Beresford Update (March, 2015)
This could very well be my last update, and I am extremely thankful to say that it is for the reason that I am doing so well and not, as might well have been, that I only have a short time to live. I want to therefore thank you all again for your love and prayers that helped us through such a difficult time.
It is now pretty much a year ago to the day that I received the original diagnosis that I had a tumour, and it is also just under two weeks before we resume our usual travels to America; the latter being, for me, the real evidence that the former has been truly overcome. Indeed, even though I have been given the medical all clear and the itinerary has been finalised for several weeks, I think I will only believe we have actually beaten this thing once we are on the plane. Outside of my relationship with the Lord, and of course Belinda and Bethany, there is little of more importance to me than the work of teaching God’s Word and looking after people spiritually that He has called me to do (no, not even Star Trek!), and nothing speaks quite as loudly to me that I really am getting back into the saddle than to resume our regular trips Stateside that just a year ago had to be cancelled indefinitely.
The Sword of Damocles obviously continues to hang over me somewhat, and one is aware that, having had cancer, one is statistically more likely than others to get it again. But that said, the statistics for my own situation are very much in my favour and extremely promising, and I am reminded that even those who have never had cancer before can equally discover, as did I those twelve long months ago, that now, suddenly, they do. Nothing changes the simple fact that, as the Lord’s people, our times are in His hand. Not cancer, not anything! And of course I actually have an advantage over those who have never suffered it before because it is no longer to me a dark and terrible unknown to be just irrationally feared. I have known the Lord’s peace, blessing, and even joy, through it. Not, of course, that I would be blasé should it recur, and neither that I wouldn’t mind if it did. Of all the things I desperately don’t want to ever happen to me, getting cancer again remains very close to the top of the list. But my advantage is that having actually been through with the Lord, I can truly say that going through bad times with Him is so much better and more pleasing than going through good times without Him.
I am also back to strenuous exercise and am already doing about 70 per cent of my pre-illness regime, with my daily early morning fast walks going well. It is strange to think that just a couple of months ago merely walking slowly for a half a mile on the level was a real trial for me, the slightest incline requiring that Bethany had to actually push me from behind. (I don’t know which were loudest, hers and Belinda’s squeals of laughter or my panting and wheezing!) So all in all everything is well with us and we are thankful.
I thought, as a final gesture, that I would pass on some lingering thoughts regarding what I have been through and which pertain to my Biblical namesake Job, because the more I look back on the last year the more I hope and pray that I didn’t just waste it. Indeed, I can identify with Job in numerous ways, not least of all because his response the disaster he went through was, “What I greatly feared has come upon me.” And I, as do most people, greatly feared the prospect of getting cancer, and then, as with Job, had my fears actually happen to me. Not that Job went through what he feared because he feared it, of course not! And neither did I get cancer because I didn’t want it. After all, if fearing something caused the Lord to conclude we needed to go through it merely because we feared it, then life could never be long enough for all the disasters and terrible things we would need to have happen to us. No! Job went through what he did not because he feared it, but because Satan had challenged the Lord over the fact that, in his opinion, sinful men and women could never love Him for Himself alone, but only for the good things He gave them. Or to put it another way, Satan maintained that those who follow the Lord do so for purely selfish reasons, thus rendering nonsensical, and even sin-bound, His redemptive purposes. What the Lord did in order to show the devil that he was wrong was simple, He allowed him to bring disaster on Job and watch him continue to follow Him, indeed, to follow Him in even deeper ways, as a direct result of the trials, such faithfulness demonstrating that a man could indeed love the Lord for Himself alone, and not merely for the blessings He bestows. And though broken and beaten and unhappy in the extreme, Job’s love for the Lord shone through as he not only didn’t curse the Lord, as even his rather unhelpful wife suggested he do, he rather declared, “Though He slay me yet will I trust him.”
And that, for me, is one of the great declarations in scripture from the lips of a sinner. That Job, sinful though he was, could have so known and loved the Lord that he could honour and praise Him in the midst of such suffering, even whilst having no idea of what was going on behind the ‘cosmic curtain’ by way of the spiritual warfare being waged, is nothing short of incredible. It is a most beautiful example of what God’s grace can accomplish in a sinful world.
