The MTC Club
Tonight I want to tell you the story of Orville Kelly.
Orville Kelly was a newspaper man up in the state of Iowa. When he was 43 years of age, he was diagnosed with an unusual and incurable form of lymphatic cancer. Like many cancer patients and other persons with life-threatening diseases, Orville Kelly gave way to total despair. To him cancer meant death, and death in a horrible manner. And he just couldn’t deal with it all. At first, he spent most of his time alone- not talking to his wife or anyone else, for that matter—not even reading or watching TV. He simply holed up at home trying to deal with the idea that his children would grow up without him and that his wife would have to support the family without his help. Gloom hung over that whole household. The word cancer was never mentioned. The children had not even been told of their father’s illness. Silence walled out the most natural expressions of affection and anxiety and grief.
Orville Kelly was put on a program of chemotherapy. The long drive to and from the hospital was a painful and silent journey. Finally, one day Orville said to his wife: “Wanda, we’ve got to talk. I’m not dead yet. Yes, I’ve got cancer. Yes, I’ll probably die from it, but I’m not dead yet. We’ve just got to talk about this.” And so they did—openly, honestly, lovingly, and then Orville Kelly said: “Now, let’s go home and have a big bar-b-Que. and invite all our friends and tell the children about it. I want to start living again. I don’t want to waste any more time this way.”
A short time later, a fresh, new, and exciting idea came to Orville Kelly. He said: “I’m not going to get up in the morning anymore thinking that this is one day less to live. Rather, I’m going to take on a new attitude. I’m going to thank God every day for the gift of this day.” And so, Orville Kelly decided to form a new club. He called it the “MTC Club”—the “Make Today Count Club”. He said: “After all, everyone is going to die. I simply know that my death date has been more clearly determined. None of us know for sure when we are going to die. We’re all terminal—every last one of us. So I’m going to make every day of my life really count for something wonderful. I’m going to see every day as a special and gracious gift from God.
That is precisely what he went on to do. You ought to read Orville Kelly’s descriptions of the mighty Mississippi River on a misty morning, or his incredible word picture of a bluebird sitting on the fence of an Iowa Farm, or his play-by-play description of looking down on Boston through scattered clouds as his plane rose up into the sunlight, or his tribute to the smile on his wife’s beautiful face. You see, though he was sentenced to death by terminal illness, Orville Kelly actually became more alive by making each day count.
Now, isn’t that what the Psalmist was trying to teach us when he wrote: “This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Those magnificent words are often used to begin worship services in the church, but they are so much more than just a wonderful Call to Worship. They are nothing less than practical, dynamic words for daily living. The fact is, if you and I could say at the beginning of each day: “This is the day which the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it” … yes, if we could say that at the beginning of each day and really mean it, it would change our lives. Just recently I saw a bumper sticker that says it so well. The bumper sticker read: “Today is God’s gift to us. That’s why it’s called ‘the present’”. Today is God’s gift to us. He has given it to us specially. We should see it as a special gift from Him, and therefore, we ought to make today count. To waste it or corrupt it is sinful and destructive. So let me ask you: how are you doing in this regard? Are you really making every day count? As we think this through together, for these next few moments, I’d like to suggest some ways that we can fulfill the teaching of the Psalms. We can make every day count.
In the first place, we can make today count by expressing our love.
I know it’s true for me. I suspect it’s true for you as well. Many times we may be moved to offer some word of thanks or praise or love to another person, but we don’t do it. We put it off. It’s such a shame, because it may be that we, or that person we were thinking of will be gone from the earth quite suddenly and that word may never be spoken. There is a tragic instance of how a man realized, too late, the things he had never said and done. I refer to the experience of Thomas Carlyle. He was one of the great writers in human history and he dearly loved his wife, Jane Welch Carlyle. But Thomas Carlyle tended to focus more upon his own needs and desires than upon the needs and the desires of those around him and consequently, he never made life very happy for his wife, and then, unexpectedly, she died. A friend recounted Carlyle’s feelings when his wife died. Listen to how the friend described the scene: “He was looking through her papers, her notebooks and journal and old scenes came mercilessly back to him in the vistas of her mournful memory. In his long, sleepless nights, he recognized, too late, what she had felt and suffered under his childish irritabilities. His faults rose up in remorseless judgment and as he had thought too little of them before, so he exaggerated them to himself now in his helpless repose. ‘O’, he said, again and again, ‘O, if I could see her once more, were it but for five minutes, to let her know that I have always loved her. She never did know it. Never.’”
My friends, there is a time for doing and saying things and when that time is past, those things can never be said and they can never be done. The realm of silence is great enough beyond the grave. Don’t let it extend into the here and now by putting off too long the expressions of your love. Perhaps you need to say to your wife, your husband, your parents, your children, your good friends three little words: “I love you.” Don’t wait until it’s too late. For once the opportunity is gone, it’s gone forever. Make today count by expressing your love to those whom God has given you to love in your life. Do it today. Yes, make today count.
Secondly, we can make today count by sharing our witness.
Sometimes people who are concerned about the salvation of a friend or a relative who is very old or very ill, will call me and ask if I will go and visit that person and make sure of that person’s salvation. I always try to do that, but I have to confess to you that I always think to myself at the time: “Why in the world didn’t you call sooner? Why would you wait until they were so old or so sick? Why did you wait until there was almost no hope?” Dear friends, the time for us to bear our witness to the faith is now. The time to be concerned about the salvation of friends and loved ones is today. If we wait too long, we may be too late.
Phillips Brooks, the great Boston preacher, became ill. He recognized that it was his final illness. In fact, he was so weakened that he really refused to see anyone. Now Robert Ingersoll, a noted atheist, heard that Brooks was in this grave condition and asked if he might visit with Brooks. Brooks agreed to have Ingersoll come for a visit. Ingersoll said to Phillips Brooks: “I do appreciate your seeing me, but why would you see me when you’ve denied your friends this privilege?” Phillips Brooks looked at Robert Ingersoll tearfully, and said: “Mr. Ingersoll, I know that I shall see most of my friends after this life, but this may be my last chance to talk with you about your destiny.”
My friends, those of us who love Christ must see how imperative it is for us to introduce our friends and acquaintances to Christ. This is still our choice, and it may be their last chance. In these days of such tumult and crisis in our world, we must never be caught just playing at the edges of Christianity or just trifling with the Gospel message when people are perishing. We must seize every opportunity to share the Gospel with others. If there are people whom we know who need to know Jesus Christ in this life, then we’d better make it a point to share Christ with them TODAY. Yes, make today count by sharing your witness.
Well, there is an old proverb that says: “Hell is floored with good intentions and roofed with lost opportunities.” That’s true, and that’s why I want to call us all to join the “MTC Club”—the Make Today Count Club. That’s why I want us, every single day, to say the words and pray the words and mean the words: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”