I have a couple of acquaintances who are currently battling cancer. Each of them has been recently undergoing the grueling experience of the combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Those sessions often result in patients dealing with extreme fatigue, hair loss, bad nausea, and other difficult side effects.
But those brave warriors who are forced to fight this battle know that those are challenges which must be endured in order for the disease to be treated. As one of them expressed to me, “It’s like they almost have to kill the body in order to kill the cancer.”
We face a similar battle when it comes to dealing with the cancer in our souls. This deadly spiritual disease isn’t one that just affects a few. We’ve all been infected by it. We could simply call it “sin,” but don’t think of it in terms of any particular action. Those acts of sin are simply the symptoms of the disease which lies deep within us.
It’s a selfishness, a willfulness, a tendency toward rebellion, and a bent toward ungodliness that pulls against any of our desires and efforts to follow God.
We could trace virtually all of our spiritual failings to this disease in our soul. It’s what causes us to insist on having our own way. It’s what makes us unwilling to submit to God. It’s what instills in us a desire to pursue the wrong things rather than pursuing godliness.
Those various sinful acts we may commit are rooted in the condition of our heart, the thoughts in our minds, and the desires of our soul.
So what can we do about this spiritual malady? Some simply ignore it or give in to it, suggesting that it can’t be overcome. They might adhere to the philosophy that it’s OK to let this cancer rule in your life, as long as you seek forgiveness for every incident when it springs to the surface.
Others might try to appease this spiritual disease, to cover up its symptoms with bandages, or to try to treat it with mild remedies. But that would be like trying to treat cancer by taking cough medicine or a couple of aspirin.
The cancer in our souls won’t be overcome by a frequent dose of church attendance, an occasional prayer, or through giving some money to that homeless guy holding up a sign at the interstate exit.
A serious disease requires a strong treatment. The Bible suggests that in order to truly be free from this condition, we must die to our self-centered nature.
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him (Christ), that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).
We have to come to the point of completely surrendering our wills to the Lord’s will, letting His desires take priority over our own. Then we will be able to testify, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
It can be painful to let the Great Physician treat our spiritual cancer. It may feel like part of our very being is being ripped out. But we can’t afford to deal with this condition gently. Only as we die to sin and self-centeredness can we find fullness of life in Christ.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.