January 11, 2008
One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life
#3: Love Completely
What would you do if you had one month to live? I’d want to hang out with this lady. (Pic of Jenna) This is my granddaughter Jenna. Lucky Laina gets to babysit her on Thursdays and Fridays. Thursdays is a work day for me; but I try to take Fridays off and hang out with her. However, if the week gets away from me, I have to finish the Sunday talk on Friday, like this week. Here’s the deal: it’s really hard to finish the Sunday talk when Jenna is at the house; I just want to play with her. So Friday, I lived like I had only one month to live, and I hung out with Jenna instead of finishing the talk. Let’s pray and we can go.
Sorry…you’re not that lucky! I finished it on Saturday. If you had one month to live, I think you would love completely. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
What would you do if you had one month to live? Would you change anything, do anything differently? I’ve been asking people that question for several months, ever since I found Kerry Shook’s book, One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No Regrets Life. We ordered 100 copies and they were all sold by the end of the first service last week-the 9 o’clockers hogged them all! We obviously underestimated how many of you would want to read this book. We weren’t the only ones who underestimated. Andy, our communications director, had a very difficult time tracking down more copies of this book; even the publisher was out! But his persistence paid off and we have another 150 copies. You can get them at the Info Center. It’s worth it!
So I’ve been asking people the question, “What would you do if you had one month to live?” And some themes have emerged in people’s answers. Most people have said that they would live passionately-they would try to make every day count. We talked about that last week. Like the song said, “I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu.” Live passionately. Make the most of every day. Take some risks.
But there’s something even more important than sky-diving, mountain-climbing or bull-riding. The song goes on: “And I loved deeper, I spoke sweeter, I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying. Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.” Love deeper
Everyone I talked with said they would love completely. They would pay attention to their closest relationships. When people look back on their lives with regret, it almost always involves relationships. I don’t think anyone on his deathbed has ever said, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office,” or “I wish I’d made more money.” But lots of people say, “I wish I’d spent more time with my kids. I wish I’d been a better husband or wife, or mom or dad. I wish I’d made amends with that friend.”
When Jesus reached the end of His life, He zeroed in on His closest relationships. He was very intentional about loving completely.
John 13:1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
He knew that his time had come to leave this world, so what did He do? He showed them the full extent of His love. Some translations say “He loved them completely” or “He loved them to the end.” He loved them all the way to the finish line-He finished well. And isn’t that what you would want to do if you had 30 days to live? Wouldn’t you want to love completely, love to the end, finish well?
Here are some ideas on how to love completely.
1. Spend time with family and friends.
When I asked Laina what she would do if she had one month to live, she didn’t hesitate: spend time with family and friends. Her priority is people, relationships. When I asked last week how many of you had something about family on your list, almost everyone raised their hands. If you had a month to live, your closest relationships would suddenly become your top priority. You’d spend as much time as you could with family and friends. Looking at life through this lens-one month to live-is clarifying. It helps you see what is important.
When I had cancer almost 3 years ago, I wasn’t given a month to live, but when you have cancer, you do face your own mortality, and one thing became very clear: my family and closest friends were most important to me.
I thought, “When I die, who will miss me?” How many of you will miss me? Thanks a lot. The truth is that most of you would miss me…a little…but not for long. Soon another pastor would take over and you’d move on, as you should. But who would miss me every day? My family. I’m irreplaceable to them. I know this from experience. I miss my son, Jeff, every day. I think of him every day. I doubt if any of you do. That’s not a criticism, just an fact of life. If you died, your family and your closest friends would miss you too, every day.
Our most important relationships are our family and our closest friends. These are the people who will miss you every day when you’re gone, and they are the ones you want to be with if you had one month to live. You would take advantage of every chance to be together.
When my dad was dying in June of 1993, I drove to Oregon every week in that last month of his life. I’d come back here on the weekends to see my family and speak to you, then I’d turn around and drive back down there to sit with him for several days each week. We sat and talked; I asked him questions about his life and heard stories about his growing up and my family that I had never heard. It was worth the drive to be with him.
