I had the honor and pleasure to speak at another local church this past Sunday and we felt so much love and support. It was a really awesome experience. God had laid a lot of things on my heart to share with them, but one thing for sure that I knew I needed to say was that I was struck in a challenge from our Pastor. He had challenged our church to reread John chapters 13-17 with the intent of getting something out of it keeping in mind that they were Jesus’ last words to His disciples. So I went into it with a bad attitude “What could I possibly get new out of these chapters that I’ve read countless times?? But I did it. And wow. God really used this experience to show me that as our circumstances change, the Word never does, and He can minster to us in new ways through things we’ve already read. God is so cool!! I was amazed by how much I could relate to what Jesus felt in His last moments and last words to His disciples. I was struck by how selfless He was in His last commands to His people. I was struck by the fact that He chose this. He chose this suffering. So amazing. I read it over and over and just couldn’t believe what I was reading. It’s like me and Jesus were besties who completely understood each other. I had the privilege of having a friend who knows this cancer journey all too well take me for my brain MRI on Tuesday, and it was so refreshing to talk to someone who understands. Someone who “gets it”. I realized that Jesus gets it too, He really really does.
As someone with stage 4 cancer (read: end stage, terminal, incurable, all that fun stuff lol), and I’m only 30! Ugh!! I was touched in a deep way by John 14:30-31. Touched so deeply that it, well, it changed my life. In these verses, Jesus himself says, “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, that that the world will know that I love the Father.” (NLT)
If you have cancer or any other kind of terminal illness, read that again and again. I pray that it ministers to you in the same way that it did to me.
So this all got me thinking what I would want my “last words” to be. On a funny note, the other night I was having lots of chest pain (there is cancer in the lymph nodes in my chest, so it’s not exactly good.) So as my husband and I were falling asleep, I kept saying the words “Glitter casket” so that my husband would have to tell people that those were my last words. Yes, I know. Not funny. But kind of, right??
So I made a list for my message on Sunday that said what I would want as my last words. (This is directly – with only a few changes for continuity’s sake – from what I had prepared for my “sermon” on Sunday. I’ve had several people ask me for this list, so here it is! This is what I had prepared. I ad-libbed some in my actual speech, so it’s not exactly the same thing that came out, but this is what was prepared):
1. Get thinking. Try to put the pieces together and don’t be lazy. Sitting in church should not be the only time during the week that we think about Jesus. There’s a reason that in the back of your mind you feel like you “should” go to church. God gave us the church, he gave us other believers, and he gave us His word to guide us once we accept Christ as our savior and accept the Holy Spirit into our bodies. Fight me all you want, but I believe that ALL of these are necessary and need to be a big part of our lives in order to be the disciples that God wants us to be. Sorry if I’m stepping on any toes, but people who say they are Christian but don’t believe in organized religion are just making excuses. Don’t get me wrong, legalism and judgement? Wrong. Totally not cool. A church that takes Biblical values and commands seriously? Necessary!! Because if we don’t keep ourselves accountable, we can find ourselves justifying anything. Anything. We can justify flirting with a coworker when we are married. It’s harmless, right? It’s not like you’re gonna cheat! We can justify looking at pornography. You’re not ACTUALLY cheating, right? Besides, everyone does it. We can justify saying horrible things about people who view the world differently than we do. I’m definitely guilty of this one. But the list goes on and on. So what do we need to get us back on track? We need the tools that God himself provided for us. The Bible, other believers, and the church itself. We need our pastors to not just encourage us, but to convict us, because God is using him to do that. We need the people in our small groups, life groups, Sunday School, whatever you want to call it, to call us out when we’re being ridiculous, because we all are at some point. We need to sit and study and meditate on God’s word so that He can reveal himself and His heart to us. Christianity is not always pretty, it doens’t mean life will be perfect, sometimes it’s raw, and painful, and messy, but it’s real and it’s the truth, and therefore it’s worth your time looking into it.
2. Get perspective. We live in comfort, peace, and have to fear relatively nothing. While people in other countries are facing being beheaded for their faith, we worry about the silliest things. Here’s some perspective for us, Paul called your troubles light and momentary. Um, excuse me, Paul? You don’t know me! But in all seriousness, he didn’t have to know us to know that what we are going through will build faith and perseverance in us if we allow it to, it will allow us to build character and strength to serve, and that no matter what we are facing, it is absolutely temporary, it will not last forever. Trust him, he of all people knows a thing or two about struggles. His whole Christian life he was persecuted, beaten, starved, hunted down, imprisoned, and the list goes on. Now being in prison today in America is I’m sure not a great experience. Even if the prisoners are fairly well taken care of, I would imagine it’s a very lonely and degrading experience. But just imagine what the conditions were like back in Paul’s time! And this is the man who preaches about joy, I love it! Reading his writing always gives me a healthy dose of perspective. My troubles are light and my troubles are momentary. Amen, brothah!
