Randy Alcorn

If We Realize We’re Undeserving, Suddenly the World Comes Alive

Of course life under the Curse is hard. (That’s why it’s called the Curse.) Instead of focusing on everything that goes wrong, we’re thrilled at God’s many kindnesses, and our hearts overflow with thanks that we who deserve nothing but judgment, death, and Hell are given deliverance, grace, and eternal life. 

Jesus said to His disciples, “When you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (Luke 17:10, NASB). He’s saying, in effect, “Lower your sense of what you deserve.”
God told Adam and Eve what would happen to them when they turned from Him and chose sin: “You will surely die” (Genesis 2:17, NASB). Based on that text alone, all we deserve and should expect is death. Only when we acknowledge this can we rejoice in the promises of life in Jesus, who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
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God Takes Our Stinginess or Generosity Personally

The simplest statement made in Scripture about the life that Jesus brings His people is perhaps also the most profound: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The giving life is not about obligation or guilt or drudgery or merely surviving. It’s about life in abundance.

To give lavishly is to be rich toward God; to hoard or spend on ourselves without regard for others is to be impoverished toward God. He accepts our gifts to the needy as if they were given directly to Him: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17).
Any lifestyle that doesn’t align with God’s priorities and won’t hold up after death is not a good one—no matter how glamorous or appealing or sensible it seems at the time.
What Makes Someone a Fool?
In Christ’s story of the rich fool a man decides to hoard his fortune then “take life easy; eat, drink and be merry” (see Luke 12:13-21). The word translated “fool” literally means “unthinking one.” Mindless. Senseless. The rich fool was out of touch with eternal realities. Despite death’s inevitability, he failed to prepare for it—and failed to remember that he would give an account to God (Romans 14:12).
The rich fool stored up treasures for himself on Earth as if he were the center of the universe and as if this world was where he’d live forever. The man was a fool to imagine his silver, gold, crops, land, and barns were actually his. He was a fool to ignore God’s claims on him and his possessions:
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (Psalm 24:1, NIV)
“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the Lord Almighty. (Haggai 2:8, NIV)
A wise person will regularly ask, “Lord, what do you want me to do with all you have put in my hands?” God’s Word tells us exactly how to prepare now for the afterlife. Though our culture and even some of our Christian friends may encourage us to do so, we don’t have to live like fools!
In the world’s eyes, the rich fool was a great success. Today he would be admired, and he might even be placed on a church or ministry board. But in the end, all his success counted for nothing.
Had the rich fool acknowledged God as his Creator and Redeemer, and as the ultimate owner of everything he possessed, he would have been rich toward God and stored up treasures in Heaven. Instead, he stored up for himself treasures on Earth and  was suddenly and eternally parted from them at death.
The most troubling aspect of this parable is that if we met this man, most of us would commend him for his foresight.
Notice he isn’t called the rich sinner, but the rich fool.
Materialists are Self-Destructive Keepers
Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson observed this about those who fail to live generous lives:
By holding onto what we possess, we diminish its long-term value to us. In protecting only ourselves against future uncertainties and misfortunes, we become more anxious about uncertainties and vulnerable to future misfortunes. In short, by failing to care well for others, we actually do not properly take care of ourselves.
Christ-followers are self-enriching givers. Why? Because giving inevitably enlarges our hearts, lives, and capacity for joy.
Don’t misunderstand. The true good life doesn’t say no to wealth or pleasures. Rather, it says yes to greater and lasting wealth and pleasures that are found when we cheerfully part with God’s money and possessions for others’ good and God’s glory.
God graciously gives us money and possessions to meet real needs, both our own needs and the needs of others.
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True, Lasting Happiness Is Found in Jesus, Not Sex or Sexual Identity

For many years, it was widely assumed that this much higher level of unhappiness was due to humiliation over others’ disapproval. Though society has become much more accepting of the LGBQT lifestyle, unhappiness persists even among those surrounded by affirmation. Being gay or transgender may be celebrated in our culture, but that doesn’t change its nature or eliminate the harm to those engaging in such a lifestyle.

