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What Cancer Taught Me

Dear Survivors,

Oh, the grace of God … how bountiful are His mercies which are new every morning … they are from everlasting to everlasting … because of them we are not consumed … great is His faithfulness! We rejoice and are grateful to Him in this New Year!

I write this Journal having been released from the UCSF hospital just a few days ago. This final treatment was much more intensive, with 5 days of chemotherapy and nearly four weeks in the hospital. (The previous treatments were 4 hours of chemo with 4 days in the hospital.) Although my last 2 MRIs and last 4 blood tests were normal, this was a final massive preventative treatment.

This journey has been both long and short. After returning from a ministry trip to Pakistan in the end of October 2000, the doctors discovered that I had brain cancer affecting my central nervous system. Throughout, the Lord has been so gracious in dispensing His grace and mercies in so many ways—objective ways affecting extended family, friends, pastors, and churches. It is with a grateful heart that I brag on the Lord for His goodness and His “peace that passes understanding”!

Here are some thoughts that were again confirmed to me during my stay in the hospital:

  1. The sovereignty of God and His everlasting mercies.
  2. The integrity of God’s Word, the Bible.
  3. The brevity of life.
  4. The priorities of life.

1. The sovereignty of God and His everlasting mercies.

The sovereignty of God is His absolute right to do all things according to his own good pleasure (Dan. 4:25,35; Rom. 9:15-23; 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 4:11).

He does everything right! There is a trust factor that includes faith, but a faith that goes beyond just what we know to Who He is! A close friend said to me recently, “One can trust the heart of God even when one does not see His hand.” God has worked sovereignly in this sickness—all for His glory!

There is much controversy about sickness and faith. It is said by some that if one has enough faith, God would heal every time. Mark 11:22 says that we are to have “God’s faith”. Only when we exercise the gift of faith given by God Himself can we say to this mountain, “Be thou removed!” The Bible says that the “prayer of faith” shall “save” (heal) the sick.

However, if the only criteria for healing were faith, then if the sick are not healed when they are prayed for, the responsibility for their not being healed is upon the person praying!

The Bible shows us that there are instances where faith is the issue, e.g., when Jesus could not do any miracles because of their unbelief (Mt. 13:58). There are also, however, many instances in the Bible where faith was NOT the issue. Rather, the issue was the sovereignty of God. See, for example, Lazarus (John 11—”for the glory of God”), the man born blind (John 9), the dead son of the woman of Nain (Luke 7:11,12), the man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5), etc.

This is not an excuse to not need faith. The sovereignty of God says that He has the absolute right to do all things according to His own good pleasure—even with mysteries! We will “allow” God to have mysteries, and we will “let” Him explain them!

2. The integrity of God’s Word, the Bible.

Nothing surpasses the foundation, purity, power, and persuasiveness of the Scriptures. The Spirit continues to bring the Scriptures to light … continues to reveal to the honest heart, making the Word of God incarnational … from the Book to the heart of the believer. The “comfort of the Scriptures” brings “hope”, “faith”, and “joy”.

It is with a quiet authority that one can share without equivocation the integrity and Truth of the Word of God without doubt, whether one is speaking to an audience or praying for nurses, doctors, people in the hall, or people in the sick bed (Psa. 119:72). They may or may not believe Him (Heb. 4:13), but the Word stands sure and works as a Seed in the hearts of those that hear, whether in conversation or in written form. It is the Seed of the Word that is sown and, if there is any fruit at all, He will bring the increase (Matt. 13:3-23; John 4:36-38; 1 Cor. 3:7-9)!

3. The brevity of life.

The first thing I said to the doctor when he said that I had brain cancer was, “I must get my house in order!” I was talking of legal, not spiritual matters. That has been done. But it again reiterated the truth that life is “short” (Gen. 47:9) … that it is as a “weaver’s shuttle” (Isa. 38:12) … it is as a “shadow” (1 Chron. 29:15) … like a “vanishing vapor” (James 1:10; 4:14).

Many times the truth was shared with the caregivers that there is a terminal illness in the world, and no one has made it out alive! A staggering thought … that if there is life after death (and there is), and if it is eternal (and it is), then the most important thing is to prepare for the future life—one that is eternal and not as “the blinking of the eye” here!

Many who do not hold to the Christian faith believe in life after death. Many, of course, do not. In one instance a doctor asked whether I was a “religious man” (I had a Gaither video on at the time). I told him that I was, and that I was “a follower of Jesus”. “Whom do you follow?” I asked him. Stunned by the question, this Ph.D. in nuclear science and M.D. said, “I follow no one.” With that I countered, pointing to him, that he did follow someone: himself! “You are a self-follower!” I asked him whom he would follow when it is “all over”. Silence … and he left the room almost suddenly. No matter how long or how we have lived … there is the grave and our eternal destiny with God!

4. The priorities of life.

In “setting my house in order” I came to a renewed realization of what is truly important. What we thought was important is not that important anymore. What is of temporal value—the material, the temporary—pales in significance next to the all-importance of the eternal … that which has lasting value. We are not talking here of the daily affairs of life, but of the value we place in them. Even in this life, relationships with family, friends, pastors, the Church, etc., take on a deeper meaning well beyond positions, titles, status in life, houses, lands, etc. (John 6:27, 12:24-26; Col. 3:5; 1 John 2:25).

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We again say, thank you for the love, support, prayers, and loving concern you have shown us through this “bump” in the road. It has been an incredible journey! Yet, the grace of God has sustained us. His loving care has warmed our hearts. You also have encouraged us by giving of yourselves in abundant love! We are grateful to the Lord and to you!

We have been humbled and honored by the Lord to experience Him in new ways this past year. Our “step” has been “ordered” by the Lord. The future is in His hands. We are sensing something different on the horizon. We ask you to continue to pray for us. Jesus is Lord! Maranatha!

Reuben & Carmen Sequeira
Isaiah 41:13; Phil. 1:3