Few there are of our readers who do not know from where it is that we have borrowed the title which is found above this article.
We live in a day when the dreaded disease of cancer is continually before the minds of the inhabitants of this earth. In itself it is a disease that fills the human heart with fear. For, although certain types are cured by radical surgery and painful radium treatments, in many instances the disease does not make itself known until all hope of cure is gone, and in many other instances its growth is so fast that there is nothing in man’s knowledge that can halt it or cure it. And recently so many well-known and prominent figures in our every-day life have been afflicted with this disease; and their treatment and condition has been publicized by every news medium.
The advice is given, therefore, on printed page and over the air waves that we fight this disease with a checkup and with a check. And our purpose with these lines is neither to advocate this fight by a checkup and a check nor to call it an evil, practice. We are not writing under the auspices of any cancer society or doing this at the request of any such society. Nor are we requested by anyone to speak against this slogan or have we set forth by our words to discourage the checkup or the check.
Surely for our own health’s sake and we have a calling to protect and take good care of our bodies—a periodical checkup is not only wise but also our calling, especially when there are signs in our bodies that indicate that we might have the beginning of the disease in our flesh. Does not the Heidelberg Catechism teach us in Lord’s Day XL that the sixth commandment demands of me that “I hurt not myself, nor willfully expose myself to any danger”? Indeed! And I surely do expose myself to danger willfully when there are things in my body that could be the beginning of this dreaded disease and I do not place myself in the hands of a competent physician for a checkup. And that I commit no sin when I write out a check for scientific research that those already afflicted may have the best methods of treatment does not need to be proved. I am my brother’s keeper in that respect. I must mind not only the things of myself but also the things of others. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:4, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Who would deny that Paul means also that we look upon the distresses and sicknesses of our fellow men and as much as we are able seek to help them in their woes? And Jesus told us to do unto others that, which we would have them do unto us: It is not simply a case of not hurting them because we do not want them to hurt us. But it surely is a case of doing something for them even as we would like to be helped by them when we are in distress and misery.
Did Jesus condemn those who sought deliverance from sickness, blindness, leprosy and for that matter from any physical infirmity? Did he call those carnal who pleaded with Him to come because their children were at the point of death? Came He not when Mary and Martha sent for Him after their brother Lazarus was dead? Surely we will find no basis in Holy Writ for the stand that we may not call in the physician when we or our children are stricken with some serious disease. You will find no Scriptural proof that an operation or a blood transfusion are of the devil. And that men fight cancer with a checkup and a check, we will not condemn.
But the thought we wish to leave with you by these lines is that In His Fear we will never stop there; and we will never fight this dreaded disease as an end in itself as though having conquered (?) it, we have really achieved something worthwhile. In His Fear we will “fight” this disease and all other diseases, death included, not by a checkup and a check but through a Cross and a Crown, and expect victory only through them.
Consider that when the physician and therapist have rid your body of every last cancer cell and you are pronounced wholly cured, death still stands before you. A checkup and a check will never stay that hand of death. The world says it in jest, but it is tragically true: The operation was a success, but the patient died. Yea, that relentless power of death has never been conquered by man. Neither check nor checkup has dominion over this last enemy. Without the cross of Christ and the crown of life and of righteousness a checkup and a check can only achieve an illusion of victory. What is more without that cross and that crown a checkup and a check will have for its result a greater measure of torment and of the agony of everlasting death of hell. Consider that when we speak of a man being saved from the jaws of death, he is not actually saved from death. He receives a few more days and even perhaps years of earthly existence than seemed, at the moment, to be allotted to him. His days seemed numbered; and the doctor will tell you that this particular cancer in this specific organ develops at such a rate of speed that he has at the most so many days of life left unless radical surgery is performed, at once, or radium treatments are begun. The cancerous growth is removed and apparently all the malignant tissue is removed. The patient slowly recovers from the operation and from the disease that was eating away at his life. After a period of five years no new symptoms of the disease appear elsewhere in his body; and he is proclaimed completely cured of his cancer. With a song in his heart, with lightness of step, with a smile for all who meet him he hastens to his car after this report on his most recent examination. But before he can arrive home safely, he is killed in an automobile accident. The checkup and the check gained for him, so it seemed, a few more years of this life; and yet this “victory” is empty, for another assault is made on his life. And this time he loses his life.
