“I will not die, but I shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord.” Psalm 118:17
It was not that the writer of this Psalm believed he would never die, but that God would deliver him from his present crisis so he could recount the Lord’s goodness and mercy. Martin Luther had this verse written on the wall of his study. In the face of an uncertain future, he believed that this word provided a firm conviction that he was perfectly safe until his work was done. The application to my own life is along the same lines as the psalmist and Luther.
I am entering a new phase in my journey with pancreatic cancer. A recent CAT scan revealed that the cancer, which is still confined to a few nodules in my lungs, has begun to grow again. The more moderate form of chemo that I have been on since February is no longer effective. Today, I have started a more powerful regimen of chemo—Folfiri, which I have been on before. I have also started interviewing at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for available clinical trials. I would appreciate your prayers for wisdom in this search—that the trial maybe effective in my treatment as well as paving the way for others.
And so as I sit in the hospital receiving chemo, it is with the calm assurance that I will not die before I have completed the work the Lord has for me to do. I do not know what that work is; certainly not as earth-shattering as that of Luther’s. Perhaps my work is that of encouraging the faith of my children, grandchildren, and friends who still look to me as a pastor, mentor, and friend. I know that God does not need my help in exalting him or making him known to my limited world. However, I do believe the small pieces of my life are part of a great mosaic by which God is being glorified in the extended world today. I am thankful to be alive on earth in order to serve him and share in reflecting his glory.
Some closing thoughts that form my confession of faith and may help in building your own assurance; taken from the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism.
Q1:What is your only comfort in life and death?
A1: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death— to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sin with his precious blood, and set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready for now on to live for him.
May God bless you with spiritual blessings and earthly joys!
Coming soon: a free course that I will put up on my website—Church History 101.