I read your announcement regarding your stomach cancer diagnosis with great sadness for you, your family, and the Church. You have done much to edify your fellow believers and to spread the gospel and, beyond that, the love of Jesus and of others that is evident in your life has endeared you to many of us. We love you and are praying for you, your family, and your ministry.
As I was reflecting on your situation and praying for you the other day, I thought of how this may likely be perceived by Muslims, who are angry at your “apostasy” and your refutation of their beliefs. David Wood shared a picture of one Muslim saying cruel things regarding your cancer, and I was dismayed by this Muslim’s celebration of your trial. It occurred to me that, in addition to this schadenfreude, many Muslims may view your cancer as Allah’s punishment and as a sign that you were incorrect in your criticisms of Islam and in your affirmation of Christianity.
Keep reading, I’m not writing this to be depressing! Perhaps this attitude among Muslims has occurred to you as a possibility as well or even as something you have experienced, and I wanted to share the thoughts I had next as (what I hope to be) a form of encouragement.
I thought of Muslims scoffing and saying, “On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have the counsel and strength to write—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against Allah? … But if you say to us, ‘I am depending on the Lord my God’ —isn’t he the one whose prophet you have slandered and whose holy Qur’an you have rejected, saying to your audience, ‘You must worship Jesus as God’?”
At least that is how their words sounded in my head as I was reminded of the taunts that King Hezekiah faced when surrounded by the forces of King Sennacherib of Assyria in 2 Kings 18. And of course, like King Sennacherib, there will probably be those who wrongly think they are doing the will of God when they persecute you, who believe that their vindictive and petty god has is punishing you. Yes, Muslims may delight themselves in the thought of your destruction as payback for tearing down their idols to a false god.
As you know, the story didn’t end there. Like you, Hezekiah poured out his heart and soul before God, and sought the prayers of others. And God heard the mocking of the Assyrians against his people, his city, his temple, and his Name, and the laughter of the Assyrians was silenced and the Lord miraculously delivered his people.
But there is, of course, a second part to God’s deliverance of King Hezekiah. In those days he was ill to the point of death, and he was told he was going to die. But he again trusted in God, and in his tears he sought God and asked God to remember him. Once again, the Lord saved Hezekiah in a miraculous way, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind about whether God had rejected Hezekiah.
I’m not an advocate of the prosperity “Gospel”, and I’m not a prophet. I can’t say that God will deliver you as he delivered Jerusalem, that he will silence your critics the way he silenced the Assyrians, or that he will heal you physically as he healed Hezekiah. But I do believe that there is a reason my thoughts were guided to Hezekiah as I reflected on your situation. I pray that this reason was for your encouragement, as you remember God’s faithfulness not just to you, but to his people throughout history, who have put their trust in him and who have stood in the face of scoffing enemies and sickness, and persecution and trials of all sorts. I pray for your recovery, and for you to feel and know not just the love of God, but the love of your brothers and sisters in this difficult time.