Sex as God intended—in marriage, between a man and a woman—is a pleasure to be celebrated (see Proverbs 5:15-19). Sex outside of marriage brings serious negative consequences—emotional, physical, and spiritual. Promising long-term pleasure it can’t deliver, addiction to sex and pornography enslave and degrade everyone involved. “[The adulterer] follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter. . . . He does not know that it will cost him his life” (Proverbs 7:22-23).

Research data from 16,000 American adults who were asked confidentially how many sex partners they’d had in the preceding year proved the same point made in the book of Proverbs: “Across men and women alike, the data show that the optimal number of partners is one.” [1] Other research similarly revealed that “people with more sexual partners are less happy.” [2]
Satan would like us to believe that people who have sex outside marriage are happier, but that’s a lie.
Sin Does Not Lead to Lasting Happiness
The unhappiest-looking person I’ve ever seen—face drawn and haggard, eyes vacant—was holding a sign that said, “Gay and happy about it.” I’m not suggesting, of course, that homosexuals can never be happy. God’s common grace offers some happiness to all. But Romans 1:27 speaks of those making these choices as “receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Romans lists many other sins God hates, yet that one is singled out as particularly self-punishing.
I’ve had long, honest talks with those living the “gay lifestyle” who are decidedly miserable—just like many heterosexuals who have idols of their own.
Teenagers and single adults often face heavy pressure to pretend they’re having a great time sleeping around, when privately they’re filled with self-loathing and disillusionment, because reality never lives up to the promises. Likewise, there’s pressure on gay people to project an image of fulfillment. Some people—both heterosexuals and homosexuals—go out of their way to publicly celebrate their promiscuous behavior, all while trying to ignore the emptiness and pain. With the Satan-scripted obligatory claim, “[Fill in sin] makes me happy,” they offer false advertising for the father of lies, who relishes their self-destruction.
Little Idols vs. Infinite God
There’s a tragic irony in the positive term gay. No matter how happy gay may sound, these are the facts about the suicide rate among homosexuals:
The risk of suicide among gay and lesbian youth is fourteen times higher than for heterosexual youth.
Between 30 and 45 percent of transgendered people report having attempted suicide.
I didn’t get these statistics from religious conservatives, but from a secular website sympathetic to gay and lesbian issues. [3] A study that analyzed twenty-five earlier studies regarding sexual orientation and mental health showed that “homosexuals and bisexuals are about 50% more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to suffer from depression and abuse drugs.” [4]
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Meet the Resurrected You

Jesus says of the new earth, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). This means he will restore creation to its former pre-curse glory, and likely give it greater beauty and wonder than the original. We, and the new world, will become far better and in that sense far different. But we will be the same people, without sin; and it will be the same world, without evil and suffering. All will be made glorious.

Resurrection — Christ’s and ours — is a cornerstone of the Christian faith. Yet how many of us ponder what our resurrected selves will be like? You might think Scripture doesn’t say much. In fact, it tells us a lot, and gives us solid reasons to deduce much more.
For instance, Paul wrote, “[The body that] is sown is perishable; [it] is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. . . . It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42–44). The term “spiritual body” doesn’t mean an incorporeal body made of spirit — there is no such thing. Body means corporeal: flesh and bones. A spiritual body will still be a body. But it will be spiritual, under the holy control of a redeemed and righteous spirit.
God made Adam from the earth to live on it, not float on the air. He joined spirit and body to make us completely human. He did not design us to be disembodied spirits as Plato taught, yet sadly, many Christians believe just that. To be with Christ in the present heaven is better by far than living on earth under the curse. But Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15 that we will not be eternally complete until our resurrection.
Was Jesus Only a Ghost?
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). Christ’s post-resurrection actions offer us a preview of what resurrected people will do — including preparing and eating meals, conversing, and traveling. If Jesus had been a ghost, we would become ghosts. More importantly, if Jesus had only been a ghost, redemption wouldn’t have been accomplished.
The risen Jesus told his disciples,
“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. . . . [Then] he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:39–43)
Jesus didn’t just say he wasn’t a ghost; he proved it. Likewise, he “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Whatever else a glorified body is, it is first and foremost a resurrected body.
In Acts 1:11, an angel explained, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way. . . .” The resurrected Jesus who lived among them forty days before ascending is the same Jesus in soul and body who will return to raise his people’s bodies from the grave. Why didn’t Jesus immediately ascend to heaven? Perhaps partly to show his design for resurrected people to live on a physical earth.
You Will Still be You
Bible-believing Christians often ask me, “Will we become angels when we die?” Somewhere they have gotten the idea that whatever we may be after death, we won’t really be human. No wonder so few Christians look forward to heaven. Humans are not drawn to the idea of becoming inhuman.
Scripture portrays resurrection as a matter of continuity from our present into our future lives. The Westminster Confession says, “All the dead shall be raised up with the selfsame bodies, and none other . . . united again to their souls forever.” Selfsame and none other unequivocally mean we will still be us.
When I became a Christian in high school, my mother saw many changes, but she still recognized me. She said, “Good morning, Randy,” not “Who are you?” My dog never growled at me — he knew exactly who I was even though I was a new person in Jesus. Likewise, this same Randy will undergo another significant change at death, and yet another at the resurrection.
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Meet the Resurrected You

