Only A Few Months To Live
A news item from Memphis, Tennessee relates the sad case of a thirty-six year old man who is "a hopeless victim of cancer" and has been informed by his doctors that he has only a few months to live. He has made an appeal for advice on how to spend his time. He craves letters "on what to do." It is said that he reads a great deal "especially detective stories" and listens to the radio.
This furnishes some food for thought and an opportunity for some needed observations. Generally speaking, one of the great tragedies of our time is the very common ailment of spiritual bankruptcy. The unvarnished fact is that a great multitude of people who have not even consulted a doctor have only a few months to live. Death has a way of coming around some corner and facing us without announcement. The time comes to all when only a few months are left. It may be a thirty-six, twenty-six or eighty-six. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment."
This suggests that responsible people who know life, including its uncertainties, should live all the time with the possibility in mind that any day may be the last. Jesus told of a materialist who successfully cultivated the soil and reaped a plentiful harvest. He tore down old barns and built new ones and filled them. Then he boasted that he had much goods laid up for many years. He even counseled his own soul to take its ease and be merry. It never occurred to him that he did not have many years to live. "But God said unto him, Thou foolish one, this night is thy soul required of thee; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be" The sudden prospect of death must have been terrorizing to such a man. He was wholly unprepared for what he had made no preparation for. "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." A man who is "rich toward God" is prepared for the call to quit this life "a few months" hence, a few days hence or right now. The idea that radical changes are to be made in a life when the unexpected prospect of death appears is a confession that such a life has been unduly out of order and lived on unsound principles. Reading detective stories, listening to the radio, or even reading the letters of advice which may come in response to a public appeal are not likely to set it in order in "a few months" or any other period of time.
The doomed man, "a hopeless victim of cancer" is reported to have said: "It's a tough feeling, sitting here waiting to die." The very nature and certainty of death insures a common interest and curiosity regarding the thoughts of any human being who is face to face with it. Terror at such a time is stark tragedy, comfort is of priceless value. The record of one great man does not reveal "a tough feeling, sitting here waiting to die." He said: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." To die is gain. "But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better." Do you get it? Very far better. The man whose reading is "especially detective stories" is not apt to get that point of view. Paul, the man of supreme faith faced death with calm confidence and no regrets. "For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing." The man who lives and fights in the faith cannot be stampeded by the sudden or remote prospect of death.
"I was ever a fighter, so-one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes,
and forbore, And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it,
fare like my peers The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute play glad life's arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
The black minute's at end,
And the elements' rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest!"
The man of faith is the man of courage when "the Arch Fear in a visible form" strikes at his mortal frame. "Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens." Believing that does not create "a tough feeling" but a flood of triumph surging in the heart.
A man "waiting to die" would do well to ponder well the fact that he is going somewhere. Non-existence is not the blind alley that terminates human life on earth. A man's body is carted off to the city of the dead, but not the man himself. He goes somewhere. We have it from Jesus that "except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" and "whither I go, ye cannot come." "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my word, he shall never see death." "Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha sayeth unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus saith unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. Believest thou this?" This is the precious faith that comforts the believer in the presence of death and "it's" not "a tough feeling."
Multitudes of Christless and therefore hopeless men are dying all over the world. Pollyannaish philosophy cannot exercise the dismal fact of it The story is told that when Walter Scott was dying he asked an attendant to bring him "the Book, When asked what book, he replied that there is only one Book, the Bible. It is the inspired revelation of human origin, duty and destiny. The Christ of the Bible is the sole hope of humanity. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me." "Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new." "There is therefore. Now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." "And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them." "Sitting here waiting to die" would be a very good time to do some extensive reading along this line and a little book called the New Testament is honey-combed with it. He who lives and dies out of Christ sinks into abysmal and fathomless despair. "Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."