Archive for November 2013

The Folly of Forgetting in Times of Tranquility

November 29, 2013

Two years ago I was diagnosed with colon cancer. One year ago, at Thanksgiving, I gave thanks that my colon cancer surgery had been successful, my six months of chomotherapy had ended, and there were no signs of cancer in my post treatment blood tests, CT scan and colonoscopy. Last week I had my latest check up, and there continue to be no evidences of cancer, for which I thank God. The Lord has taught me much during my pre-surgery, surgery, and treatment times.

Everything has gone very well for me. The surgery went well; there were no complications in the days and weeks afterwards. The chemo treatments went well, and I did not experience the more unpleasant side effects. However, regretfully, over some of the intervening months, I found myself casually, and a bit materialistically, thinking, “You have the surgery, you do the recommended treatments, and everything turns out well.” Such thinking was foolish, naive and presumptuous! [It doesn’t necessarily follow that “you have the surgery, you do the recommended treatments, and everything turns out well” — as many can testify! ]

Recently I was convicted by a passage in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter eight.* In a context that emphasized evidencing fidelity to God by obedience to his commandments, Moses cautioned the Jewish nation to “remember,” and not forget God’s commandments, and what God had done for them. Three times, Moses told them that God had intentionally “humbled” them and “let them be hungry,” while at the same time meeting their actual needs of food and clothing, so that they would learn that those seemingly needful “things” of life were not needed as much as they needed God (vv. 2-5, 16).

Then they were reminded that the blessings of tomorrow would come from God (vv. 5-10). But they were also told not to forget God when they had “eaten and were satisfied” (v. 12-14ff.), and not to presume that their fruitfulness was solely the result of their efforts (vv. 17-18).

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’

You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth . . . .”

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 [ESV]

These verses convicted me of my foolishness, naiveté, and presumption. I do not live in the physical world solely by my strength, or abilities, . . . nor by what medical science can accomplish in its strength. It is all of God. The outcome of my surgery and chemotherapy treatments were all of God, and my good checkups are all of God. Just as it was God who gave me strength while going through the trial (cf. Deut. 8:2-6), it is “God that gives power” during later times of blessing. Whether to be fruitful in one’s life, or to be healed, it is all of God (cf. Deut. 8:11-18).

In a sense, it was easy for me to trust in God as I was going through the diagnosis, surgery, and treatment periods. God was humbling me and putting me in a position in which I had no alternative but to trust in Him. But as the days, weeks and months of good checkups went by, my initially theocentric (God-centered) perspective was subtly influenced by a materialistic one, one that contemplated, “You have the surgery, you do the recommended treatments, and everything turns out well.”

I realize, in consequence, that times of blessing can be more dangerous than times of trial because, like the warning for the Children of Israel, in times of blessing we can “forget God,” think that the present tranquility comes from the power of our own hands, and forget that all blessings come from God and that “He gives the power.” For a while I was, in a sense, tripped by the “folly of forgetting in my time of tranquility.”

Thank you to all who have prayed for me and my health situation over the last two years. God has graciously chosen to bless me with healing. I pray that in all my ways I may “acknowledge Him,” whether in times of trial, or times of tranquility. Moses’ warning was insightful. It is so easy to call on God when in trial, but to attribute success to material efforts, when really, all successes come from the hand of God.

“In all your ways acknowledge Him . . . .”

Proverbs 3:6a [ESV]

*Deuteronomy 8:1-20 [ESV]

1 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.
2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.
5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.
6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills,
8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey,
9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today,
12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them,
13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,
14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,
15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock,
16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.
17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
20 Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.

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