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Earl Marshall

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2 Corinthians Through the Lens of Cancer: 1:3-4

1:3

God is blessed. This is a word of worship not a literal understanding that God is blessed but that we are to bless him, worship him. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is my Father. He is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. It is precisely because of his mercies that I am comforted or comfort is one of his mercies. I so need to know this. In the midst of uncertainty and even fear God is merciful with his comfort.

1:4

How does God comfort us? In all of our affliction is the sphere of his comfort. 1:8 gives a clearer context of what the Apostle Paul is speaking about but I share in the general overtone of this word – in ALL our AFFLICTION.

It is interesting for me to consider how God comforts us in all of our affliction. In this time since I have heard the words “you have cancer” I have found the comfort of God comes from various sources. The Word of God has been a great source of comfort. Being reminded of God’s promises and his character has been life giving for me. The power of lament has also been renewed in my life. I found myself the other night listening to a sermon on healing with tears running down my faith knowing that God can, is able, and the question is ultimately about his will. I like the Apostle Paul wish this thorn could be taken from me. Lamenting, “how long O Lord” has helped me receive comfort for my soul. I am beginning to read Dark Clouds Deep Mercy as a companion to my reading in 2 Corinthians. The second source of God’s comfort in my life has been God’s people. I will never forget the night last week when a small group we were part of five years ago FaceTimed Brenda and I to pray over us. The prayers of faith and the crying out to God on our behalf by those who are old in the faith and those young in the faith have been such a source of encouragement. The food dropped off at our home has been a great comfort. The church staff have been an amazing support and encouragement. God is at work in all of this.

There is no limit to the comfort of God . . . nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Lord is our shepherd and I shall not want. I am comforted.

In the midst of the cancer is where I will know God’s comfort. The joy, peace and patience I am asking God for will be found in the midst of the affliction. These comforts are not found separate from the affliction but are found in the affliction. I will, no doubt, experience the greatness of God’s comfort as I am afflicted. Indeed there seems little need for comfort apart from the affliction.

Why does God comfort us?

So that I may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction. Paul recognized that his suffering in the faith was so that he would be able to comfort those who were in any affliction. The comfort, although experienced by the apostle and directed to Paul by God, was for the purpose of ministry to others. This cancer experience is full of purpose. I refuse to see this any other way. I must embrace my calling to help others with this. God’s comfort can not stop with me it must extend to others. And the comfort that I extend must be the comfort I received from God. This is so important. No pious platitudes but truly the comfort that God has given to me.

2 Corinthians Through the Lens of Cancer: Introduction

It is not lost on me that persecution and suffering for the faith makes up the context of many of the NT Gospels and epistles. I did not have to choose 2 Corinthians to do this reflection. I could have chosen 1 Peter or The Revelation for that matter. But I have chosen 2 Corinthians because of the personal nature of the book. When I read 2 Corinthians it feels like the Job of the New Testament. Paul is writing throughout 2 Corinthians his personal reflections as he suffers for the sake of the gospel.

I do not pretend to believe that my context, cancer, is identical to the Apostle Paul’s. His suffering is much deeper than mine and is a consequence of his faith and calling. My cancer is a consequence of sin, not personal, and the brokenness of this world. These are two very different things and situations. I do share with the Apostle Paul the pain of circumstances and the reality of facing death. I do acknowledge the same comfort from the same Father. In these things we stand side by side.

I am blessed to walk, then in the Apostle Paul’s footsteps.

2 Corinthians Through the Lens of Cancer is not an exegetical commentary but a commentary of the intersection of life and the biblical text. It is my hope that this journey will prove to be a catharsis of my soul. I am in no rush to make my way through 2 Corinthians. I am on schedule to complete my cancer treatment some time in July 2019. This will be a long and slow walk through my cancer treatment with 2 Corinthians being my constant companion. I hope it will be a blessing to me and to others who stumble across the content of these posts.

Week Two Update

Week one of the cancer treatment was difficult. The Cancer Team communicated all of the potential side effects ahead of time and thankfully I did not experience all of them. Receiving the treatment in the hospital was actually the easiest part of the first week, minus the bruises I now have on my arms from failed intravenous attempts. The worst part of the week was the latter half of the week after receiving my Neulasta needle. I am grateful for the boost in production of my white blood cell count but I felt just absolutely lousy for most of the week. Weak, nausea, brutal insomnia, inflamed mid-section, what felt like an advanced heart rate at night . . . just crazy. I am looking forward to talking to my doctor about all of this next week as I get ready for Round 2 to begin.

I am in week two. I am affectionately calling it the first week of a two week vacation from my cancer treatment. I don’t take any drugs this week or next and the biggest challenge has been sleep. Every day seems to get a bit better. I am so thankful for that. So far I have been able to keep on working. I am off the treatment weeks but I have been trying to do 5 hour days at the church office. I love the people I work with and getting to interact in decision making and ministry even if at a reduced level. This has been helpful for my spirits.

I am so grateful for the many who have maintained contact with me and are praying for both Brenda and I. We are blessed with the many who care deeply about and for us.

God is answering prayers.

Please pray for the beginning of Round 2 on April 15. This is the hardest thing right now, knowing that I have to go through this again.

A Prayer For The Sick from The Sick

Heavenly Father,

We give you praise because we know that your steadfast love endures forever. We know that there is nothing that separates those of us who are in Christ from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8). Nothing, not even death itself, separates us from your steadfast love.

