Category Archives: The Lie Called Cancer

People with their hands raised

Surrender to Win

(A six minute read)

There was an obituary this week of someone who died from cancer. Yet again, the deceased was proclaimed to have ‘lost a battle’ with cancer. Why is it about winning or losing? Why is this dichotomy even mentioned at all?

Cancer treatment consumed my attention for eight tough months in 2019. But it also consumed my prayer life, and the prayer lives of many who love me. Our declaration was this: ‘Cancer is not my master. Jesus is my Master.’

Very simple yet very powerful. It reminded me of my identity and kept my eye on the solution instead of the problem. This, I have found, is the essence of evangelism.

Please – feel free to come to me with your problem. But when you are done describing it, then let me empathize, so we can turn our attention (through prayer) to the one who can solve it, the one who saves us. This standing at attention is also the essence of evangelism.

In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus says the shepherd leaves the other 99 sheep and goes after the lost one. That’s what he did when he rescued me all those years ago. If you know Jesus, you know that’s what he did for you too. If you don’t yet know Jesus, ask sincerely, repeatedly and he’ll come and do it for you too.

That’s right. You have to surrender to win.

Meanwhile, Back to Cancer

Since my own deliverance from cancer two years ago, God has brought me in contact with an inordinate number of people who either are being treated for cancer or have someone dear to them who is. I share my healing story, and we pray. This is so we tell God we recognize his innate goodness, and thus can make the demand that he do it again. We have the authority.1

But this authority doesn’t come because we do spiritual battle to obtain victory. It’s because we recognize Jesus’ victory at the cross, and so we begin there. We surrender to him in order to release his victory into the earth.

We surrender to win.

This is why my teeth grate when I see that term ‘lost a battle with cancer’ because this warfare language diverts us from the truth. It distracts us from where we should focus: on the healer instead of on sickness. Focusing on disease makes the disease into the most powerful thing. Focusing on the healer reminds us of the most powerful Person. It keeps us right-side-up. It keeps the disease from infecting our identities as well as our bodies.

If I speak of ‘battling cancer’, it implies I think cancer has a good chance of winning. Or, that I somehow fail if I feel unwell, or ultimately don’t live. Likewise, ‘fighting cancer’ implies that it’s a battle I chose to engage in. ‘Surviving cancer’ makes it sound like that outcome is somehow merely a product of luck or coincidence or random chance.

I grieve with anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer, but I don’t find the idea of dying from it in any way ennobling. It’s not my place to fight, but to surrender.

About Identity

Many people refer to cancer as ‘my cancer’, as though they’ve taken ownership of it and grafted it onto their identity. They’ve allowed it to change how they see themselves. I know one man who bought a personalized car license plate that read ‘Sur5or.’ He couldn’t wait to have people ask him about it!

Truth: receiving a cancer diagnosis and getting treatment took up gross amounts of my 2019, and made life painful and inconvenient. Further truth: this was far from the most important thing to happen to me that year. When I’m not praying with someone about it, I rarely think about it at all. Ultimate truth: Cancer is not my master. Jesus is my Master.

More Unhelpful Ideas

Those of us being treated for cancer are described as ‘brave’, as though we had a choice about being treated.2 Calling it ‘The Big C’ brings in the Bogeyman Effect, meaning that cancer is a malevolent force that’s incapable of being tamed or controlled.

And then there are the day-to-day phrases, which are also unhelpful. ‘Coping’ implies that overcoming cancer is somehow not possible, and that I’m in a passive, powerless state.

To ‘deal with it’ says that it’s a nuisance that cannot be controlled.

‘Living with cancer’ tells me that it’s an invited guest.

Finally, for me to say ‘I have cancer’ has me stating that I’ve taken ownership of it. I refused to do that.

December 22, 2021 will be the two year anniversary of the day the Lord told me unequivocally that I was healed. Cancer will never plague me again, I’m certain of it. On the other hand the doctors will never proclaim that I’m ‘cured’ or ‘healed.’ They will only edge out far enough to say I’m ‘in remission.’

I find no freedom in that. ‘Remission’ keeps me in a waiting room and off the train. I remain captive to the idea that cancer will never go away, that it may be lurking around the corner. I’d be no healthier than the paranoiac who compulsively peeps outside to see who might be watching.

Even if I were to say that I ‘beat cancer’ there’s still an assumption that somehow I waged a battle I chose, that it was a war of my choosing. As I mentioned, my best option wasn’t to fight, but to surrender.

That’s the Biblical way. I can’t successfully attack the devil, I can only ‘stand’ against him, or ‘resist’ him3.

