Start Living Before It’s Too Late

Start Living Before It’s Too Late February 13, 2023

Guest post by Justin Brierly.

In my recent post-episode podcast, I had the pleasure of hosting a Q&A with renowned pastor, writer and speaker Tim Keller; we discussed his journey with pancreatic cancer, his transformed prayer life and his new book “Forgive.” Towards the beginning of our conversation, he said something that struck me, setting a tone of holy reverence for the rest of our talk:

My wife and I would never want to go back to the kind of prayer life and spiritual life we had before the cancer. Never.

Connecting with Keller led me to ponder the fragility of life and the value in every moment with Jesus—a concept that I pray will permeate both my heart and yours in a transformative way, leading us to treasure each day in surrender to God, regardless of our situations.

Dealing with Illness with God

In this imperfect world, we will inevitably experience heartbreak, fear, sickness and pain. If you struggle with physical or mental illness, God sees you and cares about you. He is with you as you cope and manage—working through the physical, emotional and spiritual battles.

“Work doesn’t mean you get rid of the pain of the suffering; it means that you can endure it and ever grow in it.” -Keller

Some of us will experience the healing we seek on this side of heaven; some of us won’t. Yet, we can all receive the healing we need in the Lord’s timing. While we continue to ask the Lord for healing with hope and faith, we remain steadfast in the Lord—always rejoicing and giving thanks.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Prioritizing Prayer and Stepping into Intimacy

When we prioritize our intimacy with Jesus, our lives become transformed.

Keller pointed out that oftentimes unless people go through the difficult process of being diagnosed with a terminal illness, most individuals go through life in nearly complete denial of their mortality.

“[When you’re diagnosed], the way you look at time, the way you look at God, the way you look at your spouse—just changes.” -Keller

Our call is to put prayer first—regardless of our circumstances, our state of health and our struggles on this side of heaven. Let us not wait until we are diagnosed with an illness to start praying and experiencing freedom for loneliness and emptiness. God has so much more for us when we embrace His call toward deeper intimacy.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

The Transformative Power of Forgiveness

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you of your sins.” Mark 11:25

We are called to forgive others. Culture today often tells us that forgiveness isn’t necessary, but the Bible tells us the opposite. In fact, we are called to forgive to the measure Jesus forgives—which is fully.

As Keller pointed out, many of us—even in the Church today—are “losing our grip on the value of forgiveness.”

When we see the evidence of how our forgiveness initiates compassion for others, we are more inclined to intentionally forgive with truth in love. However, when we don’t know this, we are more likely to act in our flesh, holding grudges and acting in vengeance toward those who’ve inflicted hurt upon us.

For many people, forgiveness has been taken for granted and abused. Maybe you’ve forgiven in the past and experienced repeated abuse because of your forgiveness. If this has been your experience with forgiveness, I want to say I’m truly sorry; to experience such pain and betrayal can make it so difficult to ever forgive again.

But I urge you to understand that reconciliation and forgiveness are not the same; while they can certainly go hand-in-hand, they can also remain separate for the sake of goodness.

However, know this: forgiveness and justice do, in fact, go hand-in-hand and should be commensurately pursued. Setting boundaries while intentionally choosing to forgive is the answer for healthy and holy relationships. Sometimes it isn’t wise to continue a relationship with someone, but we can forgive them in our hearts. Ultimately, when we truly forgive others, it invites them into a deeper understanding of the Father’s love.

“I think the answer is we have to [forgive] with great difficulty and tenacity—which is to speak the truth in love. If you’re not clear about what Christians believe, then there’s no possibility of persuasion. But if you’re not loving in the way in which you speak, there’s also no possibility of persuasion.” -Keller

Why do we so often wait to live, love, pray, serve and forgive until we are given a timestamp on our lives?

If we’re not living a transformed life—regarding every moment as valuable and every interaction as sacred—then we are practically going through life like everyone else who doesn’t know Jesus—like dead, dry bones. Don’t wait; surrender every aspect of your life to Jesus, and start living on this side of eternity.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

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