This is a reprint from my blog of 2014:
Pastor Tom Craig spoke in the morning service today, and it was a struggle for him from the outset. May I say, it’s a struggle for us to watch our dear friend suffer like this. He rose gingerly from his seat and loped forward carefully. I noticed that his voice has changed to a higher pitch and a weaker delivery. I wouldn’t say that his voice would be called fragile, but his usual deep and definite enunciation was noticeably lacking today; it was as if Tom needed an internal mechanical air pump to force the words to his lips at times.
He had hardly ascended to the stage when he turned and sat down. Right on the steps.
“I am very weak,” he said in a near-slur. “I am very wobbly today and I don’t think I will be able to stand at all, although it goes against my very nature. I want to stand and be engaged, be interactive. This is hard for me.”
A pack of crackers and two glasses of water were nearby. He needs his energy. He needs fluids.
I fought the tears. We all did. The man is drained. Look what cancer is doing…
Oh, cancer was getting the center of attention right then. But Tom changed that viewpoint quickly enough.
He gazed across the auditorium. “I don’t want you to be spectators, mere bystanders in the faith. I want us all to focus on God as we are in His house this morning. I want you to stand up and tell me – right now, any person, one by one – why you are thankful for God’s love.”
Someone stood up behind me and called out. “He forgave me,” said a male voice.
“That’s good,” said Tom. “All right.”
Almost immediately I heard another man rise and call out: “He pursued me even when I had no love for Him.”
“Yes, that’s true,” said Tom. “He pursues the sinner.”
Then the voices started calling out.
“I am thankful for God’s love because it is endless.”
“I am thankful for God’s love because I didn’t deserve it but He gave it to me.”
Tom nodded his head. Others stood and called out.
“His love is always good.”
“His work on the cross fixes what was broken in my heart.”
On and on. It got energetic. It made me focus, not on the cancer-stricken man up front, but the God who is glorified by this leader’s example and passion.
“Turn to Luke 16,” Tom said as he moved to a chair and sat down again. After the passage was read aloud, Tom gestured for emphasis. “The rich man lives a life of luxury and selfishness – without God at all – and ends up in Hell. Lazarus suffers daily in this life – he can’t even push away the dogs who are licking his sores! – but has trusted in God and his faith bears him to Heaven.”
Tom looked at us all. “Look at the passage. When the rich man was in hell, his words were never of negotiation. He knew he deserved this place. He never tried to bargain. He understood what he had neglected in this life.” Tom paused.
“Let’s talk about your afterlife.”
Note: Tom didn’t talk about his afterlife. He made us gaze at our own eternity. “This is reality. This life on earth is so short. Eternity dwarfs any of this. The rich man understood God’s holiness and law. ”
Tom cast his weary-worn eyes, dark-socketed from the fatigue of cancer and chemotherapy, around the room. It seemed as if he met every eye in the auditorium. He spoke as clear as he had ever spoken:
“It’s time for you to figure out which side of God’s holiness and law you’re on!”
The focus was intense. It was on God. It was on eternity. It was serious. It was powerful.
And this very morning, a man raised his hand and made a decision to let Christ take over his life. The man went with a counselor in order to make a decision to become a Christian.
The intensity of eternity took center stage today. Cancer was kicked out of the footlights and into the orchestra pit. Better yet, cancer was collared and shoved out the back door into the alleyway.
No, I’m not telling you Tom was healed. I’m not even saying he improved physically. He had to hobble out early in order to get home quickly for more rest.
But don’t you see what is going on? Don’t you see?
We’re getting a pair of prescription glasses, the lens ordered and grounded by God. This is Hebrews 12:2 – “Fixing our eyes on Jesus…” The Greek word for “fixing our eyes” is aphorao and literally means to change the gaze from something else and to re-focus. Our new focus is on boldness and service. Tom had us pray aloud for the Holy Spirit’s interaction. He had us stand and testify aloud. He’s had members read the Scripture of the text repeatedly. You see? He’s getting us engaged and active, emboldening us. Our focus is not on the fear of death; that fear is one of the Enemy’s great weapons to stultify and smother the Christian’s energy.
Ah, but Hebrews 2:15 said Jesus’ salvation delivers us from the fear of death which held us in bondage.
Cancer causes fear and confusion. But God’s not the author of confusion, and Paul tells Timothy that God is not the giver of the spirit of fear, either. Tom is telling us that as well.
Tom hobbled out to the parking lot, and the cancer’s still in him. Yet though this abominable poison still courses through his body, Tom’s directed our eyes through the lens of eternity. Through God’s love. Through Jesus’ power.
The filter is in. Cancer’s not the main view anymore. Tom won’t let us see that.
And you know? A man came to Christ today whenever he took that new view.
The angels in Heaven rejoiced. So did we all.
Satan – you filthy little liar and disgusting deceiver – guess what? You lost an important foothold here today. Cancer got kicked out of view and Jesus Christ took His rightful place on the center stage.
You lose. Heaven wins.
Thank God. Oh, thank God.