Zhang Wei La was a 54-year-old man who had been smoking for over 30 years. He had smoked different amounts but had averaged at least one pack a day over the past that time. Over the past several months he had a cough which was worse than his chronic mild cough and some worsening over his shortness of breath. He went to see his doctor who took a chest x-ray. The chest x-ray showed that Zhang Wei La had a disease called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or Emphysema. The doctor told him that there was little they could do to treat him for this. However, he also told him that the best thing he could do so his lungs would not get worse was to stop smoking.
Zhang Wei La’s uncle was named Wang Shao Boa. He was 70 years old and had smoked for about 40 years. He also had a cough, which was worse. His uncle also went to see his doctor and had a chest x-ray. However, Wang Shao Boa’s chest x-ray showed that he had a spot on his lung, which was more that likely lung cancer. The next week Wang Shao Boa had a lung biopsy, which showed he in fact did have lung cancer.
These two men emphasize the two most important side effects of smoking, which can occur to people. One a chronic lung disease and the second is lung cancer. Both of these cause significant disability while also causing pre-mature death. Plus they also increase the cost of health care, regardless of how much the cigarettes themselves cost which over time is a lot of money.
Let’s first talk about the first disease, that is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary or Lung Disease or as it is commonly called Emphysema. What are the signs and symptoms of this disease? First is that they have a chronic cough. Second they can have increased sputum production and shortness of breath which is more than normal. The symptoms are usually progressive over time. Thus once a person starts getting short of breath then their symptoms will get worse.
Why do all of these things occur? The cigarettes have chemical substances in them, which destroy the lungs. This destruction though is very slow and only occurs over years. However, it also takes years for the lung to start recovering once the damage has been done. The challenge is that once a person starts smoking for several months then they will become addicted to chemical substances in the cigarettes. The main substance is nicotine. Nicotine is as addictive as heroin. Thus once people become addicted it is very hard for them to get over the addiction. This is very important especially for all people, whether men or women, and whether young or old. It is important that they know this fact.
However, medical science has only known about the fact that cigarettes are addictive over the past 40 years or so. Before 1960 this fact was not well appreciated.
The Bible speaks though of God’s love for us being consistently for us. The Bible says in a book written to people in what is modern day Turkey called Phillipi, that ‘being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to t completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1.6).’ This book was written around 70AD. What God started in us he will complete. This is the same with cigarettes. What cigarettes started in us they will bring to completion? That is lung destruction. What God started in us he will bring to completion.
What is it that God will bring to completion? He will bring his love in us to completion. What is this love of God’s? The Bible says in another book written to the people in Rome around 65AD that ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God showed his love for in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5.6-8).’ What does this entire mean?
When each of us were powerless Jesus Christ died for us. For the ungodly. The ungodly are all of those people who live against what God has for them. However, people will also not die for good people. However, we see that God died for us while we were still sinners. Sinners are people who do wrong. Who go against God purposes? People who decide that they do not want to follow God. It is for these types of people that Jesus Christ died. This is really an amazing fact; i.e. that Jesus Christ would die for the very people who did not like him. Most of us would not do that.
More than simply dying for us he also bore our sins in his body on the Cross. This shows his great love for us. We would not take the wrongdoing of others on ourselves so that they could live. But Jesus did. What though are the results of Jesus dying for us and taking our sins upon him? We will have eternal life. The Bible also says in the book to Rome, ‘What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6.21-23)!’
What are the things we reap from what we were ashamed of? These things result in death! This is an amazing statement and can also be applied to cigarettes. As a doctor, Dr. Luke does not know of anyone proud to be smoking cigarettes. At first when people start smoking they think it is neat or cool or they were anxious so they started smoking. However, after several months or years and they are addicted, they cannot stop smoking. What benefit did they reap from the thing they are now ashamed of, namely smoking cigarettes? Nothing except for poor health, a cough and shortness of breath. None of these are useful.
