I have a friend named Sue who’s dying of cancer. Unless God intervenes in the natural course of this disease, she will no longer be with us in two years.
When I first heard of Sue’s predicament, my stomach went into knots. I decided to call her husband, Dan Secrist—who founded YWAM’s work in Spain many years ago—and ask about Sue.
I wanted to know how to pray, and to let them know I cared.
That’s when I heard about two suitcases that were packed.
Two Suitcases Packed
Dan currently serves as the lead pastor of Faith Assembly in Lacey, Washington where he and Sue have raised their family. I met the Secrists when we were all single and “going into all the world” with Youth With A Mission.
Dan and Sue have served God all their lives as missionaries and church leaders. Now Sue is dying in mid-life—certainly earlier than she expected.
Dan and I had a good chat, catching up on past years and then delving into the realities of Sue’s illness. When I asked him how Sue’s handling her cancer prognosis, he said some words that have not left me since that personal conversation.
He said, “She’s got two bags packed. She’s ready to live for God, and she’s ready to die for God.”
Two bags packed.
What a perfect way to live. In the weeks following our conversation, I pondered those words. I’m convinced that as believers in Christ, we must rise to Sue’s faith level if we are to model God’s Good News before a watching world.
We can’t live life with a half deck. We need to be truly ready to live and ready to die. That’s means two suitcases. Most of us only have one—if that.
Suitcase One – Prepared for Life
Many of us have put belongings in this suitcase. In fact, the older we get, the bigger this suitcase becomes as we acquire homes, cars, overflowing garages, children, grandchildren, and all the other acquisitions or blessings that accompany earthly longevity.
For some of us, Suitcase One is a little messy as we ebb and flow with the situations that come our way—some blessed and some tragic. But we’re packed for the long haul and continue to fill our suitcase with what we need for the journey.
If we’re smart when we’re young, this bag will contain God’s Word—the Bible—at the center of its contents. We read God’s Book to seek His direction for our lives and follow Him as He leads us. We follow his ministry call or vocation. We marry when He leads that “special one” into our lives, and we bring children into this shared adventure.
It’s quite an exciting trip.
If we’re really prepared for the life ride, we organize our bag with many crucial items. These include daily quiet times with our Creator, diligent work in our field of calling, little wasted time on empty entertainment, and great companionship with many fellow travelers.
We also stow away all the necessities of an abundant life: discipline, good habits, godly stewardship of resources, high goals and Christ-like character. In short, we rejoice in a full life of loving God and serving people.
Of course, many people don’t pack this bag very carefully. They leave out the Bible and don’t follow God’s instructions. They form faulty life habits can cause them to lose many things out of their dilapidated carpetbag.
They put drugs, cigarettes, booze, and other junk in the bag. This makes the suitcase reek and gets them in trouble when they go through border crossings. In fact, sometimes the crud in the suitcase causes their life to explode—and they end up in jail or on the street with an empty paper sack.
It’s important to prepare your Life Bag, the earlier the better. You only get one chance, so it needs to be packed wisely and carefully.
But then there’s the second suitcase that almost nobody wants to get off the shelf.
Suitcase Two – Prepared for Death
I don’t think many people pack this bag properly. Followers of Christ do better because they know where they’re going at the end of the trip, but oftentimes they don’t think much about this destination called Death until the last minute. That’s not good planning.
I knew a family that had a wife/mother who was dying—and they felt she would be cured. They went to healing meetings, didn’t talk about the possibility of death, and basically refused to pack this bag. When death came, the father and children even stood around the dead body of their beloved and cried out for resurrection.
It didn’t happen. This lack of preparation for death left a wound in their faith, a hole in their heart, and damaged their relationship with God for years. They had not packed the second bag and were totally devastated when the midnight-express arrived.
It’s not wrong to pray for healing. It’s not wrong to have faith. But it is wrong to presume that healing will always come simply because we desire it. The ways of God in sickness and death are far more complex than operating a spiritual slot machine that’s programmed to our requests.
Due to the uncertainty of this realm, I believe we need to ask for healing in faith AND prepare to die in faith. Sometimes the greater testimony is found in the latter.
Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, is currently showing us how to pack the second suitcase. Bill has lived an exemplary life for Christ with his first bag running over with good fruits.
But now, at the age of eighty, he is dying of fibrosis of the lung. He and his wife, Vonette, are praying for healing, but openly talking about his graduation into glory. He’s churning out final books, writing advice columns for young leaders and basically shouts during his final days on earth, “I’ve showed you how to live for Christ, and now I’m showing you how to die for him!”
Wow. His second suitcase is prepared and overflowing. He talks about seeing Jesus and many loved ones. He smiles about breathing his last breath.
That’s the way I want to go. I want to look into the eyes of my children and say, “Follow me joyously in life then follow me joyously in death.” You can do that when your bag’s prepared. Yet modern people don’t seem to get ready. We’ve got only one bag packed, and even that one’s a little sparse.
We need to think deeply about the importance of the second suitcase. We’re all going to die. Are you ready? The world needs to see followers of Christ who are prepared for both life and death. This was the secret of the Early Church. They were prepared to live and prepared to die.
Get out your two suitcases and start to honestly pack them. Fill your Life Case to the full and don’t waste a minute. Pack it to the brim with all the right things and don’t look back. The train of life speeds up after every stop. You don’t want to miss a city.
But also fill up your Death Case. It’s not a burden, just a fork in the road to the same destination. Have this bag full of a prepared heart, ready mind, and grateful spirit—producing abundant fruit for God as the dark tunnel looms in front of you. Don’t worry. There’s amazing Light on the other side. There’s nothing to fear. God is your conductor. This is the fastest train to true happiness–if you believe.
Thanks, Dan and Sue.
I’m packing today.