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Tim Keller shares 'extremely encouraging' cancer update following May surgery

tim keller
Tim Keller speaks at The Gospel Coalition 2017 National Conference in April. |

Pastor and author Tim Keller shared an “encouraging” health update just over a year after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“Cancer Update: I had a scan in May that was extremely encouraging, showing no cancer growth under less aggressive chemotherapy. A surgery at the end of May removed several nodules that had remained unchanged for 9 months,” the 70-year-old founder of New York City's Redeemer Presbyterian Church tweeted on Sunday. 

“At this point the only visible cancer is the primary tumor on the pancreas. We are praying that it will decrease to the point of invisibility or remain unchanged. In any event, we want to glorify God by ‘running the race set before us with perseverance.’ (Hebrews 12:1-2),” he continued. 

Keller said he’s confident that God is “always loving, wise, and good” and added he is “very well, writing, speaking (via zoom) and enjoying my grandchildren.”

“Thanks so much for continuing to pray!” he concluded. 

The now-retired pastor and co-founder of The Gospel Coalition is also a survivor of thyroid cancer, which he had in 2002.

Keller was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in May of 2020 and publicly revealed his illness less than a month later. At the time, he asked supporters to pray that God would use “medical means or his direct intervention to make the cancer regress to the point of vanishing.”

In an April interview with The Christian Post, the bestselling author explained that pancreatic cancer is a particularly aggressive disease that typically claims its victims within a year — and it’s “usually a very difficult year."

At the time, Keller said he was optimistic about beating those odds. Though acknowledging the “very serious” nature of his illness, the pastor said that thanks to his body’s positive response to chemotherapy, he likely has “years and not months left.”

“My wife Kathy and I are pretty grateful; it looks like I’ve got more time than we thought when we originally got the diagnosis,” he said.

The pastor shared how he learned of his diagnosis while writing Hope in Times of Fear, a book focusing on the transformative power of the resurrection. 

“Here I am, writing a book about the resurrection, and I realized I only half-believed I was going to die. I went back and realized that in some ways, I also only half-believed in the resurrection — not intellectually so much, but all the way down deep in my heart. I realized I needed to have a greater, a deeper faith in the resurrection, both intellectually and mentally,” he recalled.

“It took several months in which I had to take my abstract belief down into my heart to existentially and experientially know it and grow in assurance, and it worked,” he said. “If you are willing to embrace the truth of God's Word and immerse yourself in it day in and day out, and then ask the Holy Spirit to make it real to your heart, He will.”

Most people live in denial of death, Keller said. But facing one’s own mortality and spiritual reality changes the way we view our time on earth and magnifies the transformative power of the resurrection.

The Counterfeit Gods author told CP that despite not knowing what the future holds, he’s “ready for anything.”

“Pray that I would have years and not months left, and that the chemotherapy would continue to be effective. But we are ready for whatever God decides for me. We’re spiritually ready,” he said.

“I do know,” he added, “that the resurrection of Jesus Christ really happened. And when I die, I will know that resurrection too.”

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