FACING LIFE’S TRIALS
( Vernon Brewer's Testimony of Healing)
By: Vernon Brewer
They said, “We must operate immediately,” and they sent me home to get my affairs in order. They said, “You probably won’t survive this cancer,” - it was very advanced. They removed a five-pound tumor off my heart and lungs. In that first surgery, they removed a portion of my left lung and my left diaphragm was paralyzed. It's still paralyzed to this day. They inadvertently severed the nerve to my vocal cords. For a year and a half I couldn’t speak in an audible voice. They said, “If you survive, you’ll never preach again.”
Those were dark days: Eighteen surgeries and surgical procedures. A year and a half of chemotherapy … in and out of the hospital for the better part of two years. At one point I had a catastrophe happen. The vein in my hand where I was receiving chemotherapy collapsed and they actually had to sew my hand to my side. I had my hand sewn to my side for a month - it was just one problem after another.
Aren’t you glad doctors are sometimes wrong? Aren't you glad that there is a great physician who’s in control? I know I am. The happiest day of my life was when they said, “You are in remission." In the miracle of modern medicine, they injected Teflon into my vocal cords so I could speak again. One of the benefits of Teflon is that nothing sticks on the way down as you can tell from looking! I saw a friend of mine from Life Action and he said, “Man, you’ve put on some weight since the last time I saw you. "I said, “Well the last time you saw me I was nearly dead … I’d rather be fat then dead.” That’s my philosophy of my life; by the way … you ought to write that in the flyleaf of your Bibles.
Turn with me to the book of James, Chapter 1, verse 2:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations. Knowing this, that trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work that you will be perfect and entire wanting nothing.”
Another translation says it this way: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers when you face trials of many kinds. Because you know that the testing of you faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you can be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
In this passage, James is writing to a group of Christians who are well aquainted with pain and the challenge of trials. In fact, most of the Christians of the early church were used to facing severe trials even to the point of losing their homes and their jobs and their personal security. Many had to literally flee Jerusalem for their own safety. They not only faced inconvenience, but the very survival of their lives. So in these verses, James is teaching practical principles that help us understand why we have problems, and gives us insight regarding how we can benefit from trials. These principles are as relevant for you and I today as they were some 2000 years ago when James penned them to the early church.
Several things I want to call to your attention to. Number 1: The reality of trials. What do you do when those trials come? And for those of you who are young and think you’re invincible, may I add … they will come.
Notice James says in verse 2: “Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever” … You might want to circle that one word “whenever” … “whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Notice he didn’t say if you face trials, but when you face trials. It’s just a matter of time.
None of us are exempt from problems. You are either in a storm right now - you’ve just come out of a storm - or you are about to go into a storm. You are either facing trials right now, or like me, you’ve just come out of a trial, or you are - sometime in the future - about to go into a trial. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.
But seldom do we respond to the difficulties of life with joy, let alone pure joy.
James is not saying that the trials we face in life are happy experiences or joyful experiences. There is nothing joyful about cancer; it’s a terrible disease. That is not what he is talking about. I remember when the doctor told me “You’re going to have a year and a half of chemotherapy.” My attitude was: 'Hey I can handle this, bring it on!'
You know it’s going to be mind over matter, and the first time I received chemotherapy I said, “It’s not all that bad. I think I can handle this.” The next time I had received it, the disease had taken its toll and it was a little more difficult. The third time it was nearly impossible. The fourth time my wife and I walked up to the door of the doctor’s office -- I put my hand on the handle to walk in and I could not turn the handle. My wife said, “What’s wrong,” and I said, “I can’t go in.” She asked, “What do you mean?” I said, “I can’t go in.” My loving wife put her arm around me and prayed that God would give me grace to walk through the door. That was not joyful by any means.
You see, the joy James is writing about involves our ability to look beyond the problem or difficulty that we are experiencing, and see the opportunity to become more like Jesus Christ. You know what we try to do … we try to bypass the circumstance.
Circumstances don’t initially make us what we are; they simply reveal what we are.
I have found from my own personal experience that God will not change the circumstances in our lives until our circumstances change our lives.
If you can’t change the circumstance in your life, you can surely change how you respond to those circumstances. You can choose to be joyful … that’s a choice. Your trial can become your friend when if forces you to enjoy the fellowship of God.