Resurrection — Christ’s and ours — is a cornerstone of the Christian faith. Yet how many of us ponder what our resurrected selves will be like? You might think Scripture doesn’t say much. In fact, it tells us a lot, and gives us solid reasons to deduce much more.

For instance, Paul wrote, “[The body that] is sown is perishable; [it] is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. . . . It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42–44). The term “spiritual body” doesn’t mean an incorporeal body made of spirit — there is no such thing. Body means corporeal: flesh and bones. A spiritual body will still be a body. But it will be spiritual, under the holy control of a redeemed and righteous spirit.

God made Adam from the earth to live on it, not float on the air. He joined spirit and body to make us completely human. He did not design us to be disembodied spirits as Plato taught, yet sadly, many Christians believe just that. To be with Christ in the present heaven is better by far than living on earth under the curse. But Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15 that we will not be eternally complete until our resurrection.

Was Jesus Only a Ghost?

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). Christ’s post-resurrection actions offer us a preview of what resurrected people will do — including preparing and eating meals, conversing, and traveling. If Jesus had been a ghost, we would become ghosts. More importantly, if Jesus had only been a ghost, redemption wouldn’t have been accomplished.

The risen Jesus told his disciples,

“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. . . . [Then] he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:39–43)

Jesus didn’t just say he wasn’t a ghost; he proved it. Likewise, he “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Whatever else a glorified body is, it is first and foremost a resurrected body.

“Whatever else a glorified body is, it is first and foremost a resurrected body.”

In Acts 1:11, an angel explained, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way. . . .” The resurrected Jesus who lived among them forty days before ascending is the same Jesus in soul and body who will return to raise his people’s bodies from the grave. Why didn’t Jesus immediately ascend to heaven? Perhaps partly to show his design for resurrected people to live on a physical earth.

You Will Still Be You

Bible-believing Christians often ask me, “Will we become angels when we die?” Somewhere they have gotten the idea that whatever we may be after death, we won’t really be human. No wonder so few Christians look forward to heaven. Humans are not drawn to the idea of becoming inhuman.

Scripture portrays resurrection as a matter of continuity from our present into our future lives. The Westminster Confession says, “All the dead shall be raised up with the selfsame bodies, and none other . . . united again to their souls forever.” Selfsame and none other unequivocally mean we will still be us.

When I became a Christian in high school, my mother saw many changes, but she still recognized me. She said, “Good morning, Randy,” not “Who are you?” My dog never growled at me — he knew exactly who I was even though I was a new person in Jesus. Likewise, this same Randy will undergo another significant change at death, and yet another at the resurrection. But I will still be who I was and who I am — just a far better version.

In My Flesh, With My Eyes

It’s hard to imagine a clearer claim to our physical and mental continuity in the afterlife than Job’s:

I know that my redeemer lives,     and that in the end he will stand on the earth.And after my skin has been destroyed,     yet in my flesh I will see God;I myself will see him     with my own eyes — I, and not another. (Job 19:25–27, NIV)

Peter said, “Heaven must receive [the risen Christ] until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:21). What could be a stronger statement about continuity than God promising he will restore everything? Restoration is about bringing back the original good, which requires getting rid of the bad.

