Posts Tagged ‘Embracing Your Life Sentence’

National Cancer Survivors Day: We are more than conquerors

June 7, 2020

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. Although the number of patients diagnosed with cancer appears to be increasing, cancer patients overall are living longer. While the number of cancer survivors in the United States continues to go up, a new report by the American Cancer Society – in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute – estimates more than 16.9 million cancer survivors are alive in the US today with more than 32 million survivors worldwide. We all know someone whose life has been touched by cancer.

On the first Sunday in June, National Cancer Survivors Day, communities across the U.S. and abroad hold celebrations to acknowledge the cancer survivors in their community, to raise awareness of the ongoing challenges cancer survivors face because of their disease, and – most importantly – to celebrate life.

According to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation, administrator for the celebration, “A ‘survivor’ is anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.”

As a twenty-year prostate cancer survivor, I acknowledge that three words– “You’ve got cancer”: whether said to a loved one or to you, can change your life forever. While some may see cancer as a death sentence, I see it as a “life sentence” that transformed my thinking.

In celebration of National Cancer Survivor Day, I would like to share an excerpt from my book where I recount part of my journey of faith following my cancer diagnosis. Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs weaves original poetry and Scripture into my battle plan to show how I emerged, as not just a survivor but more than a conqueror.

More than a Conqueror

I posted a blog entry on Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe on June 4, 2017, the first Sunday in June. The post focused on what I called the Word of the Day, which in this case was “survivor.” In its most literal sense, the term means “one who survives.” FreeDictionary.com offers this series of definitions of the verb “to survive” as an action verb that has an object to receive its action. In this case, to survive cancer—

1. To live longer than; outlive.
2. To live, persist, or remain usable through any adverse situation.
3. To cope with (a trauma or setback); persevere after.
The verb is derived from Latin—supervivere, combining the prefix super + vīvere, to live.

Having been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, I have come to understand what it means to be a cancer survivor on a deeply personal level. I recognize a survivor as one who, after encountering an extremely adverse situation, is revived to not only survive but to thrive. Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of a survivor, endured the cross, despising the shame, and after undergoing unimaginable physical abuse, along with the emotional and psychological trauma of the highest degree, arose triumphantly over death itself. Like Christ, I have been revived not only to survive but to thrive, having been transformed from victim to victor.
The true essence of who I am as a believer in Christ is expressed in Romans 8:37:

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way—

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us].

The expression “more than conquerors” is translated in the Greek New Testament from the verb hupernikao, a compound word with the prefix huper—a form of the same prefix found in survive—meaning over, beyond, above exceed, more than. Today, common expressions of the preposition would say over and above or above and beyond. The stem would be nikao, translated “to conquer, prevail, overcome, overpower, prevail.” Although translated as such, being more than conquerors or super conquerors, is not who we are, but it is what we do, how we live. We completely and overwhelmingly conqueror in the present tense with continuous action; we prevail mightily every day of our lives.

Each year I reflect with gratitude to God for being alive and being able to cherish another year of life. As is my tradition, I sometimes compose a poem of celebration on my birthday. Most remarkably, Romans 8:37 was the epigraph or introduction for a poem composed on my 74th birthday, expressing my new identity in light of the Word for the Day for Cancer Survivors Day and every day I draw breath:

Embracing Your Life Sentence—More than a Conqueror

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors
and gain an overwhelming victory through Him
who loved us [so much that He died for us].
—Romans 8:37 (AMP)

Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,
Defying the odds as a brave conquistador.
Despite intense pressure, I learn to rest in grace,
More than enough to withstand the daily tests I face,
Not merely to survive but to thrive even more.

A mighty warrior, triumphant super victor
With a cause, prepared not to die but to live for.
At times I fell behind but fought to keep the pace:
Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror.

To fulfill all the will of God and then to soar
To heights sublime where I have never been before.
Overcomer, bearing light in the darkest place,
I still fight the good fight, as I finish my race,
Moving forward, seeking to find the next open door:
Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror.

Steven Curtis Chapman offers a musical summation of this post: “More than Conquerors”:


To obtain a copy of Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs go to https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com and click on “book.”It is also available through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and bookstores everywhere.

Reflecting on God’s goodness: If it had not been for the Lord

February 1, 2020

This morning I wake up and begin my day in grateful praise to God to see another day. I have so much to be thankful for as I reflect upon the goodness of God. I think of Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs, my book where I share the challenges I faced and the victories I’ve won in my battle against prostate cancer. Chapter 4 closes with a reference to Psalm 124 which I would read aloud in the New Living Translation over and over. Here the Psalmist stimulates my thinking with one of those “What if?” questions.

Psalm 124
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.

