1 It Is Written Script: 1368 Cancer, Friend or Foe Page 1 Cancer, Friend or Foe Program No SPEAKER: JOHN BRADSHAW There are some moments in your life that you never forget, things you know are going to change your life getting married; the birth of your first child; getting the job of your dreams. I've experienced all of those things and I can't ever forget how I felt at the time. But then there are times when your family and your faith are all you have to lean on. About 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. Lung cancer claims the most lives. Cancer is a fact of life. Medical experts tell us to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, to exercise well, to eat little or no red meat, drink little or no alcohol and quit smoking. But when you're relatively young, you live a healthy lifestyle, have a positive relationship with God, cancer isn't something you expect. But not long ago I heard words spoken to me that I never expected I would ever hear. The doctor said to me, "The news isn't good. It's cancer." Now, that will get your attention really quickly. Cancer means you could die. Depending on the type of cancer you're diagnosed with, it might even mean you are likely to die. I have a wife and two younger children, and now I'm learning that I could die. I'm in my forties. I never need to see a doctor. And yet now I could leave my wife a widow and my children fatherless. Not good. Today I want to share some of my experience with you, my journey, my still ongoing journey. You know, a cancer diagnosis raises a lot of questions, some of them pretty big questions. Not just questions of treatment options and family and life and death but really big-picture questions, such as, why me? Or, where was God when this happened? Why did God allow this to happen? What happens now? Maybe the biggest question of all: Where am I going to spend eternity if I die? Now that's a big question. Now, for me to come down with cancer, you know, cancer is something that always happens to other people. And now I m one of the other people. I was always strong, never sick, never weak. I was raised playing rugby. I played rugby into my early 20s. That's a man's game. I'm not here to tell you I was the hardest guy on the field, but that was the orientation of my life. Certainly never one to be sick, and now I'm not just sick, I have a disease a significant disease. I have cancer. What's going to happen now?
2 It Is Written Script: 1368 Cancer, Friend or Foe Page 2 Well, let me tell you this. One thing I've discovered along the way, and I want to encourage you with, is this: There are a lot of people with cancer. Everybody knows someone who has or has had, or most likely, has even died from cancer. There are plenty of people among us right now who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Even though this is a little bit dark for me to say, the truth is there are many people among us who will be diagnosed one day with cancer. Well, I want to tell you this: The truth is, especially for a believer in God, cancer isn't all bad news. Now, some people might find that hard to hear or hard to accept. But the truth is, it isn't. I'm here to tell you today, cancer simply isn't all bad news. Now, I was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. Now think about that, a preacher, a television presenter, and I have a tumor in my tongue. I was thinking, even praying, what do I do here? I need to do something. And I came home from the It Is Written office and the mail for the day was on the table in the kitchen. I was flipping through it and I found a postcard from a dentist, and it said on the postcard words to the effect: Mouth cancer. Don't mess with it. Get checked. And I thought man, this spot on my tongue. I don't want it to be mouth cancer. But if it is, I don't want to not get checked. And so I picked up the phone and I made an appointment and I went to see the dentist. And the dentist looked in my mouth and he called over his lovely assistant, and she looked in my mouth as well, and they went "Hmmm" for a few minutes. And then they said, "It's nothing. You don't need to worry about it." Now, I did get a second opinion, but if I were to be honest with you, I would have to admit that that wasn't my idea. Sometime after my first encounter with the dentist I was having lunch with a friend. He was also a dentist, providentially. He found out I was having a little discomfort in my mouth. He took a look, and he said, "You need to get that biopsied, yesterday." Well, that got my attention. I'll tell you what happened next, tell you how good God is. I had been invited to speak at a church. Funny enough, there were some who tried to talk me out of going. If they had, things would have turned out very differently. I spoke at the church, had a wonderful time. After the church service, the church family is having lunch. I'm invited to join them. It seems like there's nowhere to sit. Someone graciously clears out a place for my family and some friends who were with me, and I sit down. There's a long row of seats, and I sit down in one of them. Obviously I didn't sit down in two of them, but I sat down here. You know how good God is? Sitting directly opposite me was an ENT, an ear, nose and throat doctor. A head and neck surgeon, an expert in tumors. A man who does this all day long for a living. Well, we got talking. He looked inside my mouth. He said, "You need to get that biopsied." I said, "Can you do it?" He said, "My partner can." Three days later they took a little chunk out of my tongue and 10 days later, that man was operating on me. I mean, how good is God? He