The second word we ought to notice in this verse is trial or temptation in the authorized translation. This word does not mean a solicitation to do evil, or a dictation to sin. This word means to examine or put to proof a trial, which is an external adversary that provides testing for a purpose. You see, cancer was more than an interruption for my life. It was an intersection … it was a crossroad.
You might be facing a catastrophic illness, or having health problems right now. Perhaps your trial is an alcoholic parent or a divorce or a financial program, or a wayward son or wayward daughter. When I think of this word in James, I automatically think of the Old Testament figure, Job. He lost his health, he lost his family, he lost his house, he lost his business … he lost everything. He not only faced a test, he faced an entire series of tests. And you and I cannot ignore or dismiss the fact that as Christians, we will be called upon on our spiritual walk with the Lord to face trials of many kinds. Problems are only a phone call away … problems are only an x-ray away.
My friend, Robby Hiner, said to me one time, “Does it bother you that you might have a relapse of cancer some time?” And I thought for a minute and said, “ No, not until just now it hasn’t. I appreciate you bringing that up.” But the truth is, none of us have a guarantee of tomorrow. A trial is only a phone call away.
The third word we should notice in this passage is the word various, or diverse, or many kinds of trials ... suggesting that not all trials are the same. In my personal study of the Word of God and in counseling, I’ve discovered at least three major varieties of trials. I’m sure there are many more, but at least three major kinds of trials that sincere Christians face.
The first is what I would call the sowing and reaping trial. These are the problems we bring on ourselves. Galatians 6:7 tells us we reap what we sow. A lot of the problems that a lot of well meaning Christians face, they face as a result of their own sin or disobedience. James goes into more detail about this in verse 13-16.
I received a phone call from a pastor friend of mine while I was in the hospital. He asked, “What’s God trying to teach you … what sin is God trying to point out in your life?” That wasn’t a good day for me and I was high on morphine, so I said, “Patience,” and hung up the phone. I didn’t want to hear that.
Don’t you think the minute the doctor said I had cancer … God had my attention? Don’t you think that the minute I got home, I got alone with God in my prayer closet and said, “Ok God, speak -- I’m listening.” Don’t you think I let the Holy Spirit search my heart to see “if there be any wicked way in me?” Don’t you think that was the first thought that went through my mind?
May I say that all sin results in consequence. You cannot sin and get away with it, but may I be very quick to add that not every consequence … every trial … is a result of sin. I wish I could have handled that situation more spirit-filled, and later when I was not on morphine, I asked for his forgiveness. We had a good laugh about it.
But, so many times we make the mistake of assuming that just because someone is going through a problem in life there must be some deep dark hidden sin … and that is not the case. What sin did Job commit?
The second kind of trial is what I would call the spiritual trial. The kind of problem we face because of our testimony of Jesus Christ. This is the kind of trial that comes simply from living a godly life. If we are to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us we are going to be out of step somewhat with society.
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 4:12 not to be surprised concerning fiery trials and if anyone suffers as a Christian, not to be ashamed. In John 15:20, Jesus said, “that if they persecute me, they persecute you” … implying that trials are going to be a result of our walk with Christ. The devil will see to it.
When I think of spiritual trials, I think of that church in India that has a board on the wall. It’s not an attendance board with the offering and attendance and record attendance. It’s called a “Martyr’s Board.” On it are the names of men and women who paid the ultimate price for their faith and the day they went to be with Jesus. That’s the kind of trial I’m talking about.
When I trained 1,000 pastors in India last year, I stopped in the middle and asked them how many had been severely beaten for their faith. Eighty percent of them raised their hands and said that at some time, they had been physically beaten for their faith in Christ.
Two days before Christmas, my family and I dedicated a church in northern India that we helped build by selling off our second car that we really didn’t need. We wanted to plant that church in memory of my wife’s father who passed away last year of cancer.
Many years ago, an Indian pastor named Dori Ragh, went to that city in Owar that is called the Seat of Satan, to plant a church because there was no church of any kind in that city. The anti-Christians said, “If you don’t leave we’re going to kill you.” He didn’t leave and they killed him and his body was never found. At his memorial service, his eight-year old nephew, Solomon, stood and said, “Someday I’m going to go back to Owar and pastor a church that my uncle tired to start.” When Solomon grew up, he went to Bible College, and then went to Owar to start that church.