Adam and Eve were 100 percent human in body and spirit both before sin, and after. We will be humans after sin’s destruction — far better humans, but never non-humans. The fundamental difference between our present and future selves will be our deliverance from sin, death, disease, and the curse (Romans 8:21, 23).

What Will Glorification Be Like?

The apostle John described the glorified Jesus as shining with an overwhelming power and brightness (Revelation 1:12–16). But just as Moses and Elijah were glorified in a secondary sense in the transfiguration, so God’s people will experience derivative glorification from Jesus: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake . . . Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2–3).

Our glorification will involve a dramatic and marvelous transformation. What prepares us to participate in God’s glory in our resurrection bodies? Our current sufferings (1 Peter 1:6–7; 2 Corinthians 4:17). We are called “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:17).

Joni Eareckson Tada says, “Somewhere in my broken, paralyzed body is the seed of what I shall become. . . . if there are mirrors in heaven (and why not?), the image I’ll see will be unmistakably ‘Joni,’ although a much better, brighter Joni” (Heaven: Your Real Home, 55).

Jesus says of the new earth, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). This means he will restore creation to its former pre-curse glory, and likely give it greater beauty and wonder than the original. We, and the new world, will become far better and in that sense far different. But we will be the same people, without sin; and it will be the same world, without evil and suffering. All will be made glorious.

Imagining Life After Resurrection

Though our imaginations will naturally fall short of resurrection reality, I believe we should allow them to step through the doors Scripture opens. Since we know what bodies are and we know what the earth is, imagining new bodies and a new earth without sin, death, and suffering isn’t at all impossible. That’s why Peter says, “We are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). If you don’t imagine it, you won’t long for it!

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous” (Psalm 139:14, NLT). How much more will we praise God for the wonders of our resurrection bodies and minds — free from sin and disease and dementia? Our resurrected senses may function at levels we’ve never known. On the new earth, we’ll still be finite but no longer fallen, suggesting we’ll continually experience discovery. Will our eyes function as telescopes and microscopes and see new colors? Will our ears recognize voices from miles away?

We’re commanded, “Glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). What will we do for eternity? Glorify God in our bodies. Scripture tells us, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Forever, we will eat, drink, and do all else to the glory of God. We will worship Jesus not only when we gaze upon him and sing, but as we work, rest, explore, study, learn, and celebrate.

“God’s plan for eternal heaven is a redeemed earth free from the curse, inhabited by active, embodied people.”

Revelation 22 shows us God’s plan for eternal heaven is a redeemed earth free from the curse, inhabited by active, embodied people — wonderfully good news to all who imagine heaven to be dull, boring, and unearthly. On the new earth, “his servants will worship him” (Revelation 22:3). We will have things to do, places to go, people to see.

All We Were Meant to Be

In heaven, civilization and dominion will be sanctified and glorified: “The saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever” (Daniel 7:18). I and all God’s people — together with my parents, dear friends, and my beloved wife Nanci, who went to Jesus almost exactly a year ago — will cultivate and develop the new earth, and marvel at its wonders.

We will surely write books, perform music, create art, play, laugh, meet new friends, discover, invent, and travel on the new earth. How do I know? We do these things now, not because we’re sinners, but because we’re human, made in God’s image. Sin will cease; image-bearing will not. Above all, we’ll be joined to Christ, in a perfect marriage that present marriages, in their finest moments, prefigure (see Ephesians 5:22–33).

Are you looking forward to resurrection day?

Our destiny is to rule under the King on the new earth, to his glory. You and I will become all our Father intends us to be. That process begins here and now and will bear full fruit in his eternal kingdom. Together we’ll creatively serve and worship him with purified hearts, minds, and bodies, forever enjoying his vast and beautiful creation and sharing in his boundless happiness. We will delight endlessly in our triune God, and incredibly, he will delight in us!

Can Cancer Be God’s Servant?

Our sovereign God weaves millions of details into our lives. He may have one big reason, or a thousand little ones, for bringing a certain person or success or failure or disease or accident into our lives. His reasons often fall outside our present lines of sight. If God uses cancer or a car accident to conform us to Himself, then regardless of the human, demonic, or natural forces involved, He will be glorified.

