I have been praying hard for my friend Nabeel Qureshi ever since I learned of his stage 4 stomach cancer. Nabeel was so humble and a persistent and honest seeker after truth. Nabeel was also in the prime of life and health, and unlike some of us who are older, I thought, he should have decades of fruitful ministry ahead of him. I saw the cancer as an attack on his ministry that was so strategic. The survival rate for stage 4 stomach cancer is one out of 25 (4 percent) after five years, and most do not survive the first year; but those statistics are descriptive rather than prescriptive and need not limit our prayers.
Today I learned that Nabeel passed away at age 34, after over a year with the cancer.
The news is heartbreaking to all of us who loved and respected him, and sometimes things don’t make sense from our mortal perspectives.
Nevertheless, for myself and for others who are mourning, there are some things we can say for sure:
- Nabeel touched more people in his fairly short life than most of us get to touch in a long one. God used him greatly, both to testify about the truth of Christ and to teach us Christians a much deeper love for Muslims.
- Nabeel’s passing is NOT due to any failure of faith or lack of prayer. Vast numbers of people prayed faithfully for him; in my own case, in the past months his healing has been my most consistent prayer. Some were fasting a day each week. Some of those who prayed for him in person have seen equally incurable cases cured through prayer and experienced visible miracles—just not this time (in the hoped-for way).
- Nabeel himself kept his lively trust in God to the end, even if, at the end, it became clear that this would not mean healing. His faithfulness in the face of death is itself a testimony for all of us who, one way or another, will also face death if the Lord tarries. Faith is not just faith that God will say Yes; faith is trusting God’s plan even when He says No.
- All of us as believers in Jesus share the same ultimate hope. We will be reunited with Nabeel, and others, at the resurrection.
- Each of us has our place in God’s plan, and ultimately the gates of death will not prevail against the church (Matt 16:18). That is, when God allows any of us to be taken, it does not stop God’s work. It just means we get to rest from ours (Rev 14:13).
- The prayers will not be wasted. God sees our hearts and will still achieve his purposes.
Although this is incidental to the point, Nabeel had shared times when someone prayed for him and he had a special experience with the Spirit or even a temporary relief from the suffering. That is, God was hearing the prayers all along. Even though God has said No in this case, there is a bigger Yes in the long run. Nabeel’s labor has ended, but may the legacy of his work be multiplied a million times over in this generation.