Li Shao Ming had tried to stop smoking for 5 years and just could not stop. He also had been smoking for over 30 years. He now was 60 years old and was retired. He wanted to spend more time with his children and grandchildren. However, he was too tired to do this. He noticed that he was also shorter of breath than normal. He went to see his doctor who told him that he needed to have a chest X-ray. He went to the hospital and got the chest X-ray the next day and later he saw his doctor. His doctor told him that he had a disease called ‘emphysema.’ Li Shao Ming asked what this disease was and how he got it. His doctor told him he acquired it from his smoking and the smoking had slowly destroyed his lungs so that now he was short of breath.
Li Shao Ming went home disturbed about this and went to the local library and found a book on this subject and checked it out. Li Shao Ming learned the following facts about this disease called emphysema. He learned that most of the people who got this were smokers who had smoked for many years. In fact most had smoked for decades. He learned that the smoking slowly destroyed the lungs. It was this slow destruction of the lungs, which led to the shortness of breath. He learned that the lungs are the part of the body, which takes in the oxygen from the air. Thus when part of it is destroyed then the body takes in less oxygen and a person becomes short of breath. He also learned that cigarettes are very addictive and it is very hard to give them up once a person has smoked for several years. It is just like being addicted to alcohol and other drugs.
Li Shao Ming also learned that the best treatment for this disease called emphysema is to stop smoking. Once a person stops smoking the lungs can start slowly healing, but the process of healing takes years. Some people after five years of not smoking can have their lungs return to normal. He also learned that some people who smoke so long develop permanent, irreversible lung disease and not matter how long they stop smoking their lungs do not return to normal. He learned that these people with permanent lung damage also can have their lungs get better, even if not normal, if they stop smoking. He learned that the key is to stop smoking.
Li Shao Ming also learned that if people around him who did not smoke inhaled the smoke from his cigarettes then they also had problems with their lungs. Li Shao Ming felt bad because he had smoked around his daughter and his wife and their parents and also friends and work colleagues. He did notice when his daughter was young and he had smoked a lot that his daughter seemed to have more colds than other friend’s children had. He silently wondered if she was going to develop lung disease from his smoking. He really felt bad about this. He was determined to stop smoking, but just could not stop.
How many of us want to stop doing something but just cannot stop? The Bible speaks to this very condition. It is called sin. What is sin? Sin is simply going against what God wants us to do. How do we know what God wants of us and how can we stop going against God? A man named Paul wrote the book of Romans in the Bible to people in the city of Rome around 63AD. He says the following in that book. ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does any good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3.10-18).’
This passage written to the people in Rome certainly does not paint a good picture of people and mankind in general towards God. It says that no one understands and seeks God, no one does good. Why is this? The sin has darkened the eyes of mankind. A book in the Bible written by Isaiah about 700BC also talks about this issue. He writes, ‘Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear…the Lord looked and was displeased that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, his own righteousness sustained him (Isaiah 59.1-2,15,16).’
It says God can save people but their iniquities or sins have separated us from God. Why do our sins separate us from God? They do so because God is different from us or what we call holy. He cannot tolerate sin. He cannot be around sin. Thus he must remove himself from this sin or destroy sin. It is like us around an infection. We must either separate ourselves from an infection or destroy an infection or else we get sick. The same with God, he must separate himself from sin.
However, also note in that verse above from Isaiah that God himself works his own salvation for himself. He will provide the means of saving us from our sins. Why? Because we cannot do this for ourselves. We have seen that we each want to go our own way and go against God. How is it that God provides this means of salvation for us? This is so very important for us? God does this through Jesus Christ. We will look in just a moment at exactly how God does this but first let us look back at Li Shao Ming and some of the other things he learned about his lung condition called emphysema.
