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Never Give Up!

Last month we had to say “goodbye for now” to Warren Tooley, a beloved member of Bethel. He passed away on Sunday, July 9th from complications from multiple myeloma. I was actually planning on writing a newsletter article about Warren before he passed away because Warren inspired me during one of our visits together. Shortly before he was hospitalized I visited Warren in his home and he was struggling. He was having a difficult time breathing and walking; even conversation seemed to make him uncomfortable. What impressed me was Warren’s attitude in the face of suffering.
Warren Tooley - Never Give Up!
In 2013 Warren was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He managed this disease well and was never really sick until about 6 months ago. The family said he was extremely positive throughout this disease. If you asked Warren how he was doing he’d say, “If I was any better, there’d be two of me.” He took his inspiration and “never give up” attitude from former NC State Basketball coach Jim Valvano who delivered that famous speech, “Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!” Warren never gave up and always had hope. It was a hope I witnessed on several occasions.
During my last home visit with Warren he proudly showed me a new guitar that his son Todd, and his wife Amy, bought for him. Warren hadn’t played guitar in years, but he wanted to start playing again and he had a goal to play that guitar at Bethel one day. Sadly this goal was not realized. Had it been realized I’m sure we would have all celebrated with Warren. Perhaps we would have been reminded of the importance of setting and achieving goals. Maybe we would have been reminded of the power of a positive attitude. While we’re saddened that this goal wasn’t achieved, I’m wondering if Warren didn’t teach us something even more Important?
One of his favorite sayings was, “Don’t talk about it, BE about it.” In other words, actions are more important than words. As I watched Warren face his final days on this earth I saw a picture of what faith in action looks like. For anyone who visited him in the hospital, Warren showed us how to embrace the end of our earthly lives with faith and grace. Despite how badly he felt, I never witnessed him complaining and he was constantly leaning on the Lord for strength, ready to embrace what came next. Perhaps one of the most sacred moments I’ve ever experienced in ministry happened just a couple of days before Warren passed away. I visited him in the hospital and I asked him how I could pray for him. He said, “Pray that I’ll have everlasting life.” Those words hung in the air for a few seconds as I thought about the words “everlasting life” while holding the hand of a man who I knew would shortly be with the Lord. In his final hours, Warren Tooley possessed a faith that looked forward with hope, the hope secured by Christ, the hope of eternal, everlasting life with God.
While it would have been wonderful to witness Warren playing that guitar at Bethel, he showed me something I’ll truly never forget. He showed me what hope and faith looks like when we face the final days of our earthly lives. As the Apostle Paul was facing the final days of his life he wrote these words found in 1 Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Warren Tooley certainly fought the good fight, he finished his race and through it all, he kept the faith and in doing so, he showed us how to finish our own races with a faith that looks forward.
Thank you Lord for the witness of Warren’s life. I thank you for Warren’s positive attitude and for a faith full of hope.
Lord, I thank you most of all for Christ, who offers each one of us the promise of everlasting life. May God bless Betty Tooley and her family and may God bless Bethel Church. Amen.

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