It would be very easy for me to think in terms of the last year being merely about going through an illness and putting up with the unpleasantness and suffering involved, and then just getting on with life now I am recovered. Yet I don’t actually believe that for one moment. It was about going through an illness, of course, and therefore also about putting up with it, but for us as God’s people we must always take into account what is going on behind the scenes between the Lord and His angelic armies and Satan and his hordes of demons, in order that we get the complete picture. And the complete picture is that I had the honour of being placed into a situation whereby I had the practical opportunity to demonstrate whether or not I loved the Lord for Himself alone, and not merely for the benefits that being a Christian bestows. Whether, by God’s grace, I succeeded in this or not is, of course, for others, and ultimately for the Lord and Satan, to judge. But I was at least granted the opportunity, and for that I am thankful.
But there was another aspect to what Job went through too, and as well as giving Satan such a grand demonstration of his love for God and his faithfulness to Him even through such a bad time, he also got the opportunity for spiritual growth and maturing that only trials on somewhat of a grand scale can provide. At the very zenith of the suffering he was going through he declared, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
That Job knew the Lord personally before the trials he went through is obvious from what was said to Satan by God that led to his sufferings in the first place, and that he therefore also knew himself to be a sinner is equally obvious. But what happens as a result of him being placed in such difficult circumstances, and because he was turning to the Lord throughout, he came into a deeper revelation than he had ever known before of two things, things that go together as surely as do two sides of the same coin. He came to know his sinfulness and depravity in a new and deeper way and, as a direct consequence, came to know the Lord in a new and deeper way too. And without the one we can never truly experience the other. It is difficulties that keep us hanging on to the Lord far more than good and pleasant times. Not that such aren’t part and parcel of discipleship, they most certainly are. But it is the tough times that throw us on the Lord in the kind of way that real intimacy begins to happen, and nothing is more precious than a close and intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus.
So not only am I even more greatly humbled at my sinfulness now than I was before the cancer, I dare to believe that I know the Lord somewhat better too. Yet not only that: I dare to believe as well that it is very possible that the Lord used me to do more damage to the principalities and powers and work of the devil, and to therefore further the kingdom of God, through the cancer than in all the prior years of my discipleship and ministry put together.
Wow! What a thought! What a blessed and exciting way to view suffering and trials. Not, however, as already expressed, that I in any way actually desire to go through difficult times and suffering. Indeed, how wonderful should it turn out, please Lord, that I have actually now done my quota in such regard (though I doubtless haven’t), but at least we can know and be assured that when trials and tribulations do come that they are for our own good, and that they enable us not only to grow in the Lord, but to do great damage to the kingdom of darkness as well.
So hey, gotta go! I see a saddle to get back into! As I have said before, my work is most certainly not yet done. There are churches to be started, folk to nurture, teaching to be done and…um…what else? Oh yes, I remember: people to upset!
Take care and God bless.
Update (August, 2015)
I know it’s been quite a while since you all heard from me, but then all good things do have to eventually come to an end. Thank you again for all your prayer and love and everything you mean to us. The current news is that, having run the gamut of a load of tests (and most unpleasant they were too) back in the Spring, the medics don’t want to see me again for another three years. (And of course there are also those who have expressed that they don’t want to see me again…ever!!!) This is, to say the very least, an excellent result, and it does indeed seem to confirm that the surgery and chemotherapy treatment I went through last year fully dealt with what looks like to have been just a one-off, non-spreading tumor. Belinda, Bethany and I are obviously thankful beyond words.
We are also just a couple of weeks away from embarking on our usual Fall trip to the States, and this being the second trip since my recovery it really does make it feel like everything is well on the way to being back to normal for us. I still get more tired than I would otherwise and my hands still hurt due to the neuropathy, but apart from that no one meeting us would have the slightest idea what we went through last year. So all in all, a great result! But the main reason for this update is to share something that happened very recently that has been a real encouragement to us, and which may well encourage others
As most of you will be aware I have always lived by faith, thereby conducting my ministry on the basis that what I do comes completely free of charge, and in the conviction of the Holy Spirit that the Lord will always provide for me and my family purely in answer to prayer. (You should have seen Belinda’s face when she realized this after we got married. She actually thought I got a salary from somewhere.) And believe me, even though this has been my situation since the 70’s, and even though the Lord has therefore granted me nearly 40 years worth of such ongoing daily answered prayer, it can nevertheless still be pretty scary. After all, I have to pay for things just like those who don’t live by faith in this way, and bills addressed to me keep coming just like they do to everyone else. And because what I do involves so much travel, these bills also include airline tickets, hotels and a seemingly endless number of gas stations.
