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Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

The Value of A Life Worth Living

The Value of A Life Worth Living

Joni Eareckson Tada tells the story of a woman named Kim who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease and sought Joni's counsel on end-of-life questions. Joni describes how she encouraged Kim with the Bible's testimony that each day of our life can have an eternal impact.

Original Air Date: March 27, 2013

Opening:

John Fuller: Today on “Focus on the Family” Joni Eareckson Tada shares her perspective on life.

Excerpt:

Joni Eareckson Tada: God gives you a 24-hour slice of time in which your investments will have eternal repercussions.

End of Excerpt

John: It makes you want to slow down and appreciate each day, doesn’t it? And we’ll hear more from Joni today with Focus president, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, we have an unusual broadcast today as we kick off Sanctity of Human Life Week. Joni Eareckson Tada is gonna be speaking about what makes a life worth living. As you may know, Joni is a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident when she was just 17-years-old. And over the years, she’s become an advocate for people with a wide range of disabilities and she’s very familiar with end-of-life issues as we’re gonna hear in a moment. This is one of those unforgettable perspectives on the meaning of life.

John: And here’s Joni Eareckson Tada, speaking to a group of pregnancy resource center directors back when those centers were called CPCs and you’ll hear her refer to that on today’s “Focus on the Family.”

Body:

Joni: (Sigh) You know, friends, rather than talk about me and my wheelchair—I do a lot of that—do you mind if I talk about somebody else I know in a wheelchair and how she found life worth living? When I first encountered Kim, she was one of those who was really struggling with the worth of her soul, the meaning of her life. Let me explain to you how Kim and I got acquainted.

I’m often involved in disability advocacy on pro-life issues that are facing all of us in our own communities. Often I’ll write [for] Time magazine and a couple of times I was on CNN’s “Crossfire.” And I enjoy speaking out on these issues. So, I am known to many as a disability advocate.

Well, I received a phone call at our office from an elder back in Pennsylvania. The elder of a little church in central Pennsylvania had called to tell me that there was a young woman in his congregation that he felt could use some encouragement and perhaps in fact, if I would be so kind as to call her, maybe I might even answer a couple of her questions—some really tough, hard-hitting questions about, as he put it, “life worth living.”

And so, I learned that this young woman, Kim, was a young girl in her mid-20s, who had an unusual case of Lou Gehrig’s. Lou Gehrig’s disease, as most of you may know, is a severely debilitating neuromuscular disease that most folks get when they push 40, 50-years-old. But here this girl was in her mid-20s.

So, I dialed my handicapped-equipped phone and I got Kim’s mother on the other end. And Kim’s mom was very excited that I had called. She explained to me Kim was now out of her wheelchair and pretty much debilitated to the point of lying in bed 24 hours a day. And in fact, she had a feeding tube and here lately, Kim was havin’ difficulty breathing.

“And Joni,” she said, “Kim’s facing some tough choices that maybe you can help her with.” So, her mother placed the phone receiver tucked under Kim’s ear against the pillow and Kim and I proceeded to have a conversation. It was a little one-sided, because it was very difficult to hear her; her breathing was so labored and so short.

And she said to me, “Joni, I love Jesus. I love praying. I love the idea of going to heaven. I love my family, my friends, love my church, but I can’t breathe very good. And here lately, they’ve told me that soon I may have to go on a breathing machine, a respirator. And I’m not so sure that’s something that I want to do. But I’m afraid to make a decision that will dishonor the Lord. So, I need you to tell me what I oughta do. Should I say yes to a respirator? Or should I say no?”

This was a real-live, warm human being who was wrestling with whether or not her life was worth living. And so, I told her. I said, “Kim, I know we probably won’t get a chance to talk face to face this side of heaven and I can only say so much over a telephone and forgive me if I’m quick and to the point and rather blunt. But you seem to be asking an honest question and so, Kim, I will tell you this. Get as close to the facts as you possibly can.

I mean, Kim, Lou Gehrig’s disease is a pretty complicated thing. And boy, I’m sure hopin’ that you’re connected with a doctor who shares the same life values with you, because Kim, we’ve lost the intimacy of the old doctor-patient relationship. You find a doctor who you can really share life values with. And Kim, then you’re gonna have to pray for God’s hand-tailored wisdom, because that’s the way He gives it, Kim, never a pat formula, never advice from heaven that’s point one, two, three, four five or easy step A, B, C, D, E.