But some will say, it was worth it! Five years added to his life! Who would call that an empty victory? Yes, but listen; we said that without that cross and that crown this checkup and check will result in greater woe and misery in hell. For each minute of those five years will testify against that man in the day of days. Five more years there have been of rebellion against God. And in the judgment day a man shall be judged according to his works. The greater the number of evil works that he has performed in this life, the greater his punishment will be. Without that cross and that crown he is not able to fill these years with thankfulness to his God Who guided the hands of this skilled surgeon. Without that cross and that crown there is no forgiveness of these sins committed during his last five years of life. When the books are opened in that judgment day, five years more of sin will be revealed which would not be there if he had failed to get his checkup in time and the checks of others had failed to produce this cure for his disease.
Sin is a cancer that cannot be cured by science, education, medical research, radium, the surgeon’s scalpel or any earthly creature whether fluid or solid, taken internally or externally. It is cured only by blood, the precious blood of Christ. Before it no sin can stand. It blots out sin so completely that all trace of its presence is completely gone. And where these wages of sin, death, now reigns this blood brings life in its place. For where sin is removed the wages of sin are not only removed but God, Who gives grace for grace, bestows life as the free gift of His grace. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 6:23. And there and there only, do we have the true victory over cancer and all other diseases and miseries of man.
Otherwise a checkup and a check mean nothing and will only bring an illusory victory. What is more, let us assume that man has found a way to prevent and cure cancer even as he has made such progress in other diseases that formerly took a huge toll of lives each year in times gone by and of another age. Man cannot rid himself of the curse. He never will rid himself of the curse. The cross and the crown are God’s means whereby He in His grace delivers His people from all sin, all the effects of sin, all the scars and blemishes of sin to bring us with beautiful bodies into the glory of His kingdom, to heal all our diseases and restore to us a whole and perfect body wherewith we shall be able to serve Him in the perfection of holiness.
Let us be careful lest we put our trust in men, in their medical and surgical skill. Let us beware lest we take our eyes off Him Who is the Great Physician to fix them upon one who is himself under the power of the curse, We read the other day in one of our better known news magazines of a doctor who performed the first successful operation for lung cancer. His patient is a strong, healthy man today completely cured of that lung cancer which had afflicted him. The doctor, however, died two years ago. He died of lung cancer! Put your trust in men and you will surely be put to shame. It may take a little time before this becomes apparent; but man who is under the curse cannot deliver you from that curse. Put your trust in the Great Physician Who took the curse upon Himself for our sins and made atonement for our sins, and you will never be put to shame. You will be healed, completely healed. For He is the victor over grave and death and all that brings death upon man: He is the resurrection and the life. He is the resurrection because He is the life. Live in His fear, that is, put all your trust in Him.
In His fear, then, you will also live a life of gratitude before Him. That belongs to His fear and indicates that it is present. Oh, it is so easy to be ungrateful, complaining and fault-finding when miseries, diseases and pains strike us. It is so easy to question God’s goodness and to say with Asaph that clean hands are worthless and pure hearts are vain. These we do when we do not live in His fear. In His fear we stand before Him in reverence and awe. In His fear we see Him as GOD! And we are thankful before Him, thankful for the cross whereby we have a complete cure of all our diseases and victory over our death. Thankful for the testimony of His Word that we have a crown of righteousness and of life through the blood of that cross. And then it is that cross—and not a red or blue or white cross that represents the practices of cursed men—that gives us hope and confidence as we walk through the valley in which the shadow of death is cast. Say it with David in your distresses, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.” So we speak when we live in His fear.
“To believe God and to believe in God are two very different things. The first expresses historical faith; the latter, true faith or confidence; for when I say, I believe that God is, if I speak properly, I believe there is a God, and that he is such an one as he hath revealed himself in his word, namely, a spiritual essence, omnipotent, etc., the eternal Father, Son and Holy Ghost. When I say, I believe in God, I mean, I believe that he is my God, that is, whatever he is and has is all for my salvation. Or to believe God, is to believe a certain person to be God, according to his attributes. To believe in God, is to be persuaded that he will make all things attributed to him subservient to my salvation, for the sake of his Son.”
Heidelberg Catechism Pages 139, 140