When cancer struck my pastor (Part 5): We Found Cancer’s Weak Spot
On Saturday the church packed to overflowing for the wedding of Zack Taylor to Allie Craig, Pastor Tom’s daughter. The auditorium, impressively decorated in trellises and ribbons in anticipation of this joyous day, filled to capacity. People nudged together shoulder-to-shoulder, decked out in their finery to witness this long-anticipated happy occasion. The bridesmaids glided down the aisle to the melodies of the piano and violin. Zack and his groomsmen strolled in (Zack was surprisingly calm), followed by two small, purposeful and determined elementary age ring-bearers who were more than up to the task.
The crowd rose. Allie came in, resplendent in her bridal gown, radiant with joy. She was escorted by a thin and widely-grinning father, Tom Craig.
Tom wasn’t fatigued, nor was he stooped or shuffling. He strode in and happily became part of the ceremony, even giving the charge to the couple-to-be. We witnessed a joyous occasion (including, I might add, one of the better reception buffets in my memory. What a spread! What a cake!) and I didn’t see Tom start to wilt until later on during the cake-cutting ceremony. He slipped off quietly, regaining his energy.
But on Sunday, he was up front, reaching out to the congregation, with a time of sharing Luke chapter 14’s teaching of Jesus’ call to discipleship. Luke 14 verse 33 hit especially hard. “You cannot be My disciple if you do not forsake all that you have.”
Tom, still gaunt and showing exhaustion at times, emphasized this with grave importance: “As a disciple of Christ, you do not own anything. You are merely a steward of what God has placed in your life.”
Something clicked in our collective brains. This truth connected with another teaching Tom has been patiently instructing us during the time in the church service where we give our offering. In introducing the offering portion of our worship service, Tom referred to 2 Corinthians 8:5 as a key truth: “The New Testament Macedonian church gave an offering all right; they gave of themselves before they even thought of putting forth one coin. This offering time is not of a mere writing-a-check-and-dropping-it-into-the-plate. It is of offering yourself to Jesus. Let’s take time for personal prayer and give up ourselves to the Lord, being willing to say, ‘I am Yours, Jesus.'”
Those two thoughts – the combination of Luke 14:33 and 2 Corinthians 8:5 – meshed together beautifully, joined forces, and with jet-engine force slammed into my mind and heart.
We are to let go of everything.
Our first thought is that this means material possessions, but it goes beyond that. It means everything. Everything, man.
And that means letting go of the fear of death. Luke 14:33 – “You cannot be My disciple if you do not forsake all that you have.” Many of us clutch a package called ‘the fear of death’, both of the physical confrontation of it as well as the mysteries beyond.
Tom’s telling us: Stop it. It’s not your possession. Let it go.
We have been ready to give our money to assist the church ministries, but to let go of our angst about the afterlife and the intimidation that death throes such as cancer can bring? That’s a whole new step in discipleship.
You see, we members of the church are feeling the week-by-week trial of cancer that Tom is enduring. When we see him weaken, it’s almost as if we weaken ourselves. When we see him show the confusion that chemotherapy brings to his mind, it’s almost as if we become dizzy ourselves. The vicarious feeling won’t go away. As we see him suffer, we’re suffering as well. We can’t seem to help it; we feel ownership in this whole ordeal.
Tom has noticed this, and he’s showing us that it’s a possession that we have no business claiming. Let it go. Cancer is not bullying me. Why are you letting it bully you? You’re claiming possession of fear and confusion. Give it up.
Ah, my friends, Tom is letting Jesus show us cancer’s weak spot. Thank God, we’re now seeing death’s blind side. Tom directs us to the truth that Jesus already took care of death and its terror when He took it to the cross. We now see a clear explanation in Hebrews chapter two, which plainly tells us “only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”
It’s a confusion: when we grab hold of this fear, it is actually holding us. Like two pit bulls in a lock-jawed struggle, we don’t realize that as long as we continue to clamp down, we’ll never allow the enemy to release his jaws.
Time to give up the fear of death. We found the game plan and we see cancer’s weak spot. Cancer wants us to keep hold of the fear and confusion.
Well, things are changing. The congregation is getting bolder. More active. More determined to serve God in the new ventures He lays before us. It’s noticeable; you can see the folks picking up the pace.
Thank you, Tom, for looking into eternity and pointing out this truth.
Thank you, Jesus, for making this truth a practical reality.
And that sound you hear? It’s the splat sound of the people of our congregation dropping this horrid possession.
And walking away.