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Earl Marshall

Month: May 2019

2 Corinthians Through the Lens of Cancer: 2 Cor. 5

May 8, 2019

It has been a few days. I am in the middle of Chemo Round #3 Week. Monday, my hospital day, was long. The “hood” on the chemo drug mixing machine was not working properly so it pushed everything back. My 9:00am appointment turned into a 12:45 pm appointment and we did not get home until about 4:45pm. I think all of that set me back and made Tuesday that much more difficult. I was really out of it all day Tuesday. Today, May 8, I have more energy. Overall the week so far has been similar to previous treatment weeks so I am able to cope. I just don’t like going through it – that is basically it. I don’t enjoy trials.

This week I have been reflecting on 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and today I read 2 Corinthians 5. I can’t imagine a more concise chapter on ministry than 2 Corinthians 5. In 5:1-5 the Apostle Paul reminds us that while we are still in this tent, we groan (covering that feeling . . . so get that), being burdened . . . so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. I can relate to that. But note that the conclusion to all of this is NOT to give up but to press on. 5:6 he says, “so we are always of good courage.” 5:8 he says, “yes, we are of good courage.” Why does he say that? In 5:7 he notes that “we walk by faith and not by sight” and in 5:6 because “we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.”

Because of all of this “we make it our aim to please him.” Knowing that we will stand judgment we make it our aim to please him.

This was so timely for me . . . thank you Lord for this reminder that I must make it my aim to please you. No matter how many days I have on this earth and in this body, this tent that is being destroyed, I make it my aim to please you!

So how do I specifically do that? While I am suffering how do I please the Lord? Well there are many ways to do that but the direct application in this chapter is found in 5:11. “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord we persuade others.” The idea behind persuade is convince. This is a strong convicting word. The Apostle Paul picks this theme up again in 5:20 when he says that “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Pleasing God has everything to do with persuading others to be reconciled to God. Not that I am able to persuade anyone but there is a conviction that God wants to through me make his appeal. There is no lack of boldness in these words.

Why do we do this? Because of the fear of the Lord and because of the love of Christ that controls us, see 5:14. Even as we suffer our aim is to please the Lord and we do this by convincing others to be reconciled to God through Christ. We have no ability on our own to convince anyone. It is the Holy Spirit that does this. But we act/preach/communicate boldly. We are ambassadors of the King.

None of this is possible without the love of Jesus Christ. 5:21 reminds us that Christ knew no sin, God made him to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. That is amazing love!

So when you and I are suffering be of good courage and make it your aim to please the Lord by persuading others to be reconciled to God. We do this because we fear the Lord and when the love of Christ controls us. We implore others to be reconciled to God and experience in Christ being the righteousness of God.

This is an other-world, kingdom, way of thinking. Oh, to be able to see the daily grind of suffering with these kinds of spiritual eyes.

2 Corinthians Through the Lens of Cancer: 4:16-18

On May 4 I realized that I was starting to feel sorry for myself. It was amazing how a little thing like tingling in my finger tips set me off and got me thinking about the worst. I so needed 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 that morning and it is what God gave me for my daily meditation.

So we do not lose heart! There should be no give up or a discouragement that leads to stopping. This is the same idea that Jesus speaks to his disciples about prayer in Luke 18:1. We all have a tendency to get discouraged and give up. There is room for lament for sure. Lament is necessary. But even though our outer self is wasting away and indeed that is happening, to all of us and at different timetables, the question is, “is my inner self being renewed day by day?” Is the outer man so much of my focus that my inner man is not being renewed? There are these moments where I am realizing that the circumstances just take over. How do I see my inner soul renewed every day even when cancer and this treatment seems all pervasive?

I have to recategorize the cancer. It is a light and momentary affliction. Note first that it is an affliction. I am not saying I should ignore the affliction. It is a suffering that does not always feel light nor does it always seem to be momentary. Yet this is how the Apostle Paul categorizes his sufferings. The only way I can recategorize cancer like this is if I see the purpose behind it and the result of it.

I need a reason for my suffering. It is preparing. That word means to have an effort by labour or to achieve. It is used in passages like Romans 4:15; Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Corinthians 9:11; James 1:3. There is a reason for my suffering, for my cancer, and it has to do with preparation. I want to be careful here to not be so trite with suffering. This is not a “suck it up buttercup” statement. Suffering is painful, long, hard and recategorizing it and seeing a reason to it does not negate the pain. It is the miracle of God, however, to be able to experience purpose in the midst of the pain, to experience joy and trust in suffering.

The reason of preparation is a result, an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. This light and momentary affliction is preparing this result. We enter the kingdom of God through suffering. In comparison to the eternal weight of glory my cancer and suffering is a light and momentary affliction. There is no comparison to glory. Again, we enter the kingdom of God through suffering. The glory of the kingdom shines bright. Revelation 21 and 22 is so triumphant that it is beyond words. The image of the lamb shining the glory of God into every corner of the eternal city is too much to comprehend. It is crazy amazing!

Now all of this is not automatic. Just because someone is suffering does not mean that it will automatically produce this result. There is a note of faithfulness in these verses. There is a response that is necessary. How I see is the difference. What my mind and heart are focused on is what is important. We look not at the things that are transient or momentary but on the things that are eternal. So in the midst of the pain and suffering we are called upon to focus our attention not on the momentary but the eternal. My mind and heart need to be focused on the things that God is doing for me now and in the future that are eternal. Things like shaping my character and making me more like his Son and my eternal rest. All of these are motivation to see these verses true in my life.

It comes down to an affirmation of priority – what is of greatest value and what I believe is most important. This is how my inner self is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians Through the Lens of Cancer: 1:5-7

It has been a while since I originally read these verses as part of my journey through 2 Corinthians with cancer but they are even more important to me tonight. I am starting to begin to feel the cumulative effects of cancer treatment. I am thankful for how God is faithfully carrying me through the challenge. After my first round I found the rebound of the two weeks after the chemo treatment week to be such that I felt good strength. After my second round the rebound was not as strong and I can now begin to see that this journey may very well be a steady decline. I believe I am up for this with the strength of the Holy Spirit in my life. When I am weak is when God’s strength is on display. I believe that.

Now this is where the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:6 ring true for me. He says that comfort comes when we patiently endure the sufferings. Paul is speaking to the Corinthian church and the suffering that they are going through that is common to Paul’s. I know this is different than my suffering but the applicational principle is true.

Comfort comes when you patiently endure in the suffering!

There is no short pathway to comfort. The kind of comfort that God gives comes through patient endurance in the suffering. There are many forms of comfort. There is the comfort of relief that you get when the struggle is removed. So many of us wish the circumstances that we face could just be gone from our lives. There is the comfort of distraction. Most of us understand that the brokenness that life brings does not just disappear and that is when some look for a temporary comfort through distraction. Looking for anything that can numb the pain or even for a short period of time transport you to another kind of reality. Some turn to abusive behaviours that eventually wear off. There is the comfort of patient endurance. This is the kind of comfort that 2 Corinthians 1:6 is talking about. This is what I long for. This is God’s comfort. This is normally a comfort found in the midst of the pain. I don’t believe that Paul is speaking of comfort as an end to the suffering but I do believe he is speaking to a comfort that is found in the suffering. To share in God’s comfort means to share in the sufferings.

All of this is accessible in our lives when we patiently endure.

I so needed to read that again tonight. No comfort without patient endurance.

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