In March, my beloved wife, Nanci, lost her four-year battle with colon cancer. All 54 years I’ve known her, Nanci loved Jesus. But from a front-row seat, I watched a wonderful—and supernatural—change in those last four years.
In 2019, Nanci wrote to a friend and fellow cancer sufferer,
The cancer battle has been tough. However, my time with the Ancient of Days (one of my favorite names for God) has been epic! He has met me in ways I never knew were possible. I have experienced His sovereignty, mercy, and steadfast love in tangible ways. I now trust Him at a level I never knew I could.
I saw Nanci meditate on Scripture daily, read great books about God, and journal—writing out verses, powerful quotations from Spurgeon and many others, and personal reflections. One unforgettable morning, after meditating on Psalm 119:91, “All things are your servants,” she shared with me what she’d just written:
My cancer is God’s servant in my life. He is using it in ways He has revealed to me and in many more I have yet to understand. I can rest knowing my cancer is under the control of a sovereign God who is good and does good.
Brokenhearted and Thankful
Nine months later, at Nanci’s request and on short notice, our daughters and their families gathered to hear her speak final words of overflowing love for us and unswerving trust in her sovereign King.
As one of our grandsons sat beside her, listening to her struggling to speak and to me reading powerful words from her journals, he said, “Grams, if you can trust God in this, I know I can trust Him in whatever I’ll go through.” Another grandson told her, “I will never forget what you said to us today.”
Exactly one week later, I held her hand and watched her take her last breath in this world under the curse.
Every day during those four years, I witnessed God’s sanctifying and happy-making work in my wife: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3–5).
Nanci and I—and thousands worldwide—prayed daily for her healing. God’s final answer was to rescue her from suffering and bring her into his presence where it’s “better by far” (Philippians 1:23). Through her afflictions, He achieved in her an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17). She praised Jesus for it, and I will forever do the same, though I miss her immensely.
Why God Permits What He Does
When our ministry posted Nanci’s words, “My cancer is God’s servant,” someone responded, “WHAT? God does NOT give people cancer. Jesus bore our sicknesses and carried our pains on the cross.”
That reader is not alone in trying to distance God from suffering. But by saying sickness comes only from Satan and the fall, not from God, we disconnect Him from our suffering and His deeper purposes. God is sovereign. He never permits or uses evil arbitrarily; everything He does flows from His wisdom and ultimately serves both His holiness and love.
Joni Eareckson Tada often shares the words of her friend Steve Estes: “God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” God’s “permitting” something is far stronger than it may sound. After all, whatever God permits actually happens; what he doesn’t permit doesn’t happen.
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Why Our Subjective Feelings Need God’s Objective Truth

As long as we trust our own subjective judgment that ebbs and flows with the current of our culture, we divorce ourselves from God’s eternal and unchanging truth. Once our eyes are opened to the transcendent beauty and freedom of God’s truth, we’ll never be content with anything less.

The peace or lack of peace one feels after praying about a decision can be highly subjective, unless it is specifically rooted in objective truths. Some people feel good about doing wrong things and others feel bad about doing right things. I have seen people make unwise and even catastrophic decisions who told me they prayed and felt good about it.
I know of a woman who walked away from her marriage—without biblical grounds—because in her words, “The Holy Spirit gave me peace about it.” When I tried to point to the truth in Scripture, she said she wasn’t going to be “legalistic.” She’s still going to church, claiming the spiritual high ground, while failing to live by the standards of the same Bible she professes to believe, often reads, and hears taught every Sunday.
She told me, “I’ve never been so close to God.” But is being close to God merely a feeling? Or does it mean trusting in and living by faith in the truth God has revealed to us not subjectively but objectively in His Word? Men guilty of murdering their wives have insisted “I loved her.” Their actions disprove their words.
Often the reason we “feel peace” may be because we are doing what is most comfortable, convenient, natural, or widely accepted. None of these is a good reason to believe we are doing right. We need to search the Scriptures to see what is true, and subject ourselves to the authority and guidance of the revealed will of God (Acts 17:11). Then when we call upon God’s indwelling Spirit to teach and direct us, He can guide us in light of what he has objectively said to us, not merely what we subjectively feel.
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Can Cancer Be God’s Servant? What I Saw in My Wife’s Last Years

In March, my beloved wife, Nanci, lost her four-year battle with colon cancer. All 54 years I’ve known her, Nanci loved Jesus. But from a front-row seat, I watched a wonderful — and supernatural — change in those last four years.

