Biblical Resolutions Distilled from a Battle With Cancer Continued

A few posts back I introduced a new series of articles based upon my five year anniversary this August from finishing cancer treatment and remaining cancer-free.

When I first returned to the pulpit in November of 2005, I preached a series of three sermons from Psalm 116 entitled Seven Biblical Resolutions Distilled from a Battle with Cancer. You can listen to part one here.

I articulated this theme from the text in light of the apparent deliverance enjoyed by the psalmist from some recent life-and-death threat:

Deliverance by God from desperate straits warrants renewed resolves in a relationship with God.

In this post I want to address the first and arguably most important resolve toward God when He comes through big time in our lives.

First, resolved to delight in God (1a).

We needn’t look beyond the first few words of the psalm to sense the tenor of things in the sweet singer’s heart. I love the Lord. Actually the Hebrew text has no object. It begins with one word, the verb love. I love. We supply the object, Yahweh, from the clause that follows – because he has heard my voice. I love the Lord. Here is a man who is more in love with God than ever. The Law of God commands love for Him (Deut. 6:5). Passionate love. With all you heart and all your soul and all your might.

Emotions are no insignificant part of the spiritual life. The Bible has much to say about what you know AND what you feel. It mattered enough to Jesus to ask Peter three times on the shores of Galilee, Simon, do you love me more than these (John 21:15-17). Psalm 37:4 commands, Delight yourself in the Lord. You simply cannot read the psalms, a book of poetry and songs, without acknowledging the depth of emotions experienced by the believer in God.

It shocks me how indiscriminate I am with the word love. I say things like, I love food. I couldn’t say that for much of 2005. Nothing tasted as it should. Radiation had traumatized my taste buds. I forced myself to eat. I resorted to watching Emeril Live on the Food Network, imagining what it would be like to eat like that again. What astonished me about this was the level of grief I experienced over the loss of food – its taste, its fellowship, its uniqueness at a fine restaurant, its pairing with a glass of wine. The Lord took all that from me then. And the question that came to me with overwhelming force from the Spirit was, Curt, will you find your soul’s satisfaction in me even if eating is never quite the same passion for you? Do you love me more than steak, than pasta, than your wife’s to-die-for Black Magic cake?

To help me answer this, or at least put me on the road to the right answer, God gave me John Piper’s new book God is the Gospel to read at that time. He laments in the introduction:

We have turned the love of God and the gospel of Christ into a divine endorsement of our delight in many lesser things, especially the delight in our being made much of. The acid test of biblical God-centeredness – and faithfulness to the gospel – is this: Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, or because, at the cost of his Son, he enables you to enjoy making much of him forever? Does your happiness hang on seeing the cross of Christ as a witness to your worth, or as a way to enjoy God’s worth forever? Is God’s glory in Christ the foundation of your gladness (pp. 11-12, emphasis added).

This is a God-centered psalm. Though the writer clearly appreciates God for His gifts, it is clear that he sees them as rays from the radiant beam of God’s goodness and follows them back to the source and proclaims his unadulterated love for Him first and last. No less than fifteen times he uses the personal name for God, Yahweh. He is enamored with God. God is his all-consuming obsession. He could easily sing with Asaph in Psalm 73:25-26 – Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

What song do you tend to sing these days? If God has rescued you recently in any way, shape or form, may I suggest to you that you should respond with a greater resolve than ever to delight yourself in Him?

Biblical Resolutions Distilled from a Battle with Cancer

As August marks the five year anniversary of my finishing treatment for head and neck cancer, I find myself thinking a lot about that season in my life. I had no idea going in what a monumental deliverance God would work on my behalf through the process. It amounted, in my estimation, to nothing less than a rescue from the jaws of death.

For that reason I had little trouble deciding what text to preach from when I finally returned to the pulpit. God drew me to Psalm 116. You can listen to the first of these sermons here.

There the anonymous psalmist clearly celebrates a miraculous deliverance from some desperate straits. He uses terms that suggest he nearly lost his life. He thought he was a goner. For example, in v. 3 he writes, the snares of death encompassed me. And in v. 8 – you have delivered my soul from death.

He wrote the psalm post-deliverance to celebrate the miraculous intervention of God into his precarious circumstances. Laced throughout the text we find repeated resolves. This thing, whatever it was, made an astonishing impact on the writer. He recorded the specifics for the church in all ages.

From his example I drew this thesis for a series of three messages:

Deliverance by God from desperate straits warrants renewed resolves in a relationship with God.

When God intervenes in your plight and brings you through to the other side and you know that no one else but He could have engineered your deliverance, then it makes all the sense in the world to assess your relationship with Him and make serious resolves to strengthen it. There are seven in the text and, Lord willing, I will blog about them one-by-one throughout the rest of this month.

I continue to be grateful for length of days and look forward to our special celebration of thanksgiving for this miraculous deliverance on August 29!