Anyone can be perceived as having their spiritual life all together, but put a man or woman under stress and suffering and you find out quickly what’s inside them.
I watched this truth come to life in a man in my congregation by the name of Stan Maxwell. I was in my first few weeks as a new senior pastor when Stan approached me after a Sunday message with his arms outstretched ready to take me into his trade marked bear hug. After hugging me he pushed me back while still gripping my shoulders and said with toothy grin, “We need to talk. You need to hear what God has done for me. I’m a walking miracle!” We sat down on some chairs near by and he began to share some of his life story: his Christian upbringing, his service in the Marine Corp, his battle with alcohol and drug addiction, him coming to faith in Christ and being set free from those addictions, and finally his cancer diagnosis.
The cancer diagnosis hit him like a mac truck. He had been enjoying life with his wife Tracey and watching his successful interior trim business really take off. Now, he had a war to fight: there’d be chemo treatments, endless doctor visits, fatigue, frustration and days when he didn’t even want to get out of bed. Today however, Stan was riding high after his cancer was declared in remission. He felt strongly that God had healed him completely and wanted to tell the world. He did just that.
A couple of weeks later I find myself interviewing Stan on camera as he shared much of his story. We shared the interview as part of a sermon I preached and it seemed to be a great encouragement to many as he shared that cancer had given him clarity and a passion to get up every day and bring God glory with his life with or without cancer.
About a year later I got a phone call in the early evening. It was Stan. He had just received news that the cancer was back. He no doubt was discouraged, but said, “Time to get back in the fight!” That’s exactly what he did as he went through more chemo therapy, experimental drug trials, you name it, he endured it. All the while we prayed and trusted God for His designed healing.
There were some hard days and nights when his body and emotions were pushed to their limits. His wife Tracey all the while caring and walking with him every step of the way. Stan kept looking up; kept trusting the Lord for His best.
He called me the day when doctors looked at him and said they had done all they could do. After a moment of silence, I asked, “How are you feeling?” Stan said with a quiet confidence, “I’m at peace.”
It was that same peace that spoke loudly to Stan’s friends and family that didn’t know The Lord. I remember many remarking to me as we stood around his bed in his final hours, “His faith is inspiring” and “I hope I can hold on to God like Stan.” Before he closed his eyes with me for the last time Stan said, “I’m good. God’s been good to me. I’m ready to go home.”
Stan died Feb. 28, 2013. Cancer might have killed his body, but it couldn’t kill his faith. He was unstoppable. Throngs of people filed in to our church to celebrate his life and hear of Stan’s faith in Christ. Many made decisions to follow The Lord after watching Stan’s battle and his response in the midst of it all.
Whether your desired miracle ever takes place: that crisis resolved, that healing needed, that relationship restored…more than any other circumstance you might face; God is more concerned in what He’s doing in and through you than what he can pull you out of.
(An excerpt from my upcoming book, Non-Stop: Cultivating an Unstoppable Faith in the Midst of Adversity)