Wouldn’t you do something like that if you had one month to live? Wouldn’t you want to spend time with those you love the most? Then why don’t we now? One word: too busy.
I’ve told you before that one of the lessons I learned from my son’s death was that I want my default answer to family to be “yes”. The last night of Jeff’s life he asked me to take him to a movie. I was finishing the Sunday message, so I said “sorry, I’m busy.” A few hours later he was dead, and suddenly that message wasn’t so important. I wish I would have said yes. So I decided that when my kids want to do something, my default answer is yes, instead of “not now”, or “sorry, I’m busy”.
Isn’t that what you would say if you had one month to live? You’d say “yes” every chance you could.
One lady wrote: “I cannot count the times I called my sister and said, ‘How about going to lunch?’ She would stammer, ‘I can’t. I have clothes in the dryer. My hair is dirty. I wish I had known yesterday. I had a late breakfast. It looks like rain.’ And my personal favorite: ‘It’s Monday.’ She died a few years ago. We never did have lunch together.
What would you do if you had one month to live? I think you’d say yes to your family and friends; you’d spend time together.
And you’d make some memories. You wouldn’t just sit and watch TV; you’d interact with each other and do something you’ll remember. Maybe you’d take a trip together; maybe you’d sit and talk like I did with my dad; maybe you’d even record some of it to save and pass on. Maybe you’d have a big party, or a family reunion. But you’d want to make some memories together.
On the last night of Jesus’ life, who was He with? His closest friends. What did they do? They watched a movie. No. They had a meal together-we call it “the last supper”. Do you think it was a memorable experience? It was so memorable that Jesus’ followers still talk about it centuries later! The things Jesus said at that meal are very memorable.
• “Take and eat, this is my body; this is my blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins; do this in remembrance of me.”
• “Peter, before the rooster crows you will disown me three times.”
• “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Jesus was very intentional about being with those He loved and deliberately making memories.
So here are the questions. I hope you’ll think about these, talk about them, and come up with an action step and do something.
If you only had one month to live, with whom would you want to spend time? What would you most want to do together to make lasting memories?
2. Share your heart.
To love completely, you need to share your heart. Let people know how you feel about them.
I grew up in a family that loved each other, but we didn’t express it often. When I started hanging around Noel’s family, one of the things that stood out to me, that was so different, was that they all told each other every day that they loved each other. Noel would tell the kids and they would tell him and each other: “I sure love you.” In fact, they said it so often, that the kids kind of slurred it together: “Shuluvya”. Every day: “shuluvya, shuluvya”. It was a wonderful atmosphere, and I decided I’d do the same when I had a family. And we have. We share our affection openly and often.
I don’t remember my dad ever telling me that he loved me when I was growing up (he might have, but I don’t remember it); but in his last month, every time I visited, when I got to ready to leave he would grab my hand, look me in the eye, and say, “You know that I love you, don’t you?”
“Yeah Dad; I love you too.”
If you had one month to love, you’d share your heart; you’d tell people how you feel about them. What are you waiting for? I challenge you to do it this week. Tell people how much they mean to you. Tell them you love them.
John 13:1 says that Jesus loved them completely. If you read on, John 13-16 is some of Jesus’ most important and beautiful teaching. There in the upper room with the end in sight, He shares His heart with His followers.
Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle married his secretary, Jane Welsh, and they seemed outwardly happy. Thomas was so deeply devoted to his work he hardly noticed when his wife’s health began to deteriorate. The disease that wracked her body finally confined her to bed. Carlyle truly loved her, but found it difficult to stay with her or give her much attention during the illness. After several years, Jane died. The day of her funeral was stormy, and they buried her beside the church despite the rain and mud.
Carlyle returned to his house and found it suddenly, eerily quiet. He went upstairs to Jane’s bedroom and sat in a chair next to her bed. That’s when he discovered her diary. On one entire page she had written a single line: “Yesterday he spent an hour with me and it was like heaven; I love him so.” On another page his heart broke as he read: “I have listened all day to hear his steps in the hall, but now it is late and I guess he won’t come today.” He set down her journal, ran out of the house and made his way back to the churchyard. Found later by his friends, Carlyle was kneeling by her grave, covered in mud. With tears running down his cheeks, he cried: “If I had only known.”
Share your heart while you have the chance. Here are the questions we want you to think about, talk over and then do something.
Who needs to be assured that you love them? Make a list of people with whom you would want to share your heart, and start telling them how you feel about them.
3. Mend broken relationships.
If you had one month to live and are going to love completely, I think you’d try to mend broken relationships. You would seek out those you’ve offended and ask forgiveness. You’d seek out those who offended you and offer forgiveness. You’d bury the hatchet. You all know the Lord’s Prayer.
Matthew 6:9-13 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Look at verse 12. Do you really want to pray that? Do you want to ask God to forgive you just as you have forgiven others? If you nurse a grudge, if you hold bitterness in your heart, if you refuse to forgive, you are telling God, “Don’t forgive me either, God.” After the prayer, Jesus goes on to say:
Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Isn’t it interesting that of all the things in the Lord’s Prayer He could have commented on, Jesus picks this one: forgiveness. He wants to make it clear that we must forgive others. We cannot afford to hang on to our hurts and grievances. Bitterness will poison us. We want to punish the other person, but when you refuse to forgive, you are only hurting yourself.
A few weeks ago, we were reading the gospel of Mark in our Bible reading plan, and I read this verse one morning.
Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
There is the same idea: forgive so that you can be forgiven. But what struck me was how complete Jesus made forgiveness. Whenever you pray, forgive anyone for anything you have against him. Forgive anyone, anything, anytime you pray. That covers all people, all sins, all the time. Pretty complete! To love completely means that we forgive like this: anyone, anything, anytime.
I said last week that life is short; it’s certainly too short to stay hurt and bitter.
Bill White tells about a friend of his named Greg who put together a mini high school reunion. He hadn’t seen many of his classmates in over 17 years. They had a blast reliving their glory days and finding out what was currently going on in everyone’s life.
As the night was winding down, Greg noticed that his friend Debbie was getting teary-eyed, and he couldn’t help but ask what was going on. Through tears she said, “It’s sad that there are some things you just can’t forget.”
Greg pressed Debbie about what she meant, and finally she told him. In the second grade-27 years ago!-a girl named Karen had started the “Debbie Haters Club.” Debbie had never gotten over the pain of that, and she had never forgiven Karen.
Knowing that Karen was at the reunion that night, Greg told Debbie she should talk to her. Debbie refused, but Greg insisted. In fact, Greg ended up orchestrating the effort toward reconciliation! When Karen was collecting her coat to leave the party, Greg pulled her aside into a separate room, and asked her to wait for him to return. Then Greg went to get Debbie. When both women were together in the room, Greg stepped out and stood guard at the door. Greg couldn’t hear a word that passed between them, but he didn’t need to. As they both left, he could see the freedom on their faces.
He locked them in a room together! And it was the end of the Debbie Haters Club! Is there someone with whom you need to be locked up in a guarded room?
You know, 27 years after the second grade, the whole Debbie Haters Club seemed kind of silly. When you have one month to live, a lot of grievances look silly. But some don’t. Some run deep, and are not easy to forgive. My challenge to you is simply to make the effort and ask for God’s help. It won’t be easy, but the God who commands you to forgive will help you.
Here are the questions to think about, talk about and then do something.
If you had one month to live, from whom would you ask forgiveness? Who do you need to forgive? Make the call.
4. Thank people who contributed to your life.
One of the things that I learned as a child-I’ll bet you did too-was to say thanks when someone did something for me or gave something to me. When someone gave me something, my mom would ask, “What do you say?” “Thank you.” When we went to someone’s house for dinner, as we were leaving my folks would ask, “What do you say?” Thank you. To leave without saying thanks was rude.