No, God’s wisdom for all of us is based on principles, but yet the specifics and the particulars of those principles apply to any given life situation, is going to be hand-tailored. There is a fine line,” I told her, “between saying yes to medical treatment that will sustain life and saying no to treatment that will do no more than prolong the process of dying.

Kim, only you within the confidential relationship of your doctor and your mom and your dad and your pastor and your good close friends, they’re the only ones who will be able to advise you. And there is safety in the abundance of counselors, Kim. But they will be the only ones who can advise you. You will have to make the final decision, that distinction between doing something that prolongs life, as opposed to doing that same thing that would do no more than prolong the process of dying—a thin thread of a line it is, Kim.”

“And if you’re lookin’ for wisdom, look at 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 19, Kim. Because if anybody tells you, ‘Look, you oughta do with your body as you want.’ God has a response to that, Kim. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, it says, ‘You are not your own. Therefore, honor God with your body.’ And any means to produce death in order to alleviate suffering is never justified or in the words of the Bible, it is never right to do wrong, Kim. God loves life. And He despises death, for as it says in 1 Corinthians 15, verse 26: ‘The last enemy to be destroyed is death.’ And Jesus said, ‘My purpose is to come to give life and to give it more abundantly.’ Jesus has the words of life. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Jesus is the Prince of Life.

Then after I said all this, “Kim, only you can make the choice. Are you in the process of dying? Or is there life that is coursing through your veins?” But I said to her, “Kim, when it comes right down to it, if you take into consideration all this advice I’ve given, grab onto these Scriptures, hold fast to the counsel of your family and your doctor, Kim, you almost can’t make a wrong choice. But of the two, there might be a better one.”

She got very interested in that comment. And she said to me, “Well, what do you mean by a better choice?” I said, “I can answer it with one verse from Scripture.” I said to Kim, “Second Peter, chapter 3, verse 8. Let me read it for you, Kim,” I said. “Do not forget this one thing. With the Lord, a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day.” I’m gonna read it again. “With the Lord, a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as a day.” Well, you might be thinking what Kim thought. What’s the big deal? Why is that verse so key?

Well, we all know the old adage right, that God looks on the last 2,000 years as only a couple of days gone by. I mean, we got that part down pat. But have you ever thought about the other half of the verse, that the Lord looks as each day as a thousand years? It’s a little like divine geometry.

And friends, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the formula here. Each day is chock full of opportunities to invest in 1,000 years’ worth of eternity. A day here is like 1,000 years there. “I mean, this is how valuable, I said to Kim, “God wants you to see your days. God gives you a 24-hour slice of time in which your investments will have eternal repercussions. Each sunrise, each sunset is full of hours and moments, moments to quote, “Lay up treasures in heaven,” moments He gives to account for, for us to invest in.

And just to make certain that we have something in which to invest, God puts around us people. The young girl who comes to your CPC clinic door, your daughter, your grandkids, your neighbors, your coworkers, your husband, your associates. The way we spend our hours and minutes with them counts. And it counts for all of eternity, not only in your life, but in their lives.

Kim was really grasped by this idea, that one day could kind of like exponentially pan out to 1,000 years’ worth of treasures laid up in heaven. But she said, “Joni, I’m bedridden. I’m paralyzed. I can’t do anything.” Well, then I shared with her the simple advice of another verse in 2 Peter, chapter 1, verse 5 to 8. It says, “Make every effort to add to your faith, goodness and to your goodness, knowledge and to your knowledge, self-control and to yourself control, perseverance and to your perseverance, godliness and to your godliness, brotherly kindness and to your brotherly kindness, Christian love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, these qualities will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive. And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

I said, “Kim, right now, this day is your earth-bound opportunity. The here and now is the only chance you’re gonna get to, quote, “grow your soul.” In heaven, Kim, you’re not gonna have a chance to be patient. You’re not gonna have an opportunity to demonstrate self-control or perseverance or godly living. You won’t have a chance to add knowledge in heaven. Kim, it’s carpe diem for you today.”