In 2019, Nanci wrote to a friend and fellow cancer sufferer,

The cancer battle has been tough. However, my time with the Ancient of Days (one of my favorite names for God) has been epic! He has met me in ways I never knew were possible. I have experienced His sovereignty, mercy, and steadfast love in tangible ways. I now trust Him at a level I never knew I could.

I saw Nanci meditate on Scripture daily, read great books about God, and journal — writing out verses, powerful quotations from Spurgeon and many others, and personal reflections. One unforgettable morning, after meditating on Psalm 119:91, “All things are your servants,” she shared with me what she’d just written:

My cancer is God’s servant in my life. He is using it in ways He has revealed to me and in many more I have yet to understand. I can rest knowing my cancer is under the control of a sovereign God who is good and does good.

Brokenhearted and Thankful

Nine months later, at Nanci’s request and on short notice, our daughters and their families gathered to hear her speak final words of overflowing love for us and unswerving trust in her sovereign King.

As one of our grandsons sat beside her, listening to her struggling to speak and to me reading powerful words from her journals, he said, “Grams, if you can trust God in this, I know I can trust Him in whatever I’ll go through.” Another grandson told her, “I will never forget what you said to us today.”

Exactly one week later, I held her hand and watched her take her last breath in this world under the curse.

Every day during those four years, I witnessed God’s sanctifying and happy-making work in my wife: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope . . . because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3–5).

Nanci and I — and thousands worldwide — prayed daily for her healing. God’s final answer was to rescue her from suffering and bring her into his presence where it’s “better by far” (Philippians 1:23). Through her afflictions, he achieved in her an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17). She praised Jesus for it, and I will forever do the same, though I miss her immensely.

Why God Permits What He Does

When our ministry posted Nanci’s words, “My cancer is God’s servant,” someone responded, “WHAT? God does NOT give people cancer. Jesus bore our sicknesses and carried our pains on the cross.”

“Everything God does flows from his wisdom and ultimately serves both his holiness and love.”

That reader is not alone in trying to distance God from suffering. But by saying sickness comes only from Satan and the fall, not from God, we disconnect him from our suffering and his deeper purposes. God is sovereign. He never permits or uses evil arbitrarily; everything he does flows from his wisdom and ultimately serves both his holiness and love.

Joni Eareckson Tada often shares the words of her friend Steve Estes: “God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” God’s “permitting” something is far stronger than it may sound. After all, whatever God permits actually happens; what he doesn’t permit doesn’t happen.

In the final chapter of Job, God reveals that Job’s family and friends “showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). The author told us from the beginning that Job’s troubles were Satan’s idea and actions. Yet the inspired wording indicates Satan’s efforts were, indirectly by sovereign permission, God’s own doing. Many find this truth disturbing, but properly understood, it should be comforting. What should be profoundly disturbing is the notion that God stands by passively while Satan, evildoers, diseases, and random accidents ruin the lives of his beloved children.

Charles Spurgeon suffered terribly from depression, gout, rheumatism, neuritis, and a burning kidney inflammation. Yet he said, “It would be a very sharp and trying experience for me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me . . . that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity.”

Mercy Outstrips Hardship

Nanci and I experienced many glimpses of God’s sovereign purposes for years before her cancer diagnosis. We saw that my becoming an insulin-dependent diabetic 35 years ago was God’s plan to increase my dependence on him. And we saw, 30 years ago, that a lawsuit by an abortion clinic for $8.2 million was his way of moving me from pastoring a church we loved into a ministry that reaches further than we ever imagined.

God’s hands were not tied by my genetic propensity for type-1 diabetes (the result of the curse), or by the vengeance of child-killers (the result of human sin and demonic strategy). He didn’t merely “make the best of bad situations.” He took bad situations and used them for his glory and our highest good. His sovereign grace far outstripped our hardships.

