Using Scripture to
Deal with Difficulties

By James L. Morrisson



"The word of God, which is at work in you who believe." 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

When bad news comes, or difficulties arise, how do you deal with them. One thing which can be very helpful is to turn to Scripture. It is remarkable how much guidance, encouragement and comfort can be found in the words of Scripture.

The following is an account of how Scripture has helped me when I received some quite bad news about my physical health.

On Monday, July 7, 2003 I received a report from a CT scan that showed six masses on my liver that were probably cancerous. (A later scan also showed two spots in the lungs that may be cancerous.) Last October I had a cancerous tumor removed from my colon. The surgeon thought he had gotten all the cancer. I took chemotherapy to make sure, and I was believing that there was no more cancer in my body. So this news, while not totally unexpected, was very much of a surprise.

The medical prognosis for colon cancer that spreads to the liver is not good. My oncologist (cancer doctor) said that the most I could expect with chemotherapy was that the treatment could shrink but not remove the cancerous masses. He said that I might be able to live another one to three years. For an otherwise healthy man this was pretty discouraging.

How do you deal with news like this? We (my wife, my daughter and I) turned to Scripture. Scripture is life-giving. It is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). "Your word has given me life" (Psalm 119:50 NKJV). It works in us (1 Thessalonians 2:13; see James 1:21). It is "useful" (2 Timothy 3:16). It is remarkably specific and practical. (All Scriptures are from the New International Version unless otherwise indicated.)

I thought that it might be helpful to others for me to give an account of how Scripture has helped us in this situation. It is also helpful for me to put these things down on paper and to declare them publicly, so as to fix them in my mind.

In what follows I have tried, to the best of my recollection, to tell some of the highlights of what we found in Scripture during a period of about two weeks after learning this news. I have tried to do so in the order in which it came. I may not always recall that order correctly, but I don't think the sequence matters much. The important thing is what we found in Scripture, and how Scripture encouraged and strengthened us. The process has continued after those two weeks, although less intensely, bringing to mind other Scriptures. We have also kept referring to all these Scriptures in our prayers and conversations. I hope that what I have recorded will suffice to encourage others to turn to Scripture when faced with difficulties of any kind. Scripture deals with everything we may face. God "has given us everything we need for life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). He hasn't left anything out.

It does not take any special skill or knowledge to do this. All it takes is a willingness to believe the words of Scripture and to let them change your attitudes and way of thinking. I happen to know Scripture fairly well, and to have some good research tools, but these are not necessary. Simply use whatever Scripture you do know..Start reading Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to show you what he wants to show you. If you don't know where to start, start reading in Psalms. Go to Bible studies and church services, listen to tapes and Bible radio broadcasts, and you will quite often hear something that applies to your situation and that gets you started on further reading of your own. I found it helpful to read Scripture aloud with my wife and daughter; the interaction often brought new insights. Quite often our reading was interspersed with prayer, or ended in prayer.

We also prayed through Scripture. For those not familiar with this let me give a brief example. Psalm 46:1-2 reads, in part, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear... " In praying through this, we might say something like the following. (Where I paraphrase other Scriptures I have added the references for the reader's convenience. I would not interrupt prayer time to look them up.):

"We thank you, God, that when things get to be too much for us, when we start to feel defeated, we can come to you and you will be our refuge. You will give us shelter and protection. We thank you that you are our strength. We don't have to deal with this in our own strength. We have your incomparably great power (Ephesians 1:19) in us. We can be strong in you and in your mighty power (Ephesians 6:10). We can do all things through you who strengthen us (Philippians 4:13). We thank you, Lord, that you are an ever-present help in trouble. You are always there when we need you. You don't always take the trouble away, but you help us in it. You make it possible for us to handle it. You are with us even in the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). Therefore we will not fear. We will not fear! Whatever happens, whatever we have to face, we will not fear! You have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). We will not fear!" You could extend the prayer through this passage to considerably greater length. Just let yourself go. Shout, if you feel like it. And if you refer to other Scriptures, don't worry about whether you are quoting exactly. God knows what he has written in his Scripture! Just let the prayer flow.

Others might find different things in the Scriptures we used, or might, in similar circumstances, be led to different Scriptures. What I am primarily interested in showing is the process which we used, as an example to encourage others to find their own way of doing it. .