My wife and I had the privilege just a few weeks ago to be there to dedicate their church building. One hundred people were there, and four people got saved that morning. It was incredible! All the city officials were there … they just thought there was supposed to be there … they had never had a church dedication in their city before. I preached the Gospel and four of them accepted Christ. I couldn’t help but think that looking down from heaven was Dori Ragh … and I couldn’t help but think next to him was a West Virginian coal miner, my wife’s father, Glenn Bentley. I thought about the spiritual trials that made that church possible.
A few years ago I was in Romania. The pastor picked me up to go preach in a village church that morning … he spoke fluent English. He said, “Today is going to be a historic day … it’s going to be our first baptismal service in 50 years at this church.” In fact the Communist government had torn the church building down three times during the last 50 years of the communist reign and all three times the church members got together and rebuilt it. I thought of that verse, “Upon this rock I shall build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
He said to me, “You’re going to preach the Gospel to the entire village,” and I thought it was a figure of speech until I got there. I preached the Gospel to the entire village and 50 people got saved … we baptized 20.
On the way to that village he said, “Today is a historic day for another reason. Today is the first anniversary of the death of my wife. She had cancer … acute leukemia. In fact, a group of doctors from Great Britain diagnosed her and felt very confident that they could spare her life with bone marrow transplants. They offered to pay for the expensive surgery in London, because it could not be preformed here in Romania. When we went to get a visa to travel to London, the communist official said they would give us a visa on one condition … “If you renounce your faith in Jesus Christ.”
I said, “What did your wife do?” “She did not hesitate … she did not blink … she looked those communist officials in the eye and said, ‘I cannot do what you will have me do. I will not renounce my Lord and Savior.’ And she turned and walked out of that office and two months later she was with the Lord.”
When I hear stories like that I think of spiritual trials.
In India, 59 people came forward for baptism and the pastor asked if they were willing to live for Jesus Christ … are you willing to obey him and follow him for the rest of your life … and are you willing to die if necessary? They would not baptize them until they pledged that they were willing to die if that’s what it took. I think some of us have forgotten that all who live godly lives will suffer persecution.
And then there is the third type of trial. There is the spiritual trial, there is the sowing and reaping trial, and for the lack of the better term … there is the senseless trial. Not that it doesn’t make sense to God, because God has everything under control. It just doesn’t make sense to us.
This is the most difficult trial for us to accept to consider pure joy. The problem is there is no rationale or logical reason for this kind of ordeal. I had to ask myself, “Why me? Why cancer? Why now? Why my voice, if you have called me to preach … that doesn’t make sense?”
And God reminded me from Isaiah 55:8, “My ways aren’t your ways, and my thoughts aren’t your thoughts.” This is the kind of trial that Job faced. His friends thought he was facing trials because of some sin in his life. His wife was certain it was God’s fault. She said, “Why don’t you curse God and die.” Job asked many of the right questions, but he still did not know the why. And by the way, when I prayed the “Why God?” … Heaven was silent. Sometimes there are no answers. And sometimes, answers aren’t enough. When answers aren’t enough, there’s Jesus … and it doesn’t have to make sense.
We must constantly realize that no experience of life will ever touch us without God’s permission. It’s not God’s fault, but God is in control.
I believe that it was Charles Spurgeon who said, “God is too kind to do anything cruel, too wise to make a mistake, and too deep to explain Himself.”
That is why we should consider it pure joy whenever we face the trials of life … even when they don’t make sense, because we must constantly remember that God is ultimately in control and He cares. That is why at a time when life doesn’t make sense … the only place we can turn is Jesus. And trust that that the trial is working toward ultimate good. (See Romans 8:28-29)
When I was going through chemotherapy, my neighborhood had a block party. We closed off the streets and everybody brought out their barbecue pits; everyone brought their own beer (it was bring your own bottle.) They were going to have a cookout and they invited us to come. My wife and I debated whether we should go, whether it would be a poor testimony to be where beer was being consumed, or what. I finally came to the realization that I didn’t have any qualms about eating at a steakhouse where they were drinking beer, so why not have a steak in my front yard. Just because someone else is drinking beer shouldn’t keep me from it. So I bought out my portable barbecue and brought out a big-ole 2-liter of orange crush so there would be no question about what I was drinking. And we went to the party.
