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Death Can Only Make Me Better: Remembering Tim Keller (1950–2023)

Audio Transcript

In the present day we are saying farewell to our buddy, pastor and writer Tim Keller. Tim handed away in New York Metropolis on the age of 72. He was identified with pancreatic most cancers in 2020.

Over time, Dr. Keller graciously appeared as a visitor on this podcast, leaving us with 9 wealthy APJ episodes on subjects like vocation (or work) and on the themes of prayer and solitude. I’m grateful for the time he invested with us.

Most cancers, for Dr. Keller, was an previous nemesis. Again in 2002, he was first identified with thyroid most cancers, a battle he would battle between 2003 and 2004. God would heal and restore Keller, however not earlier than thyroid surgical procedure knocked him out of the pulpit for 3 months. A decade later, Keller preached a sermon on boldness within the face of dying and recounted what he realized throughout that first most cancers battle, opening up about his fears as he was rolled into the working room. In that second, he caught a glimpse of one thing otherworldly. He noticed the sheer magnitude of God’s glory and God’s pleasure past this world of ache and struggling and most cancers and dying.

I wish to play for you a sermon clip that involves my thoughts on today, celebrating his life, understanding he has handed into the presence of God and into God’s unimaginable, unspeakable pleasure that the remainder of us are left eager for. Right here’s Tim Keller, in 2013, answering this query: The place do we discover braveness for all times’s scariest moments?

To me, my favourite model of this instance of what actual braveness is comes out of this little passage close to the tip of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In case you’re one of many three or 4 individuals on this planet who has by no means heard of The Lord of the Rings, it’s a narrative. There are these two little heroes. One is the grasp, and one is the servant of the grasp. Sam is the servant, and he loves his grasp. They’re on this horrible quest, and at one level, his grasp is imprisoned in a tower. Sam rescues Frodo, his grasp, largely by screwing himself up and saying, “You aren’t going to harm him. I’m going to do that. You’ll be able to’t cease me. I’m the nice . . . right here I come.” He does rescue him.

After that, they’re nonetheless on their horrible quest, and the hazard continues to be very actual. One night time, Sam seems to be up into the sky and sees a star. That is within the guide, not the film. That is what the passage says:

Sam noticed a white star twinkle for some time. The great thing about it smote his coronary heart. . . . For like a shaft, clear and chilly, the thought pierced him that ultimately the Shadow was solely a small and passing factor: there was gentle and excessive magnificence for ever past its attain. His tune within the Tower had been defiance somewhat than hope; for then he was considering of himself. Now . . . his personal destiny, and even his grasp’s, ceased to bother him . . . [and he fell] right into a deep untroubled sleep. (922)

The writer, Tolkien, is attempting to say there’s a distinction between defiance, wherein you screw your self up (“I can do it!”) — that’s nonetheless, ultimately, not the braveness you want, since you’re taking a look at your self. Braveness, on the one hand, shouldn’t be taking a look at your self and banishing worry. No, it’s simply letting the fears play their function, and never letting the fears play an excessive amount of of a task by wanting away from your self. “Okay,” you say, “however then to what?” It’s even within the textual content I simply learn. It was defiance, not hope. Hope.

When Paul met Jesus Christ on the highway to Damascus, “‘Who’re you, Lord?’ [I asked.] ‘I’m Jesus of Nazareth, whom you might be persecuting’” (Acts 22:8 NIV) — the resurrected Jesus. Once we have been going by Acts 9, the primary account of Paul’s conversion, we talked slightly bit about this. When Paul realized that Jesus had been resurrected from the lifeless, abruptly all the things broke open. All of the sudden the that means of his dying made sense, and the hope for the long run made sense.

If Jesus Christ actually died on the cross, taking our punishment, and he’s now raised from the lifeless, now once we imagine in him, not solely are our sins forgiven, however now we’ve an unimaginable hope in regards to the future. We’re going to be raised, and all the things on this world goes to be put proper, and there’s not going to be any struggling or dying. That’s an astonishing hope.

As I mentioned, the primary a part of braveness is wanting away from your self. The world tells you, “Take a look at your self and banish worry.” The second a part of braveness is wanting towards hope, getting a hope. Actual braveness shouldn’t be the absence of worry; it’s the presence of pleasure — a lot pleasure that the worry performs its correct function. Properly, how do you get that pleasure?

“Actual braveness shouldn’t be the absence of worry; it’s the presence of pleasure.”

