise Him in the midst of such suffering, even whilst having no idea of what was going on behind the ‘cosmic curtain’ by way of the spiritual warfare being waged, is nothing short of incredible. It is a most beautiful example of what God’s grace can accomplish in a sinful world.

It would be very easy for me to think in terms of the last year being merely about going through an illness and putting up with the unpleasantness and suffering involved, and then just getting on with life now I am recovered. Yet I don’t actually believe that for one moment. It was about going through an illness, of course, and therefore also about putting up with it, but for us as God’s people we must always take into account what is going on behind the scenes between the Lord and His angelic armies and Satan and his hordes of demons, in order that we get the complete picture. And the complete picture is that I had the honour of being placed into a situation whereby I had the practical opportunity to demonstrate whether or not I loved the Lord for Himself alone, and not merely for the benefits that being a Christian bestows. Whether, by God’s grace, I succeeded in this or not is, of course, for others, and ultimately for the Lord and Satan, to judge. But I was at least granted the opportunity, and for that I am thankful.

But there was another aspect to what Job went through too, and as well as giving Satan such a grand demonstration of his love for God and his faithfulness to Him even through such a bad time, he also got the opportunity for spiritual growth and maturing that only trials on somewhat of a grand scale can provide. At the very zenith of the suffering he was going through he declared, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

That Job knew the Lord personally before the trials he went through is obvious from what was said to Satan by God that led to his sufferings in the first place, and that he therefore also knew himself to be a sinner is equally obvious. But what happens as a result of him being placed in such difficult circumstances, and because he was turning to the Lord throughout, he came into a deeper revelation than he had ever known before of two things, things that go together as surely as do two sides of the same coin. He came to know his sinfulness and depravity in a new and deeper way and, as a direct consequence, came to know the Lord in a new and deeper way too. And without the one we can never truly experience the other. It is difficulties that keep us hanging on to the Lord far more than good and pleasant times. Not that such aren’t part and parcel of discipleship, they most certainly are. But it is the tough times that throw us on the Lord in the kind of way that real intimacy begins to happen, and nothing is more precious than a close and intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus.

So not only am I even more greatly humbled at my sinfulness now than I was before the cancer, I dare to believe that I know the Lord somewhat better too. Yet not only that: I dare to believe as well that it is very possible that the Lord used me to do more damage to the principalities and powers and work of the devil, and to therefore further the kingdom of God, through the cancer than in all the prior years of my discipleship and ministry put together.

Wow! What a thought! What a blessed and exciting way to view suffering and trials. Not, however, as already expressed, that I in any way actually desire to go through difficult times and suffering. Indeed, how wonderful should it turn out, please Lord, that I have actually now done my quota in such regard (though I doubtless haven’t), but at least we can know and be assured that when trials and tribulations do come that they are for our own good, and that they enable us not only to grow in the Lord, but to do great damage to the kingdom of darkness as well.

So hey, gotta go! I see a saddle to get back into! As I have said before, my work is most certainly not yet done. There are churches to be started, folk to nurture, teaching to be done and…um…what else? Oh yes, I remember: people to upset!

Take care and God bless.

In Him,

Beresford

 

 

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