GenerationS Vol.2 Preview
The irony about breast cancer is this: You feel well but are told you’re sick. And that you have to get really sick to get well. That basically sums up my journey that began with a sentence from a doctor, “You have cancer. You need chemotherapy.”
In 2012, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I went through surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments that year. The surgeries and radiation were hard. Chemotherapy was the toughest. They pumped a cocktail of poison into my veins every 2 weeks for 12 cycles, over 20 times. Yes, you do have to get really sick to get well. Chemotherapy ensures that. There were so many rounds that once you started feeling a little better, you had to go for the next round of treatment. All mothers will understand this when I say chemotherapy is like giving birth on Sunday and on Monday, you discover you are pregnant again!
At one point in the treatment protocol the nurses were especially vigilant when it came to injecting one particular toxic deep red liquid into my veins. They even had a medical nickname for it. For the first time, I met a ‘Red Devil’ which was more potent than any Manchester United player.
I lost all my hair. I was fat from chemotherapy and steroids. I was so fat that once I sat on my iPhone and it became an iPad. Once I even stepped on the weighing scale and it spoke to me, “One person at a time, please!”
At home, self-administered injections to boost my white blood count took place after each cycle of chemo treatment. My gallant husband, How, injected me for a total of 28 times. Many know him as Pastor How the Visionary but I wish everyone could see him as How the Husband. There is a quiet awe when you see a man who can commit to the ‘in sickness’ part of the wedding vow. If anxiety equates love, then he must be the most loving man on earth because when my surgery took longer than expected, his heart was going to leap out of his chest with nervousness outside the operating theatre. It took longer because the surgeon did not expect my cancer to have spread to my lymph nodes. After my surgeries, How helped me shower. He settled all my insurance. He would have gone for chemotherapy in my place if he could. He accompanied me for every single treatment that year. And till today, he goes with me to every doctor’s appointment. (It’s funny. I just realised that my oncologist has never once seen me alone in his clinic since I first saw him in 2012 till now!)
During the chemo days, How would give me my booster injections first before he went to work. His heart was heavy but his unflinching commitment would bring him to the church office. We had just expanded from three to four services before we found out we had a cancer crisis in hand. At that time, we were the only two pastors. The first generation of young potential pastors were still… young. So he was the only one left to handle everything in church from preaching to finances to acquiring our new worship venue Imaginarium, to endless, endless responsibilities. He loved his wife deeply but he treated the Bride of Christ equally well.
I tear as I write this because I have never seen this man back down from any stress. He simply does not know how to give his second best to people, to the church and to his family.
After slash (surgery) and poison (chemotherapy) comes burn (radiation). Radiation was a daily commitment for 28 times as well. Yes, I counted. Cancer is a counting game. For every stage of treatment, you start an internal countdown clock. You know that better days are coming.
Many people asked me how I went through that hardship especially when my breast cancer was at stage 3. Cancer had invaded my regional lymph nodes. While many different studies give different sets of statistics, one common thread shows that at stage 3, the 5-year survival rate definitely drops. In one global study, 5-year survival rates of stage 1 and stage 2 are 86% and 69%, respectively. At stage 3, it drops to 51%. If it has spread to a distant part, the 5-year survival rate drops further to 32%.1
Based on these statistics, I have a 50-50 chance of living beyond five years. But I have already lived past five years! In Marvel lingo, that means I am the half that Thanos’ Snap didn’t kill off in The Blip! Wow.
I was sick with cancer. But I have always believed what Bishop Dale Bronner encouraged me in an email – your CONDITION is NOT YOUR CONCLUSION. I lost all my hair, but it grew back. God heals, He restores. Right now, I’m in my ninth year of being cancer-free. Way past the fifth year. Thank You, Jesus.
So how did I go through this valley of my life, many people asked.
First things first – when I had cancer, what helped was that I had put my faith in Christ. I was a Christian. I was already having a relationship with Jesus. So, I knew my end. Even if I did die from cancer, I was going to be in heaven. I was so assured of where I would be if I died. You can say that when I received my stage 3 diagnosis, I was actually processing my prognosis of eternity with Jesus and it looked promising!
Jesus promised us and said, “In my Heavenly Father’s House are many mansions.” Heaven is not a crummy place. The Bible says God prepares for us mansions, not man caves. Thank God. I hear a lot of women breathing a sigh of relief there. It is also not a place filled with bare-bodied, winged angelic children who play the harp for eternity. God is in heaven. It is a place where there will be no more tears and no more pain. Once I am sure of the end, then I can deal with the in-between! C.S. Lewis said,
Aim at heaven, and you will get earth thrown in.
Aim at earth and you get neither.
