Lessons from a Brain Tumor

I just recently learned that a missionary brother I knew died of a brain tumor.  You can see his final message and it is one of great encouragement.  You will see nothing but joy on his face greater than someone you are working with on their last work day before their wedding.   I was about to leave a comment on the site and out came this blog post, so I wanted to share it here and maybe be a blessing to someone, somewhere, somehow!

Because when you know Jesus, life is simply SOME WOW!   Often the WOWS of life don’t hit us until after the fact, and many WOWS are reserved for Heaven. Bro Jeff was a like me, in love with Jesus, but wondering if his life really made a difference.  In Christianity we often don’t get all the pieces of the puzzle in this life, but Jesus holds it all in his hands.  One day, that puzzle will make something beautiful even though every individual piece may not be.   All things work together for good is God’s promise in Romans 8:28, to them that love God.  Jeff wanted his life to make that verse real.  He did.

You can watch his final message on the following link:


I must have misread the post a comment part to read “post a chapter.”

I met Bro Jeff several years ago during the annual October Scotland Missions Conference up at Pastor and Missionary Jim Vanvoltenberg’s church in Scotland.  I am out of Bro Lou’s church in Hamburg NY, Old Time Baptist (oldtimebaptist.com).  What stood out even then is how the lives we live PREACH louder than any message we have said.  I don’t recall what Pastor Smith preached on in Scotland (I can barely remember what I preached!) but there are still things that I remember to this day.

Even back then I saw Romans 8:28 alive in his life.  From his first tumor, he ended up having to wear a hearing aid.  On the last day of our trip, Bro Jeff drove us in Bro Jim’s big white passenger van on our 2 hour drive to the airport.  It died on us and we needed a jump and a prayer to get us the rest of the way.  It basically would stall out if you took your foot of the gas.   Well, it died.  We pulled into a gas station to work on the van, and I know at least one of our passengers was in panic mode and yelling at him for taking his foot off the gas.  I went up to him about it and apologized and explained not to take their yelling personally. He smiled and said, “Don’t worry, I just turn down my hearing aid!”

I have seen many Christians fight illnesses and they tend to act more like Job’s wife today than Job.  I am just as prone to whine and wander as anyone else today.  I think I am spiritual and I think I arrived.  Then God loves to shake things up and show me reality.  For example, I was driving home from working in Rochester recently and my GPS could not pick up a signal at first.  I have no sense of direction and I was forced to choose between two options on the route 390.  I almost had a stroke.  I had prayed hard when I realized I had no working GPS and when it finally kicked on I realized I was going the RIGHT way.  Yet I could hear Jesus saying,  Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?

It is definitely encouraging to remember Bro Jeff’s attitude and faith.  Someone said a faith that can’t be tested is a faith that can’t be trusted.  Bro Jeff shows us the balance of Christianity by his life and his death.  Today the typical view Christianity is this big party and rock and roll atmosphere they try to pump up.  They tend promise instant sanctification, and recruit with grand promises that fail to deliver.  So they have to keep pumping and re-pumping.  “Become a Christian and have no problems ever again!”

Yes, the Christian life is  easy when you are on the mountain.  The reality is we don’t camp there.  In my experience, we are on our Christian journey through mountainous terrain.  We climb one mountain and get to enjoy the view, but then it is back down the mountain and we are back marching through the valleys of life.  Psalm 23 says EVEN though I walk THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH I will FEAR NO EVIL, for THOU ARE WITH ME.  We may not like to be in the valley, but it is in the valley where we find Jesus.  It is only when we are on the mountain that we usually see what He had been doing all along.

The reality is life is hard and when you become a Christian you are not only still in this often miserable world but you now add an enemy, the devil, and you find out how much your own flesh will fight you and how the world will come after you to pull you back.  Yet Christianity is most joyous and most alive in the hard times.  Persecution has always been good for the church.   When our backs are to the wall and we have no option BUT GOD, that is when our faith becomes alive.  It is not a bed of roses, but a crown of thorns, and we need to not be surprised when adversity comes.  Expect it, and know in those times Jesus becomes alive and real to you.  At this point, I haven’t had the experience Jeff has, and I don’t know if I would be as daring now to pray for a brain tumor.  What I have seen though in the 11 years I have been saved is all things really do work together for good.

One other lesson Bro Jeff taught is he really encouraged me that God is using you even if you don’t see it.  Oswald Chambers never thought he was doing much for God, but the opening of his book is  John 12:24, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.  His book My Utmost for his Highest, is one of the greatest devotional books ever written.  Yet it took his death for the seed of his life to grow into something wonderful and bringeth forth much fruit.

Missionary Jim Elliott’s life ended by the spears of the Auca Indians, the very tribe he wanted to reach with the gospel.   By the world’s account, this former businessman wastes his life.  Yet after the Indians brutally killed him, Jim’s wife was able to miraculously love on them and reached that tribe.  His legacy lives on. Jeff’s legacy lives on because we don’t serve a dead Saviour.   Jeff told Bro Lou he didn’t think he was doing that much for God.  I struggle with that.  I think we all can fall in that boat, thinking our love for God is in direct proportion to how big our numbers are.  Blog hits. Church attendance.   Offerings.  Whatever.

I think a good clue you might be doing something for God is that the devil tells you over and over you aren’t.  It really is God doing something THROUGH you, not you doing it anyway.  Just stay close to Jesus.  Remain in HIM, He is the vine, and we are the branches he says in John 12.

In the good times we can quote the clichés of Christianity and sound spiritual.  In the hard times we can find the Christ of Christianity and become alive spiritually.  It makes all the difference in the world.

Our lives are like ripples in a pond.  Jeff’s life impacted this world far more than he can imagine. People are listening to our lives even when their ears are plugged.  I don’t see much fruit from my efforts.  I don’t see many blog hits for my efforts.   Our lives might not show much.  Yet he that loses his life for the Gospel will find it.  It means surrendering our lives even when the circumstances of life don’t reveal much.  Jeff literally gave his life for the gospel and only now can he truly see his faith revealed and the results of his obedience and faithfulness.  We need not to be discouraged by thinking our lives for God are a waste or that God has forgotten us.  Jesus loves me, this I know.

I will close with this.  Here is another ripple.  I merely wanted to leave a comment on the website, and a blog post came out of this.  I have a blog on my own website ETVFC.org.  I wasn’t trying to write anything long today, but when I start I don’t stop.  I can’t stop.

Perhaps, I am stockpiling articles so one day when I die there is something that can live on that will bringeth forth much fruit.   I had a very down day a few days ago.  Just when I was going to send out invites to my pity party, I turned on the CD player in my wife’s van. She just happened to have this one CD on that is a huge blessing to me.

It goes like this. “God wants to hear you sing, when the waves are crashing round you. When the fiery darts surround you, when despair is all you see.  God wants to hear your voice, when the wisest man has spoken, and said your circumstance is as hopeless as can be.  That’s when God wants to hear you sing! HE wants to hear you sing!”

Have we lost our song, Christians?  Maybe we need to realign our expectations.  Expect adversity, but in it we need to better run TO GOD, instead of RUNNING FROM GOD.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.   We sing that.  Do we believe it?

Jeff ran to God.  And now he is there forever, singing praises to Him.

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