My good friend Doyle Moore died on Sunday February 22nd, one hour after watching me preach on the Coral Ridge Live-stream from a hospital bed in Boston. Doyle was an elder at Coral Ridge, a Liberate board member, and one of my greatest encouragers. He had cancer. And he had been suffering with his cancer for years. I recently had the privilege of preaching at his memorial service.
Another good friend, Dan Siedell, spoke as well. Like me, Dan had been on the receiving end of Doyle’s life giving joy and generosity. What Dan said was so moving to me that I asked him for permission to share with all of you what he said. Please be praying for Doyle’s widow Valerie.
Dan Siedell recalls
I had the privilege of serving Doyle as his Sunday school teacher the last few years of his life. It was my joy to see him and Val Sunday after Sunday, often taking the trouble to bring coffee, tea and pastries for the handful of attendees. One of his favorite studies was on the book of Daniel, especially the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their encounter with the mysterious “Fourth Man” in the fiery furnace.
It was Doyle’s wish that I share my reflections on this story with you today. You know the story. These brave and courageous youths refused to bend the knee to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, and so they were thrown into the fiery furnace. But God saves them.
I want to focus on just one verse: Daniel 3: 25
“Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’”
Those of us who have been reared in the church know that Christians have for centuries interpreted this fourth man to be the son of God himself, a mysterious prefiguring of the child who would be born of Mary in Bethlehem and the man who would die horribly and shamefully on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem for you and for me.
This is a story with a miracle.
We usually presume that the miracle is that these three youths are rescued from the fire.
But there is a greater miracle: God himself is actually in the fiery furnace with them.
God, whom we think is distant, far off, and at best, busy dealing with more important stuff in the world than your fiery furnace, or mine. But God is there with them, in it. And the results are miraculous: the three young men are “unbound and unharmed.” What a subtle but powerful description with tremendous implications. Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t need to take them out of the furnace; they’re just fine in it, because God is with them. When Jesus promises you and me, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”, He means it. He is present in and with our suffering. Even during the worst of trials, even in the fiery furnaces of our own making, or the fiery furnace of a rare and deadly cancer. And to believe this promise unbinds and unharms us; it frees us to enjoy life as a gift and to love others, even in the worst of conditions.
That is what Doyle wanted me to tell you today.
Unbound and unharmed in the furnace
Now, what Doyle didn’t know I would say today is this: I’ve never seen a person live so “unbound and unharmed” in the fiery furnace as Doyle Moore. I found myself on more than one occasion as amazed as Nebuchadnezzar: look at that man, with such a terrible disease, look at him living with such joy, such freedom, such pleasure!
His illness never quenched his lust for life, and, more remarkably, his lust to serve others—to help them professionally, spiritually, financially. For me, as it was for many of you, his remarkable, miraculous generosity was often exemplified by his desire to stuff me with food and drink. I never knew Doyle with his taste buds. The illness and his treatment had long destroyed them. But that never stopped him from enjoying, delighting in food and drink as a means of his grace. He delighted in the meal if I did, asking me, “What do you give it, 1-10?” or “Does it taste as good as it looks?”
There is something else I want you to know today.
I watched him walk about in the fiery furnace of his cancer in amazement as he lived fully, joyfully, and selflessly, as he traveled, dined, sat on boards, fundraised for causes and people he believed in, and barraged the world with his texts, emails, links and phone calls, all while wearing that Cheshire Cat grin of his. But he did so not because of his unique personality or his robust courage or the fact that his body was able to fight off the cancer. It was because he believed that Jesus was in the fiery furnace with him. Jesus was with him the day he received the diagnosis and was thrown into that fiery furnace, and was with him every single day since, through the good days and the bad. It was Jesus that enabled him and Val to love my family and me in miraculous, life-giving ways, in ways they don’t even know, all while the cancer destroyed Doyle’s body.
And so, when you remember Doyle and his remarkable joy for life, especially during these last few years, I want you to see him walking about in his fiery furnace, “unbound and unharmed” with Jesus.
Tullian Tchividjian is a South Florida native, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, a visiting professor at Knox Reformed Theological Seminary, and grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. He is the founder of LIBERATE (liberatenet.org), a bestselling author, a contributing editor to Leadership Journal and a popular conference speaker. Follow Tullian on twitter at: @pastortullian