This week reminds me of John Piper’s sermon Christ and Cancer.
Before I entered college I hardly gave a thought to cancer and terminal illness. But ever since those college days death by disease has walked beside me all the way. Two of my college acquaintances died of leukemia and cancer of the lymph glands before they were 22. At seminary I watched Jim Morgan, my teacher of systematic theology, shrivel up and die in less than a year of intestinal cancer. He was 36. In my graduate program in Germany my own “doctor-father,” Professor Goppelt, died suddenly just before I was finished. He was 62 – a massive coronary. Then I came to Bethel, the house of God! And I taught for six years and watched students, teachers, and administrators die of cancer: Sue Port, Paul Greely, Bob Bergerud, Ruth Ludeman, Graydon Held, Chet Lindsay, Mary Ellen Carlson—all Christians, all dead before their three score and ten were up. And now I’ve come to Bethlehem and Harvey Ring is gone. And you could multiply the list ten-fold.
What shall we say to these things? Something must be said because sickness and death is a threat to faith in the love and power of God. And I regard it as my primary responsibility as a pastor to nourish and strengthen faith in the love and power of God. There is no weapon like the word of God for warding off threats to faith. And so I want us to listen carefully today to the teaching of Scripture regarding Christ and cancer, the power and love of God over against the sickness of our bodies.
Let me encourage you to read the whole sermon. In a nutshell Piper gives his theology of suffering in six affirmations:
First, in this age all creation, including our bodies, has been subjected to futility and enslaved to corruption. Second, there is a new age coming when all those who endure to the end in faith will be set free from all pain and sickness. Third, Jesus Christ came and died to purchase our redemption, demonstrate its character as both spiritual and physical and give us a foretaste of it now. Fourth, God controls who gets sick and who gets well, and all His decisions are for the good of His children even if they are painful. Fifth, we should pray for God’s help both to heal and to strengthen faith while we are unhealed, and should depend on the Holy Spirit’s intercession when we don’t know which to pray for. Finally, we should always trust in the power and love of God even in the darkest hour of suffering.