If this were not true, anyone facing a terminal illness would have to believe they experienced bad luck, and that God is either not as powerful or not as loving as he claims to be. Parents who have lost a child would have to believe the death was a meaningless accident, and that it wouldn’t have happened if only the child hadn’t been at that place at that time, or if that man hadn’t been driving drunk, or if a thousand other circumstances had been different.

If onlys and what ifs can rule our lives and drive us crazy. Instead, embracing God’s higher purposes — even when invisible to us in painful and tragic events — affirms God’s greatness. This is not fatalism. It is trust in the character and promises of our faithful, all-wise God.

My friend David O’Brien told me, with his slurred and laboring voice, that God used cerebral palsy to deepen his dependence on Christ. Was he better off? He lived convinced that his 81 years of suffering were no cosmic accident or satanic victory, but a severe mercy from the good hand of almighty God.

Reasons Outside Our Sight Lines

By God’s grace, Nanci fixed her attention on his attributes. Only eight months into her cancer journey, she wrote,

I honestly would not trade this cancer experience to go back to where I was. These last months have been used by God to propel me into a deeper understanding and experience of his sovereignty, wisdom, steadfast love, mercy, grace, faithfulness, immanency, trustworthiness, and omnipotence.

Psalm 119:71 says, “It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” If affliction was good for the psalmist, then withholding that affliction would have meant withholding good. The universe is first and foremost about the purposes, plans, and glory of God. God sees eternal purposes and plans and knows ultimate good in ways we cannot.

Our sovereign God weaves millions of details into our lives. He may have one big reason, or a thousand little ones, for bringing a certain person or success or failure or disease or accident into our lives. His reasons often fall outside our present lines of sight. If God uses cancer or a car accident to conform us to himself, then regardless of the human, demonic, or natural forces involved, he will be glorified.

“God is at work behind the scenes, and one day we will understand our suffering’s hidden purposes.”

“O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed” (Jeremiah 32:18–19). God is at work behind the scenes, and one day we will understand our suffering’s hidden purposes.

Will You See What She Saw?

Without a doubt, as I saw so clearly even when my tears overflowed, cancer served God’s purposes in Nanci’s life. I said at her service, “The most conspicuous thing about Nanci in her cancer years was her wonderfully big view of God, which she fed from Scripture and great books. The more she contemplated God’s love and grace and sovereignty, the more her trust in him grew.”

So I said to our gathered family, friends, and church members — many of them facing their own painful trials — what I sensed God saying to me: “That huge, beautiful, and transforming view of God is yours for the taking. So why not spend the rest of your life pursuing it?”

Our Mission: Make More Disciples and Fewer Performers

We don’t need makeovers and airbrushing; we need transformation. We need a miracle that God alone can perform in our hearts. And we need to stand together, arm in arm, loving one another and showing the world the marvelous truth about Jesus. Some will misunderstand and even hate that. But others will be drawn to Jesus and His good news, and forever changed.

The one indispensable requirement for producing godly, mature Christians is godly, mature Christians.—Kevin DeYoung
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer (Acts 2:42, NLT).

A 1977 movie, Capricorn One, depicted NASA’s long process of targeting a mission to Mars. Because the program had become increasingly unpopular due to several failures, this mission would make or break the U.S. space program.
Everything was in place. The astronauts were ready. Then suddenly, just before takeoff, they were secreted away to an undisclosed location. Meanwhile the capsule was launched into outer space. From the point of view of those on Earth, it appeared to be a complete success.
But why was the launch made without astronauts? Because the scientists discovered a flaw in the capsule’s life support system. The oxygen wouldn’t last. The astronauts would die.
Then why not reschedule the departure? Because it would be an admission of failure on the part of the space program, and they could not stand one more failure. People would no longer believe in NASA or support spending millions of tax dollars to explore outer space.
So to further public confidence in the space program, the astronauts were told they now must become actors. An isolated site was set up as a shooting location, made to look like the surface of Mars. They were told to drive around in their little Mars rover, send their reports, and greet their families, while those on Earth would be none the wiser.
How the movie ends actually doesn’t matter, but I see the plot as analogous to what happens in some churches. According to current thinking, churches must chase success. And success is defined by numbers: how many worshippers and how much wealth. The number of Facebook followers becomes more important than the number of Jesus-followers.
Many churches exist solely to seek God and share Him with their communities. They may use technology and programs as tools to reach as many people for Christ as they can. Good for them!
My concern is with churches that use God as a tool to launch programs and meet benchmarks of success. Instead of sharing the true gospel, which is what people really need, they compromise on the nature of the gospel and adopt the world’s message and methodology. What these churches produce ends up essentially mirroring what NASA did in Capricorn One. They focus on performance over process. On stagecraft over sanctification. Pastors-turned-performers act as if the Spirit of God were doing great and wonderful things, when in fact nothing supernatural has happened.
This breeds attendees who become like the astronauts-turned-actors. They are exposed to the world throughout the week and come to church for entertainment packaged as a religious and transcendent experience. They want the best of this world and the next without the sacrifice—and they want it now.
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Dying is but Going Home