3 It Is Written Script: 1368 Cancer, Friend or Foe Page 3 led me 100 miles from my home into a crowd of people I didn't know, and He sat me down directly opposite the man who would save my life. You see, that's how God works. Even when it appears things are going terribly, God is working for you. If you'll open your eyes and look, if you'll open your ears and listen, you will see God and you will hear God's voice, and you'll know that even when things look grim God is with you, and He's for you, and He's not against you. The Bible makes this clear. David wrote about it in the Psalms. It says this, in Psalm 139, verses 7 through 12: "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall fall on me, even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You." The surgery was extremely well done. God didn't plant me opposite just any surgeon, but opposite an extremely talented and very gifted surgeon. Things went well. And the hope was that surgery would be all I needed, no further treatments. Well, it didn't work out that way. Whereas we hoped it would be surgery and nothing else, it ended up being surgery and 33 radiation treatments. No chemotherapy needed, thank the Lord, but radiation. And radiation isn't necessarily any walk in the park. I'll never forget what my radiation doctor told me. He said, "There are some patients I have, they have radiation and they're completely unaware that anything is even taking place. Some of them say, 'Doctor, is the machine working, because I'm not actually feeling anything.' Now, that's good, if that's your experience." And he said to me, "But then, way far at the other end of the spectrum are those patients of mine who have radiation in their mouth." Way far at the other end of the spectrum. That's kind of sobering. Well, the first few treatments, no trouble at all. And again, thank God I was blessed by a wonderful radiation oncologist and a fantastic team. But then after a while I started to figure out what my doctor meant by "way far at the other end of the spectrum." After a while there was pain, and then, an inability to swallow. And while I don't want to give you all of the gory details, if you can't swallow, you can't eat. If you can't eat, you're going to lose weight. And sure, I lost weight, and then it becomes difficult to talk, and then, talking becomes impossible. However, here I am talking to you today. Which means that things have worked out well. At least, so far. So far. Now, there's a thought. I'll be back with more in just a moment.
4 It Is Written Script: 1368 Cancer, Friend or Foe Page 4 EVERY WORD It can be so easy to let discouragement sink into our experience with God. So it's important to know what God has said and to remember what He has not said. In Isaiah 45:19, God said, "I did not say to the seed of Jacob, seek me in vain." Now, Satan would like you think God doesn't hear your prayers and doesn't want you to come to Him. But God makes it plain to us that He will hear your prayer, and He does know what you're experiencing. Despondency and discouragement are enemies of faith. You can be assured today that God does answer prayer and that the person who seeks God will find Him. Don't make the mistake of believing circumstances more than you believe the promises of God. God never told you that your faith is in vain, and He never will. I'm John Bradshaw for It Is Written. Let's live today by Every Word. RETURN TO PROGRAM This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Today I'm sharing a little with you from my heart about my own personal experience with cancer: my enemy, and in some ways, my friend. With cancer treatment the goal is to make it five years from the end of treatment and then you can start talking about a cure. Until five years have passed, the fact is, you've pretty well just lived from scan to scan. Can that be unsettling? Well, it sort of depends on how you look at it. The goal with cancer treatment in many cases, not all but in most, is to kill all the cancer cells, because if you don't kill the cancer cells, the cancer cells will kill you. You start asking some pretty searching questions. Questions like, Maybe this is God's will for my life. Is this my time to go? You start wondering about your family, your children, your ministry in my case. Mostly, your