Make Me Like Al
By Dr. Mike Murphy
There are days in each of our lives that we will never forget. There are times I can look back on and see the events as vividly and clearly as if they were happening today. Special moments, the birth of a child, a great accomplishment, the day you were married, they all play effortlessly in our minds. Sometimes these are moments we would love to forget, but they have still been etched in the depths of our minds.
For anyone over the age of twenty, one of theses vivid moments is September 11, 2001. We remember the events of that day as if they had just happened yesterday. But today, I do not want to discuss the tragedy of that day, but the miraculous act of a man on that day. A man few have heard the name of, but one who etched his name on many lives, including mine. I want to tell you the story of Al.
In an office near the top of the second tower, a group was going through their morning routine the same as they had done every day before. Most saw the plane coming and felt it collide with the building some floors below them. They immediately tried to escape, but soon realized they were trapped with no way to make it down the burning building.
I can only imagine the fears that these people felt. Many called their families to say good-bye, and to let them know just how much they loved them. During one of these calls, a young man was on the phone with his wife having this very conversation. He let her know he would always be with her and their kids. And that he loved them more than they could ever know, or that he had the words to express. He started to tell her good-bye, but she wanted him to stay on the phone with her as long as he could. He told her that he had to go, that Al, a manager in the office, was going to hold a prayer and a Bible study for those that were there. He told her that this was something he felt he could not miss, and once again told her goodbye.
Al also had a family that he wanted to tell good-bye. But when the tragedy happened, Al felt the Lord lead him in a different direction. Al knew that his family was saved, and that each had a strong relationship with Christ. He knew that Christ would be there to comfort each of them, and help them through the days and months ahead. The Lord had called Al to spend this time with those who were there, scared to death of what was going on around them.
Al lead the group that morning in prayers and Bible study, and despite what he was facing, followed the direction the Lord had asked him. We will never know, but how many people did Al comfort that morning with God’s help? How many souls were saved because Al heard God’s voice and was willing to obey and trust Him? How many in that group stand in the presence of Christ today because Al followed the direction that the Lord gave him?
I am sure that Al was no different from any of the rest of us. There was nothing more that Al wanted to do than to pick up the phone and call home. Than to speak to his wife for one last time, if for nothing more that to let her know that everything would be okay. But Al was truly special. He was willing to put aside his wants and desires, so he could fulfill Christ’s needs. I do not have the slightest doubt in my mind that as the second that tower fell, Christ had His arm around Al whispering a message we can all only pray to hear. “Good job my faithful servant!”
I understand exactly what Al must have felt and went through. I know how hard it must have been to follow the calling that Christ gave him that day. I understand the fear that Al felt, and the loss that was in his heart. I also understand the reality of knowing that this is it, and the certainty of knowing that your faith and trust in Christ will get you through. You may ask yourself how I could possibly know how Al felt. Because the day after these events, Wednesday, September 12th, my life changed forever.
The reason I had been home that day was because I was having a lot of trouble with my throat. The following morning I went to see the doctor about the hoarseness and soreness I was feeling. I was told it was because of sinus drainage, and was giving a prescription and sent home. After months of trying different prescriptions without any results, I was finally sent to a specialist to see why the problem was worsening.
It did not take the ENT but a few minutes to identify the problem. He told me there was a large growth on my larynx that appeared to be cancer. Surgery was quickly scheduled to remove the growth, and to have it analyzed so a plan of action could be set in place.
The day of surgery took a very different turn. I can remember waking up from the surgery with my family and the doctor standing there. The doctor told me that the growth was much larger than expected, and that they had removed most of my larynx. He also found that the cancer had progressed beyond the larynx and into my lymph nodes. I was told that my voice would be permanently affected, never more than a whisper. If that was not enough bad news, I was informed that the cancer was believed to be stage four, with little hope of recovery. Chemo and radiation would be started immediately.
About a month later, my voice started to return, and within a day it had returned to full strength. I was overwhelmed! Not understanding what had happened, I made an appointment with the specialist so he could look at my throat. I will never forget the look on his face as he stared into my throat. It was one of disbelief! He called in the nurse to look also, as if she would see something different than he had seen. He took pictures of the larynx, trying to convince himself of what he was seeing. He told me that what he saw was impossible, that my larynx had grown back and was functioning again as normal! Without even knowing it, God had created a miracle in my life!
