Ken Davis has been the director of Project Jerusalem, a church planting endeavor out of Clarks Summit, PA, for 20 years. More than that, Ken has been my pastoral mentor, and personal friend for over a decade when I joined the Project Jerusalem team in 2007. This series is a several part interview with Ken regarding his cancer journey. This originally was done as an interview Sunday morning at my church, and you can hear the hour long interview here. You can also read a tribute I wrote about Ken as my mentor.
Tim: When and how did you find out you had cancer?
Ken: On July 15, 2015, my urologist informed me that a biopsy had found I had stage four prostate cancer. I hadn’t had a physical for five years because I was running regularly and felt I was in good health. When my wife prodded me to go in to get a regular check-up, our doctor did a PSA test and found it had elevated quite a bit so he sent me to a urologist for the biopsy. The lesson I’m now passing on to all men over 40 years old is be sure you are getting your annual physical which includes a PSA test. It’s the first indicator that you might have prostate cancer.
Tim: What were some of your initial thoughts when you found out you had cancer?
Ken: Utter astonishment and surprise. Like I said, I’d always worked hard to keep healthy, eat right, and tried to exercise regularly. I’d run five mini-marathons when I was in my 40’s and continued to run as I got older. So I thought, this can’t be happening to me. The test result must be wrong. “Lord, I’ve sought to serve you faithfully all these years. Why me Lord?”
TIM: I think that we all ask that question when we suffer. I always say when I am speaking about suffering that we suffer in a variety of ways, physical, spiritual, mental, relational, financial, emotional. We often ask the “why me Lord?” question.
KEN: The doc started me immediately, the same day I was diagnosed, on hormone therapy with a big shot in my stomach. I went home and began to do lots of research on cancer and possible treatments. I was totally ignorant of cancer up until that point.
My first emotional response, like most cancer patients, was FEAR, especially when I learned that some stage four men often do not last but a few years. Another immediate response was UNCERTAINTY. I wondered how this whole ordeal was going to turn out for my family and me.
Would I even be around for my grand-kids’ high school graduation and weddings, as I so desired to be? What would the outcome of cancer be for me? This is totally uncharted territory for me. My online research was giving me lots of different opinions about the various options on how to treat it. Who would I believe?
I had lots of UNANSWERED QUESTIONS like, What will happen? Will I make it? What will I be able to do? How will my family handle this? Will my insurance cover this? Will I be able to be intimate with my beloved wife of over 45 years? Why did this happen to me?
TIM: I appreciate your honest response of fear, uncertainty, and unanswered questions. Often Christians aren’t honest about their fears, not that we need to live in fear, but we need to not present that – just because our faith is strong – we never struggle emotionally with any of these questions.
TIM: What have you learned about yourself that you didn’t know before?
KEN: Two things stand out after 42 months on this journey. First, I am not in control; and second, I am more reliant on God’s grace than I can imagine. Allow me to flesh those out for you.
First, I’ve learned that I surely am not in control of my life. God is sovereign, which means that He is in control, and I am convinced now more than ever before that this cancer entered my life by the sovereign will of God. It was not a random accident. It was a divine appointment.
Let me share two Old Testament texts concerning this. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Jeremiah 10:23 says, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.”
No matter how hard I work for Jesus or what I do, I cannot control people, the outcomes in my ministry, or other’s choices, or unexpected turns in my health. There is no formula in Scripture that will guarantee outcomes, like continuing good health, if I simply “do the right things.” I’ve learned that I must deal with the illusion of self-determination and the idol of control, which I think I had adopted. You know, “Ken, you’ve got it all together. You are doing such a good job at ordering your life and ministry.” I’ve had to learn to trust God of everlasting mercy and goodness, rather than trust myself.
That leads me to the second lesson I’ve learned about myself, that I knew in my head, but not as fully as I should. I am much more reliant on grace, God’s grace, than I had ever thought. I am not nearly so strong as I imagined myself to be. I am not nearly so wise as I perceived myself to be. I am not nearly so self-sufficient as I (pretended) to be. I cannot handle life on my own, neither the good times nor the tough times. I need God and His sustaining, strengthening grace constantly.
I’ve learned to say with Paul in I Corinthians 15:3, “For by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace towards me was not in vain.” I’m still learning the truth that HIs grace is more than sufficient, more than enough, to walk me through this cancer journey He has me on.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.