The above passage to the people in Rome state that now that we are set free from sin due our trusting in Jesus Christ, we have eternal life. The wages or salary of someone who sins is death but the gift of God is eternal life. This is a gift. What an amazing fact. What a blessing. What a contrast to what smoking offers.
Let us ask this question? How can we stop smoking? First, we must realize that smoking is an addiction. Until someone realizes and admits this they will have a very hard time stopping smoking. After they admit this they must realize that stopping will be very hard. There are some medicines, which can help people stop smoking cigarettes. Some of these are available in China. However, what is more important is the attitude and commitment to stop smoking. This is very important. Until someone has a strong commitment to stop smoking they will never stop smoking. They must have this commitment to stop smoking or else they cannot stop smoking.
Someone will ask, if I stop smoking will my lungs get better. Certainly if someone has lung cancer then stopping smoking at that moment will not make the lung cancer go away. However, if a person lives after having treatment for lung cancer then they will benefit from stopping smoking. Why is this? We know that if people stop smoking then in 5 years their lungs can significantly improve. In fact some people’s lungs can go to normal if they do not have lung disease which is not too bad. Also if someone stops smoking for five years then their lungs can almost go back to normal as far as having the risk for lung cancer. This is very good news. This should really encourage people to stop smoking. In fact if you are smoking today I, Dr. Luke, would encourage you to stop smoking today. There is hope for you and your lungs if you stop today.
However, remember, if you continue to smoke there may come a day when like Wang Shao Boa you will be diagnosed with lung cancer. They there may be little treatment for you and your lungs. You could die within months of lung cancer. You could also be like Zhang Wei La, which is you could become short of breath. Some people smoke so much and get so short of breath they cannot breath without having oxygen. What a sad life to live.
What can a person do if they have stopped smoking but still have some lung problems? First, continue to stay away from smoking cigarettes. People who have stopped smoking and start smoking again have a very hard time stopping a second time. Even one cigarette can re addict someone to smoking. So if you have stopped smoking continue to stay off of the cigarettes. Second, there are medicines, which your doctor can give to you to use. These medicines can help your breathing. So if after you have stopped smoking and you still are having troubles breathing go and see your doctor for these medicines. Third, is to exercise. This is very important. This will build up your lung reserves. This is probably the most important thing for you to do.
How much should you exercise? If you were quite short of breath I would encourage you to walk just 5-10 minutes. Then each week add 3-5 minutes so in several months you are up to 30 minutes of walking a day. If you are to do this for a year then you will have much better lung function over that year. You will have much better health and you will also feel much better.
Let us now go back and talk about having the eternal life through Jesus Christ. Exactly how can we have this eternal life? What is it that we can do? First, recall that there is really nothing we can do. We can really only receive the gift, as it is a free gift. The Bible says in a book written to a city called Ephesus around 80AD that ‘for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift from God. Not by works so that no man can boast (Ephesians 2.8,9).’ There is nothing we can do to earn our faith. It is a gift. Second, we receive this gift by faith. We must believe in what God has done for us. Specifically what is it that we believe?
Going back to the book written to the people in Rome it says, ‘That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10.9,10).’ What does this mean? If we first confess with our mouth or say aloud to others that Jesus is Lord; that is he is Lord of the Universe and all of our life and secondly we believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead we will be saved. We must believe that Jesus died on the Cross-for our sins and that he later rose from the dead to show his victory over sin and death. He we confess these things and believe them then we will be saved. That salvation will give us eternal life forever. We will also have abundant life now here on earth. The Bible says ‘I (that is Jesus) have come that you may have life and may have it more abundantly (John 10.10).’ This is how you can have abundant life now and for all eternity.
You may ask can you do this now? Yes you can. You can do this now by praying the following prayer. ‘Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I know that I am a sinner and that I have done wrong to you. I confess this sin to you now and ask that you take this sin upon yourself. I ask that you take this sin away from me. I believe that you have done this and died because of taking that sin. I believe that after three days you rose again from the dead to show your power over sin and death. I place my trust in you.’ If you have prayed this prayer you are now a child of God and will live forever with Jesus. Congratulations.