The Blog of Pastor Mike Wilkins

In The Long Run

"The long run" referred to in the title of this blog is, in the first place, the many years Mike Wilkins served as West London's solo pastor, and then its Senior Pastor, since he and his wife Deb moved to London (and this church) in 1984.

In these past few years (beginning November 2011,) Mike's various health challenges, particularly a serious and ongoing case of cancer, has added another layer to the "long run" metaphor, and lots to blog about. Mike is currently on an extended Sick Leave, but generally worships with the church family on Sunday mornings.

With the publication of a book he wrote in 2016 entitled "Glory in the Face" (now available electronically and in paperback from Amazon.ca, and other online venders), Mike has just launched a new website, which will serve as a sort of scrapbook for readers of the book, with relevant background photos, for example, of That Last Final Solo Canoe Trip in May, 2011, as well as additional information about the book, and--coming soon--a new set of blog posts, mostly about the peace of God and the joy of the Lord and the face of Christ and the strength to face anything. You'll find the new website now at www.gloryintheface.com.

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  • Nov19Tue

    War or peace

    November 19, 2013

    My first chemotherapy experience (This past June and July) began exactly 69 years after D-Day.

    Without really planning to, I approached the start of this second set of chemo treatments as I was re-reading Stephen Ambrose's fascinating book "D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II." And so it comes to pass. I am again loaded up with tendencies to compare my personal medical adventures to the Second World War. I apologize to my friends and acquaintances with Mennonite backgrounds, but here I go again. Except that it now occurs to me that a better military comparison would be to America's "War Between the States" (1861-1865) for the battles taking place inside me are much more of a civil than an international war.

    Cancer turns a person's own body parts into his deadly enemies. My gut-wrenching September surgery (Non-technically known on this blog as "Thing #2") was prompted by the medical opinion that, in my case, the Battle of the Rectum was basically over, and that cancer had won, and that desperate measures were now called for to stop my cancer from winning this war. Now the "theatre of war" has shifted because my enemy has established a beachhead in my liver. Subsequently, my new chemotherapy (The "Folfox Regimen," if you care to know) is designed to destroy those traitorous and deadly "hepatic" rebels before they get themselves organized enough to destroy me.

    In what I would say is his best and most important book ("The Everlasting Man"), G.K. Chesterton writes that “a good war is better than a bad peace.” Being convinced that he is right on this point was a big help to me and Deb in resisting last week's irrational temptation to phone the good guys at the London Regional Cancer Program and inform them that, in view of how strong and healthy I am feeling, we decided to decline their kind offer of more chemotherapy. In the words of GKC, that would be choosing a "bad peace" over a "good war." It would have been a really bad idea to do so since you can't really count on cancer cells to do the honourable thing and slip away peaceably when they begin to feel unwelcome.

    Now here's the thing. Cancer is not the only cause of such an up-close-and-personal civil war. And cancer patients are not the only people who need to be careful about choosing a bad peace. In fact, there are many variations on this theme, and many internal wars that it would be good to declare and bad to avoid. Here's Paul the apostle on the subject. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." (Galatians 5:16,17 ESV)

    Thickening the plot, let's agree that ignoring our own rebellious "desires of the flesh" can quite naturally lead to the same Chestertonian choice (Some sort of war or some sort of peace) -- in our marriages, in our relationships with our children and our parents, in our church life, in our friendships and in our work experience. Yikes!

    In the hope of being helpful, I turn back to my post of June 26, in which I quoted a 17th-century preacher and theologian named John Owen on the topic of waging war, that is, a good civil war, on our indwelling sins. Let's notice that Owen just assumes that we will choose war rather than peace. “Let no man think to kill sin with a few easy or gentle strokes. He who has once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel. And so is he who undertakes to deal with sin but pursues it not constantly to the death … Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

    This is plainly an important truth -- and not to be ignored. The only cancer you can be sure of not being killed by is a cancer that, by God's grace, you (and your medical friends) have managed to kill first. And so I declare, five days into my new twelve weeks of "Folfox" chemotherapy: "Bring it on!"

    Likewise, the only sins of our own minds and hearts that we are at all safe from are those sins (and inclinations to sin) that, by God's grace, we have successfully killed -- or at least have captured as prisoners-of-war and are diligently keeping very carefully guarded. "Be always at it whilst you live!"