3. Get uncomfortable. Get uncomfortable in life. Push yourself out of your comfort zone consciously and consistently. The things that seem so hard to do in the begining will become like second nature and you can keep incremetally being challenged. I’ll tell you a secret, did you know that public speaking is one of my biggest fears and something I certainly never saw myself doing, like ever. I think we can all agree that God has a sense of humor. Seriously, if 2 years ago you had had me make a list of things I never thought I’d do, THIS would be somewhere very near the top, probably right after having a pet bird and getting all the laundry put away. But here I am, God is opening doors that I never asked Him to, but it’s been an awesome ride. And really, what I want to do here is to challenge us, to bring our current spiritual apathy into conflict with how we should be living, to plant seeds that when they bear fruit will bring much glory to Jesus. I’m not here to talk about myself, I am actually quite sick of talking about myself, but I know that there’s much power in our testimonies. Just look at the samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Verse 39 tells us that “Many of the samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony”. So here I am! I’m uncomfortable, but I’m here.
4. Get comfortable. With yourself. One of the most effective tricks, in my opinion, that the devil uses to keep up from doing God’s work is using self-doubt and self-consciousness to keep us quiet. He is constantly whispering lies into our ears that we aren’t fill-in-the-blank enough or that we are too whatever to be of any use. I believe, as someone who struggles with it myself, that low self-esteem is a dangerous form of self-centeredness and self obsession. When we obsess over what we lack or can’t do or aren’t versus what we are capable of with God, we are telling God to his face that He made a mistake and got it wrong when he created us. Is that the message we really want to send to him? I’m not saying we need to be cocky or over-confident, but we must learn through this journey to become confident in what Christ can do through us. Each and every one of us is usable. Are you good enough? Yes. Are you capable? Absolutely. You know how I know that? God created you. That’s enough in my book.
5. Get connected. Get with other believers. It’s important to Jesus that we go to church, so let’s do it! Church is a place not to come to be seen as a good person, or to check it off our list so we can go back to our other selves the rest of the week, it’s to EQUIP us to REACH THE LOST!!! We need to stop being consumers obsessed with being fed and start being disciples read to feed! So get involved with a group or something, trust me, if you’re feeling like you won’t fit in, or you’re not “good” enough to really get involved with a group, or that people won’t accept you, we’ve all been there and we’ve all felt like that. So suck it up, Buttercup! And let me tell you how refreshing it is when you get involved and connected and realize that these people are REAL people with lives just as messy and confusing ours. When we really get connected with other people, the facade comes down and the masks come off and we are then able to be ourselves and grow with each other and as a group, and I suspect God may be pleased with that.
6. Get busy. Go! I am proof that you do not need anything more than the Holy Spirit burning within you to reach people. We all have a story and we all have burdens that can be redeemed for God’s glory, it takes work and the path isn’t always clear a long ways out, but God will provide what we need for each day. God doesn’t need all of us to have degrees in theology, it’s ok. Just go!
7. And finally, get digging. Go deep into God’s word so that we can be ready for anything anyone might ask us. Remember what Peter told us? To be ready to have an answer if anyone asks us about our faith? (1 Peter 3:15) Still these verses just get me. “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me so that the world will know that I love the Father.” Boom! This blew my mind and changed my life. Not only is God not done with me, Jesus perfectly understands this situation that I’m in. He has felt what it’s like to live on a shortened timeline and still want to be a part of God’s will being done here on Earth. He recognizes that while the devil plays some part in what happens to Him physically, that God ultimately has the power over the situation and that the outcome and the fruit that come from it belong to God. This verse changed my life. Reading it sent me from “Ok God, I’m trying to figure out your plan” to “I’m in, God! Do what you want, I don’t need to see or understand every little step, but I trust you and I’m all in.”
Funny how God reveals these things to us, He reminds us of our purpose, and sets us on the right path with the Word as our lamp. And remember, I’m no one special. I’m just someone who loves Jesus and has been given an interesting platform from which to speak about Him. We all can make a difference for the Kingdom, let’s have open hearts and open minds to what God may call us to do. Trust me, being a part of His plan, as many of you I’m sure can attest, is the most exciting and wonderful thing I’ve ever been a part of.
So if you watched on Sunday, sorry if you’re disappointed that it’s not “new material” lol but I’m sure we will all survive 😉