When I was in college, I had the opportunity to meet international evangelist Luis Palau. This outstanding man of God is also known as the Billy Graham of Latin America. Throughout his life, he has shared the Gospel with hundreds of millions of people through evangelistic events and media.
Luis has spoken in person to more than 30 million people in 75 countries, with more than 1 million people registering decisions for Jesus Christ. He has also written almost 50 books and even had a movie made about the story of his life, Palau: One Man, Millions of Souls. Over the years, our families have become friends and we have heard Luis, along with his son Andrew, preach the Gospel to thousands of people around the world.
In late 2017, while Luis was a young-at-heart octogenarian who was circling the globe for Jesus, he had a nagging cough that wouldn’t resolve. After some medical testing, the doctors came back with some upsetting news: he had Stage 4 lung cancer.
The doctors guessed Luis had a few months to live without treatment and could expect to only live one year even with treatment. Since Luis had no previous history of medical problems or hospitalizations, this came as a huge shock to everyone.
God’s Way Is Perfect
A few weeks after his diagnosis, the Palau Association staff arranged for a nationwide conference call so we could get a health update on Luis and pray for him. After sharing his diagnosis, Luis explained how he remained hopeful. He knew God could heal him on earth if He wanted to and that if He did not, it was his time to be at home with Jesus. Luis then shared a Bible verse I will never forget:
As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. (Ps. 18:30 NIV)
Luis went on to say that God is in control and no matter the circumstances or diagnosis, God’s way is always perfect. Wow! Here was a man who had committed his entire life to spreading the Gospel around the world and yet when given a handful of months to live, he trusted God.
He didn’t question God; he didn’t despair; he wasn’t angry, resentful, or even scared. Luis continued just as he had done his entire life: living in continual surrender to God and His Word. He didn’t just say it with his mouth but proved it with his life.
Thriving Despite Cancer
Through chemotherapy, much prayer, and by God’s grace, Luis is still preaching more than 18 months after his initial diagnosis! In fact, I just had the opportunity to hear him preach to over 50,000 people at an evangelical festival in Madrid, Spain this past summer. He spoke with such confidence and zeal that no one would ever know he was sick with cancer!
I’ve learned many things from Luis throughout the years. He has encouraged me to be bold and courageous in sharing my faith. He has taught me that the Gospel is powerful yet so simple that even young children can understand it. He is quick to point out that Jesus saves sinners no matter how young or old they might be. His preaching always emboldens me to share my faith as he reminds us that our job is to share the Gospel and people’s response is between them and the Holy Spirit.
A Life of Surrender
D.L. Moody said, “The world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to Him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” I have to say that in my opinion, Luis has lived this kind of life. God used a boy from a small town in Argentina with a fully yielded heart to spread the Gospel worldwide. Luis has lived and continues to live a life of fearless faith marked by surrender, which has been displayed in countless ways, including his cancer diagnosis.
Until we hear otherwise, we are praying for God to heal Luis. We know God has the power to heal and that He will do so for Luis either now on earth or in heaven. If God heals Luis in a miraculous way here, we will all rejoice and God will get the glory. If God calls Luis home, we will miss him, but I know he will be welcomed to heaven by Jesus as well as the millions of people with whom he has shared the Good News. I also have to imagine that God has been preparing Luis’ mansion for some time now.
Will you join me in praying for Luis?
I’m not sure how I would react to a doctor telling me that I had at the most a year to live, but I imagine I would question God or at least ask why. I’m not sure if I could immediately say, “As for God, His way is perfect.” But no matter what I face now or in the future, I want to fully trust and be totally surrendered to our sovereign God. Even when the news is bad, even when something is beyond my comprehension, even when life seems unfair, and even when the cost to me is great, I want to fully trust our faithful Father. I want to live out the purposes God has for me with zeal, even when I am old and my health is failing.
Second Chronicles 16:9 (NASB) says, “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” I want to encourage all of us today to follow the example and level of surrender we see in the life of Luis, whose heart is completely God’s. Let’s commit once again, or for the first time, to living with surrender, abandon, and full-out for God’s purposes. Let’s resolve to allow Jesus to be glorified to the greatest extent possible in and through our lives.
Because someday, just like Luis, we will stand before the living God in heaven. For all of us in Christ, each surrendered moment, each surrendered hour, each surrendered day, each surrendered month or year will amount to a lifetime of surrendered living. And when we hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23), it will all be worth it.
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