Six years ago this month, I was diagnosed with cancer. As you can probably imagine, it was a fairly challenging experience - with all kinds of doctor visits, a couple of surgeries, and then months of radiation treatment that resulted in third degree burns on the arm where the cancer had been. Then, when all of that was done, I started on a schedule of monthly check-ups to make sure the cancer didn’t come back. Five years later, I was declared to be “in remission” and put on a schedule of yearly check-ups, because by that time, the chances of the cancer coming back were greatly diminished.
So imagine my surprise when, three weeks ago, I found a lump on my leg that looked and felt exactly like the cancerous lump that had been on my arm. It was a little unsettling, to say the least. The good news is that I was able to get in quickly to have it removed and biopsied. And then the even better news was that it only took three days to get the results - no cancer. It turns out the lump was a ruptured epidural cyst. So nothing too serious, or requiring additional treatment. All I had to do was rest up, and recover from the incision that was made as they removed the lump.
As I was processing all that happened during those three days when I thought I had cancer, I realized that God had used the time to help me readjust my priorities in a significant way. Here’s what I mean: if you’ve been reading these devotionals over the past few weeks, then you know that it has been a challenging time for our church and ministry - and we’ve been prayerfully considering solutions for how to move forward. And you also know that, during this time of waiting for God’s direction and provision, I have struggled to give up control, and trust God for what He wants to do. But the prospect of facing another round of cancer definitely put my life in perspective - especially as I considered the possibility that the cancer could be terminal.
There is nothing like the prospect of death - and of meeting your Maker - to get your attention. And that’s what happened with me during those three days of waiting for the biopsy results. During that time, God reminded me that there are really only two things I need to make sure are happening in my life in order to prepare for dying. The first is to make sure that each day I’m right with Him. And then second, to make sure that I’m right with the people around me.
Jesus makes this point in Matthew 22:37-38, where He says: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important - love your neighbor as yourself.” In this passage, Jesus tells us that the two most important things we can do in life is love God, and love others. So if we knew ahead of time that we were going to die, these are the things we would want to make sure we’re doing.
Well guess what? We do know that we’re going to die. It’s a basic fact of life for all of us. We may not know when - but we do know that it will happen. So with that in mind, shouldn’t our top priority in life be making sure that we’re ready by doing these two things?
Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that we don’t still have to do the work God has given us to do. Whether it’s raising our families, or going to a job, or going to school, or leading a church - God has given each of us work to do, and we need to make sure we do that work well. However, if we don’t make our top priorities in life loving God, and loving others, then all of that other stuff won’t matter because we won’t be obeying God. That’s why we need to make sure that we love God and love others first - and then that will help us do all the other work God has given us to do in a way that is glorying to Him.
So today, let’s remember the fact that we are going to die. And then let’s allow that reality to help us rearrange our priorities - making sure that our top priorities each day are loving God, and then loving others.