Speak Life Not Death4

Warfare words tell me nothing more than I’m afraid of cancer. I once was approached by a friend who ‘caught a cold.’ ‘Why did you have your hands out?’ I asked. The medics tried to give me a diagnosis of cancer, and I refused to accept it. I was treated at Guy’s Cancer-Free Centre5 in London, whose logo proclaims simply, ‘Guy’s Cancer.’ Fine – I didn’t want the cancer. I gave it to Guy.

I have yet to say ‘I have cancer’, ‘I had cancer’, ‘I am (or was) a cancer patient’. I would certainly never label myself a ‘cancer victim.’ It’s definitely not ‘my cancer.’ But I tell the truth. I tell people ‘I was treated for cancer.’

Crisis provokes one of two responses in the human heart. Face up to it, or run and hide. Here is our choice then: Turn to God and lean on him, or turn away and blame him for my problems. Faith or fear. Surrender, or fight. Those are my only options. There is no ‘wait and see.’ One of them always comes out in the end.

I decided in 2019 that I must embrace the way of faith, and reject fear. My expectations were to be set by God’s promises. He hadn’t carried me this far in life to drop me now. I spoke His truth, even when I didn’t believe it. I relied on Scripture, not medical journals for direction.

I surrendered, and won. I won the moment I surrendered.6

1. See Luke 10:19, Mark 16:17-18, Acts 1:8 and Acts 3:1-10
2. I guess we actually do have a choice. Christian Scientists take note.
3. See Ephesians 6 and 1 Peter 5
4. See Mark 11:23, Proverbs 18:7, 20-21
5. It’s actually named Guy’s Cancer Centre but I didn’t go there to get cancer, I went there to get free.
6. Psalm 37:5

This essay is adapted from my book The Lie Called Cancer.

Photo: Luis Quintero via Pexels

Donald Trump

On Prophecy and Donald Trump

(A six minute read)

Confusion reigns. Or does it?

There’s a huge uproar in charismatic Christian circles right now about prophecies saying that Donald Trump will be a two term president.

Some of today’s prophetic voices were saying this even before Trump became a candidate for the 2016 race. Many of them continued to say it, right up to the beginning of this month. Some are still saying it.

However, with Trump very apparently on the losing end, these same people are now tying themselves in knots trying to justify their words, or backtracking and apologizing, or in one case, backtracking and apologizing and then recanting – sort of. It’s a mess. In truth though, I’m not criticizing anyone. Prophetic culture is often messy.

Let’s step back a bit.

There is much to consider here, and it must begin from a position of humility. Consider three things.

First, be assured I have no skin in the game. Oh, of course I desired a particular outcome from the election. Didn’t we all? But it doesn’t matter who I voted for or who you voted for. Point number one is that I have no call to criticize your choices any more than you have a call to criticize mine. Unless of course we’re in a close enough relationship that we hold one another accountable. This should be the Golden Rule of social media, but I digress…

I will pray for my president, whoever it may be, and think you should too. Christians are called to it. And if you aren’t a Christian, I’ll suggest that praying for someone is still a good thing, especially if you dislike them.

(Check back for next week’s essay, called Love Your Enemies, which will come, appropriately enough, on Thanksgiving Day).

Second, prophecy is real, but let’s remember it must be tested. ‘Do not despise prophecies. Examine all things. Firmly hold onto what is good.’ 1 In my time I’ve seen prophetic words that soar through the heavens and come true, and others that immediately crash to earth with a thud. Read my latest memoir for one full accounting. In sum, prophecy as a phenomenon is real and active today, but not all words claimed as prophetic are actually from the Lord.

Finally, we must remember that God is not captive to a 24/7 news cycle. Humans may be addicted to it, but He is not. He works on His own timetable, not ours. While certain circles may be holding on for an electoral or judicial ‘miracle’ for Donald Trump, God may have another plan that could still see prophetic words fulfilled. Or they may be no more than wishful thinking, or may simply be duds. We get to wait and see.

How are we to consider these things?

God ‘removes kings and sets up kings’. 2 To Him, ‘one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ 3 The Father didn’t have Isaiah prophesy about ‘The Suffering Servant’ 4 and then have Jesus show up the following Thursday. Israel waited several hundred years for that one to come true. Just an obvious example.

Modern life makes it easy to believe the lie that everything happens ‘now’ (or should happen ‘now’). We forget about the value of ‘waiting on the Lord.’ The Bible has much to say about this. It should be our guide, not the media’s Daily Drip of Despair.