My next-door neighbor was the superintendent of the county’s public schools, and his wife, who was not a Christian, was undergoing eye surgery where she later lost sight in her eye. She said to me, “Vernon, how do you cope?” That’s the question I was waiting for. I mean - she sent me a slow ball right down the middle. But no one was listening, so I pretended that the chemo had damaged my brain cells and said “What?” And she thought I couldn’t hear well, so she yelled, “Vernon, how do you cope?”
Everybody at the party got real quiet … it was like E.F. Hutton was speaking and they wanted to hear the answer to that question. Everyone was looking … and I’m standing in front of my house, in front of my street, surrounded by 30 or 40 of my neighbors. I got to tell them what it’s like to have Jesus Christ in your life and how you can face the trials of life with Jesus … and that I couldn’t imagine how anyone could face the problems of life without Jesus. Every one of my neighbors heard the Gospel that afternoon.
One day I wasn’t doing real well … I was losing the battle, so to speak, physically. The disease was taking over. I could tell I wasn’t doing well because everyone whispered around me. You can just tell when you aren’t doing well. I was depressed, and my wife said that we needed to get out the house … needed to go somewhere. She said there was a concert at the university tonight, and we needed to get tickets and go, and we did.
I was standing in front of the doors waiting for them to open, and I found myself standing next to a friend of mine, Cal Thomas, a syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times … perhaps you’ve seen him on Cable TV. What a voice crying out in the wilderness. He is a tall, lanky, dignified journalist. He turned to me and said, “Vernon be encouraged, I want you to know that I pray for you every day.”
Now we throw those terms around a lot in Christian circles. But, he reached into his pocket and took out his Day Timer and flipped it to the back page where it said “Prayer requests.” He showed me that my name was at the top of his prayer list. Now that ministered to me! He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Now you be encouraged because God is going to heal you.”
I walked in and sat down in the aisle seat and as the lights went dark, no one knew what I was feeling that night, but I was feeling like life was passing me by. I was having thoughts like -- I’ll never see my daughters wedding … there are so many experiences of life that I’m going to miss. Nobody understands the fear that I’m living with -- nobody understands the uncertainty. I was feeling isolated, alone and scared.
Sandy Patty started singing, of all things, a song in Spanish, “Down the Via Delarosa walked my Savior” … and a light came on. Wait a minute. There’s someone who understands what I’m feeling. There’s someone who understands what it feels to face death and isolation. There’s someone who prayed, “Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thy will be done.”
I took great comfort in knowing that Jesus knew what I was going through, even if no one else did. And about that time something happened that I’ll never forget. Sitting three or four rows in front of me was Cal Thomas. He got out of his seat, came back and sat down on the floor next to me and crossed his legs Indian style. He put one arm around me … this dignified journalist in a business suit … and held my hand. And I knew what had happened. I knew that God had tapped Cal on the shoulder and said, “Cal, my servant Vernon isn’t doing too good. Would you go back there and put your arm around him and let him know I care.” That was one of the most powerful moments of my life, to realize that Jesus cared.
Notice in verse three there are reasons for trials. You know I’m one of those people who prays, “God give me patience and give it to me now!” James says, “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance,” or patience. When facing life’s toughest problems, it’s important to understand two things: Number 1 - God has a purpose for our trials, and Number 2 - He has a process he wants to take us through.
Why does God allow trials in our life? I believe it’s so He can examine, and scrutinize, and put our faith to the test. And the logical conclusion of that test is that it will produce patience or endurance or perseverance in our lives. This word “testing” literally means proving or trying. It’s the same word Peter used when he says in I Peter 1:7, “That the genuineness of your faith is tested by fire.” It’s the same kind of testing of a refiner’s fire that burns out all of the alloys of the precious metals. God allows testing in our lives for good … not to punish us, but to purify us. It is so important that we see that and keep that in perspective.
"God allows testing in our lives for good ... not to punish us, but to PURIFY us."
Two things about patience and perseverance I think is worth noting. Number 1: Perseverance is not deliverance. We have a tendency to think that anytime a problem comes our way, all we have to do is pray and God will instantly deliver us from our problem. Don’t get me wrong … I believe in the power of prayer. I am here because God answers prayer. I will never forget November 25 when over 2000 Liberty University students prayed around the clock in the prayer chapel.
I’m in great pain today because my wife thought it would be wonderful to clean out the basement. And I took 50 - count them - 50 boxes of junk from our basement to the street for the city to haul away. My wife is a happy camper today, she thinks she’s married to the husband of the year, and I’ve been taking Ibuprofen like they are Tic-Tacs!