Some of what God showed us confirmed things we already knew. Some of it involved new discoveries. I have gone into some detail, because it is often in the detail that the power of Scripture is most manifest. But I have not attempted to cover everything God showed us. We also listened to a wonderful series of tapes by Malcolm Smith, and had other meetings and conversations which were helpful. But our emphasis was on the words of Scripture.

I want to make one other thing clear. This is an account of the things I feel God has been showing me over a brief period of time. It is a record of how my own thinking about my situation developed during that time. It is not a systematic attempt to define a doctrine for dealing with medical news such as I received. At times God showed me one truth from his Scripture; at other times he showed me another. I have not tried to reconcile them all. I have generally avoided putting in all the qualifications that one might want to state, because I wanted this to be, as best I could make it, a record of how God has dealt with me.

In conversations with my wife and daughter we often deliberately repeated many of the same Scriptures and the same assurances. I think we need that kind of repetition in order to "engraft" the Scripture into our very being. We need it in order to cancel the world's teachings, which keep coming at us, and which are not based on Scripture. We need repetition in order to build God's truth into us so strongly that it cannot be shaken when difficulties and discouragements come, as they will. In what I have written here, I have tried to avoid much of that repetition.

Our church has an active intercessory ministry. We informed them of our situation from the start and they been have praying for us. Many friends and family members are also praying for us. A surprising number of people have been praying for us. We have felt greatly lifted up by prayer. Intercessory prayer is one of our greatest resources as Christians.

Did all that we got come from God? I can't be sure. I don't really think it matters, so long as it is in accordance with his will. But my sense is that it was God who led us to particular passages of Scripture, and who showed us things in them that we had not seen before.


We read, and prayed through, some Psalms, starting with Psalm 103: "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's" (vv. 1-5).

God is still our healer. He can heal any disease. The Old Testament records a number of healings by God. The New Testament records many healings. God heals today. Jesus told his disciples, "Anyone who has faith in me will do the things I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these" (John 14:12). One of the things Jesus had been doing was to let the healing power of God flow through him so that every kind of sickness and disease was healed. And he tells us that today those who have faith in him can do the same. His healing power can work through me. It can work through others who pray for me.

Psalm 103 has many other wonderful statements. Let me just mention two. God loves us. "From everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him" (v. 17). God is all-powerful. "The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all" (v. 19). Both of these are very good to know.

God rules. He is in control. He is bigger than any problem we have. He is bigger than the cancer cells in my body. God is bigger. And he loves me. He desires what is good for me.

Psalm 91 is a wonderful Psalm of promise. I shall only mention a few highlights that struck us as we read it. "Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare, and from the deadly pestilence" (v. 3). "You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday" (vv. 5-6). The Hebrew word translated "pestilence" can mean an illness that results in death. God protects people from deadly diseases. Because we have God, we do not need to fear such diseases.

"A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you" (v. 7). Medical statistics may say that my chances of surviving are not good. Thousands in the same situation have died. Thousands have fallen, but that does not mean that I will. God's promise to the one who "dwells in the shelter of the most high" is that statistics are not controlling. God will protect that person and he need not fear. That is good news.

"'Because he loves me', says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation'" (vv. 14-16). God will be with me in trouble. He will rescue me, protect me and deliver me. He will give me long life. I will hold on to these promises.

Psalm 46 is also powerful. "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear" (vv. 1-2). It goes on to say that we will not fear "though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea" which is a pretty frightening thing to have happen. But the point is that, whatever may happen, we will not fear! God is our refuge and strength, and God is bigger than anything that can happen to us. Our strength comes from one who is all-powerful and all-good. Therefore we will not fear.

I want to add something else here, although I think the idea came to us later. Cancer seems demonic. It starts in disobedience. The cancer cell does not grow and develop as it is supposed to, as it is programmed to. It rebels. Satan's fall originated in rebellion. And the cancer cell destroys other cells, with which it is supposed to live in harmony. Satan comes to "steal, kill and destroy" (John 10:10). So the cancer cell is like satan.

I say this to lay the premise for applying another powerful Scripture to my situation. Jesus told his 12 disciples (and by implication all who are his disciples), "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you" (Luke 10:19). So we have authority to overcome all the power of the enemy. I think this means that we, who believe in Jesus Christ and have him living in us, have authority to overcome all the power of cancer. In my prayers I have taken authority over the cancer and told it, in the name of Jesus and by his authority, to leave my body.


