Yesterday, Eric Gorski from the Associated Press published a fantastic article on Pastor Matt Chandler’s battle with brain cancer. If you’ve not read it, you absolutely must.
In the article, Gorski wrote,
Matt Chandler doesn’t feel anything when the radiation penetrates his brain. It could start to burn later in treatment. But it hasn’t been bad, this time lying on the slab. Not yet, anyway.
Another cancer patient Chandler has gotten to know spends his time in radiation imagining that he’s playing a round of golf at his favorite course. Chandler on this first Monday in January is reflecting on Colossians 1:15-23, about the pre-eminence of Christ and making peace through the blood of his cross.
Chandler’s hands are crossed over his chest. He wears a mask with white webbing that keeps his head still when metal fingers slide into place on the radiation machine, delivering the highest possible dose to what is considered to be fatal and incurable brain cancer.
Yesterday I was listening (briefly) to Tapestry on CBC Radio One while on the way to read a book and drink a warm beverage. I caught a snippet of an interview with William Lobdell, a journalist who became a Christian in his twenties, served as the religion reporter for one of the biggest newspapers in the U.S. since become an atheist.
In talking about the Christian worldview, he said something that really caught my attention, which was that,
Christians see this life as a fleeting moment in light of eternity. So to waste a day, a month, a year… it’s not really a big deal. They think they’ve got all eternity. But for an atheist, because we know this is all there is, we take as much joy as we can and make the most of every moment (my paraphrase).
Going back to Chandler for a minute,
At church, he has deflected sympathy with reassurances that this is a good thing, that he is not shrinking back. Chandler has preached the last two weekends and is planning trips to South Africa and England. He recently lost his hair to radiation but got a positive lab report last week and feels strong.
Chandler would rather this not have happened. But he is drinking life in — watching his son build sandcastles at the park, preaching each sermon as if eternity is at stake — and feeling a heightened sense of reality.
I look at these two drastically different stories and it breaks my heart.
It is tragic that Lobdell apparently never saw Christians living with a sense of urgency, or seeing this life as having any value. That he perceives living in light of eternity as a call to inaction.
Reading this has reminded me of the book of James. In it, James writes,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil (James 4:13-16).
James says that we are “a mist that appears for a little time then vanishes.” But this does not mean that the time we have is unimportant. Christians are not to ignore the time we have been given on this earth.
We’re to remember that we live on borrowed time.
None of us knows what tomorrow will bring. I could wake up tomorrow and go to work and do the same thing for the next 40 years. Or it could all be over before this post publishes. To live without a sense of urgency, as if we have all the time in the world, is to boast in our arrogance. And “all such boasting is evil.”
The next 24 hours do not belong to me or to you. They belong to Jesus.
And they’re all about making His name great.
Matt Chandler knows this. By suffering well, he is truly living in light of eternity.
So how will we live today?