So why had the Lord performed this miracle in my life? Certainly not because of anything I deserved! The true miracle He had done for me was performed a few years earlier when Christ reached into the pits of Hell to pull out someone as undeserving as me. He did this not because of anything I had done, but so that I could tell others of the miracle that He had done in my life. The miracle was to bring glory to God, not to me! I was just the vessel that God had used. I was now given a voice so that others could see and hear what He had done. He has given me chances to witness to others about what He did for me. This miracle has blessed me with the opportunity to show those that are also facing challenges in their life, that with God there, anything is possible. And He allowed me to witness an even more amazing story. The ENT that saw what the Lord did in my throat, came to Christ because of what he saw. Today, he teaches medicine to college students from a Christian viewpoint, telling each of them that prayer in far more powerful than the scalpel.
And through this experience God also changed and molded me. I learned two of the most valuable lesson I have ever learned in my life during this time. The Lord showed me that I could truly count on Him. We all hear the words, but to live it becomes an incredible experience. To feel God’s hand of protection cover you is an experience you will never have the words to describe. I know without a doubt, that whatever I may face, I will never face it alone.
I also learned how to truly pray. Prayer had always been a way of me telling God my problems and my fears, of letting the Lord know what I needed in my life. Through the silence, the Lord taught me that prayer was nothing more than a conversation with God. And like all good conversation, it had to go two ways. He taught me how to shut my mouth and listen! And anyone who knows me will tell you that is not an easy thing to do! Some of the greatest conversations I have had with the Lord, have come from me simply sitting in silence and giving the Lord the chance to let me hear His voice, to teach me what I did not know and could never understand. To show me the path I needed to follow, or the words I need to speak. To show me that purpose and wisdom comes through His needs, not my wants and desires.
Now for a statement you will never believe. Cancer has been one of the greatest blessings of my life! God used my cancer to mold me, and showed me just what He could do with my life if I just got out of the way and let Him. He has shown me how He can fill my every need, and that He is my every want!
Cancer has brought me to where I stand today. In recent years, I have learned that my cancer has returned. A little over seven years ago I was told that I had stage four lymphoma, given about six months to a year to live. As I said, that was over seven years ago! Although they tell me my time is growing short, and I do feel the effects the cancer is having on me, I can still feel God’s call on my life stronger than ever.
This is why I told you earlier that I relate so well to Al. I understand what Al was going through. Al knew that life is a gift. A precious gift! And whether that gift last twenty more minutes of twenty more years, it is no less precious. And with this precious gift comes such promise. Such joy, happiness, and all the emotions we feel each day. And the Lord uses each of these emotions to try to reach to each of us a little more, to pull each of us a little closer to Him. But the Lord also wants us to know that with this life comes responsibility. The responsibility to let those around us feel what we as Christians feel, and to experience the love that He shows each of us.
God gives us so many precious gifts in this life; so that we can make this responsibility He gives us a reality. If you never remember any other thing that I say, please remember this. Of all the gifts God gives each of us, there is one gift that He values more than any. A gift we all possess. A gift we all can use. God is not looking for the greatest speaker, or the most educated, He first seeks one thing. Are we willing! Willingness is our greatest gift! Are we willing to raise our hand and say, “God, I am here, use me!” If you are willing, God will put the words in your mouth when you do not know what to say. If you are willing, God will give you that Bible verse that you did not even know you knew.
Most of us look at the world today, and many things about it terrify us. We shake our head at what we see, and worry about what the future holds for all these young ones around us. But what we should also see is that this most precious gift holds greater value than ever. If we are willing, this could be our greatest hour. This is the time the world needs to hear God’s message the most. Only if we are willing can we reach a world that has often hardened its’ heart to the Lord’s Word. Only if we will raise our hand can we show this nation that there is a promise and an answer to all of its problems. All it takes is for someone to step up and say, “Yes Lord, use me!”
This was Al’s greatest gift. In the greatest tragedy many of us have ever known, Al was willing. Willing to take the Lord’s Word to those that needed to hear it the most. As you sit here today, ask yourself one question. “Am I an Al?” Are you willing? Because the Lord is calling out for help more than ever. Will you stand up and say you are willing, or will you sit in the pew and continue to shake your head at the world around you? It all comes back to one simple question, “Are You Willing?”
As for me, I hope each of you will pray for me. But not for what you might think. Christ has shown me that cancer has no hold on my life, and that I have One with me that is stronger than cancer. My greatest prayer, I hope with each day that I have left the Lord will make me a little more like Al.
Praying today, the Lord will find each of you willing!