I had a conversation the other day with a very dear friend of mine who has recently begun a steep, uphill battle with cancer. Though the prognosis is not great, his outlook is. I was amazed as I listened to him describe the ordeal that lies in front of him and to hear him tell me of the grace of God that was instantly manifested in his life.
It’s one thing to read about it, study about and to even claim to have faith in the grace of God. It’s apparently a whole “nother” thing to experience it. As we spoke, I admitted to him that, in spite of the strength he was exhibiting, I was struggling a bit with it, fearing the worst while hoping and praying for the best. His response to me was that he was so strong during this because, walking through the shadow, he needed the grace…and it was there for him. I guess it seems odd for me to even say this because I preach about it so often, but what Scripture says is really true. How many times do we actually stop and consider the pragmatic nature of faith in the real world? In 1 Corinthian 10:13, Paul said the following:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
As I look at my friend’s battle, I see the temptation to doubt, to fear, to rage…yet he doesn’t. Sure, he has his moments of weakness, but not beyond what he is able to bear. Why is he so strong? Because he needs to be and God has made it so.
He expressed to me how his pastor preached last week on Romans 5 and glorying in our suffering. Do we ever think about that? Glorying and rejoicing in suffering? Yet because of the grace of God, my friend is rejoicing in the fact that, in his words, God hand-picked him to endure a disease that affects, literally, only 1 in a million people. He rejoices in knowing that God is going to be glorified through his suffering because God has given Him the grace to trust and to rely on Him. My friend doesn’t really know that he will survive beyond two years, yet He is praising God for His faithfulness and thanking Him for drawing him closer to Himself, now more than ever before!
I think that is true discipleship: getting to the point that not only do we not blame God for bad things that happen, but we actually thank Him when they do, knowing that He is working through it for our good and His glory. True discipleship is when we stop looking at people who have extreme faith during adversity and saying, “Man, I could never respond that well,” and trust that if God allows or causes such adversity to come our way, we would respond just as well because in that same hour, the grace would show up, too.