When it became evident last century (man, doesn’t that sound weird???) that we were going to be spending a lot of time regularly travelling to different parts of the States, we realized that, in order to keep costs down, the most economically prudent thing to do was to actually buy a car which would always be there for us to use. Car rental is exotically expensive, and the idea was that although the initial expenditure would be scary monsters, in the long term the savings over renting a car for 6 weeks twice a year every year would be significant. Further, although we do have to utilize internal flights from time to time, most places we go to are within driving distance, is therefore cheaper than flying.
The first car we owned, as opposed to when we were borrowing vehicles from various folk, at least got us on the first rung of the ladder of car ownership Stateside, but it rather turned out to far from ideal. (An ageing and somewhat ramshackle Subaru Outback.) Far too small given the stuff we have to pack for the three of us for six weeks at a time, and about as reliable as a modern-day politician’s promises, it managed just five trips before overheating all the time, giving up the ghost and going to the great vehicle resting place in the sky. It pretty much killed us too given how uncomfortable it was – we average between four and five thousand miles each trip – so it was pretty obvious that we needed to get something a bit larger and more reliable next time round, plus something decidedly more comfortable. And that is precisely what we did, and although it frightened the life out of me (purchasing a car is scary monsters at the best of times, but not only am I as mechanically ignorant as it gets, it was buying a vehicle in a foreign country as well) I purchased a Mazda Tribute SUV for $3500, having got an impressive $1500 trade-in on the Subaru. By comparison the Mazda was a veritable Rolls Royce, and it saw us proud for several years.
By 2013 though it was becoming clear that we were approaching the point where, due to its age and increasingly high mileage, things could soon start going expensively wrong with it. It therefore seemed sensible to start thinking about getting something a bit newer whilst the Mazda still had a decent amount of resale value, and I was confident that I would be able to get a couple of thousand bucks for it. But of course then we had to cancel our trips during 2014 because of my illness, so everything went on hold. Once we knew earlier this year though that, medically speaking, everything looked fine and we could resume things long term as normal, the plan was pretty much the same; to get one more trip out of the Mazda, look at some other cars whilst we were travelling around for ideas of what might be possible replacements, and then have our friends in Georgia who take care of our car stuff get a replacement for us and sell (or trade-in) the Mazda.
Trying to find cars to try out whilst on the road with a busy itinerary is not, as we discovered, at all straightforward, and I think I probably pushed Belinda and Bethany’s good graces just about to the limit. Cars are more of a guy thing than a girl thing anyway, and adding detours to car dealers to the long distances we were driving and the tough schedule we had wasn’t easy; but given I’m the one who does all the driving getting something I actually did seem to matter, and we ended the trip with me having positively set my heart on a Ford Explorer. I find that a lot of American cars have a driving position that does my back in (though the Mazda had been brilliant in that respect), but the post-2005 Explorer seemed perfect, and the dashboard is pretty cool too. (I’m a bit picky about dashboards. If the speed and tachometer dials aren’t round and completely symmetrical then it makes me feel insecure. Weird, eh?) So we returned to England with everything set up for our friends in Georgia to have access to the necessary funds so they could start looking to see what was around.
We arrived home in May to the barrage of the previously mentioned tests I had to undergo, and by the summer I had the continued medical all clear. With this confirmation that there was no reason to assume anything other than that we were completely back to normal as far as ministry and travelling was concerned, I gave the word for the guys in Georgia to start looking in earnest for the replacement vehicle, which they duly did. Within literally just a few days they got back to me about a car they had found which had really impressed them, and these guys do know what they’re talking about when it comes to vehicles and things mechanical, a 2003 Infinity QX4! It was nigh on immaculate with significantly low mileage for the year, and was one of those examples of a vehicle that had been really pampered and looked after by the owner who had every receipt for absolutely everything a car could want for mechanical good health and a long-life. Not only that, but my Georgian buddies had managed to haggle a cool grand off the price which brought it down to $5000, a truly good deal for what it was. The downside was that I have never sat in one and therefore couldn’t vouch for the driving position, but the fact that it is a Japanese and not a US vehicle should mean it won’t be a problem, oriental cars being very similar to European ones when it comes to driving position. The interior is luxurious to say the least (wood trim etc plus loads of buttons to play with) and the dashboard is as circular-dialed and symmetrical as one could wish for. I only had a day or two in which to say ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay’, and a good bit of testing duly started in my heart and mind.
