There is a dear couple in our church, Bud and Rea Jean Belt, who my wife and I deeply appreciate. I mean it sincerely when I say that my wife and I have talked about how when we get old, we want to be just like Bud and Rea Jean (not that they are old or anything – let’s say when we get to their “season of life”). Everyone knows those old crotchety types (believe it or not – you can even find them in church) that just seem to always be negative and always have a complaint. My wife and I never want to get like that. We want to be like Bud and Rea Jean. They are so very in love with each other. They are so very in love with Jesus. They treat each other with such tenderness and grace. They always have smiles on their faces and they always have a kind and encouraging word to share. Seriously, when my wife and I get to that “season of life,” we really want to be just like Bud and Rea Jean.
Recently, this dear couple has inspired me even more. Bud has been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. The diagnosis is not real good. He starts chemotherapy this week with the hopes of extending his life for perhaps up to a year. What sad news. But yet, even in this situation, Bud and Rea Jean remain tender, loving, gentle, and committed to each other and to the Lord.
They recently made three statements to me that I cannot get out of my mind. The first is this. When I visited Bud and Rea Jean right after they found out about his cancer, Bud’s first words to me were, “Pastor, we’re all terminal!” WOW! How true. James 4:14 tells us that our life is like a vapor – here one minute and gone the next. The truth is that we are all dying physically. There is no way to get around that. Start your day with that thought and it will change your priorities, your perspective and your focus.
A few nights ago several of our Elders from church went over to Bud and Rea Jean’s to pray with them (I took the picture above on this night). As we sat in their living room talking, we asked Bud what we could pray for specifically. His immediate answer was, “Pray that I finish well.” WOW again! Shouldn’t that be the prayer of each of us – especially realizing we are all terminal? Paul said, “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the course; I have kept the faith.” Finishing well – that should be the goal for each of us.
Then Bud made another statement. I found this one staggering. He said, “Cancer isn’t a gift but it is a responsibility!” WOW! WOW! WOW! What a spiritually mature perspective on someone who is looking in all likelihood at the final months of his life due to cancer. This disease is not a gift. We wouldn’t wrap up cancer in a decorative box and hand it to someone saying, “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas.” However, Bud realizes that he has a responsibility to use his cancer to the ultimate and highest glory of God.
Folks, Listen, bad things come into our lives. Many times we can’t prevent that. But not only are we to be good stewards of the time, talent, and treasure that God has entrusted us with, we must also be good stewards of the tough circumstances that the Lord allows to come into each of our lives. We must see these, not as a curse to be hated and become bitter over, but as an opportunity to shine our light brighter than we have ever shined it before and an opportunity to shine our light in front of people that we would never had met otherwise had it not been for this “bad news” that came into our life.
Rea Jean also came up with a great quote. As we as Elders sat around sharing with them before we laid hands on them and prayed for this dear couple, Rea Jean said, “This wouldn’t be so difficult if I didn’t like Bud so much!” Quadruple WOW! What a woman! What a man! What a couple! My definition of a spiritual hero is not someone who preachers to multiple thousands, leads huge ministries or writes best-selling books (not putting any of that down). My definition of a spiritual hero is someone who goes through the fire of adversity but remains faithful to the Lord! That’s why Bud and Rea Jean are two of my spiritual heroes. That’s why when my wife and I reach that “season of life,” our prayer is that we would be just like them.