Four years ago I found a lump on my ribs. I went to hospital and was told that I had a rare type of cancer called liposarcoma. I then went through lots of surgery and chemotherapy, and was told that they’d caught the cancer early. Everything seemed fine. Then, 19 months ago, I went to adjust my collar and felt a large lump on my collar bone.
I went back to the hospital and they told me, “you’ve had it”. I was given 18 months to live. That was 19 months ago.
There have been incredibly difficult times in the last four years – not least telling my wife and three kids that I’m going to die. And yet, my experience has been that God gives you the grace to face certain circumstances. I’ve felt, very powerfully, the presence of God to sustain me through all of the challenges I’ve faced.
And when you’re in a bad shape, people will listen to you – it’s basic human sympathy.
So I’ve found that it’s an unbelievable opportunity to witness – after all, you can’t argue with a dying person!
A big impediment for many people in terms of Christianity, is they think that Christians look down on them. I’ve found that sickness is a big leveler – people no longer think you’re looking down on them.
I’ve had great opportunities to do lots of evangelistic talks. You’re able to tell people “yes, this is tough, but the key thing is trust”. I challenge people – do you really trust that God is in control and He’s a loving Father?
For some people, death happens in an instant. But I’ve got time to prepare for death. Because, ultimately, it’s something that we all face. In the words of Benjamin Franklin:
“in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Well, working in Switzerland for some of my career, I’ve seen that taxes can sometimes be avoided! But death is something that we’ll all experience – yet we don’t like to talk about it.
And because it’s something that we’ll all face, when you ask people about death, it can be very powerful.
For a Christian, death is a tough but also a hopeful thing. For the atheist, there is no hope in death at all. But we have the message that offers hope in death. We have the cure to the ultimate cancer that’s infected the whole human race – sin.
Yes, the truth is, we have the answer to death.
If they discovered a cure for my cancer and it meant I wouldn’t die, then I would want to tell everyone about the cure that was available.
That’s the point, we have a cure.
Jesus has faced and conquered death; it is such a powerful message. Yet one that you don’t necessarily realise the power of, until death becomes a greater reality in your life.
I’ve often used the resource Word One-to-One to help me share my faith with friends and colleagues. Yet one of the challenges I’ve found is that people find it intellectually interesting, but they don’t want to give up control. It’s not just about intellectual assent; it is about trust. As the poem goes:
“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” (Invictus by William Ernest Henley).
Successful people get where they are by being in control. Jesus asks them to give up that control, and that takes trust – which is based on an assessment of someone’s character.
Many of the questions I get are from people who are doubting God’s credentials and character. Being ill, it has certainly been tempting to doubt God’s character. You wonder, is God actually trustworthy? So as we share our faith with people, we must hold together the righteousness of God with the love of God. There are hard times in our lives, tough periods of suffering in our lives, but we have to trust that they will be used for God’s glory. The cross shows us that God uses suffering and pain for the ultimate glory. The devil thought he’d won, but God’s ultimate victory and defeat of death came through pain and suffering.
It’s as if we’re a child who has been taken by their father to the doctors for a vaccination. The injection is going to hurt and we don’t want to do it, but our Father knows the pain is worth it, as it will save our life one day. God is that loving and trustworthy Father.
In John 9, Jesus says:
“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”
I think here Jesus is referring to life and death. The day is life and night is death. There will be no evangelism in heaven. The time we have is now – and while we can share, we must.
Let’s imagine our life was a 24-hour day.
Many of us seem to think and live as if it’s 10am – but what if it’s actually the afternoon, or even later?
It may well be later than you think, so let’s all make the most of it.
If you want to hear more from Jeremy you can watch an interview with him here: