Tim Keller shares pancreatic cancer diagnosis, lists 4 things to pray for

Pastor Tim Keller, founder and former pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City.
Pastor Tim Keller, founder and former pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City. | Courtesy of A. Larry Ross Communications

Theologian and bestselling author Timothy Keller shared that he's been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and asked fellow believers to pray for him in four specific ways. 

“Less than 3 weeks ago I didn’t know I had cancer. Today I’m headed to the National Cancer Institute at the NIH for additional testing before beginning chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer next week back in New York City,” the retired pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City wrote on social media Sunday.

“I feel great and have no symptoms. It was what doctors call an ‘incidental pickup,’ otherwise known as providential intervention,” continued Keller, co-founder of The Gospel Coalition and author of The Reason for God and The Meaning of Marriage. “I have terrific human doctors, but most importantly I have the Great Physician himself caring for me.”

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He added, “Though we have had times of shock and fear, God has been remarkably present with me through all the many tests, biopsies, and surgery of the past few weeks.”

Keller, who had thyroid cancer in 2002, also listed four ways people can pray for him and his family through this process. 

One, for God “to use medical means or his direct intervention to make the cancer regress to the point of vanishing,” he said.

Two, that he and his wife, Kathy, “use this opportunity to be weaned from the joys of this world and to desire God’s presence above all."

Three, “for my family to be comforted and encouraged.”

And four, “for the side effects of treatment to allow me to continue writing and speaking.”

Keller concluded the social media post with: “Running the race set before me with joy, because Jesus ran an infinitely harder race, with joy, for me,” referring to Hebrews 12:1-2.

The passage reads: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In an interview with The Christian Post in April, Keller shared his thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic.

“God’s message to the world during times like this always is, ‘You’re not really in charge. You may think you are going to get ready for the next one, but you never will. The world isn’t under your control; it’s under my control. You need to turn to me. You are not sufficient to run your own life. You need my wisdom and you need my help,’” he said.

“In every disaster, whether it’s 9/11 or COVID-19, God is saying to people, ‘Eventually, I’m going to put an end to all of this. But for the time being, this world is broken, and every time you think you don’t need me and that you can get on top of it, something like this will come along to remind you that, no, you do need me,’” he continued. 

Keller founded Redeemer in the fall of 1989 with a group of 15 people meeting weekly in an Upper East Side apartment. By 2016, the Manhattan-based church was holding eight Sunday worship services each week, averaging over 5,300 people in attendance.

Three years ago, Redeemer became three smaller churches with locations on the East Side, the West Side, and Downtown. Though he retired as senior pastor of Redeemer in 2017, Keller told CP he remains “very much involved” with the church, which he revealed had been “deeply impacted” by the virus.

Keller, whose latest book Uncommon Ground focuses on how Christians should interact with the fractured world around them, told CP that right now, he’s not certain what God is telling the Church, specifically, through the coronavirus pandemic. The real test for Christians, he posited, “will come several months down the road when presented with opportunities to witness that we can’t even envision just yet.”

Keller, who frequently addresses the modern intersection of politics and faith, also said that until Christians are able to engage culture with empathy and understanding, they are unlikely to find a way forward in a largely pluralistic society.

“Here’s the trouble: American society has been deeply influenced by Christianity, and that’s something that secular people don’t want to admit,” he said. “So many of our values, like love, human rights, the dignity of the individual, arose from cultures based on the Bible that came out of the Christian West. Yet, secular liberals often don’t want to admit how much of what’s good in our society came from Christianity.”

Conversely, Keller added, “Conservative evangelicals don’t want to admit how flawed our past is.”

“Modern Christians feel like we had a Christian society in the past,” he said. “It was influenced by Christianity, but was it really that Christian? We had slavery, segregation, we mistreated people — as a society we’ve done a lot of things wrong. Modern conservative evangelicals don’t want to admit how flawed our past American society had been.”

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