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My Take: If I had only a month to live
As Christians celebrate Good Friday, Pastor Kerry Shook explores how Jesus spent his last days on Earth.
April 6th, 2012
12:29 PM ET

My Take: If I had only a month to live

Pastor Kerry Shook and his wife, Chris, founded Woodlands Church near Houston. They are the authors of the New York Times bestseller "One Month to Live: Thirty Days To A No-Regrets Life," now available in paperback.

By Kerry Shook, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Jimmy Dowden, a church member, approached me after church one Sunday with some sad news. He said his cancer had returned, and the doctors told him he had only six to 10 weeks to live.

Though as a pastor, I’ve faced crises like this, it is always difficult and painful. Filled with compassion, I immediately told him that my wife, Chris, and I, along with our whole Woodlands Church, would be praying for him. His response might come as a surprise to some.

“That’s fine," he said, "but really I need to pray for you and the church. I’m praying for you that you won’t be distracted by life.”

He went on to tell me that when he heard the news that he only had weeks left to live, all the distractions melted away, and he experienced the most amazing peace.

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“Before I was told I only had a brief time left, I was running in a million different directions,” Jimmy told me. “I didn’t think about God nearly as much as I do now. Everything is so clear to me now. I finally see what is most important in life.”

Jimmy shared with me how his relationship with his wife, Betty, had changed. “It was good before, but now it’s even better,” Jimmy said.  "We focus on each other’s needs and listen to one another better. We always had a good marriage, but it has never had the sweetness that we have now.”

While many people I’ve known who are facing death make radical changes in order to die well, I occasionally meet some who change very little.

It’s not that they are unwilling to change. It’s that they have lived so deliberately and authentically that the news of the end of this life doesn’t turn them upside-down.

Of course, they grieve and struggle with the news. They ache for their families and the people they love. But they take comfort in knowing they have been living focused on what matters most to them: their relationships with the ones they love, their relationship with the God of the universe and the fulfillment of their unique purpose on this Earth.

They strive to live like Jesus did when He knew He had one month to live.

Jesus lived passionately. In fact, it’s no surprise we call the end of His life the passion of Christ. In John 10:10, He says, “I have come in order for you to have life — life in all its fullness.”

I think Jesus wants us to live our lives with exuberance, too.

He loved completely. In his final days, he focused on people he was closest to and on the relationships that mattered most: those with his disciples.

Much the same, he calls us to focus with high intensity on those relationships that are most important in our lives. (And intensity is what he means. It never ceases to amaze me how much intentionality I need to pour into my own relationships with my wife Chris and our children to stay connected.)

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He learned humbly. Philippians 2:8: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Jesus challenges us to learn even through our problems and pain. When we humbly do so, God fills us with His power.

Jesus left boldly. He changed the world. In much the same way, he wants us to understand our ability to do so — even if it’s on a smaller scale — in His name.

At Jimmy’s funeral, I was struck not only by how he had lived out his final weeks but how much it had impacted our whole church. Jimmy showed us what it meant to truly embrace life, whether you have 30 days or 30 years, much the same way Jesus did. While we grieved for Jimmy and his family, we were inspired by their faith and by how God always brings something good out of suffering.

God repeatedly told us that our lives were short compared with eternity. In James 4:14, He says, “Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes.”

Ultimately, what Jesus taught us in his final days was not about dying, but about living. On this Good Friday, try living each day with purpose and intentionality, as if they were your last. I guarantee you’ll feel more alive than ever before by just living the passion that God has placed in your heart.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Death • Opinion

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soundoff (242 Responses)
  1. Trancend

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Trancend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ will result in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Currently.... your constructing your own path that suits your sin lifestyle.

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find a truth you can take with you in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life. You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf, the greatest minds knowledge fate or are eventually plagerzed, your good deeds are forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated, your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over .
    Trancend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Relise your a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent....

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth.

    Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment. You don't get what you want you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Down is up. Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.

    Your all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.

    April 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  2. Matthew

    I love you, Jesus. Thank you for dying for me and the rest of humanity.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  3. Iqbal Khan

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYNmML2Ge14&w=640&h=360]

    April 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  4. Really-O?

    @Chad – "Definition of ATHEISM"
    The definition you give is only ONE of the definitions of atheism – and it is not the literal meaning of the word. The Greek prefix "a" means "without"; the definition of "theism" in this context is "belief in the existence of a god or gods"; therefore, atheism literally means "without belief in the existence of a god or gods". Non-belief is not a belief. Non-belief is not an assertion. No proof is necessary (or even possible) for non-belief. Are you being dishonest or obtuse? Seriously.