Earlier than we get to that, let me simply let you know there’s a second method on the market on this planet that individuals are counseling one another to get braveness. I feel the first method is that this form of “self-esteemism.” The first method the world tries to let you know to get braveness is that this: “Simply inform your self, ‘No worry — you are able to do it!’ Summon up the blood and go do it.”

I do suppose there’s an alternate discourse on the market, and it’s older. It’s extra historic. It goes again to the East. It goes again to the Greeks. Cicero, for instance, who was one of many Roman Stoics, wrote a really well-known couple of treatises on why you shouldn’t be afraid of something, particularly not dying. You shouldn’t be afraid of dying. He says, “Braveness makes gentle of dying, for the lifeless are solely as they have been earlier than they have been born. It encounters ache by recollecting that the nice pains are ended by dying. Others we are able to normally management, if they’re endurable, but when they don’t seem to be, we are able to serenely stop life’s theater when the play has ceased to please us.”

What he’s saying right here is, “There is no such thing as a cause to be afraid of something, together with not of dying. Why? As a result of if you die, that’s it. It’s like earlier than. You’re simply not there.” What’s he saying? You shouldn’t be afraid of something, since you inform your self, “I’m going to lose all of it anyway. There’s no use crying over spilled milk. Whenever you die, that’s it. I’m having fun with issues, however everyone loses issues.”

What are they doing? You’re nonetheless deadening your coronary heart, aren’t you? There’s a method of getting braveness, not by deadening your coronary heart to worry, however by deadening your coronary heart to like. And it’s not simply Cicero — I’ve learn it within the New Yorker. So many sensible secular individuals right now say the identical factor. “There’s no cause to be afraid of issues. There’s no cause to be afraid of dying. Whenever you’re lifeless, that’s it. There’s no cause to be afraid of dying.” Oh no?

What’s it that makes your life significant? Is it your well being? Partly. Is it your wealth? Partly. Is it your success? Partly. However what should you had these issues and also you didn’t have love? What should you had no one in your life to like you, no one in your life so that you can love? It might be meaningless. What makes your life significant are the individuals you like and the individuals who love you. That’s what makes your life significant.

Now you’re going to face there, Cicero (or whoever), and also you’re going to inform me I mustn’t worry a future state wherein the one factor that makes life significant is taken away? All love and all family members are taken away. That’s the state. And also you’re telling me I shouldn’t be afraid of that? Are you loopy? In fact we needs to be afraid of that. I’m sorry, however deadening your coronary heart to like is rather like deadening your coronary heart to worry. It form of works, partly, however I don’t know. It’s definitely not good to your coronary heart.

Right here’s a greater method. George Herbert, a seventeenth-century Anglican priest — unimaginable poet. Considered one of my favourite poems within the historical past of the world is his little poem known as “A Dialogue-Anthem.” It’s a dialogue between a Christian and Dying. Christian begins.

Alas, poor Dying! the place is thy glory?
The place is thy well-known power, thy historic sting?

Alas, poor mortal, void of story!
Go spell and browse how I’ve killed thy King.

Poor Dying! and who was harm thereby?
Thy curse being laid on Him makes thee accursed.

Let losers speak: but thou shalt die;
These arms shall crush thee.

     Spare not, do thy worst.
I shall be sooner or later higher than earlier than;
Thou a lot worse, that thou shalt be no extra.

Do you wish to be fearless? Do you wish to look on the market and say, “Nothing can actually harm me due to my infallible hope”? Do you wish to look on the market, saying, “Even the worst factor that may occur to me — dying — can solely make me higher”? “Spare not, Dying! Come on. All you can do is make me higher than I’m now.”

George Herbert has an important line the place he says, “Dying was an executioner, however the gospel has made him only a gardener.” All he can do is plant you, and also you lastly come up into the gorgeous flower that you just have been meant to be. You’re only a seed, and dying simply vegetation you, and you then lastly change into who you have been meant to be. That’s not braveness the Ciceronian method. “Simply kill your coronary heart. Simply say, ‘Properly, we’re going to lose all the things anyway.’ Simply deaden it.” This isn’t Hercules. This isn’t King Arthur. That is Jesus.

“Christianity is the one faith that even claims our God has the attribute of braveness.”

How are you going to be totally, totally positive you’ve got that hope? How are you going to say to even dying itself, “Spare not, do thy worst”? I can let you know how. It’s a must to imagine in the one God. There are a number of religions on the market, they usually all declare “God, God, God,” however Christianity is the one faith that even claims our God has the attribute of braveness. Why? As a result of when God grew to become Jesus Christ, he grew to become weak. He grew to become human. When he was within the backyard of Gethsemane, when everyone was asleep and it was darkish and there was no one there and he realized what he was about to face.