We give you praise because we know that you are good. You are a stronghold in the day of trouble and you know who takes refuge in you (Nahum 1:7). We pray for those of us who are sick that we will find refuge in you.

We give you praise because we know that you are the Lord who heals. You called yourself the healer in Exodus 15 so we believe that you are the healer.

We trust in you Lord!

We pray for healing. Please Lord, heal us of our sickness for your glory.

Even as we pray for physical healing we pray for a deeper kind of healing.

We pray that we would trust in the goodness of your sovereignty. Help us to know how good your plan and control is.

We ask that you make this time of illness and suffering an opportunity for ministry. As you comfort us in affliction may we be able comfort hose who are in any affliction with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4). Help us to be ministers of the Gospel to those who are around us.

Please Lord let us experience your grace that is sufficient for us, knowing that your power is made perfect in weakness . . . For the sake of Christ help us to be content with our weakness knowing that when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

We know that this battle is physical but even more it is a battle for our minds and our hearts. Father, help us to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) and put on the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6) as we fight against the enemy – the evil one himself, Satan. Keep us faithful, knowing that he who has begun a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

In Jesus name and for your glory,

Amen.

Round One Done

Thankful for the past two days and the treatment that I received at Joseph Brant Hospital. Staff was great.

God was so gracious with many little and big things. I am constantly reminded of His care, faithfulness, and steadfast love. It is true that the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want. Even in the valley of the shadow of death there is so much to celebrate.

I am definitely at the beginning of this journey but I am thankful for this start.

I have never been a quilt kind of guy but when I got this today I understood the importance of these not so little gestures to cancer patients in many of our hospitals across this great country. So blessed!

This Is Happening

It is Monday March 25, 2019

This morning I got up, ate breakfast and headed off to the hospital. It is happening! This morning was such a raw moment. The surreal became real. Although not beyond the level of possibility in my mind, I just did not envision cancer as part of my life story at this point in my life. But that all changed today.

I am thankful for the past number of days where I was able to give my emotional responses to my Lord . Waiting has been the hardest part up to this point. Now the waiting is over and the wondering about what is going to happen to my body begins. I am so thankful for Jesus Christ and his ongoing presence in my life. His Spirit is carrying me through the challenges. I am asking for fruit of the Spirit during this time – joy, peace, patience. Today those prayers started to be answered. The prayers of God’s saints are being answered. So grateful.

 

And in honour of my Dookies and Zion’s blowout I bought myself a new pair of shoes. I am calling them my “cancer kicks” – got to have a sense of humour.

It Is Well With My Soul

No one ever plans on having cancer.

It is no respecter of persons, and as it turns out even this 57 year old.

I have to admit it all feels so surreal. But I heard the words “you have cancer” come out of the mouth of a doctor addressed towards me, no one else, just me. I am used to thinking of cancer as something someone else deals with. I have learned this past month that there are many who are indeed dealing with this curse of sin, the brokenness of our world. It is like when you buy a new car and then you realize how many other people have the same make and model already on the road. What you thought as unique to you is not that unique at all.

I have spoken with young and old and I have heard so many stories of faith, the triumph of the soul in the midst of great uncertainty. The Spirit, the power of God, is indeed at work in our weakness.

Someone recently asked me, “how are you feeling about it?”

This is a struggle. Yes it is physical but the greatest battle is in my mind and heart. The war as always is not primarily physical it is spiritual. The enemy longs to win even as we who are in Christ long to overcome. To rest in God’s sovereignty is the greatest privilege. To believe that He is all is so freeing. To know that for me to live is Christ but to die is gain is joyful.

This is an opportunity. In the face of death what greater way to glorify God than to live for Christ empowered by the Spirit. An opportunity to live today within the reality of my greatest hope, eternity. I will soon begin chemo and no doubt experience many of the not so wanted side effects. I know I am not alone in facing these kind of challenges. May it be so every day for as long as we have breath to live for Christ.

“The Lord is good a stronghold in the day of trouble and he knows those who take refuge in Him” – Nahum 1:7

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Home

Many have asked for an update of what is next for us.

We are pleased to be moving back to Canada where I will serve as the Interim Canadian Regional Director for HBF Canada based out of Harvest Bible Chapel in Oakville.

As difficult and challenging July has been we are hopeful that August will bring more answers than questions as we move from Chicago to the Oakville area.

We are thankful for the opportunity to serve the Church in Canada and continue to pray for revival for our great nation from sea to sea to sea.

 

 

 

 

 

Hope and Loss

July has come and gone . . . glad to see it go.

Ministry position ended, relationships changing, and the death of my mother.

Some necessary endings others shockingly difficult.

It has been hard but there is hope.

“He (God) rewards those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

“Who (God) comforts us in our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

 

Next Steps

The past few days I have received texts and phone calls from many people expressing care for us and asking about our next steps. Thank you. While it could be applied in different ways the following indicates my desire for what is next.

Objective:

To serve our Lord Jesus Christ and glorify his name by stewarding the ministry capacity that he has given to me in a local church with a vertical church ministry philosophy

Preaching and Teaching – 2 Timothy 4:2

  • Engaging in the regular preaching and teaching of God’s Word in a local church congregation and beyond

Multiplying – 2 Timothy 2:2

  • Brenda and I together investing in, equipping, encouraging, and mentoring church leaders, pastors and their wives
  • Working beyond a primary local congregation helping other churches reach their ministry capacity

Leading

  • Participating on a senior leadership team working collaboratively together and dependently on the Lord for the oversight and direction of ministry in the local church

All for the glory of God and so grateful to be able to serve the King.

 

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