Having actually sat in a post-2005 Ford Explorer model when we were in Florida, I realized just how much I had set my heart on one. I definitely wanted something a bit bigger than the Mazda, and the Explorer is MUCH bigger, whereas the Infinity is just a bit bigger. Further, I had been hoping that whatever we got might be a bit newer than a 2003 vehicle, given that our hope and prayer is that it outlasts us and will be the last car we ever need to purchase in the States. And of course there was still the fact that I had never sat in the drivers seat in a QX4. In eventually setting the budget I had been OK about spending a somewhat more than the Infinity cost had that been the only way to get a 2006 or later Explorer. So I got down to talking with the Lord about it, though with very limited time in which to find out what He wanted me to do.
It only took me a few minutes to realize that my delight at sitting in that Explorer when we were in Florida, and the sense of what a fine imposing vehicle it was, had become for me a matter of pride. It had gotten all tied up in my thinking with ‘looking good’ and with impressing people that I was driving one. I would doubtless have been just about the only person who did think that (the whole thing really was me being quite stupid), and I don’t for one moment mean to imply that it is wrong per se to own such a vehicle, but for me there was at least an element of sinful pride, and it became clear to me that it was an example of what John warns against in his first letter:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2v15-17)
I therefore knew that I had to let go any idea of getting an Explorer. I’ve never particularly enjoyed being shown my sin by the Lord (who does?), but it is always a joy, once one has been honest, come clean and repented, to know the forgiveness and peace that then comes, and I started to get as excited about the Infinity as I had, since Florida, been about the idea of an Explorer. But of course I also realized what a saving this Infinity would be as opposed to going for the Ford – so then I really started to get happy! After all, with a couple of grand resale on the Mazda, it would then be the case that we would have changed to a bigger, better, lower mileage and significantly more luxurious vehicle for less than I had paid for the Mazda back in 2010. Man, was I smiling then! So I took the now unarguable decision and said to the guys to go ahead and get the Infinity, knowing they could also set about maximizing what I could recoup financially by selling the Mazda at the best price possible.
Pleased and gratified though I was with all this, I knew in my heart really that things still weren’t quite as they should be…and this is where it started to get a bit scary! You see, large expenditures are a real big challenge when you don’t have a set income, and therefore no definite way to replace what has been spent. And the challenge now was that, having procured such a good car at such a good price, and having done so significantly under budget, I knew in my heart that there was no way I could sleep peacefully at night if I then just went about getting back as much money as I could by selling the Mazda. Not only did Belinda, Bethany and I therefore just know that the Lord wanted us to give the Mazda away instead of selling it, we knew exactly who to. So the call was made, and we rejoiced in the Lord at having been able to bless someone in such a way.
Our replacement vehicle had therefore been secured, and we were both pleased and blessed that others will be benefitting from the Mazda as a gift from the Lord. We had spent $5000, which was less than I thought we would have to, which was great, but had foregone the selling price on the Mazda…and that was definitely a bit scary given the amount of money involved! Manageable, yes, but still scary! But what happened next really was something. The very next day we were informed, by someone who we hadn’t seen for years and who had absolutely nothing to do with any of this, and who wouldn’t have even known that we were in process of changing vehicles, that a gift of $5000 was on its way to us. And the reason that it was so significant to us is that although living by faith obviously entails the ongoing receipt of financial gifts, this is literally only about the third or fourth time in 40 years that a gift of such magnitude and proportion has come my way. Our provision is normatively through multiple much smaller gifts, so this really was as special to us as it gets.
“Give, and it shall be given.” That is what Jesus said, and although getting something back is never the motive at back of genuine giving to the Lord, it nonetheless remains the case that you can’t ever out-give God.
So I do hope and pray that what I have shared here is both a challenge and a blessing. A challenge, that is, to those who are not giving as sacrificially as they should, and a blessing to those who are. So for those of you who read these updates who live in America, if you ever see a gold colored Infinity QX4 on your travels with a colonial-looking type family of three in it, please drive carefully…it might be us!
Postscript: The Infinity QX4 didn’t work out so we replaced it with a black Ford Explorer which we’ve called called – yes, you’ve guessed it – Dora!!!