1 What if the LORD had not been on our side?
Let all Israel repeat:
2 What if the LORD had not been on our side
when people attacked us?
3 They would have swallowed us alive
in their burning anger.
4 The waters would have engulfed us;
a torrent would have overwhelmed us.
5 Yes, the raging waters of their fury
would have overwhelmed our very lives.
6 Praise the LORD,
who did not let their teeth tear us apart!
7 We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap.
The trap is broken, and we are free!
8 Our help is from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
6 Praise the Lord,
who did not let their teeth tear us apart!

Verse 1 in the King James Version was the inspiration for this personal poetic expression:

If It Had Not Been for the Lord
“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,”
Let Israel now say—
Psalm 124:1

If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side,
I would have drowned in the sea from the tears I cried.
I shudder to think just where I would be today.
I would have lost my mind or turned and walked away,
But I learned that God is faithful—this cannot be denied.

He was there to guide when I was tempted and tried,
My shelter from the storm where I could run and hide.
He was my deliverer—that is all I have to say:
If it had not been for the Lord.

Enemies rose up like a flood to wash aside,
But God came through and rescued me and turned the tide.
Pressing toward the mark, dawning of a brand-new day,
Through all my trials I learned to watch, fight and pray.
The Lord is my keeper; in Him I confide:
If it had not been for the Lord.

We close this time of reflection with “Our Help is in the Name of the Lord,” Christian worship and scripture song by Esther Mui:

 

Still perfecting the art of patience

December 28, 2018

A recent blog entry examined a passage from James 1:2-4 which ended by focusing on patience. The discussion of this timeless topic also brought to mind my newly published book: Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 8 which opens with this statement from Brian Adams:

Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.ing

Throughout the entire healing process of my encounter with prostate cancer, I have been learning to perfect the art of patience by waiting on the Lord. The closing verses of my favorite psalm also come to mind.

Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
14 Wait on the LORD; be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

In the Bible the word for patience has been translated to mean endurance or perseverance, steadfastly bearing up under and remaining faithful while waiting. Patience or perseverance is a fruit of the spirit that should be evident in our lives, as we wait on the Lord.
When we examine one of the words translated—patience—we see a compound word meaning “to stay, remain, abide,” literally abiding under. The verb form means to stay under or behind, remain; figuratively, to undergo, that is bear (trials), have the fortitude, to persevere—abide, endure, take patiently, suffer, tarry behind.

The root idea of the noun is that of remaining under some discipline, subjecting one’s self to something which demands the yielding of the will to something against which one naturally would rebel. It means cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy—enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting). It is a bearing up in a way that honors and glorifies our heavenly Father, not merely to grin and bear it.

James 5:11 provides an excellent example of the word for patience being used as a verb and as a noun in an individual who embodies the character trait of patient endurance. The New Living Translation offers this rendering containing a familiar phrase that encompasses a character trait most often associated with Job—

We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him in the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

The Book of Job is a classic example of the principle of first usage and first spiritual principle, which highlights as particularly important the first time that a concept is mentioned in the Bible. E.W. Bullinger and other Bible scholars surmise that the first book written was the Book of Job, believed to have been composed by Moses. Job, whom Chuck Swindoll described as a “man of heroic endurance,” was a real person, and his story is one of the first demonstrations of many spiritual principles, one of the first being that God is “full of compassion and tender mercy” and that He rewards those who demonstrate patience. Although it is said that patience is its own reward, God also rewards patience, as so clearly demonstrated at the end of the Book of Job. Recall Job 42:10—

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the
LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.

After being introduced to Graham Cooke and his book on crafted prayer, I recall reading a statement he made regarding prayer and patience, part of the introduction to the psalm that closes Chapter 8—

A Prayer for Patience

My suggestion for people in a season of birth or upgrade
is to write out a prayer for patience and pray it every day.
—Graham Cooke

For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance,
so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God,
and thus receive and carry away [and enjoy to the full] what is promised.
—Hebrews 10:36 (Amplified Bible)

We look back and pause and then look ahead to see
Clearly who God is and who He has called us to be.
We still journey down the road less traveled by
And pray that patience may serve as our trusted ally.
We must say “No” to the pressures of this life
And say “Yes” to the rest God gives, despite the strife.
As we stay our mind on Him, we abide in peace.
When we praise God, works of the enemy decrease.
May we remain and not fall by the wayside as some
But like Job wait until at last our change shall come.
Patient endurance seems delayed for some reason,
But fruit abounds to those who wait in their season.
We pray that in this time of transition and shift
We will embrace waiting as a wonderful gift.

We close with encouraging from John Waller:
“While I’m Waiting”:

Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs is now available wherever books are sold and online. For more details check out https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com.