    April 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    April 8, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • Jesus

      More lies, prayer doesn’t not; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      April 8, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Ann

      I'm not very religious, though I believe in God. Two years ago I became extremely ill and was expected to die. There was a tag on my hospital bed instructing no resuscitation and (being raised Catholic) I was given the last rites. Somehow, though, I got better and I'm grateful to be healthy now. I learned after I got out of the hospital that people were praying for me. Not just people I know, but strangers–for instance, my cousin had a mass said for me in her church on the other side of the country. One of my nameless nurses offered to pray with my ambivalent mom. I think that positive energy generated on my behalf aided my recovery. Of course medicine made survival physically possible; God gave mankind the skills and knowledge to use for our benefit. But it sure didn't hurt to realize I'm lucky enough to have people to who would pray for me. There's no reason to vilify believers who don't impose their views on you or to smugly mock them. Save that for the rabid busy-bodies who give faith a bad name.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Jesus

      "But it sure didn't hurt to realize I'm lucky enough to have people to who would pray for me"

      It still wasn't the prayers that saved you, it was your brain, nothing more.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Ann

      Of course my brain is the reason I'm here now. Our whole existence is about our brains. But the prayers didn't hurt. There's no need to trash others' beliefs as long as they don't impose them on you.

      April 8, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jesus

      "There's no need to trash others' beliefs as long as they don't impose them on you."

      Trying telling that to the gays who are being denied their civil rights, or the American indians that the Christians killed in the millions and stole their land. What...don't know your own horrible history of your religion.

      April 8, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. Proof provided by the impostor abusing the name of Jesus.

      April 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Jeeus

      "Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. Proof provided by the impostor abusing the name of Jesus."

      Thanks for proving my point that you are liar and use different handles, what a hypocrite.

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!"

      April 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. Proof provided by the impostor using the name of Jeeus.

      April 8, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. Proof provided by the impostor using the name of Jeeus."

      More lies and desperation proving my posts correct.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  6. Jesus is Lord

    HE IS RISEN !

    April 8, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  7. b4bigbang

    @momoya: Hey, one down, a few to go....
    But there's always room for the miraculous!
    Btw, since you yourself accused Christians of commiting violence against you and yours, to the extent that you had to move, then i must call FAIL on your statement, using the same requirements the atheists use in arguing with believers; either prove it or you lose.

    But, generously assuming for the moment u r being accurate, I'd have to assume that u r not living on the west coast. I've experienced nothing but total tolerance in my town here on the W coast. I'm a Christian, my co-worker is a Muslim and our boss is an atheist and we all get along quite well.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "There's always room for the miraculous." Yeah, there is. There's always a chance you'll grow a brain.

      Not likely, but then, miracles never are.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • momoya

      @b4

      I don't care if you believe me or not, and I have no interest in proving my claim to you.. I didn't believe it could happen, and then when I started getting threats I didn't believe it would happen, but it did.. I have christian and muslim friends who know I am an atheist, too, but I'm not so stupid to think that christianity or at least theism is not the "preferred" state of mind in the US.

      April 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 7, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Jesus

      ~Prayer doesn’t not; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! .. .. ..

      April 8, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  9. b4bigbang

    Anyone, atheist or not, who challenges the public to prove that the King James translators did NOT believe in the mythical unicorn is being illogical.

    The hebrew word for unicorn is reem (alt: reym). There is no known Jewish belief that the reem was a magic horse. The KJV Bible translators used the LXX for this portion of their old testament translation. The LXX is the Hebrew OT translated into Greek. The Greek LXX has the word 'monoceros' (one-horn) in the verses in question. This is why the KJV translators chose 'unicorn' (again, one-horn) because it was the best word they could think of for a word-by-word English translation at the time.

    I would show references, but since all references i can find on google involving ancient Hebrew are coming from religious academia, none of the atheists will accept it.

    Webster's unabridged shows it as meaning a two-horned animal when mentioned in the Bible btw.

    Hey, maybe if Darwin or Hawking had a Hebrew lexicon in *their* writings you guys could study ancient languages, but alas, i guess you'll just have to leave that entire field of academia to the religious. Sigh....

    Therefore, since there is NO evidence AT ALL that the KJV translators believed in majic horses (again, more than 1 def for unicorn) this means that anyone positing that they in fact DID believe in majic horses must supply the proof.
    Yes, the burden of proof is on YOU.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • momoya

      Who cares?. There's still the talking snake and donkey, floating iron axe-heads, the omni-max multi-paradoxes (god knowing everything yet allowing free will-lol!!!), stupid and contradictory logic, and mass zombie releases..

      April 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.