This evening I went to our church's Men's Ministry. I told them about my situation and they prayed with me. The prayer was powerful and I was moved by their love and their faith.

Then, in our family time together, we got into Philippians. In chapter 3 Paul tells us, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8). That was encouraging. I believe my wife, daughter and I do know Christ, and we are getting to know him better. Indeed, this medical news has helped us to get to know Christ better. Whatever happens, nothing can take that from us (see Romans 8:35-39). And that is the most important thing of all.

In Philippians chapter 4, writing from a Roman jail while awaiting trial for his life, Paul tells us "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!" (v. 4). Elsewhere he wrote, "Be joyful always; pray continuously; give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Our joy, our thanksgiving, do not depend on the changing circumstances. They depend on our relationship with an unchanging God.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

God gives us a much better alternative to worry. It is prayer. We cast our cares on God, knowing that he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). When we do so, we will have peace instead of worry. We will have a wonderful peace which guards our hearts and minds. The image is a military one. It is that of a sentry, standing guard over our hearts and minds, and not allowing anything undesirable to get in.

How does God's peace "transcend all understanding"? We humans, in our limited human understanding, look at the circumstances around us. We try to figure out what we will do if this happens, or that happens, or something else happens. We sometimes fall into despair, feeling that there is nothing we can do. The peace that God gives us goes beyond all this. It does not depend on the circumstances, or on us. Whatever the circumstances may be, God is bigger and God is in control.

Here is the key to this whole wonderful passage. We don't need to worry about the circumstances. God is bigger than the circumstances. God is all-powerful and all-good. He has plans and purposes for each of us (see Jeremiah 29:11). We were "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10). "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). God "works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). God's purposes will be carried out (Job 42:2; Isaiah 14:24, 27, 46:10-11, 55:11).

What God has done is to free us from being dependent on the circumstances around us. This is wonderful. We cannot control our circumstances. Unexpected things happen. Sometimes they seem very bad. But the circumstances are not in control. God is. He will not let us have to handle more than we can bear. And whatever our problems, he is there with us to help us handle them. He is "an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). God will be with us in trouble (Psalm 91:15). Even when we walk in the shadow of death, he is with us (Psalm 23:4). He strengthens, empowers, and encourages us.

Paul is not saying that we should ignore or belittle the circumstances, or wish them away. The circumstances are there and we need to face them. The cancer in my body is very real and very life-threatening. We need to face those facts. But we also need to be very sure that God is bigger than those facts. He is able to change those facts. God, who created the universe, can heal or replace a liver. Nothing is impossible for him. This, also, is a fact which we need to recognize. It is a fact that is more real than any of the medical circumstances.

I thank God for the wonderful medical knowledge that is available to us. I intend to use every resource that medicine has to offer. It is "after you have done everything" that we take our stand spiritually (Ephesians 6:13). But as Christians we have an additional resource that medical science, in general, tends not to take into account. That is the fact that God IS, that he is all-powerful and all-wise, that he heals us, and that nothing is too difficult for him.

One thing struck me as I was reading this passage. Paul does not say that our peace comes as God answers our prayers. He says that our peace comes as we pray. Our peace does not depend on how God answers our prayers. It does not depend on whether he does for us the things we would like him to do. It depends simply on the fact that we have submitted the matter to God, that we know that he is a great and good God, and that we know that whatever he allows to happen will be for our good.

When King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw the three young Israelites into the furnace they replied, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:17-18). Their faith, and their peace, did not depend on how God answered their prayer. It depended on who God is.

Let me be quite specific about this. In our Western society we have a great fear of death. Many feel that death is the worst possible thing that can happen. A believing Christian need not fear death. Jesus has freed "those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Hebrews 2:15). Paul wrote, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). Earlier in Philippians he had written, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain... I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body" (1 Philippians 1:21, 23). We should not seek death, but we should not fear it.

For a believing Christian, death is merely a change in state. The body dies, but the spirit goes on to be with Christ. Eventually we will be given a resurrected body. We all must die. It's just a question of when. So we can be content to accept God's timing, whatever that may be.

I believe with all my heart that God can heal me. His word says that he "heals all your diseases" (Psalm 103:3). It says, "With his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5 KJV). (The stripes are the strokes of the whip that Jesus endured before he was crucified.) I believe that God will heal me. I intend to do everything I can, at both the spiritual and the medical levels, to receive that healing. We are praying for complete healing and so are many others.

