I went by to see Dan a few years ago. He did not come to church, and a childhood faith had not passed through to adulthood. He had just found out he had cancer, and it was terminal. He was given five years. He was extremely distraught as he sat in his recliner alone in his house. We talked about a number of things — Jesus, cancer, faith, family, God’s amazing, graceful love, and we had prayer together. He came to church that Sunday and almost every Sunday after for many years. He attended Bible studies, was president of his Sunday School class, served in innumerable ways and lived an amazing lifetime in just the few years he had left. When he described that moment we met at the house the day he found out he had terminal cancer, he phrased it this way:
“Oh, no!” became “Oh, wow!”
His life was amazingly full in those years — his daughter got married, he had a bunch of grandkids, he traveled with his wife on the back of his Harley all over the country, he blessed a church family, his family and a community in ways he never had before. He stopped looking at the “oh, no” of cancer and a doctor’s report and started looking at the “oh, wow” of belonging to God, being saved by Jesus Christ, walking in amazing grace and the joy of life in the many things that mattered — something before he had not seen, that in life which really mattered. And, this is how he lived.
I am convinced that many pastors, church leaders, Christians, Jesus followers, too often choose to live in the “oh, no” of life and miss the “oh, wow” of experiencing God in the moment-by-moment ways that surround us constantly. We insist on being unhappy if things don’t constantly go as we want. We look for joy in circumstances and situations. We neglect the happiness that exists just in being in Christ and living that out in all our relationships and all our moments, from enjoying a sunset as we travel down the highway to making a baby giggle.
I know this is often especially true of pastors and church leaders. We think we will be happy if church attendance is up, the offering is good, most of the people in our church are happy with us. We gravitate toward depression, if not misery, if the attendance is down, the offering is too small or if someone or someones complain. We major on the “oh, no” and somehow miss the “oh, wow” of walking with God, experiencing Christ in our lives, celebrating our relationships, and, yes, laying up treasures in heaven where our hearts are supposed to be anyway.
Some five years after that first visit with Dan, Rhonda and I were invited to come to his house where I would get to baptize one of his new grandchildren. He was wheelchair-bound by then and would live only a few weeks. All his family were there — twin sons, his daughter, their families and his wife. There he told the story of his life, of how important they were to him, of Christ in his heart and life, of heaven he would be going to soon. He told the story of my visit five years before where “oh, no” became “oh, wow,” when he turned his heart fully over to Jesus Christ.
No matter who we are, what our story is, if we are a pastor, church leader, member of a church, have a deep faith or we are struggling to believe, dealing with grief and loss or battling with an addiction, we get to choose what we build each day on, our ministry, our relationships, our journey through a day or through the next five years as Dan did, and our choice is simple — “oh, no” (there are always “oh, no’s” in life) or “oh, wow” — God loves us, Jesus saves us, heaven is real, and there is no greater joy than just walking with God. Be happy!