In 2004 country singer Tim McGraw released the title track of his album, Live Like You Were Dying. You don’t have to be a fan of country music for the lyrics to resonate. The song is the story of a man who suddenly receives the news that he doesn’t have long to live.
The rest of the song describes the things he did after that shift in perspective and how we should all hope to have the chance to live like we were dying.
This week our community received sobering news about Buddy Hoffman, the founding pastor of the Grace Fellowship family of churches.
After battling health problems his whole life it seems that he’s finally been diagnosed with one that he won’t recover from.
I don’t know Buddy personally, but his life has touched mine. I’m not a member of Grace Fellowship Church although I have visited and heard him preach. When we visited the church in Snellville, Buddy sat on stage wearing camouflage cargo shorts and delivering the message. He had a distinct voice and a heart for God.
This past Sunday I read this announcement on the church’s website. It seems Buddy’s days here are limited. He has an infection in the aneurism around his aorta. The doctors spoke the words that patients are loath to hear: there’s nothing more we can do.
Now Buddy Hoffman is back at home receiving hospice care. When you’ve agonized through this process with a loved one you understand how it’s simultaneously a blessing and a heartbreak.
However, Buddy’s story is far from over. In some ways it seems like his best work and more importantly—God’s best work through Buddy—is just getting started.
If you’re a Facebook friend of Buddy or his wife Jody or any of the numerous attenders of Grace Fellowship Church you’ve seen the testimonials of Buddy’s impact flooding your timeline. They usually share one common image—a joyful man with a wide smile, a shaved head, and white eyeglasses. Usually his hands are raised praising God or wrapped around the shoulders of people he obviously loves. From their testimony the feeling is mutual.
As story after story has come across the page I’ve learned how Buddy’s life has impacted sons and daughters to walk in faith. I’ve seen how his obedience to God’s calling has transformed communities here and abroad. I’ve witnessed how the Grace family of churches has opened doors in seven cities in order to “make disciples beginning with my neighbor.” I’ve read countless stories of lives he’s touched, hearts he’s impacted, and relationships he’s built.
The stories that I’ve read this week have reminded me what I already knew: Buddy Hoffman is a man who has spent every day of his life obedient to his calling and living like he was dying.
His story from a human perspective seems tragic, but I don’t think Buddy would view it that way. I’m certain he would say he has run the race well and been obedient to his calling. Be assured that there are countless prayers being offered up to heaven to restore Buddy’s health. But in Buddy’s own words God wants to show that the work that he does is not of man, it is of God. If it means he has to go for God to get the glory so be it.
The relationships that he’s made in this life don’t have to end with his death. For Buddy, the end of his life on Earth is not the end. It’s the start of a glorious beginning. What a treasure it must be for Buddy to be able to hear the countless stories of lives he’s touched and to hear them this side of heaven.
Buddy’s life is truly a lesson of how to die with Grace.
The undeniable truth for each of us is that we are dying. The world may seem divided, but death unifies us all. When you know what awaits you death is nothing to be feared.
I hope that you will begin living like you are dying. Don’t let a day pass where you don’t show the love, mercy and grace of God to others.
Whether God heals Buddy and uses him for further ministry or takes him home is out of our hands. But Buddy’s legacy is being written in the hearts and lives of each of us.