“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me…” (Psalm 23:4a, NASB)
I stood in my backyard with my cellphone pressed to my ear. As I listened to the familiar ring on the other line, I tried to think of something comforting to say to my friend. His trips to the oncologist had been on the top of my prayer list for weeks. I was calling to check on him.
After a few rings, he answered. The report was not good. The cancer was back and growing at a rapid pace and his doctors were at a loss. All the comforting words I had considered sharing took flight like startled doves on opening day of hunting season. All I could mutter was that I was sorry. So, sorry.
At that moment, I might have grown angry with God for not answering my prayers had it not been for the resolve I heard in my friend’s voice. He said, “Brother Kevin, I don’t want to die. I want to stay here with my family, but I’m a winner either way.” Those words struck me with such force. Shocked, I marveled at his faith.
Before praying and ending the call, he shared with me how his cancer diagnosis was a blessing. I thought, how could cancer be a blessing? He then shared how his realization of his own mortality led him to faith in Christ. Here I was, the “trained” pastor, and a recently converted man, was showing me what true faith looked like.
My friend knew what King David knew. God was with him. Both men had experiential knowledge of God walking with them through the darkest valleys. Both knew if God was on their side, they were a winner either way. The Shepherd of their souls would see them safely home.
Are you afraid of death? Tertullian, a third-century theologian, concerning death, said, “It is a poor thing to fear that which is inevitable.” We are all dying. The difference between my friend and most of us today is he had an estimated timeline. However, we can have the boldness that my friend possessed.
How? Paul writes, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39). The flock of God has the Good Shepherd’s promise of victory. Regardless of what you’re facing, you can be a winner either way. Trust in Christ.