When I had cancer, I was aiming at heaven. I had this conviction that Jesus had my end all nicely wrapped up. Because I had secured my eternity in Christ, I was able to work out how to walk through this valley in my life on earth. When you walk through the fire or see a life storm coming, ask yourself, “Have I secured my eternity in Jesus?” Knowing you have a secure end releases you to deal with the current.
Besides that, what got me through a crisis? Faith and trust. We need both in this Christian life that we live. There is a balance between faith and trust.
Trust is passive, faith is active.
I am not saying trust is no good. Let me explain it to you. The way faith and trust work together is that trust sees the end. But it is faith that carries us through the in-between. Trust is latent. It sits there as a concealed power until it is activated.
Both are important in our walk with God. There is a difference between faith and trust. Faith is for the now.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
The Bible says that you can put your faith in God to perform great works for us now even though we can’t see those works yet. Trust, on the other hand, is for the future. We need both.
TRUST, NO FAITH
However, some Christians have trust in God for the future but no faith in God for the now. Trust when it’s not combined with faith becomes way too passive. On its own, trust simply says, “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be.”
People with just trust don’t do anything. They cross their fingers and hug
their crosses and believe that everything will always turn out right
someday. When not joined with faith, solo trust says:
“Relax, hard work is overrated. Someday I will pass my exams.”
“Someday I will get out of this addiction…”
“Godly parenting is too tiring… Someday my children will turn out right…”
Trust without faith is like a lacklustre attitude that says, “Cross your fingers, hope for the best.” When a person only has trust and no faith, they have nothing in them to fight their daily fights. They have no strength for the in-between. They have no spunk for the now.
They crumble when difficulties come. When they receive bad news, their world comes crashing down because they have no faith to fight for the now. People with just trust do not pray to God in faith for miracles. They don’t seek God in active faith for a change in their circumstances and ominously believe their end is sealed!
We need to have faith to fight the daily fights. If not, we will be overwhelmed. We cannot simply have trust but no faith. We also need faith for the now.
FAITH, NO TRUST
On the other hand, some Christians are the complete opposite. They have faith but no trust. They have what we call ‘hyper-faith’. Sometimes, this is the problem with us who are charismatic Christians. We are only big on faith confessions. It is almost like a denial wrapped up in faux strength. People with hyper-faith often say nervously, “Oh, I’ve already prayed. I have already confessed good things. I have been confessing and confessing positively. Everything will be alright… nothing bad will happen. Positive confession, only positive confession!”
So, when they receive a doctor’s report that is negative, it completely shipwrecks their hyper-faith. Hyper-faith believers are set up for a crash and burn. When what they prayed for does not happen the way they expect, they crash because they only have faith for the now. They can’t see beyond the now. They crash in the crisis and then they walk away from God.
This is the danger for many charismatic Christians who have faith but they don’t have trust. When their hyper-faith bubble bursts, they can’t see beyond the now to the end.
It is so important that we have both faith and trust. Faith is active. It carries us through the crisis but trust is also important. Trust sees the end. Trust is passive and must be activated like latent power. Trust rests in God. It believes that in every crisis, even if the reports continue to be bad, underneath are the everlasting arms of God (Deuteronomy 33:27).
In a crisis: Faith says, “I’ve got You God!” Trust says, “God, You’ve got me!”
Have you ever seen the guy who walks the tightrope in a circus? Faith is what makes you dare to step off that platform to walk that tightrope. And trust is knowing that even if you fall, God’s hands are there to pick you up like that safety net for the tightrope walker. Trust is like a safety net. It believes that God has got you!
There is a powerful story in the Bible that displays faith and trust. In Daniel 3, three young Jews – Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego – were captured by their enemies and brought to Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon at that time, built an image of gold and wanted everyone under his rulership to bow down and worship the image. Everyone bowed except the three young men. They refused to comply because they wanted to worship the one true God.
The incensed king confronted them. He threatened to throw them into the fiery furnace. An intense conversation arose. The king asked them, “And which god will deliver you from my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were caught in a crisis. They were literally facing a fire! But look at their response:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.
These three young Hebrew men had faith in the now to carry them through their crisis. “God is able to deliver us,” they proclaimed. Their faith cried out loud and clear in their actions. With their defiant stance, they were saying, “We’ve got You God, in this crisis!” They had faith in God’s power. But faith was not all they had. Look at what else they proclaimed:
But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
They said, “Yes God can deliver us, we have faith.
But if not…”
They were proclaiming, “We believe God has the power to deliver us. But if not, it is still alright because we trust in our God.” Essentially, they were saying – not only have we got God, but if not, God has got us!
But if not – three crucial words. Sometimes hyper-faith Christians criticise these three words. They are horrified and accuse us, “Oh, how can you say ‘but if not’? It shows that you are doubting God. You cannot be negative!”