But I am also saying that God is sovereign. No matter what God decides to do, I know that the result will be all right, because "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

Let us return to Philippians, chapter 4. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things" (verse 8). Here is another reason not to worry. When we worry we are thinking about unpleasant possibilities, terrible things that could happen, etc. These are not the kinds of things we should let our minds dwell on. We need to be aware of them. We must not pretend that they don't exist. But we should not dwell on them.

Paul then says "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation" (verses 11-12). The circumstances around me just now are real. I am quite aware of them. But I am not at their mercy. I can rise above them. My contentment does not depend on the circumstances. It depends on my relationship with God who is both faithful and unchanging.

And so Paul makes the triumphant statement, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (verse 13). I am bold to say the same. I have God's "incomparably great power" (Ephesians 1:19) working within me. I am "strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Ephesians 6:10). In God's power, I can handle this situation.

Finally Paul says, "My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (verse 19). The context is that of financial needs, but I think the principle applies more broadly. God will meet all our need to be able to handle this situation.

We went on to read from the epistle of John. "Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:4-5). Paul wrote that we are "More than conquerors" (Romans 8:37).

We can be overcomers because we are not at the mercy of the circumstances. We are not at the mercy of anything men can do. We are not at the mercy of any disease or illness. These may damage or destroy our physical body, but our essence, our spirit, remains untouched. We are under the care and protection of a loving God who is all-powerful and all-good.

One example of an overcomer was Paul. He wrote, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Winston Churchill said much the same when he told a group of boys, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." As Paul said, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me".

I believe with all my heart that we shall overcome this situation.

We ended our session by singing some songs of praise to God. "What a Mighty God We Serve".


We listened to a tape which emphasized the extraordinary love that God has for us. His love depends, not on who we are, but on who he is. He loves us because it is his nature to love, and not because of any special merit that we have.

I find this helpful. All too often the enemy tries to plant in us the thought, "You're not worthy. God doesn't love you. His promises don't apply to you, because you are not worthy. He may do miracles for others, but he won't do them for you because you're not worthy." The answer to that lie is simple. It is, "That's right, I'm not worthy. No one is. But God loves us despite our unworthiness. God has entered into covenant with us despite our unworthiness. God heals us despite our unworthiness. It's not a question of my worthiness; it's a question of God's love."

We read from 2 Chronicles chapter 20. King Jehoshaphat of Judah (the southern kingdom) learned that "a vast army" was coming to make war on Judah. "Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord" (v. 3). The people gathered and the king prayed. He ended his prayer with these words, "We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you" (v. 12).

Then a prophet named Jahaziel said, "This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God's... Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you'" (verses 15,. 17). Jehoshaphat and the people worshiped God. The next morning they went out to meet the enemy. Jehoshaphat told his people, "Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful" (v. 20). They marched out, with singers and praisers at the head of the army, singing, "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever" (v. 21). And God "set ambushes" against the enemy so that they turned on each other and killed each other. Not a man in the enemy army was left alive. For three days the Judeans picked up the plunder. Then they came back to Jerusalem and praised God. The account ends, "The fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side" (vv. 29-30).

What a marvelous account!

Here was a situation which looked impossible. Jehoshaphat, a strong king, said publicly "We have no power to face this vast army." But then God, through his prophet, said "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God's." And God gave Jehoshaphat a tremendous victory.

Medically, the odds of my recovering from this cancer are poor. But I believe that God is saying to me, "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast assault on your body. For the battle is not yours, but God's."

God likes to work against the odds, so that we can be sure that it is God who has done it and not we ourselves. He likes to do things that are impossible for us. "What is impossible with men is possible with God" (Luke 18:27). God gave military victories, against impossible odds, to Jehoshaphat, to Asa (2 Chronicles, chapter 14) and to Gideon (Judges, chapter 7). David, a shepherd boy, armed only with a sling and his faith in God, defeated the Philistine giant. God gave Abraham and Sarah a child when it was physically impossible for them to have children. God raised Lazarus from the dead after his body had been decomposing for four days. God gave a baby to Mary although she had never known a man. God does amazing things. With God nothing is impossible. With God there is always hope.