In one box of stuff we were about to throw away, I came across a photo that someone took that night when I was on my knees and surrounded by students who were laying their hands on me. That miracle day of prayer, I believe, is one of the reasons I’m here today. Because 2,000 young students cried out to God and God showed them He’s still on the throne, and God intervened on their behalf. I believe in the power of prayer.
I’m a living testimony of the power of prayer. Sometimes God will answer prayer to prove His power, but most of the time He is more interested in producing patience in our life. Patience is not being delivered from problems, but patience is learning how to endure in the midst of problems.
The second insight about patience is that it is a process. It’s not something we get and once we’ve got it, it’s for life. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t. I wish we only had to take one test in school and once you took it, you don’t have to take any more for the rest of your life. I wish there was only one driving test, but that’s not reality.
We will constantly be called upon to face tests in the Christian life because God is interested in the process. And just when you think you’ve really learned a lesson, watch out! Before you know it God will be teaching you over and over again what it means to be patient, and what it means to have perseverance.
My dad called me on the phone one day and asked, “Son, how are you doing?” With my feeble whispery voice I answered, “Not so good Dad.” He said, “I’ve got a verse for you; turn to it.” He had me turn to the Old Testament to Isaiah 40:31, and he stated quoting it. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not grow faint.” I said, “Dad, I know that verse, you’ve heard me preach on that verse.” He replied, “Son, wait a minute -- what do you need right now more then anything?” I said, “Strength.” He answered, "Where do you get strength? Waiting on God. What does God have you doing right now? Waiting.”
Now you’re reading the words of a person who will drive three blocks out of his way to avoid a red light. I’m probably the most impatient person in the world. But God is concerned about the process.
Now notice the reality of trials … they will come. And the reason that God allows them to come is for a purpose, but also notice the results of trials. I say it, count your blessings; name them one by one. James 1:4, says, “Perseverance must finish it’s work so that you might be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” The results of trials is three specific benefits outlined here, which are extremely important for us to recognize and enjoy.
First: is to become mature. Maturity is our goal and trials force us to grow up quick. This word “perfect” does not mean “to be sinless,” but spiritually mature. It was AW Tozer who said, “I doubt that God can greatly use a man until he has deeply hurt him.” It was Charles Spurgeon who said, “Many people owe the greatness of their lives to tremendous trials.” So maturity is one of the results.
Secondly: it is to be complete. James does not mean to be redundant, but he adds this for emphasis. He means for us to be mature, not just in one area in our life, but in every area of our life, not lacking anything. God desires for us to be deficient in nothing. What a powerful statement! When we allow patience to have its perfect work in our lives, we will be growing more and more like Jesus … to be mature, to be entire, to be complete in every part, lacking nothing, deficient in nothing and wanting nothing. What a loving God!
Someone sent me a tape … (by the way, never underestimate the power of cards and flowers and tapes) … we are called to be an encourager. Someone sent me a tape of Chuck Swindoll preaching, and in it he gave an illustration of a little town called Enterprise, Alabama where cotton was king. One year a swarm of boll weevils came through and destroyed the entire cotton crop. So the farmers got together in their trials and decided they would grow peanuts instead. They made more money growing peanuts that year then they had ever made growing cotton. And in their gratitude, they pooled all their resources and erected a monument in the center of town of a boll weevil. I was preaching at a meeting in Montgomery, Alabama and the pastor asked if there was anything I would like to do? I said, “Yes, I want to go to Enterprise. He asked me, “What in the world for?” I said, “I want to take a picture of the boll weevil.” We drove two hours out to Enterprise -- I got out of the car, took the picture, got back in the car and said, “Now let’s go back.” That pastor still thinks I’m crazy.
I listened to that tape with tears in my eyes. I said, “God I want to build a monument to cancer … thank you for cancer.” I went back to my desk, and in the top drawer was a handwritten letter that my father had sent me. Today, it’s matted and framed in my office. Every time I look up from my desk I see it. You have to understand something … that was a rebellious teenage preacher’s kid; my dad and I had not always seen eye-to-eye, and there were many times that we fought, and many dark days in our relationship. My father was present at all 18 surgeries and many times he drove all night to be there. This is my monument to cancer, my letter from my dad.