‘Wait on the Lord; be strong and may your heart be stout; wait on the Lord.’5

‘Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of those who prosper in their way, because of those who make wicked schemes.’6

‘But as for you, return to your God, hold fast to mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually.’7

That’s enough of that. Two or three witnesses are enough to establish the truth of the matter. Please note I’m not imputing ‘wickedness’ above to any individual or group – I’m just quoting Scripture. One person’s wickedness is another’s virtue, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Testing the prophecies

There is speculation Donald Trump will run for president again in 2024. If he were to win a non-consecutive term it would not set a historical precedent. But it would fulfill any prophecy that he would be a two-term president. We may hear more about that from certain people after Joe Biden is sworn in come January!

In sum, we are wise to let things stand. We shall all find out soon enough, whether we waste endless hours speculating on it or not. Whoever the President is come 2021, let’s pray good things for him and his team. I know I will. Whoever is elected in 2024, let’s do the same. God is still sovereign anyway, and will continue to remove kings and raise kings up worldwide until the world ends.

Let prophetic words work themselves out. They will either soar into the heavens to the amazement of all. Or they will fall to the ground and decompose. They belong to God anyway – not to us – and He will do with them as He sees fit.

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21
2. Daniel 2:21
3. 2 Peter 2:8
4. Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
5. Psalm 27h14
6. Psalm 37:7
7. Hosea 12:6

Public domain photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr via Wikimedia Commons

A piece of straw on the ground

Brother Lawrence Did Me Right

(A five-minute read)

A seemingly impossible task

Beginning at the New Year, my first day out of radiotherapy, I began a 40-day devotional by Harold Myra based on the writings of Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence was a 17th century Carmelite monk featured in a now-beloved tract called ‘The Practice of the Presence of God.’

It’s a combination of conversations he had with his friend Father Joseph de Beaufort and letters Brother Lawrence wrote to others.

The essence of his teaching is how to align myself for an ongoing conversation with God. In those moments when I forget (and they are frequent!) I simply come back round, apologize for turning away, and start over. God’s grace is endless for this, because He greatly desires to be in a relationship with me, with you, with all of us.

In one famous passage it’s written of Brother Lawrence, ‘that he was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of God, seeking Him only, and nothing else, not even His gifts.’

How can I come to such a simple and unassuming place in life?

Brother Lawrence taught me how: go forward by going backward. Define the goal and then step backward to where I stand. Then I retrace those steps back to the goal. I have a lifetime to arrive.

When I first approach God I’m in an unregenerate state (that’s a fancy theological word meaning I’m not born again in Christ). I’m stubborn and sinful, and stand obstinately in opposition, refusing to accept His love.

Then, for some reason, perhaps a personal crisis, perhaps an ‘aha’ moment, perhaps the silent inward working of the Holy Spirit, I decide to respond to God’s invitation and pursue Him.

That pursuit can only come after a long sequence of changes in me, as I retrace the steps toward the goal. Here’s how it works.

A process for pursuing God

I can’t pursue God until I desire Him.

However, I can’t desire Him until my desire for other things lessens.1

My desire for other things doesn’t diminish until I recognize who I truly am (in Christ).2

That true identity doesn’t become clear until I understand why I was created.3

An understanding of my purpose in life only appears when I decide my way isn’t working, and I humble myself to receive God’s grace.4

It’s a not-so-vicious circle. It began on my knees, but it actually took me somewhere. The Bible instructs us to do things ‘heartily as for the Lord’ and not for men.5 So even if I’m doing work for someone else, I pursue it as though I’m serving Christ directly. Even if I am merely picking up a piece of straw.

The phrase ‘as for the Lord’ in the Modern English Version is rendered ‘as to the Lord’ in the New King James and ‘as though you were working for the Lord’ in the New Living Translation. The Passion Translation suggests ‘as though you were doing it for the Lord Himself.’ The Message Bible reveals that I should ‘work from the heart for my real Master.’

Through it all, I must remain conscious of my imperfection. God can only use me if I’m aware of how inadequate I am. I stand best when I stand on my knees.

This post contains material written for, but not used, in my memoir The Lie Called Cancer, now on sale.

1. 1 John 2:15 – ‘Do not love the world of the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’
2. Romans 8:5-6 – ‘For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.’
3. Proverbs 19:21 – ‘There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the counsel of the Lord will stand.’
4. Psalm 38:17:18 – ‘For I am ready to stumble, and my pain is continually before me. For I will declare my iniquity; I am anxious because of my sin.’
5. Colossians 3:23-24 – ‘And whatever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. For you serve the Lord Christ.’