In life there are always a select few people whom you call friend and have a life long affection and connection with. For me, one of those people is Steve Henning. Steve is a year older than me, graduated from Springfield Christian High School like me and also graduated from Bob Jones University like me. It wasn’t, however, until I was serving as Senior Pastor at Baptist Fellowship Church in Waterford, Michigan, that our treasured friendship began. It is a long story that I’ll share at another time, but I took my wife to visit with Steve and his wife Christine in 1998. Since then we have grown in our love for one another and have sharpened each other in our Theology and service for God. He and Christine are trusted friends and right now my heart is grieving for them as we have learned the news that Steve has been diagnosed with colon cancer.
Below is a note that I received a couple of days ago…and I want to share it with you, to be an encouragement, especially to those who are struggling with your own physical issues, and although you don’t know Steve, you will be glad that you read it through to the end.
My Dear Friends,
I write you this short letter to advise you of my condition. So many of you have written to me and I regret that I have not been able to respond to each note. I do cherish, however, each of your letters, for they have been a great source of encouragement.
Before I get into my condition, I do want to take the time to glorify our Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
First, my sins are eternally forgiven. While my follies and sins have earthly consequences of discipline and pain, I rejoice in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is so real to me that I know that not one of my follies and sins will affect me eternally, for my sins and iniquities are remembered no more.
Secondly, our Father has granted rest most nights to me His child, assuring me that I am one of His beloved.
Thirdly, I praise God for a continued ministry among His people. He has allowed me to preach His Word and pray for His work, glory and people.
Fourthly, God is worthy of my praise for bringing me into the fellowship of the saints, saints like you. How glorious will be our eternal state of unity of purpose and energy in praising and worshiping Him, whom having not seen, we will see with eyes of flesh and touch with our hands, and kiss with our mouths. Speaking honestly, I only desire to worship at the feet of Christ and bathe them with tears and kisses of gratitude. He is so good.
Fiftly, I thank God who is absolutely sovereign. He saved me by His choice and by His choice, I have cancer. While He may take away my cancer because He is the Ruler of both heaven and earth, I rejoice that His sovereignty cannot extend to point of taking away that good work which He has begun in me. I praise Him for being the sovereign God who has promised to preserve me and to continue to mold my wretched self to be someday totally conformed to the breathtaking, beautiful image of Jesus Christ.
Finally, I praise the Lord for a peace which surpasses my current understanding of my condition.Now as to my condition. I am at a very advanced stage of cancer. I have a very active tumor in the colon, as well as five tumors or metasteses in the liver. My latest ALP test which reveals the state of the bile ducts has increased considerably, In itself, it means nothing except that the bile ducts are working far less that they were even a month ago. There is more pain in my upper abdomen and back, as well as in a few joints. My bouts with nausea and dizziness are almost constant, with some relief every three or four days. I find that sleep helps immensely.
Today, I met with the surgeon, who is a brother in Christ and a member of the church here. He desires to do surgery on the colon and then follow that up with six months of chemotherapy to endeavor to shrink or make disappear the tumors in the colon. The statistics that he has given me of a complete cure or ten-year survival are 20%. My wife and I have decided not to do this and opt for a second option which will consist of surgery on the colon, as well as radio-sonic treatment in which radio waves will be used to kill the tumors. This in itself does not kill the seeds of cancer, only the plants, to use a botanical metaphor. Our desire is to use the extra time that this might give us to allow for the alternative treatments that we are using to show some effect.
My brethren, I know that God is not bound by statistics. I know that healing is possible. Saints from all over the world have written to me saying that they are praying. Some have even expressed great confidence that God will miraculously intervene. Such is my wish. If that is so, why has he not done so? Well, a biblical principle is that God is more loved, praised and glorified for forgiving big debts, rather than small ones. This is what the pharisee Simon needed to learn. Those that are forgiven little, love little. Those who are forgiven much, love much.
Yet with all that having been said, God has already given me His Son to reconcile me to Him. In sending His Son and granting me ears to hear and a heart to understand and commit itself to the truth of the Gospel, He has done the big thing already. Curing my cancer pales in comparison. So I ask that you continue to pray for me and my family and the works I so love here in Costa Rica, but I encourage you even more so to be boasters of the glories of the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I love you all,
Steve, I am always amazed at how God gives us stability and strength in Him during trials like this. I am encouraged and strengthened by God’s love for you and your complete and total trust in Him. Christine, Sarah, Steve Jr., Shelby, Seth and Stacy, please know that an army of God’s children are upholding both you and your daddy right now. We love you all.
Steve…you are a true friend and a Godly example…I love you…and I join you in affirming the greatest news, the sweetest sound ever heard…
“21He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21