These past two weeks -- there have been much searching and struggle for me. My heart is broken because of your pain and affliction. Even now while I am writing, I cannot hold back the tears. I’ve cried enough tears for the both of us, walking the floor and weeping through the night.
It has not been as difficult for us to accept the fact you have cancer, but I am having a hard time accepting the injury to your voice and vocal cords. Yet, I know that God doesn’t make any mistakes and He is still in control and that Romans 8:28 is still true. However, I know what it means to think thoughts and to feel feelings and not be able to express them, and it hurts me deeply to think this could happen to you.
Would to God that I could bear this pain and affliction for you. It would be much easier for me to do. But, that would rob you of God’s blessed purpose for you and the blessings He’s going to build in you and the way He’s going to use you with whatever voice He gives you.
In your personal odyssey of catastrophe I pray there would be this absorbing thought -- God knows and feels your pain just as He did at the grave of Lazarus, and He weeps for you. Please take comfort knowing that His comfort is not insulation from the difficulty, but rather it is the spiritual fortification sufficient to enable you to stand firm, undefeated in this fiery trial that God is permitting you to bear. I just want you to know that I am bearing this with you and I’ve never loved you more.
- - Dad
A few years ago, I was standing in the desert of north India and the pastor said to me, “There are 600,000 villages in India and only 50,000 have a church of any kind.” He said, “We have 1,000 pastors trained and ready to plant 1,000 churches right now. All we need is some help.” At that moment I heard from Heaven. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I heard the still small voice of God. This is what I heard, “Vernon, this is why I have brought you to India. This is why I healed you from cancer. This is why all those dark days. This is why World Help began. This is what I want you to do with the rest of your life … to plant churches where no churches exist.”
I came home and told people my vision to plant 1,000 churches in the country of India by 2000, and build 1,000 church buildings that would seat 300 people each. People laughed at me. Someone has said, “If you tell people your vision and people don’t laugh it’s not big enough.”
People started voicing their expectations real quick. One board member said that if we only plant 200 that would be a great victory. Just recently, we passed the 542 mark … 542 churches have been planted and church buildings are being constructed, and I believe we’re going to pass the 1,000 mark by December 31, because God showed me that was one of the results of my trials.
A college student asked me one day, “What have I learned through all of this? I told him, “First of all, this has not been revival experience. It hasn’t been like I’ve been off to youth camp. This has been a survival experience -- this has been hell on earth -- this has not been one of those glorious things.” I said that I had learned a few things and to start writing. He took out a piece of paper and pencil.
Number one: I realized that God is ultimately in control. I remember the day I went into Ed Dobson’s office and shut the door and stated crying. He asked what was wrong and I said, “I’m afraid to die. I started out so strong and now I’m so weak. I can’t control my emotions. It’s an intense satanic attack.” And I’ll never forget his response. He said “No … that’s reality. You have a terminal disease … you may die. The way I see it, you have one of three choices.” I asked, “What are they?”
He replied, “Number one, you can get bitter.” I said, “Oh no, I love God too much for that!” He continued, “Number two, you can run from reality and live in denial.” “No, that won’t accomplish anything. What’s my third option?” He replied, “Accept it from God.”
I didn’t hear another word after that. I got up in a daze – left - got in my car and drove home. I couldn’t even make it home. I pulled the car over on the side of the road and we held a funeral service. And that’s the day I died. I remember taking my hands off the steering wheel and giving my life to God and thanking Him for cancer and accepting it from Him.
I told the student to write this down: I’ve learned to live life one day at a time. Maximize the good days … minimize the bad days. There are some days the chemo was so bad it was just a bad day. I’d chalk it up to a bad day - maybe tomorrow will be better. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come, but God has given us today … stop and smell the roses.
The third thing I told him I’ve learned: is to wait on God. It’s not an easy lesson. The words of Andre Crouch said it best, “For if I’d never had a problem, I’d never know that God could solve it. I’d never know what strength in God could do.”
The fourth thing I told him I had learned: is that God does indeed answer prayer. Sometimes it’s wait, sometimes it’s no, sometimes its yes. But God answers prayer.
