Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Dozen Lessons I'm learning from Cancer

Recently New Life Church has been afflicted with the loss of several significant men of God to the same disease. What does this mean to a church? What can we learn from their lives? What can we learn in a cancer ward? Here are some things I have been learning:

  1. The exit rate on this life is and always will be 100%. It is so easy to ignore this until you lose people you love. You may look at the loss of our friends and say, "Well, 1% of us are gone," like that's is a high percentage. But the truth of the matter is all of us will go one day.
  2. Make today count for all eternity. You can't make tomorrow count and it's too late for yesterday. The only day with which you can make a difference is today. I've heard it before, but it is true -- people are the only things you can take with you to heaven when you go. Take the long view and like any investment program, begin today.
  3. Enjoy today. Maybe it is just the giggle of a little girl, the taste of brownies and ice-cream, a hot shower on a cold moring or sensation of a stiff cold breeze on your face -- soak it in. You are not guaranteed the opportunity to enjoy it later.
  4. The gospel glows golden when faced with terminal cancer. The promise of forgiveness, heaven, and eternity with Christ is precious always, but it changes everything in the face of death.
  5. A life devoted to serving Christ is the surest way to live it well. Del was with "his kids" the last Sunday he was here. Bob served the Seniors at New Life Church until their final potluck. Gib was on the rolls as property committee chairman until after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It is entirely possible to waste your life -- and these men didn't. And it is possible to make your life count for all eternity by serving Christ.
  6. There is no hope like Gospel hope. Grace, not works or mere religion, makes all the difference when you wonder what God will think of you on judgment day! To stand before God in the merit of another and know that it will always be good enough is amazing.
  7. The best hope when you are dying is the hope you have when you are living. The prospect that you can change at the last minute and have reasonable hope for eternity doesn't make much sense. You must live with hope in such a way that it motivates you to action so that the same hope is robust when it comes time to die.
  8. A small group makes a big difference. Or, a life group is wonderful when you are dying. Sandy called Del's life group leader when he was hospitalized and when he passed away. Gib is now surrounded by people in whose lives he invested. At the end, Bob was visited by people who he served alongside and who he ministered to in small groups. Yes, your life might be too full for a life group, but it isn't full enough without one.
  9. A loving marriage is worthwhile in life and death. Between the three men who have passed away, they enjoyed 140 years of marriage with their wives. Wow! That is the surest way to make an impact for generations.
  10. Losing people is a source of great sadness because loving them is a source of great joy. Why do people get sad when someone dies? Because that person has been a source of joy. God has woven joy and sorrow together inseparably in life and death.
  11. Your occupation doesn't matter -- it matters what occupies you. A welder, a furnace operator and a truck driver have made big impacts in the lives of others through their witness at work and their service through the church. When, for God's sake, people matter you will make an impact for all eternity.
  12. You don't get to pick your exit. Sometimes the doctor says you have a few days, or weeks, or months. Sometimes they're wrong. Other times doctors don't get to say anything at all. Don't wait until it's too late to do the things you need to do or to say the things you need to say.

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