Those in the hyper-faith camp will brand the three young men as doubters and as people who lack faith in God. But that is far from the truth. The three young men had something stronger than faith. They had faith and trust!
They are saying, I have faith for now. But if not, I have trust for the future. God can deliver us but if not, we will still worship Him and none other because He has got our end secured. God has got us in this crisis! They have both faith and trust!
Still, the king threw them into the furnace. However, God delivered them out of the fiery flames! Not a hair was burnt! The king witnessed the miracle.
Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!
What did the king see? He saw their trust! He heard their three words – but if not!
Those three words got me through stage 3 breast cancer.
“God, I know You can deliver me from stage 3 breast cancer, but if not, I’ve secured my eternity with You.”
“God, You know my life’s work is GenerationS. After training and raising so many young leaders in our church, I will be alive when it is time to raise my own daughter to lead. But if not, she will still be trained by the leaders we have raised.”
“God, I believe You can help ease up the surgeries, chemo and radiation. But if not, I will still praise You with my voice.”
Some of you reading this, you need these three words to get you through a difficult time right now. You have got to start shifting your prayers to ones that have both faith and trust.
Don’t just be stuck on the faith part for the ‘now’. The Apostle Peter is the guy in the moment. He is the ‘now’ guy. So faith pushes him out of the boat onto the water. Faith empowers him to take those miraculous steps. However, when he started to look around and saw the problems, he started to sink as fast as his faith leaked. That’s when Jesus came and taught him another lesson – trust. Peter was the ‘faith’ guy who needed to learn how to trust God when things go bad.
Some of you are like Peter seeing the waves of problems around you, you
need to learn to trust God.
Some of you, however, need greater faith to push you out of the boat onto the water.
Faith says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Trust says, “But if not.”
We need both.
We must have both faith and trust – one last thought on this:
Faith moves the hands of God. Trust touches the heart of God.
Some of you can’t understand why you are going through this difficult time in your life right now. I want to encourage you: If you can’t see His hands, trust His heart. (Inspired by Charles Spurgeon) Trust His character.
In Volume 2, I wrote that we should not break but we can trust God and allow ourselves to be broken by the Holy Spirit on the inside. The Bible says:
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart…
Rarely have I heard people praising God for the state of brokenness they are in. But I have discovered that God can use our brokenness more than our gifts and talents.
After cancer, I started what we call Miracles & Breakthroughs Services. A new healing dimension in our church has been birthed. God has added a new dimension to my ministry. More and more people are encountering the power of God in our church and getting healed. More and more people are walking into their miracles and breakthroughs.
I minister not just with sympathy where we say, “I am sorry you are going through this.” But because of the cancer valley I have walked right through to the mountaintop, I can minister with a brokenness that says, “I know exactly how you feel. And I have experienced His resurrection power. Come, let us have faith and trust in Him together.” That is empathy. Sympathy morphs strongly into empathy simply because of brokenness.
Sympathy is good and empathy is even better but don’t stop there. Move from sympathy to empathy and then to authority!
Our authority is in Jesus. The Bread of Life who was broken on the cross has secured our healing for us!
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
Our M&B Services work because of the authority we have in Him. Our brokenness gives us empathy while His brokenness on the cross gives us authority!
Coming back to the thought of brokenness, I realise that God feeds the multitudes with the brokenness of our lives. The bread had to be broken in the hands of Jesus before the people could be miraculously fed. The anointing only flows when the alabaster jar is broken. Blessings are found in the brokenness.
Determined to be a blessing, in my cancer year, I took my insurance payout and together with our savings and monies from our personal family business, Pastor How and I gave $1 million to our church Building Fund that year. The feeling of loving and honouring His House was indescribable!
Aside from M&B Services which have blessed so many people and the $1 million that feeds the multitudes, God has a way of putting the cherry on your cake when you are celebrating brokenness. Out of this message, Matt Redman co-wrote a song with us called But If Not!
Just watching Matt create in the studio was already a jaw-dropping event. He puts the ‘W’ in ‘wordsmith’ and ‘M’ in ‘maestro’ and ‘H’ in ‘humility’. And so to have him co-write a song with us after he heard this message But If Not was something that I had never imagined would take place. This song collaboration with Matt ranks in the top five highlights of my life!
Friends, put your faith and trust in Him.
Let But If Not be the holy defiant attitude of your heart.
The blessing is found in the brokenness.
Know this – God is not breaking you. He is not killing you. He is blessing you!
1 * Khadije Maajani et al., “The Global and Regional Survival Rate of Women With Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” Clinical Breast Cancer Vol. 19, No. 3 (2019): 165-177.Back to Not Afraid