I’ll never forget my weakest moment. I could tell you lots of them, but I’ve got to tell you this weakest moment. It was 6 o’clock on Sunday night. Some ask, “How do you remember that?” Because at 6 o’clock on Sunday night, my church broadcasted its service on the local radio. My family had gone to church without me because I was too sick to go. I was running a fever, my mouth was sore … I couldn’t hold anything down. I was listening to the services on the radio and I was bitter; I was mad, and I was frustrated. I had a fever. I didn’t feel good and I had the shakes. I was weak.
I went over to the radio and turned the radio off out of anger and I walked over to the refrigerator and opened it up to see if there was anything that would sooth the burning sensation in my throat. There wasn’t anything in the refrigerator and I slammed the door shut. And I remember clinching my fist at the ceiling and lashing out at God, saying something like, “God I can’t stand this another minute!”
When I realized what I was doing, I was so embarrassed. I went in the other room and flopped in the chair and stared at the wall out of embarrassment and guilt. I was staring at the bookshelf and I saw a book on the shelf titled: It was written by a pastor in Oregon who had suffered a nervous breakdown and was writing from his ordeal. I had purchased it two years previous, but hadn’t read it because why read a book on depression if you’re not depressed. That would seem only to depress you. I’m certainly not making light of the fact that if you are depressed, all you need to do is read a book and that will solve all your problems. I’m not saying that at all, because I realize that there are many clinical problems and that is very serious, but I’m telling you God spoke to my heart: He said, “You need to read this book now."
I pulled it down out of the bookshelf and started reading it. As I sat there in the chair, it got very interesting and I got out some 3x5 cards and started writing the principles down and looking up the verses and underlining the verses and putting the references down. When I got to the end of the book at 2 o’clock in the morning, I got so embarrassed and convicted for feeling sorry for myself and being selfish and being angry. I had a great encounter with God that night. I got up the next day and I was feeling a little better so my wife suggested that I go into work for just a few minutes, to at least get my mail and see if there were any messages. I was only there an hour, but while I was there, my secretary said there was someone on the phone that would like to talk with me … “It’s a pastor, but he won’t give his name.”
She asked if she should take a message, but I told her I’d take the call. He said that he’d rather not tell me his name, but that he was suffering from acute depression … and I had him tell me about it. Then I took a breath and didn’t stop for the next hour. I stated talking to him about depression.
I had pulled the 3x5 cards out of my pocket. I had him writing down principals and looking up verses. He stopped me and asked me, “How do you know so much about this anyway?” I started to tell him I had a Ph.D. in the area of clinical psychology, but I said, “I want to tell you about last night,” and I told him about my weakest moment. He stated weeping and I started weeping and we prayed together on the phone. He promised to go in for counseling and he thanked me and told me how much I had encouraged him. I went home and told my wife and she said, “See - God’s not finished with you yet.”
About that time, I got a call from the football coach, who said, “We’re having a party tonight. One of our graduates is playing in his first professional NFL game. I think it would mean a lot if you could come and be around the team.” I told him that I wasn’t really feeling that good, and he answered, “Just come for a few minutes.”
I was standing in line and this huge lineman came up to me and he said, “Can we talk?” I replied, “Yes sir.” We sat down and he said, “I pray for you every day. I believe that God is going to heal you. Every day at practice, coach has us kneel at the 50-yard line and we take off our helmets and we pray and ask God to heal you.” (I still have the game ball that all those football players signed.) He said, “Last night as I was driving back on campus, I had the strong urge to pray for you. I’ve never felt it before. It was so strong I had to pull the car off the road. I got down on my knees and prayed for you for the longest time … more than I’ve ever prayed for you. When I got done, I looked at my watch and it was little after six. Would you mind me asking if anything unusual was going on at six last night?”
Then it dawned on me. God loved me so much, and God cared for me so much that even when I was mad with Him and angry with Him and frustrated with Him, He loved me so much. He used a football player - not a pastor’s major. A football player pulled his car off the side of the road and prayed for me when I couldn’t even pray for myself.
I have one message to leave readers with, and it’s this … He loves you just as much and don’t ever forget it! No matter how great your trial might be right now, He loves you so much. Let your trial become your testimony.
Editor’s Note: Dear one, if you are going through a severe trial of your own right now, allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you this encouraging scripture from God’s Word:
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
Sub-Note: Brother Vernon Brewer is the President of World Help Ministries. God is using World Help Ministries to place much-needed Bibles into Iraq. If God has placed a burden on your heart to be used to help impact Iraq with the Gospel, we strongly encourage you to go to this link: www.worldhelp.net
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