Last week I was sick. Nothing serious. One of those things we all have to deal with from time to time, a sore throat and headache with a sinus infection that in a few days had moved into my chest. After hacking and coughing my way through a few fitful nights, I found myself wishing I could just lie down, get a good night’s sleep and wake up well. My temporary illness soon passed, but it made me reflect on those who face far more serious conditions, whose illnesses are terminal.
It made me think of my friend, Mike Toby who has served as pastor of the First Baptist Church, Woodway for thirty-five years. Last month, Mike woke up on a Sunday morning to discover his left hand numb. He preached anyway. The next week the doctors determined that he was suffering from a cancer in the brain and gave him three to six months to live. Mike made a video for his congregation in which he candidly spoke about his illness and his faith. Here’s what he said:
“I didn’t want to spend one day trying to fight off the inevitable. When I was seven years old I gave my heart to Jesus and became a citizen of the Kingdom of God. That’s where I know that I will spend eternity. My faith is rock solid in Jesus Christ. I know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I have been the recipient of unbelievable grace and blessing. Every day has been full. I don’t feel the need to negotiate with God for fifteen extra seconds, He has so richly blessed me. The only prayer I would ask anyone to pray is that the Lord will take me home quickly. I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want my family to suffer. I feel like that God has allowed me to realize the vast majority of anything I could have hoped for in life. …
It was in the spring that the Lord took me to the Psalms and the verse jumped out to me, “Lord teach me to number my days that I may present to you a heart of wisdom.” I don’t think I had a clue how much that would come to mean to me. Clearly to number your days has taken on a real depth of meaning to me. The other verse that has meant a lot to me is “We must work while it is day. Night is coming when no man can work.” For my entire life, as my family will attest, I have woken up about 3:30 in the morning and I have woken up with joy. I have woken up ready to go to work. And I have enjoyed working all day long. And when the sun came down I was ready to put my head on the pillow and said, ‘Lord, thank you for a great day!’ So, I feel like I am able to say ‘I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course and I am absolutely confident that you have a crown awaiting for me, and not for me only, but everyone else who has shared that journey in life.’ I look forward to seeing my Savior and to share that homecoming. The healing comes when I am released into the arms of my Savior.”
During this holiday season there are many households who are facing difficult illnesses like Mike Toby and his family. It is important for all of us that we number our days, that we live with confidence in the eternal life that God has offered in His Son, Jesus Christ knowing that one day we will wake up well and whole with all those who love His appearing.