Spurgeon’s confidence that Heaven is the place of great union with Christ and reunion with redeemed loved ones. As a caring pastor, Spurgeon desires his people to understand that embracing the gospel should change their view of death. He says, “Let no doubt intervene; let no gloom encompass us. Dying is but going home.” Only six years later, at age fifty-seven, Spurgeon himself would go home to Jesus, joining his friend Charles Stanford.

As of Monday morning, Nanci is with Jesus. So happy for her. Sad for us. But the happiness for her triumphs over the sadness. Grieving is ahead, and it will be hard, but these last years and especially this last month have given us a head start on the grieving process. I am so proud of my wife for her dependence on Jesus and her absolute trust in the sovereign plan and love of God.
Nanci is and always will be an inspiration to me. I have spent the last two days with family and friends, thanking God for His grace and the promises of Jesus that we will live with Him forever in a world without the Curse, and He will wipe away all the tears and all the reasons for the tears. All God’s children really will live happily ever after. This is not a fairytale; it is the blood-bought promise of Jesus.
What a great and kind God He is. As of Monday, Nanci now lives where she sees this firsthand, in the place where Joy truly is the air she breathes: “In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Thank you so much for all your prayers, some of you for four years of praying consistently for Nanci. My heart is full of gratitude to you. Don’t feel your prayers were not answered—many of them were, and many others were answered in a better way than we could ever ask.
Today’s blog is excerpted from my book We Shall See God. It’s the first of 50 entries drawn from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons on Heaven, and it’s entitled “Dying Is But Going Home.” It seems fitting to share right now. Spurgeon delivered this sermon on March 21, 1886, just three days after the death of his friend and fellow pastor Charles Stanford. In it, he encourages his congregation to view death as a home-going, as the gateway to full union with Christ:

Breathe the home air. Jesus tells us that the air of his home is love: “You loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Brothers and sisters, can you follow me in a great flight? Can you stretch broader wings than the condor ever knew and fly back into the unbeginning eternity? There was a day before all days when there was no day but the Ancient of Days. There was a time before all time when God only was, the uncreated, the only existent One. The Divine Three—Father, Son, and Spirit—lived in blessed camaraderie with each other, delighting in each other.
Oh, the intensity of the divine love of the Father to the Son! There was no world, no sun, no moon, no stars, no universe, but God alone. And the whole of God’s omnipotence flowed forth in a stream of love to the Son, while the Son’s whole being remained eternally one with the Father by a mysterious essential union.
How did all this which we now see and hear happen? Why this creation? this fall of Adam? this redemption? this church? this Heaven? How did it all come about? It didn’t need to have been. But the Father’s love made him resolve to show forth the glory of his Son. The mysterious story which has been gradually unfolded before us has only this one design—the Father would make known his love to the Son and make the Son’s glories to appear before the eyes of those whom the Father gave him.
This Fall and this redemption, and the story as a whole, so far as the divine purpose is concerned, are the fruit of the Father’s love to the Son and his delight in glorifying the Son.
That [the Son] might be glorified forever, [the Father] permitted that he should take on a human body and should suffer, bleed, and die. Why? So that there might come out of him, as a harvest comes from a dying and buried grain of wheat, all the countless hosts of elect souls, ordained forever to a joy exceeding bounds. These are the bride of the Lamb, the body of Christ, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Their destiny is so high that no language can fully describe it.

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