In life we may encounter circumstances that seem impossible. And then we can say, "But God... " Jehoshaphat's situation looked impossible. But God gave him the victory. It was impossible for a teenaged boy, with no battle experience, to defeat the 9 foot tall Philistine giant who had all of Saul's armies terrified. But God gave David the victory over Goliath. It was totally impossible that Lazarus, after 4 days in the grave, could be brought back to life. But God did it. Medically my cancer looks incurable. But God can heal it and I believe he will.

David had his priorities right. He said, to the terrifying Philistine giant, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me... All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands" (1 Samuel 17:45, 47). So I say to this cancer, "The battle is the Lord's and he will give me the victory."

Let us look more closely at the situation with Abraham and Sarah When their son Isaac was born, Abraham was 100 and his wife Sarah was 90 and had been barren all her life. What was the medical probability that they would have a son? And yet they did.

Paul wrote of this, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead - since he was about a hundred years old - and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why 'it was credited to him as righteousness.'" (Romans 4:18-22). Hebrews adds, "By faith Abraham, even though he was past age - and Sarah herself was barren - was enabled to become a father, because he considered him faithful who had made the promise" (Hebrews 11:11).

What does it mean, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed"? Biblical hope is not wishful thinking. It is confident expectation, based on the truth of Scripture and of God's word. Abraham had a confident expectation, based on the world's thinking and experience, that he and Sarah could not possibly have a child. But, over against that, was the promise of God that he would have a child, and that through that child many nations would be blessed. Abraham chose to put his confident expectation in God's promise, God's power, and God's faithfulness. And because his faith did not waver, his confident expectation came about. In the same way, "against all hope", against the medical predictions, we have a confident expectation that God can and will heal me.

The key, I believe, is faith. I do not mean wishful thinking, or, as the old saying goes, "believing what you know is not so." I mean a real faith in a fact which is more important and more relevant than anything the doctors may say, the fact that God is all-powerful and nothing is impossible for him. Medical science is valid, but only God is absolutely true.

Jehoshaphat trusted in the Lord. David trusted in the Lord. Abraham's faith did not weaken, he "did not waver through unbelief" and he was "strengthened in his faith". I need to hold on to that unwavering faith.

We looked at two other Scriptures about faith. Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:31-32). Some years later, this same "Simon, Simon" wrote to Christian believers, "For a little while you may have had to suffer grief and trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6-7). I believe that this present trial that has come upon me has come in order that my faith may be proved genuine. I believe that the outcome will result in praise, glory and honor to God. But I think faith is the key. I will do all that I can medically. "After you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13). I need to do everything my doctor knows to do. But then I need to add to that, an unshakeable faith that God is both able and willing to heal me.


We listened to another tape. 2 Chronicles chapter 14 tells of the time when King Asa, of Judah, learned that an Ethiopian army at least twice the size of his army, with 300 chariots, was approaching. "Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, 'Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O Lord, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you" (v. 11). "The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah" (v. 12). They fled and were crushed and Asa's army carried off great plunder.

The point is that Asa faced the enemy. He did not deny that the enemy was coming. He did not deny that the enemy was much more powerful than he was. He did not weep and wail and cry "Why is this happening to me, Lord? I've been a good king; I've served you faithfully. Why are you allowing this to happen?" He faced his problem realistically. But he also had faith that God both could and would deliver him from it.

This is important. God is a God of truth. If the circumstances are difficult or discouraging, we need to recognize them and face them. We need to find out all we can about them, even though that may increase the apparent difficulties. But then we need to go on and say, "But God..." We need to recognize and face the facts fully, and then say "God is bigger, and nothing is impossible for him." God welcomes it when we call on him because we are powerless. When we trust in our own strength, we are apt to become proud, and God opposes the proud (James 4:6; see Proverbs 3:34). It is when we come to God and say, as Jehoshaphat did, "we have no power to face this vast army", that God is most likely to act.

Look at the example Paul has given us. He wrote that at one point "we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril and he will deliver us" (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). Paul recognized the difficulties. He knew that he couldn't handle them. And he knew that God had delivered him out of what seemed an impossible situation.

In the same way, I am seeking to face the facts. I have asked my doctor to be completely frank with me. I want to know everything that I need to know about my situation, as he sees it. But then I add to that a further fact. God is in control; God is all-powerful; and nothing is too difficult for God.