I really suppose the backyard of Gethsemane is the place the place you see the best act of braveness within the historical past of the world, as a result of by the point he acquired nailed to the cross, even when he wished to show round, it will have been too late. There he was, nailed to the cross. However that night time, he might have left. In truth, he even considered it. He says, “My soul is overwhelmed . . . to the purpose of dying” (Matthew 26:38 NIV). What do you see in Jesus Christ? You see braveness.

You don’t see him saying, “Convey it on.” The bloody sweat confirmed he was feeling worry. He wasn’t saying, “Come on.” What was he doing? We’re instructed all about it in Hebrews 12:1–3 (NIV):

Subsequently . . . allow us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our religion. For the enjoyment set earlier than him he endured the cross, scorning its disgrace, and sat down on the proper hand of the throne of God. Think about him who endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you’ll not develop weary and lose coronary heart.

There it’s. He appeared away from himself, and what did he look towards? Pleasure. What was the enjoyment? The enjoyment of pleasing his Father and redeeming his buddies. The enjoyment of that enabled him to have braveness. Pay attention: should you see him courageously dying for you want that so you’ll be able to say to dying, “Spare not, do thy worst,” then you’ll be able to have braveness.

One of many few occasions I wanted braveness, God was very blissful to provide it to me, and it was very good. After I was going beneath, being wheeled in for my solely most cancers surgical procedure — I had thyroid most cancers years in the past — I do bear in mind (it was so good) I abruptly had this sense that the world is fantastic and the universe is that this massive ball of the glory of God, and we’re simply trapped on this little tiny speck of darkness. And even that’s going to be taken away finally. Subsequently, it doesn’t matter what occurs now, no matter occurs with the surgical procedure, I’m going to be all proper. My household goes to be all proper. The world goes to be all proper. Every little thing goes to be all proper. It was very good to have a second of braveness.

“By wanting on the pleasure of what’s now there for you, you’ll face no matter you must face.”

I’ve to let you know, I haven’t had a lot of these moments. I can’t maintain on to them. However guess what? The brave Jesus Christ holds on to me and holds on to you. And should you have a look at him and the enjoyment of what he achieved by his brave act — by wanting on the pleasure of what’s now there for you, you’ll face no matter you must face.

“Actual braveness shouldn’t be the absence of worry; it’s the presence of pleasure.” A transferring testimony of the sheer magnitude of God’s glory. A clip from Tim Keller’s sermon titled “The Gospel and Braveness,” preached on Could 26, 2013.

A few years later, Dr. Keller took this story and wrote it into his guide Strolling with God by Ache and Struggling (2015). I wish to learn his revealed model.

There haven’t been many occasions in my life once I felt “the peace that passes understanding.” However there was one time for which I’m very grateful. . . . It was simply earlier than my most cancers surgical procedure. My thyroid was about to be eliminated, and after that, I confronted a remedy with radioactive iodine to destroy any residual cancerous thyroid tissue in my physique. In fact my complete household and I have been shaken by all of it, and deeply anxious. On the morning of my surgical procedure, after I mentioned my good-byes to my spouse and sons, I used to be wheeled right into a room to be prepped. And within the moments earlier than they gave me the anesthetic, I prayed. To my shock, I acquired a sudden, clear new perspective on all the things. It appeared to me that the universe was an infinite realm of pleasure, mirth, and excessive magnificence. In fact it was — didn’t the triune God make it to be stuffed along with his personal boundless pleasure, knowledge, love, and delight? And inside this nice globe of glory was just one little speck of darkness — our world — the place there was briefly ache and struggling. But it surely was just one speck, and shortly that speck would fade away and all the things can be gentle. And I assumed, “It doesn’t actually matter how the surgical procedure goes. Every little thing might be all proper. Me — my spouse, my youngsters, my church — will all be all proper.” I went to sleep with a shiny peace on my coronary heart. (318)

I belief that in his final days Tim was given this braveness and this imaginative and prescient once more of the magnitude of God’s pleasure enveloping all the things else.

Dr. Keller escaped this speck of darkness for the excessive magnificence perpetually past the Shadow’s attain and entered into the boundless pleasure of his grasp on the age of 72. Farewell for now, Dr. Keller.


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