family. And while being treated for cancer, more than once I asked myself, What if this treatment doesn't actually work? Well, the good news for me is, the physicians are telling me my cancer is in remission. That means, as far as we know, there are no more cancer cells floating around inside my body. It seems as though we've got them all. Now that's not a guarantee. The cancer could come back, but the educated hope right now is that it won't. Now, I recognize that remission and guarantee do not appear on the same page in the dictionary. I recognize that. But, right now, the news is absolutely as good as it can be. And I m thanking God for that. Now, I mentioned before, there are a couple of issues that I wanted to share with you, or go through with you, and one of them is this: When you learn you have cancer, one of the questions you ask yourself is, Where am I going to spend eternity? Because you start asking those life-and-death, eternal life and eternal death, questions. So where am I going to spend eternity? Well, I know the right answer: I've counseled, as a pastor, many people dealing with family members, or people who themselves are dealing with illness, even terminal illness. And I
5 It Is Written Script: 1368 Cancer, Friend or Foe Page 5 always tell them, You can have assurance. God is good. You can know that Jesus is with you. Well, now the boot's on the other foot, and I've got to ask myself if I believe my own message. Can I have assurance, knowing that it's possible my life could be ending? Well, sure. As a Christian minister, I know what to say. Do I have assurance? Yes, I do. But that question is followed by another question. And that question is: Upon what do you base your assurance? What makes you so sure that you will have everlasting life? Now, that's a good question to be asking yourself. I couldn't say, I'm going to go to heaven because I'm such a good guy, because I'm such a good person. Because that's not why anybody goes to heaven. Heaven isn't even for good people; heaven is for righteous people. So, what makes a person righteous? Well, we know the answer to that. The Bible makes clear that the only thing that makes us righteous, the only place we get righteousness from, is Jesus. If we have Jesus, then we have righteousness. If we have Jesus, then we have the gift of eternal life. I want to tell you something: I had never in my life been so thankful for Jesus Christ as when knowing that my life could be coming to an end, I had Jesus and therefore the very real assurance of everlasting life. First John 5 verse 12 says, "He that has the Son has life." So, if you know you have Jesus, you know you have life. And there I was. Thanking God more than ever before for Jesus, because having Christ in my life assured me that eternal life was truly mine. Now, if you don't really care about living forever, then I guess having Christ in your life isn't really important if you don't care about honoring God and pleasing God. But for me, that's what I care about. I do want to live forever, I do want to be in the presence of God, I do want to honor the One who gave Himself so that I might live. I want to experience eternity with my family. I want whatever it is God wants to give me, I want to receive because of the love that I have for God in my heart. And looking down through the years, the potentially very short years that my future, whatever was left of it, I could face the future with confidence, because I knew in my heart I had Jesus. And I want you to have that same confidence. If you know that Jesus really is yours, and you have Him by faith in your heart, then cancer, diabetes, heart disease, a stroke, whatever it might be, you can face the future with a confidence that comes from knowing that you belong to Jesus and He belongs to you. Second Peter 3 verse 9 says, "The Lord is not willing that any should perish." I mean, think about that. Isn't that magnificent? It's God's will that we be saved. It's God's will that we be blessed. The world is filled with people who view God as a tyrant, as somehow harsh and mean-spirited. But God's like the wealthy man who wants to give the poverty-stricken man a gazillion dollars, except salvation is
6 It Is Written Script: 1368 Cancer, Friend or Foe Page 6 worth so much more than that. God wants to bless us. You think you want to go to heaven? God wants you to be with Him in eternity infinitely more than you want to be there. God is good. Well, a cancer diagnosis can be pretty hard on a family. And I had to ask myself really early on what I would tell my children. At the time, they were 13 and 10. What do I tell them? How do I explain it to them? My wife and I made the decision that we would involve the children in every aspect of what was going on. So, I was very up front with them, told them what I was facing, told them what it might mean. They were very positive and were a huge source of strength for me. They came with me to all of my treatments, they