We went to church that night. A powerful message on hope, followed by ministry to those who wanted a closer relationship to God but had some long-standing things in their lives that blocked that relationship and that they wanted to be freed from. Our pastor several times laid his hands on me and spoke words of prayer and encouragement.


We met with our pastor. He told me that he did not have any sense that it was my time to go to be with God. Rather, he sensed strongly that God has more work for me to do here on earth. He believes that God will keep me here so that I can do what he is calling on me to do. I have sensed the same thing, as have a number of others.

When my pastor says such things he is hearing from the Lord. I know, from past experiences with others, that he does not say such things unless he has had a clear word from the Lord. He will never speak out of wishful thinking, or a desire to say what the other person wants to hear.

I said to him that I am often not sure whether something I am getting is from the Lord. I am not always sure whether I am hearing from my commander-in-chief (God). But I was hearing very clearly from my colonel (my pastor) and that should be good enough for me!

That evening we read from Ephesians. There is much in this wonderful letter. I shall mention only a few highlights.

Paul says that God "works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). I believe, and my pastor (who is in spiritual authority over me) tells me, that God's purpose for me is to have me continue to write and do other things he is calling me to do. If that is so, then God will work out everything in conformity with his purpose. No plan of his can be thwarted. His purposes will be carried out.

My pastor tells me that God has quite a bit more work for me to do. If that is God's purpose, he will carry it out. No cancer cells can thwart it, no scheme of the enemy can thwart it, so long as my faith does not waver. I can defeat God's purpose for me by my unbelief or disobedience, but no one else and nothing else can defeat it.

On reading this over, I need to add a further comment. What I have written is a record of where we were in our conversation that evening. But while faith is important to healing, my healing does not depend totally on my faith. Jesus healed the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13). The account says that the centurion had great faith; it says nothing about the servant's faith. Jesus healed a paralytic, who was lowered through the roof (Mark 2:1-12). The account speaks of the faith of those who attended the paralytic; it says nothing about the paralytic's faith. When Jesus healed the epileptic boy, his father recognized his own incomplete faith. He said, "I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John chapter 11), it would be hard to say that Lazarus had faith to be raised, and it seems clear that neither Lazarus' sisters nor anyone else, other than Jesus, expected any such thing to happen. We have a friend who was a quadriplegic and was sovereignly healed; two years later she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. God is sovereign, and his ability to move in a situation is not limited by what we do or do not do.

Abraham was a spiritual giant. God does not expect all of us to have the level of faith that Abraham had. And even Abraham did not have perfect faith, for he tried to bring about God's promise by his own human resources instead of letting God do it, thereby producing Ishmael, with unfortunate consequences that have lasted ever since.

So, on the one hand, it is important for me to recognize the importance of faith, and to do what I can to maintain and increase my faith. This includes frequent reading of Scripture, reminding myself of relevant Scripture passages, praying, and much else. On the other hand, I refuse to allow myself to become anxious that I might, by some lapse of faith, deprive myself of the healing I am expecting. Discouragement has come and will come sometimes. The question is, not whether I get discouraged, but whether I stay discouraged. "Go in the strength you have" was what the angel told Gideon (Judges 6:14). I will go in the faith I have. I will not worry about whether my faith is sufficient. Jesus said that "faith as small as a mustard seed" was enough to move mountains (Matthew 17:20). My faith does not have to be perfect.

Now let's return to Ephesians. Paul prays that God "may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better" (Ephesians 1:17). I believe that, in these past few days, God has been showing me and my family many things about his nature and his purpose for us. Then Paul prays "that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened" (v. 18). God has been enlightening my mind for many years. But getting that knowledge from my mind to my heart has not always been easy. My mind is convinced, but in my inmost nature there are sometimes still doubts. So I am asking God to enlighten the eyes of my heart, to enable me to believe with all of me and not just my mind. I believe God has been doing this in the past few days.

Then Paul prays that we may know "[God's] incomparably great power for us who believe" (v. 19). It is only in God's power that I can defeat this thing that has assaulted my body. God's power is at work in me and is incomparably great. It is greater than cancer cells. It is greater than medical statistics. It is greater than anything. Nothing can prevail against it.

In Ephesians chapter 2 Paul emphasizes that it was "because of his great love for us" that God saved us from our transgressions (v. 4). Above all else, I need to know that love. "Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Romans 5:5). Our hope, our confident expectation, rests on the fact of God's immeasurable love for us. My hope rests on my knowing that God loves me.