If you had one month to live I think you’d want to say some “thank yous”. To leave without saying thanks would be rude.
Jesus talked about this in a story in Luke 17. Ten lepers asked Jesus to heal them. Jesus told them to go to the priest to be examined and declared clean, and as they went-as they obeyed-they were healed. Only one of them, a Samaritan, came back to say thanks. The others left without saying thanks-rude. Here’s what Jesus said.
Luke 17:17-18 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Where are the other nine? Only one in ten came back to say thanks.
I wonder if the percentages are the same today. Maybe 10% of the people in the world are fully alive and appreciate the gifts God has given them. They celebrate each new day and are grateful to God for it. I would guess that about 90% of the world never stops to thank God for the blessings in their lives, never savor the rich gifts that God has given them. How about you? Are you a one in ten person, or part of the 90%?
And it’s not just God who deserves thanks, but there are so many people who have contributed to our lives, we would want to thank them. So here is the question.
Who would you want to thank today if you only had one month to live? Make a list of the people for whom you are the most grateful. Tell them.
We are going to take a couple minutes and let you make that list right now.
5. Find lost friends and make a final appeal.
If I had one month to live and I’m going to love completely, I have some lost friends I would want to find and make a final appeal. I wouldn’t want to leave the planet without asking them one last time to please believe and follow Jesus.
Luke 19 tells the story of Jesus’ meeting with Zacchaeus. In the last weeks of His life, Jesus passed through Jericho where crowds gathered to see Him. Because of the crowds, a vertically-challenged man named Zacchaeus had climbed a tree to get a better look at Jesus. Zac happened to be the wealthiest man in town-and also the most hated. He was a tax collector for the Romans, so he made his money by working for the enemy and fleecing his own countrymen. He was a traitor who had grown rich on his treachery. So when Jesus stopped and Zac’s tree and invited himself to lunch at Zac’s house, everyone in town was offended. Of all people! Zac! But Jesus knew what he was doing; he explained, “I came to seek and save what was lost.” That lunch changed Zac’s life.
On His way to the cross, Jesus stopped for lunch with Zac; he made time for a redemptive conversation. Who do you need to invite to lunch?
Pastor Steve Yeschek, Crystal Lake, Illinois, lost his sister, Judy, after a five-year battle with cancer. Judy was a party animal-a big drinker with a self-contented lifestyle. She was someone everybody loved, because she exuded excitement and a thrill for life. When Steve tried to share Jesus with her over the years, she would laugh it off and keep partying.
But at the age of 44, her world caved in. She found out she had breast cancer. She later learned her husband had cancer, too. Adding to the devastation of these two blows, she discovered her husband was having an affair. He subsequently announced he didn’t love her anymore and left her.
It was in that context that she began to ask eternal questions and soon prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior. From that time until her death, Jesus and his purpose became her priority. With the same gusto she lived life as an unbeliever, she now approached her new life in Christ. Her greatest aim was winning others to Christ. She boldly shared her faith even as she was undergoing surgery after surgery, praying for a miraculous healing from the Lord.
Judy came to see that the greater miracle would be for her friends and family to come to know Christ. Even as she struggled for every breath, she talked her way out of the hospital about ten days before her death so she could be baptized and publicly proclaim Christ as the only way of salvation.
Judy invited everyone she knew to come to her baptism service. There, she urgently shared her testimony. Her 84-year-old father came to faith in Christ that night and was baptized-along with her ex-husband, a number of nieces, a college roommate, her aunt, her sister, and others.
Ten days later, Judy died. Even more people came to know Jesus at her funeral. When Steve read the message she had prepared for her own funeral service, another 100 people prayed to receive Christ that day.
With less than a month to live, what did Judy do? Set up her baptism as one last chance to appeal to those she loved. But you don’t have to wait until you’re dying! Live like you’re dying now and find that lost friend.
Here’s the question I want you to think about, talk about, and then do something.
Who do you know that is still far from God? Set a time to meet and talk; share God’s love from your heart.