When cancer struck my pastor (part 13) : Cancer’s Last Battle with Pastor Tom Craig


Earlier this evening I was given the news. They told me right before the church service started.


Pastor Tom Craig died.


My pastor. My mentor.

My friend.


Tom was a genuine Christian – you could see his passion for Christ permeating his soul in ways both little and big. The man simply had a sincere and abiding love for Christ.


On Monday, I am told that a group gathered at the hospital, sitting around Tom’s bed and singing throughout the evening. After virtually every other chorus, Tom would quietly ask them to sing a verse or two of a special song entitled “Oh the Deep, Deep Love”:


Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus Far surpassing all the rest It’s an ocean full of blessing In the midst of every test

Oh the deep, deep love All I need and trust Is the deep, deep love of Jesus


The group would conclude and Tom would request it again. “Can we sing it once more?” he’d ask. The group would comply, singing about the riches of the Savior who gives hope to all, especially to a man who is fighting the screaming pain of pancreatic cancer.


As the days passed by, the cancer got more savage. Tom’s poor body couldn’t keep up. He stepped into glory early this evening.


Tom, you made a lasting impression on me. You were one of the most God-conscious men I’d ever met. What an example.


I came to our church four years ago hurting, confused and in search of a meaningful place of worship for my family. I had faced numerous setbacks that put me in throes of depression that seemed impossible to escape. I knew I needed Scriptural guidance. I sat down in the middle of the congregation that Sunday, clearly yearning for Bible teaching with depth. Up on stage you walked – a toothy, grinning minister with a heart as big as your smile and an easygoing manner that settled me almost immediately. You proceeded to lay out the Bible in portions much the way a master chef spreads his creations onto plates for all to enjoy. I ate up your teaching like a starving man. God came back into my life in a rolling and joyful way that I had not experienced in years.


Jesus lifted me up. Tom, you were the man who threw out the lifeline. You’ve done this for many of us.

We gathered quietly into the auditorium tonight, hurting and sad for our loss but yet happy that Tom is no longer suffering. We shared Scriptures that empowered us in the light of this emotional void we were all experiencing.


John 14:1 “…let not your heart be troubled…”


Hebrews 2:14 Jesus can give us peace. He will “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”


Dan read a magnificent and powerful passage in Paul’s first letter to the Corinth church: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory…”


And as I read the many comments coming in on the internet from all around the country, I saw how Pastor Tom showed the victory to so many people. He gave careful instruction to young Believers who grew to serve in full-time ministry. He showed Christ’s power for victory to those who were struggling with grief. He showed freedom to those who suffered massive loads of guilt. He pushed his ministry forward; he kept his name back. He didn’t want to make himself known – he only cared about Jesus. He pushed. He prayed. He counseled. He loved. He made a difference.


Tom had a wonderful life.


A.

Wonderful.

Life.


Our church service continued. People kept sharing passages from the Bible. Eric stood up and read the passage in John 11, narrating the emotional scene where Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead. I was struck by the power of Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes on me shall never die.” Yes, we have that hope. Tom is now living that hope.


But then…


… Eric read the last phrase of that story as Jesus instructed those nearby to remove the death-clothes wrapped around the now-living Lazarus: “Loose him and let him go.” Man, that phrase rang in my ear like a cathedral’s bell.


Loose him and let him go.


And I understood how that applied to us tonight. Jesus, the life-giver, did just that to Tom. He loosed him.


My dear friend Tom was wrapped in the horrid swaths of cancer, each strip clawing at him with enduring and increasing pain. He could no longer minister. He was debilitated. He was choked.


Loose him and let him go.


Christ ended Tom’s misery. He loosed the bonds of agony. Tom is free.


He’s free. He’s free.


He’s enjoying his first week in Heaven. It’s as Victor said tonight: “Pastor Tom is more alive than he’s ever been.” How very true.


Oh, Tom, how we miss you already. What an impact you’ve made on us through this battle with cancer! As you walked through the weeks closer to your death, you showed us a courage and even a calmness that we’d never seen before. You took away the fear of death. And while you were doing this, you scaled the heights! You achieved the goal of every Christian, my brother. You’ve made it to Heaven.


Oh, how I wish God would grant me one selfish favor. If I could ask Tom a few questions right now…


Tom, how is it in Heaven?


We study it here on earth, but you’re actually experiencing it. If you could only describe to us – for even one minute! – this new dimension where you now live. What are the colors? What is the music? What do angels look like? How does it feel to experience no pain whatsoever?


What’s it like to live in perfection? To be completely happy? To see Jesus face to face?

Can you hear us here on Earth?


If so, don’t you realize how jealous we are of you?


Tom, you ran a good, good race, dear friend. You broke the tape. You crossed the finish line. You made it, Tom. You made it.


Oh the deep, deep love All I need and trust Is the deep, deep love of Jesus

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