Then Paul talks about "the incomparable riches of his grace" (v. 7). It is by God's grace - his unmerited favor - that we are saved; "it is the gift of God" (v. 9). I believe it is also by grace - by God's unmerited favor - that we are healed. We do not deserve healing. We have not earned it. "Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?" (Romans 11:35; see Job 41:11). But it is by God's grace, God's love that comes to us who are unworthy of it, that he gives us any of his great gifts.

In his great prayer in chapter 3, Paul prays "that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Ephesians 3:16-17). I need that power, and I need it in my "inner being". I need to believe in my "inner being" and not just with my mind. Then Paul prays that we may be "rooted and established in love" (v. 17) and that we may be able to "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled with the measure of the fullness of God" (v. 18).

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (vv. 20-21).

Then we turned to chapter 6. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (v. 10). There is that power of God again, for the third time in this fairly brief letter! This statement is made in the context of spiritual warfare, but I believe it applies to our whole life as Christians. In everything we say or do we need to be strong in God's mighty power. It is only in his power that we can accomplish anything of value. We can do everything through him who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Jesus told us, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). It is in God that we "live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

But I believe also that I am dealing with spiritual warfare. I believe, as I have said, that cancer is demonic. I believe that the devil is using this illness to try, unsuccessfully, to defeat God's purpose for my life. I do not claim that I am making a great, or significant, contribution to God's kingdom by what I write and do. But the enemy goes after the privates and corporals as well as the generals, and I believe this illness is an attack from the enemy.

So I need to put on the "full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:13), all of God's weapons, his panoplia (from pan, all, and hoplon weapons). One of these is the belt of truth, and I am seeking to know and speak the truth about my condition. I need the shield of faith; I have already spoken about that quite a bit. Without the helmet of salvation I would have no defense. I am trying, in this paper and in my thoughts and conversation, to wield the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." And I need the last part of my armor, which is to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions" and "always keep on praying for the saints" (v. 18). I must never get so preoccupied with my own condition that I cease to pray for others. Jesus, in agony on the cross, prayed, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do" and he ministered beautifully to one of the two thieves.


From this time onward, my sense of the sequence in which we read and did things becomes less clear. I shall simply refer to some other things that I feel were important, without trying to put them in chronological order.

We looked at 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. We are not just fighting this disease with man's weapons. The weapons of our warfare have "divine power". Cancer has established a "stronghold" in my body, but, with God's weapons, we can tear down that stronghold. It is trying to set itself up against the knowledge of God, but we have weapons that can tear it down. And I need to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. The enemy will come at us many times saying "Hath God said?", and we need to reject that thought as soon as it comes. He will attack us with all sorts of doubts and questions, and we must say, "Get out of here. I'm not going to listen to you."

We met with our cancer doctor. He wants to have a biopsy and do another CT scan to be absolutely sure, but he is talking of some form of chemotherapy. At best, he says, that can prolong my life somewhat. He does not offer any medical possibility of a cure. Then I said to him, "You are going by statistics, which you should. But what was the statistical chance that Abraham, at age 100, and Sarah, at age 90 and barren all her life, would have a child? Yet they did." His face lit up, and I think I saw some hope in it. Then he said that there were some patients who did far better than their doctors expected and the doctors could not explain it.

Because his medical prognosis is not encouraging, I considered whether I should go somewhere else, seek additional medical advice or treatment from one of the major clinics, go to Mexico and get laetrile treatments, etc. I concluded, and my family, my pastor and everyone else I have spoken to agrees, that this would be foolish. I have a very experienced and skillful doctor and I doubt that anyone else could add significantly to what he knows and is able to do. More important, we are fighting this thing on a spiritual level. I need to stay with my spiritual base of operations. I need to stay in my home, with my family, with all the friends who are praying for me, with my pastor, and with the prayer support I get from my church.

I have also decided not to go here or there seeking healing from any of a number of pastors who are famous for their healing ministries. I respect many of those ministries. But if God intends to heal me he can do so here in Richmond, VA, in my own church. What matters is God's healing power. It does not depend on the special anointing of some particular individual.

