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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

finishing WELL: Learning to LIVE Through Terminal Illness

This book is a collection of emails that John Eaves wrote before he died. The last chapter is his sermon, "Finishing Well: A Sermon on Learning to Live Through Terminal Illness." I purchased this little book at LifeWay for 29 cents. Though the book is small (120 pages) is it packed full of truths. John had stage 4 colon cancer and made the decision to live the remainder of his life the same way he lived before the cancer and that was by serving His Savior. Read the following quotes carefully understanding they were written by a man that knew he just had a few months to live.

However, the announcement that John had stage 4 colon cancer with just months to live hit them like a ton of bricks. But after the initial shock, John decided to fully live each moment he had left. He wrote in a letter to friends and family: "I am praying that the days God gives will be some of the most meaningful in my life. I am not running to the sidelines. I am headed toward the center of the field.  p. 16

Helmut Thielecke, standing under the sky in the ruins of his church in Stuttgart, Germany, during World War II, and facing the aftermath of the horrific bombing of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, spoke to the surviving half of his congregation. He knew they had questions, but if they asked the wrong question, they would get the wrong answer. Thielecke said, "'why?' is the wrong question to ask . It is a self-centered question. The right question is, 'To what end?' What purpose do you have for my life, God?"  pp. 25-26

Over the years, I used to quote a statement from Oswald Chambers that a life crisis does not build anything new into our life at that moment of testing but simply reveals what is already there. My experience in recent weeks would perhaps modify that thought a bit. I would add that in our hour of testing, the follower of Jesus is given an ace up his or her sleeve - the Holy Spirit. In our moments of greatest weakness and vulnerability, the Lord comes to empower, comfort, and instill hope.  pp. 41-42

Throughout Biblical history, the wilderness plays a huge role in God's interaction with His people. From Moses to Jesus, God calls His people into the wilderness. For us, it is a place of vulnerability, danger, and uncertainty. We are placed in an unfamiliar and hostile environment, where we see most clearly our inadequacy. But God never calls us into the wilderness without His provision. He meets with us in that desperate hour, reminding us of His precious promises and meeting our need. The wilderness becomes that place where danger and provision intersect with such incredible result. I think this captures my circumstance perfectly. In fact, we all encounter the wilderness experience several times during our lives. It is comforting to know that as followers of Jesus, we never go there alone.  pp. 42-43

The reality of my condition is that for a follower of Jesus Christ, cancer never wins. It is never a question as to whether we will walk away from it or not, because we always will overcome it. The only remaining issue will be in what body - our earthly one or heavenly one. Either way, we win in Jesus, because He slam-dunked death.  p. 47

Rebecca Pippert, in her recent book entitled A Heart for God, states: "The silver lining in the dark cloud of fear is that fear pushes us to decide on our view of reality. What do I truly believe about the universe? Am I alone in this battle, or is there a God who overrules human affairs? Does my deliverance depend upon human prowess and things I can see, or does the final outcome depend on a massive resource beyond my own - the powerful, faithful, living God?  pp. 50-51

What I have discovered is that I do not need more self-confidence but God-confidence.  p. 51

Psalm 23 is not a hope of David, nor even a prayer. Rather, it is a statement of fact about God's character and nature.  p. 51

Michael Card writes, "Those who ask for miracles and receive them soon forget. But those who suffer for Christ's sake never forget. They have their own wounds to remind them. When we are hurting, we do not flee to the rich and healthy for wisdom and real comfort. We seek out those who have fellowshipped in the sufferings of Jesus?  p. 58

We know we can trust the Lord for our future because of His faithful in the past.  p. 60

Eugene Peterson paraphrases Philippians 1:19-26 as, "On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn't shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I'm Christ's messenger; dead, I'm his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can't lose."  p. 61

Cancer in my body is only serving to make Jesus known to those who are searching for an authentic experience with God.  p. 61

This illness is not about me. It is about Him.  p. 63

I am sick. I have a terminal disease. God does not want me to deny it or pretend like it does not exist. Rather, He wants me to trust Him and leave the matter in His hands.  p. 64

Yesterday, the oncologist confirmed that my time off of chemotherapy came at a price. The liver tumors have doubled in size in four weeks; blood counts are down;  cancer activity is up. I think we can classify that as bad news. What does news like this do to those of you who are praying so fervently for God's healing of my body? What does it do to me? I can answer for both of us. It should do nothing. Our life circumstance is but one component to being a follower of Jesus. God has other life components that take higher priority.  p. 67

Prayer for the sick and dying is not about getting it right. It is about persevering with God. While we never get God's will "spot on" all the time, we never stop pressing into that will. Who of us has ever shown a measure of success in trying to force God's hand to perform the way we want Him to? When I try, I discover the faith produced in me is counterfeit; an immature and weakened version of what He really wants. What this chapter of life has taught me is that heaven and earth move in prayer. That is enough motivation for me to pick up the stretcher over and over and over again.  pp. 76-77

God reminded him [Paul] from his own ministry that the power of God is best displayed in wounded warriors, not healthy ones It is the wounded ones who know best their need of God.  p. 77

Arthur McGill states in his book, Suffering: A Test of Theological Method: "A man only begins to love as Jesus commands when he gives out of what is essential to him, out of what he cannot 'afford.' For Jesus, it is the deliberate and uninhibited willingness to expend oneself for another that constitutes love."  p. 103

Contrary to popular belief, God does not place us on the sidelines of life when we walk through hardship. Rather, He takes us to the center of the playing field, so the world can watch and observe His faithfulness in our lives.  p. 107


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