Program Note:

John: You’re listening to Joni Eareckson Tada on today’s edition of “Focus on the Family.” And in a few minutes, she’s gonna turn a corner and explain how you can apply these concepts to your everyday life. And you can get a free audio download with extra content of this program at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Let’s go ahead and return now to Joni Eareckson Tada on “Focus on the family.

End of Program Note

Joni: How can Kim invest in those thousand years? This is what I told her. I said, “Kim, do this, today. When your mother comes into your bedroom to give you lunch, you know, that liquid nutrition. and she’s gonna have to take your G-tube, the feeding tube and she’ll unplug it and she’ll fill that syringe with Ensure. And then she’ll plunge it (Sound of Psswh); she’ll plunge your lunch into that tube and you’ll be fed through your stomach. Why Kim, why don’t you just look at your mother and say, ‘Thanks, Mom. That tastes great!’” (Laughter) You know.

Or have you ever wondered when you say grace when you’re being tube fed. I’m never sure when you bless the food. (Laughter) Going in or … ” She laughed at that. She thought that was really funny, too. (Laughter) I said, “Kim, take your focus off yourself just for a moment and put it on your mom. Do something to lighten her load, lighten her heart.

Like it says in that same Scripture, if you do these things, it’s why you will receive a rich welcome when you enter the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Not just a welcome, but if even these last what, days, weeks, months of your life, Kim, if you add to your faith, goodness and then knowledge and then self-control and then perseverance and godliness, your life’s not gonna be ‘not worth living.’”

What a way for Kim to live out her remaining days. I mean, if she were to live only two more weeks with a perspective like this, that figures out to be (Sound of tapping) 14 days. That’s 14,000 years

What does Kim see with a perspective such as 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 8? That her days are worth 1,000 years. What does Kim see? First, we are made for one purpose and that is to make God real to those around us. Even an unborn child can do that in her mother’s womb. An unborn child makes God real to that mother who is carrying this baby, with all the sudden caught-up-short life choices that she’s gotta make. Where am I going? Why am I here? How did I get myself into this mess? What shall I do next? Uh! A CPC center, sitting down, listening to a counselor, praying to receive Christ. That little unborn baby has had a ministry in that mother’s life and that little unborn baby might not even know it at that point, but that baby will know it in heaven.

So, that baby, just like you, just like me, just like Kim with her mother and her friends who come by from church in the evening, we are fulfilling our purpose to make God real to those around us.

Secondly, life has meaning now and forever, now and forever, this kind of meaning that I’ve described, because every breath, every little heartbeat pumped through that umbilical cord, every (Sound of heavy breathing in and out) of a Lou Gehrig’s person, every breath is capable of being exchanged for something precious, something eternal, something weighty and real, so much so that it’s hardly worth comparing the two.

Third, God works in a life from the very first moment to the very final moment. And it may appear that nothing is taking place in the life of an unborn baby, except just to lie back and mature in the mother’s womb. Or it may appear that nothing is taking place even in Kim’s life.

But God is not hindered in accomplishing His work, just because it seems like nothing is happening. The work of God, friends, you know this, is spiritual activity, often far separate from one’s brain development or neurological or muscular activity, even if that person is completely and utterly paralyzed in a bed like Kim. And only eternity will reveal the work that is accomplished.

And spiritual activity is pretty powerful activity. I mean, look at that little unborn baby and we all know him well, John, the Baptist, right. Remember when he was but still in uterus, in Elizabeth. And when Mary came to give greetings that she was carrying her unborn baby, the Lord Jesus, what happened with John, the Baptist. (Sound of Tsk) Whoa! He leaped for joy. (Laughter)

Now I don’t think his ears were developed enough to hear through the uterine wall that Mary was comin’ up the path. No, no. I don’t even think his brain was so developed that he could process all that information and make sense of it, so that he might quote, “Leap for joy.” No. It was that little tiny spirit of that unborn John, the Baptist baby to whom God was working. Spiritual activity is powerful and it is real.

Fourth and I’ve said this already. Life is more fleeting than we realize. We act as though this world is all there is, but we need the perspective of the Psalmist who said, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days. Let me know how fleeting is my life.”

