Two types of cancer were growing in my body when I was ordained to the gospel ministry back in 1986. That was in March and by May, my oncologist had scheduled me for four week-long courses of chemotherapy over the next four months. God has healed me and I am grateful!
The phone call was for me. My doctor’s voice had a sterile chill, “Mr. Snowden, the tests came back. Those nodules in your lungs have metastasized – and it’s spreading fast. You are scheduled to begin your first round of chemo with us at 6:30 a.m. We will see you here first thing in the morning.”
No “if” or a polite “will that work for you?”
When you learn that you have fast-spreading cancer something snaps in your head. The imaginary tether to immortality severs and all you can do is feel the free-fall. No pinions. No backup chute. Just stunning silence accompanied by that queasiness in the pit of your stomach. What’s the horror flick tag line? “In space no one can hear you scream.” I had control on the outside, while inside I was screaming my heart out.
But as a believer, the Holy Spirit snaps you out of it. You look deep into your soul to see that you’re not really falling any longer because you are anchored. You’re on an immovable Rock and you praise God for His promises. His Voice assures, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” GAIN! The world has color again. My wife’s caress is felt. My one-year-old daughter senses the need to be held. You take a deep breath, sense God’s touch on your life, and before it is dawn, you head out the door for the hospital.
During that summer I nearly died. I was very, very sick. Pale. Pasty. Hairless. And the thought hit me, “Was it worth it? Did my life make a difference?” And I didn’t know. I had been running through life very hard. But did it make a difference? With that question driving me, my heart surrendered to a call to live differently.
What did God want to do through me? My life, missions, evangelism, and ministry were forged from that furnace.
John Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart wrote, “The most dangerous man on earth is the man who has reckoned with his own death. All men die; few men ever really live.” Eldredge meant that a born-again man after God’s own heart lives all-out against Satan when he holds back nothing, including his own life.
This past winter I was asked to bring a challenge at the ordination service for a young Missouri minister. It was during that challenge that God reminded me right on the fly from the pulpit that when I was set apart, I was bearing cancer in my chest. The words came tumbling out as a challenge, “You are not promised tomorrow. What will you do today? If you knew you were not promised tomorrow, how would you live each day?”
God is not cruel, but He grants no promises. Although you may live for Him there is a certainty that you will die, if Jesus tarries. God knows the date of your final breath and you don’t.
But look around, dear believer! Those around you will suffer no less of a fate! Death is real. Isn’t there an urgency for drawing close to God and letting Him use you as His witness? His discipler? Will He need to get your attention through a death-defying healing? Or will you dig deep, authenticate the Rock upon which you stand, and out of sincere gratitude live sold-out as an active witness for Jesus?
Mark Snowden serves Missouri Baptists as Evangelism/Discipleship Strategist (573) 556-0318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.