What A Tumor Taught Me About The Gospel

Have you ever had one of those moments where you think you are overreacting to some benign situation in your life, only to find out that you had actually been underestimating its severity? You know what I’m talking about. They happen on popular television shows all of the time. Maybe a parent is overreacting to a teenager’s messy room and when they go to angrily clean it up, they find a bag of pot. Or, a woman gets jealous over a friendly text on her boyfriend’s phone but then later apologizes for being nosy, only to find out that nope—she was right the entire time.

My moment didn’t happen in a teenager’s messy bedroom or over a girlfriend’s flirty text. It happened in a hospital room and it revolved around a test result I was expecting to prove that I was crazy. However, instead of telling me that I was overreacting to some perfectly normal pain, a young, friendly doctor entered my room and told me that although they had been unable to diagnose the problem I had come to address, it was a lucky thing that I had come in, because during their vigorous testing, they had happened upon a decent sized tumor in my chest.

Yes, you read that correctly. Eight months ago, I went in to the emergency room as a precaution over some unexplained pain and I left with a tumor in my chest. And after several long and expensive months of testing, doctor visits and even a short surgery, very few answers became available. The only things we knew for sure was that it was inconveniently located, a decent size and that we didn’t know what it was.

I haven’t shared any of this with very many people for a few reasons. One, because I didn’t want to have to spend a ton of time comforting people who were more worried about it than I was. And two, because I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

I am not afraid to die. In fact, the idea is quite exciting to me. I remember sitting alone in my living room the night my mother died, still completely in shock. I had just gotten home from the hospital and I wasn’t ready to cry or to yell or to feel anything quite yet. I just sat there, overwhelmed. And one of the first thoughts that broke its way through the silence was an image of my mom kneeling before Jesus. I pictured her waking from this life and hearing his voice call out to her. I imagined her looking up at the sound of his call and catching his eye for the first time. And just the thought of it undid me in a way that I could never adequately describe to you. I am not afraid of that moment. I desperately long for that moment. It is the prize I am fighting for… to wake from this life and to hear that voice. To see that face. To know him the way I am known.

However, in the midst of that, there are things that I have to do before that moment. I am very actively pursuing the things that God has spoken to me. I am fighting hard to be the man God created me to be, and the thought of leaving that purpose behind… that breaks my heart a little. And no, I am not talking about glory or ambition or any of its contemporaries. I am talking about things like raising the two beautiful girls God has put in my care. The idea of death isn’t scary at all. But not helping shape my girls into the image of Jesus? That absolutely broke my heart. Thinking about my wife having to struggle through parenting and adulting without me? That made me feel like a failure. Wondering who would pick up the mantle and take my place in the fight for the restoration of the church in my city… that gave me pause.

It’s not the thought of death that broke my heart. It was the thought of not doing the things that Jesus had asked of me. Of never finishing my journey to become the man he had asked me to be. Of knowing that my hometown was still filled with people who didn't know Jesus.

I came to terms with all of that though. I won’t say that it was overnight, but I came to terms with it. I wasn’t afraid. I was resolved. I would either die, or I would live. But either way, I wouldn’t abandon a single thing that God had asked of me.

I continued to teach. Continued to help people start house churches. Continued to encourage people. Continued to write. In fact, I have more books coming out this year than I put out over the last several years combined. Because the weight of this season really pressed on me. Not a fear of death, but a sobriety that comes with knowing there is work to do and no promised time to do it. And that is a lesson that I will carry for the rest of my life.

Time is not promised

It is so easy to get complacent and to forget how much is at stake. It’s easy to forget that the work we are doing here is not just about platforms and anointing. It is a matter of life and death. God was so desperate for humanity that he sent his only son and let him be condemned to death, but for many of us, we are perfectly comfortable skating through life and letting them all rot around us.

Our time here is short. We can’t afford to waste it.

The second thing God proved to me was that he really is exactly who he says he is. For months, I knew there was a very real possibility I would get some extremely bad news soon. I was ready for it. I had resolved myself to be fine no matter what ended up happening, but there was a very real chance that it wasn't good news I was waiting for. So when my Dr contacted me after some new scans a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure what to think. However, she wasn't calling to tell me that I needed another surgery or to let me know when I needed to come in for more tests. No, she was calling to tell me that they had reviewed the scans...and couldn't find a tumor.

God is still a miracle worker

After hearing that I had a tumor in my chest, one of my wife’s first words to me were, “God loves you. It will be OK.”

I believed her then and I have not stopped believing it since. Whether I lived, died, or struggled somewhere in the middle, I have stood on the fact that God really is who he says he is. Which means that I had nothing to be afraid of. And you know what… we were right. He is who he said he was and he did what only he could do.

Eight months ago, I found out that I had a tumor in my chest.

Two weeks ago, I found out that I don't have a tumor in my chest.

I don’t think things could be any clearer. For the rest of my life, I hope I remember what this season has taught me. That time is precious and that God is faithful. And now that you know about it, I hope you never forget either. So let me leave you with one important challenge:


Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33 esv)

It is far too easy to spend our entire lives focusing inwardly. We may wrap it up in a pretty little bow and call it “family first” or “focusing on being healthy”, but the truth is, we have lost our sense of urgency for the gospel. Where the early church felt compelled to spread the message of Jesus, two thousand years later we have become convinced that we have nothing but time. That being selfish is not life-or-death, because we have a lifetime to become the men and women God shed his son’s blood for us to become. But here’s the thing: the people around us don’t.

Time to reach your family is not promised. Time to reach your neighbors is not promised. Time to spread the gospel is not promised. Time to heal the sick and cast out devils is not promised. Time to love the world is not promised. What is promised is that if you will dedicate yourself to loving the world and making Jesus known, God will pour out his power to sustain you. What is promised is that if you make the Kingdom your purpose, God will empower you to represent him well.

So many of us are upset that God isn’t pouring out his power or gifting the body the way he has in the past, but we are so focused on ourselves that we aren’t even attempting to do the work that his power was given to us to do. It’s time to remember what is at stake. It is time to turn away from our excuses and to prioritize the kingdom of God. And as we do, God will prove himself to be faithful. As we fight for the things that God is fighting for, we will see the power of God begin to move again in deeper ways. As we throw aside our ambition and our pride and our selfishness, and surrender ourselves to his purposes, the Spirit of God will develop us into the image of Jesus and begin to empower us to do the things that only he can do.

I believe this is an important moment of history. I believe that the church will look drastically different on the other side of this season. Lines are being drawn in the sand. With each new crisis, it becomes clearer and clearer where the church really stands. Christians are raising their voices in hatred and stirring fear and paranoia everywhere you turn, and for many, this is discouraging. But don’t let that be your reaction. The truth is, the external pressure is forcing the church to reconcile its immaturity with who Jesus actually is. What has been hiding under the guise of a large and prosperous church is being exposed as the network of spiritually immature bodies that it actually is. Which means that in this next moment of history, the church can only grow. Seeing ourselves for what we are doesn’t end in a broken generation of Christians. It ends in a generation of the church standing up and refusing to be broken any longer.

I am convinced that this next moment of history will be remembered as the moment where the body of Jesus reclaimed its identity and stepped back into a lifestyle of real power and uncompromising love. And I am desperate for you to be a part of it. So refocus. Throw away everything that gets in the way of you centering your life and your eyes on the kingdom of God. Abandon every ambition that has replaced desperate love. Tear down your idols and refuse to be distracted. Because this moment matters.

We feel like we have all of the time in the world to get serious about the work Jesus left us here to do, but we don’t. This life is closer to its end with each breath we take. So it is time that we stop wasting them.

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© 2019 by Michael LaBorn