Do you know the number of your days? An unborn baby does. God knows. Nine months, nine months with the perspective of 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 8, a day being worth 1,000 years. That little baby in the womb of his mother is accumulating an eternal weight of glory that pans out to 270,000 years of eternal repercussions.

Your days are so precious in God’s sight. To protect Kim’s privacy and the privacy of her highly personal decision, I won’t share with you the choice she finally made, but you should know this. You should know that she passed away a month and a half after we talked.

But oh, those were some of the best days that girl ever lived, her mother told me. Forty-five days, short to some, but to Kim, she looked at them as God looked at them. She kept giving those smiles. She wrote notes of encouragement with her mother holding the pen and notepad by her bedside. She realized that talking on the phone really was possible and so, she had her mother dial the phone and often put it under her ear, pressed against the pillow. More friends came by from her church to glean her encouragement. Her life continued to have influence. She pressed influence for the Lord Jesus on those who came by.

Can you say with Kim, “I considered my present hardships–and oh, it’s hard–I consider my present hardships not worth comparing with the glory and the bliss that is building through how I handle my days and how I invest my hours and minutes.”

You don’t have to have Lou Gehrig’s disease to number your days, to apply your hearts to this kind of wisdom. So, remember this perspective when you go back home. And it’s raining outside the clinic and the days are a bit dreary and the phone’s not ringing off the hook. But there is that one girl who comes in, one girl, carrying one baby, who has the potential in that nine-month span to accumulate 270,000 days’ worth ofeternal repercussions, not only in his or her little life, [but] in the life of all.

Share this perspective with them, with the families you come in contact with, because heaven is near. Days are short. The times are evil. The sun is almost setting and God has given you this moment, the rest of this evening. Do something eternal with it, would you? Yield it to God and win a victory for Jesus. God bless you and thank you for listening.

Audience: (Applause)

Closing:

John: What a powerful perspective about life from Joni Eareckson Tada, as she was speaking at a Focus on the Family event for pregnancy resource center directors just a few years ago. And Jim, she is such an inspiration, especially when you consider she’s been in that wheelchair as a quadriplegic for some 50 years.

Jim: Oh, you know, and she has such a great attitude, John. That’s what really speaks to my heart whenever I want to complain about an ache or a pain, thinking of Joni, it inspires me. And her message will preach, especially coming from someone who’s suffered so many hardships over the years, not just being a quadriplegic; she’s also battled through breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with about seven years ago.

She continues to travel and spread the good news of Jesus Christ, making great use of each and every day God gives her. She’s livin’ it. We chose to feature this message to kick off our Sanctity of Human Life Week, because here at Focus on the Family, we believe in life, from cradle to grave. And we believe that all people are of infinite value, regardless of their age, appearance, development or ability, because we are all made in the image of God.

And as our culture creeps toward the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide, we wanted you to hear this perspective from Joni on the value of every single day that we have on this earth.

And if you know of someone who needs to hear this message or if you’d like to hear it again yourself, Joni had so many great points to share with us. We’d love to provide this audio download for free. Just come visit our website.

John: And it’s gonna have extra content that we just couldn’t fit into today’s broadcast. You’re gonna find that at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.

Jim: And you know, John, one of the great traditions of Focus, we have always wanted to remind people that their first obligation is to their church and to support their local church. And then if they can squeeze a gift for Focus on the Family within their budget, we deeply appreciate it. Together we can touch lives.

John: It’s a team effort and so, donate today and get the free audio download of Joni’s message at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio . Now if you’d prefer to call, please jot our number down. Our offices are closed today in honor of the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our number, 800-A-FAMILY: 800-232-6459.

While you’re online, be sure to check out the Evangelicals for Life event which is coming up next weekend in Washington, D.C. You can sign up to watch the free simulcast in the comfort of your own home.

Now next time you’ll hear how a good girl became a prodigal teen after the divorce of her parents.

Excerpt:

Mrs. Yvette Maher: Everything I had believed in changed, everything. I trusted. I believed in my parents. I believe in marriage. I believed in happy family. Everything changed. I no longer trusted anybody.

End of Excerpt

John: It’s a dramatic story of broken dreams and finding hope in Jesus Christ, next time on “Focus on the Family.” On behalf of Focus president, Jim Daly, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller.

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