Li Shao Ming learned that he was not alone in this lung condition of his. In fact he had wondered about this. He knew many men in China smoked and many smoked a lot. Some more than him. His two brother’s smoked and many of his friends smoked both around his home and also at his work. He learned that in China close to 100 million people may have this condition called emphysema. Many people felt this will only grow as many young women are now starting to smoke cigarettes. He also learned that emphysema is one of the 10 leading causes of death in China. He then learned that in China each year nearly 500,000 people die each year from emphysema and this number is growing rapidly and especially among older men. He learned that with the rapidly aging population of China many older people will die from emphysema because so many have smoked over the years. He learned that in China at the 2000 census 7% of the population was over 60 years of age and in ten years that number will be between 9-10%. Thus with so many men smoking for so many years many will die from emphysema.
These numbers staggered Li Shao Ming. He was also humbled by these numbers and the cost of this not only to himself but also to China. He also learned the symptoms of this disease besides being short of breath. First, there is the shortness of breath. Second, there is a chronic cough for at least three months in a row in at least two successive years in the absence of any other disease. Finally he learned that patients have a chronic sputum production. He learned that patients with this disease are much more likely to get other infections. He learned also that these patients have to take more medicines that other patients and have to go to the doctor more often than other patients do. He also learned that these patients’ health care costs are much higher than other patients are. This was not good news for Li Shao Ming. He always had felt bad when he had spent money on cigarettes and taken money out of his family savings. Now he was going to have to spend more money on health care because of his foolishness in smoking.
What could he do? He knew stopping was going to be hard. What treatment was there for this? He learned from his reading that stopping smoking was the single most important thing to do. But this was going to be hard. His doctor and this book told him that there were some medicines, which could help him, stop smoking but that these were going to be a bit expensive. He tried to stop on his own. He was definitely committed to this, i.e. stopping smoking. He set a day he was going to stop and just stopped. It was very hard for the first day and the first several weeks. He was angry, irritable, forgetful and hard to get along with. However, after two weeks things slowly got better. After several months he felt better. After one year he was still off cigarettes and he felt much better than before. Though his breathing was not normal it was better than before he had stopped smoking. Plus his breath was better and he was saving money on not smoking.
He did notice one thing, which his doctor had told him, and the book he read about emphysema also had mentioned. After he stopped smoking he noticed that his weight was going up. He gained about 5 kilograms of weight. This was a concern but knowing that this was going to occur he was not so upset. What he learned from his doctor that it was more important to stop smoking first and later work on his weight. Li Shao Ming started exercising immediately after he stopped smoking. Though he initially gained weight by the end of the first year off cigarettes he had lost the 5 kilograms. Plus he learned that the exercise seemed to help his breathing.
Li Shao Ming saw on a Television program one day that people with lung disease who exercise actually help their lung disease improve. He learned that if he daily exercised for 30 minutes his lung disease would improve and it did.
Let us go back to the person of Jesus Christ we talked about earlier. We learned that God provides salvation for us through the person of Jesus Christ. The book of Romans we talked about earlier speaks about this. It says the following, ‘this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3.22-24).’ What does this mean? It means that the rightness or the ability to be right comes from God. However it comes from God to us through Jesus Christ. The key is believing in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. It makes no difference for all, ie everyone who has ever lived, has sinned before God. Every Chinese, Indian, African, American, European and so on, all have sinned. But through Jesus Christ we are redeemed and saved.
This is like Li Shao Ming; stopping smoking saved him. He trusted that if he stopped smoking he would get better. We trust in Jesus to save us from our sins so that we can live. What happens if we place our trust in Jesus Christ? Later in Romans it says, ‘the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6.23).’ If we believe in God we have life now and forever, even after we die. Death does not conquer or end our life. The general result of sin is death but God gives us eternal life through Jesus Christ. You may ask how can you have this eternal life in Jesus Christ? That is a very good question.
The Bible later in Romans says the following, ‘That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead you will be saved. For it is with the heart that you believe and are justified and it is with the mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10.9,10).’ If we believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross-for our sins and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead we will be saved. It is that simple. Here is what you can do. Pray this simple prayer after me.
‘Dear Lord, I know that I am a sinner. I know that you died on the Cross-to save me from my sins. I know that after that you rose from the dead to show me that you are the Lord over death and that now you are alive. I want you to come into my life to save me.’ If you have prayed this prayer, congratulations you are now a child of the eternal King, Jesus Christ.