One evening we listened to another tape. It dealt with the first recorded healing of a leper (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-44; Luke 5:12-14). A leper came and knelt before Jesus. Luke says he was "covered with leprosy." He was in the advanced stages of the disease. His face and body were covered with ulcerating sores; his hands were probably like claws; he may even have lost parts of his face or body. He was grotesque and repulsive looking. He said "Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean." Jesus, "filled with compassion" (Mark 1:41), reached out his hand, touched the leper, and said, "I am willing. Be clean."

This incident raises squarely the issue of God's willingness to heal. Most Christians believe God is able to heal. But is he willing to heal? Will he heal in my case? This is the area in which many Christians today feel some doubt. In Jewish thinking at the time, leprosy was an "incurable" disease. The rabbis taught that the leper was unclean both physically and spiritually. They taught that leprosy was brought on by God as a punishment for spiritual uncleanness. But Jesus, moved by compassion, said he was willing to cleanse the leper.

Compassion is not just feeling sorry for someone. It is a deep feeling in your guts. It includes an element of anger. It demands action. When God created man he saw that it was good. When Jesus saw this grotesque figure he said, "It is not good. It needs to be changed." And his "I am willing" is not just "OK, I guess I'll do it." It is "I eagerly desire to do it."

I am quite aware that not everyone who is prayed for receives a healing. God is sovereign, he will do what he deems right, and he does not owe us any explanations. But I believe his compassion for us is such that he normally desires to heal us. I believe we should pray on the assumption that his desire is to heal us, unless we get some indication from him to the contrary. In my case, I have a word from my pastor that it is not my time to die, and that God desires to heal me. So I shall pray, believing that God will heal me, and I shall ask others to pray in the same belief.

Another thing struck me. Christ is in me. I am part the body of Christ. So when the cancer cells attack my body, they are attacking Christ's body. If God has plans for me to do more work, the cancer cells are trying to frustrate God's plans. I can be angry at these things that are seeking to frustrate God's plans. I can take authority over them and tell them to get out. I have authority over all the power of the enemy. I need to exercise that authority. I did exercise it that evening, and will continue to do so. Jesus told his disciples that they "should always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1).

We spent another evening reading Paul's letter to the Colossians. We found in it quite a bit that is relevant to my situation.

Paul prays that God will "fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Colossians 1:9). I need that knowledge of his will. My pastor tells me that God's will is for me to remain alive and do more work. That is my sense of God's will. But I need to increase in my knowledge of God's will, so that I can either confirm and clarify, or correct, my present understanding.

Then he prays that we may be "strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience" and may joyfully give thanks to God (v. 11). As I go into chemotherapy I shall need that strength, and that endurance and patience. I ask God to prepare me by giving it to me now, as well as later.

God has qualified us to "share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light" (v. 12). This is not just something that happens when we die and our spirit goes to be in heaven. We are in God's kingdom of light right now. "He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves" (v. 13). "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). Jesus came to bring light into the world (John 3:19). And he has transferred us out of darkness into light. We need to live and walk in that light. I can live in that light, whatever my physical condition.

Then we come to Paul's marvelous statement of the greatness of Jesus (Colossians 1:15-20). I need to keep reminding myself how great God is and how great Jesus is. It is their power, and their strength, that will see me through this.

Paul then declares that Jesus has reconciled us to God "if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel" (v. 23). I need to continue in my faith, established and firm. I need to keep being strengthened in my faith (Romans 4:19-20). I need to keep taking captive to the obedience of Christ any thoughts that might cause me to weaken or to waver in my faith.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ" (Colossians 2:6-8). I need always to keep my faith centered on Jesus, and not on the "basic principles of this world." My hope and my faith, my confident expectations, are based on the power of Jesus Christ, and not on the medical statistics and prognosis. I need to continue to live in Jesus, rooted and built up in him.

I believe, as I have said, that this cancer is from the devil. I also believe that Jesus has given me authority over all the power of the enemy. So it is good to be reminded that "in everything" Jesus has the supremacy (Colossians 1:18), and that Jesus has "disarmed the [evil] powers and authorities" and made a public spectacle of them (Colossians 2:15).

I shall come to a stop here for now. This is a continuing process and I am sure that we will receive more help and guidance from Scripture. There is much more in Scripture that we could look to for help. But I think I have written enough to illustrate how the process of getting help from Scripture can work. God's word has tremendous resources that are applicable to, and can give us guidance and strength in, any situation in which we may find ourselves. With God there is always hope.