came to all of my doctors' appointments. In fact, having them with me, made the atmosphere a lot lighter than otherwise it wouldn't have been. I have to tell you this: I was visiting the doctor in the doctor's office one day the radiation doctor. He's explaining various things to me, some complicated things, some very important things, and that's when he said, "Now, Mr. Bradshaw, I think you understand this. You're an intelligent man." I said, "Doctor stop. Stop." And I turned to my son and I said, "Son, you heard the doctor. It's official. He said I'm an intelligent man. That ought to settle it." My son didn't even miss a beat. He looked at me and he said, just like that, "Dad, I think we need a second opinion." Well, what are you going to do about that? Well, there are other questions that you've got to deal with when difficulty comes. What about worry? And what about the question, Why me? I was pastoring a church once when a dear older lady in the church contacted me. She said, "Pastor, come and visit me. I have something very important to tell you." I visited her didn't know what was on her mind. She was in really good spirits. She told me that the doctors had told her she had liver cancer, and that she only had a few months left to live. I said, "Well, how are you doing?" She said, "Well, Pastor, I've always tried to get cancer in a part of my body where I had two of something. I lost a breast. I lost an eye." It might have been that she lost a kidney, I don't remember. She said, "But I only have one liver." Her energy was just remarkable. I said, "So, how are you going to be?" She said, "You know, Pastor, and she looked at me with a sparkle in her one eye, and she said, "Jesus and me are going to get through this together." You know, when it comes to a setback in your life, cancer it could be anything really, something major it pays to have a really positive attitude. It helps you
7 It Is Written Script: 1368 Cancer, Friend or Foe Page 7 and it helps those around you. The Bible says in the Proverbs, Proverbs 17 verse 22: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine" (KJV). And that's really true. I've got a lot to be thankful for. Perhaps this is just another way of saying, count your blessings. People, get bitter, and they get angry with God. God can handle that. That's okay. But is it really necessary to get bitter with God? I mean, what's the worst thing that could happen? Well, the worst thing that could happen is that you could die. But let's be honest about this. What then? What then? You die, and then? Well, the Bible says this in First Thessalonians chapter 4: "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (KJV). Now, you stop and think about that. So shall we ever be with the Lord. When you look at the big picture, even when things are going really bad, things are actually pretty good. Paul said in Philippians 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." The fact is, God is with you in your trial, whether it's cancer, or diabetes, or heart disease or whatever it is. You see, these things are going to push you. They're going to push you one way or the other. They'll push you either closer to God, or further away from God. The thing is, you get to decide what direction they push you in. When life takes an unexpected turn, a difficult turn, a turn for what we might say is the worst, see, none of that changes the fact that God is good. God is good anyway, even when someone you love or care about is in a fight for their life. God is still good. The question is, where to from here? I can tell you that I consider myself to be profoundly blessed. Cancer hasn't been all bad. It's shown me many things that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to see. It's given me much that I would never have been able to get from anywhere else. So now, I'm committed to thanking God for every day that comes along. I'm grateful for the opportunities that come to me. I see them, I sense them, I appreciate them. I appreciate and love my family now more than I have ever before. It's onwards, really, and by the grace of God, upwards. It's my intention, my hope, to be here and ready to meet Jesus on the day that He comes back. If that's not to be, well, that's out of my hands. What is in my hands is to embrace the gift of salvation that God has given me. What is in my hands is to live with God in the very center of my life, looking
8 It Is Written Script: 1368 Cancer, Friend or Foe Page 8 forward to the great day when Jesus returns. So for now, the journey continues. And I'm grateful. Let's take a moment to pray together. PRAYER Our Father in heaven, we thank You today that You are good. Even when things look bad, You're good. We thank You that there is always hope, there is always a future, and that we can lean on You and trust in you, no matter what our circumstances. Give us that faith today, I pray, in Jesus' name, Amen. It Is Written PO Box 6, Chattanooga, TN USA Tel: Fax: