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April 13th, 2011
09:43 AM ET

Tale of sportscaster facing death provokes spiritual outpouring

Editor's note: Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta's special report, "Nick Charles: No Regrets, Lessons from the Fight," on May 22 at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

By Wayne Drash, CNN

(CNN) - Nick Charles’ battle with terminal bladder cancer - and the way his faith is shaping his final days with his family - struck a deep spiritual chord with many of our readers.

Megapastor Joel Osteen, an avid sports fan who had grown up watching the longtime sportscaster, was among those who reached out to Charles after reading about him on CNN.com.

"He had to call me and inspire me to fight this," said Charles, who was CNN’s first sports anchor.

Charles said he watches Osteen "all the time." When Charles underwent chemotherapy at a Texas hospital, his wife, Cory, attended Osteen's church in Houston.

Charles said he was humbled to hear from one of the nation's top preachers. While on the phone, Osteen prayed for Charles’ family, especially his 5-year-old daughter, Giovanna.

"God is going to take care of you and your family," Osteen told Charles.

Charles said, "The thrust [of his message] is God has a plan for me. I'm not ready to go yet."

Sister Benita Coffey taught Charles in 6th grade in Chicago. She'd lost touch with him over the years, but when she read the story she immediately felt the urge to tell the now-grown boy how much she loved him.

"I always saw something good in him," said Coffee, one of many people who’ve called or emailed Charles. "I wanted him to know he has become a man of such integrity and personal strength."

Ravi Zacharias, an evangelical minister and best-selling author who wrote "Can Man Live Without God," said Charles' story touched so many people because he exemplifies "the convergence of faith, family and finitude."

"All three have come together," Zacharias told CNN by phone from Singapore. "His surrender to an ultimate purpose of God has made him handle this journey. I'm sure he's had some dark nights of his soul when he's all alone. It's impossible not to have them.”

Zacharias has known Charles and his wife for the past two decades and officiated their wedding in 1997. “What I've seen in Nick Charles," he said, "is the miracle of a transformed life.

"What people will take away from Nick is not just a lifestyle, but a death-style - that you have to face death. The dark night and the dark valley he's walked through, he's walked through with courage and with fortitude."

Opinion: End-of-life planning eases suffering

In comments posted on the article, one reader simply wrote, "This is a life-changing story."

Another person wrote Charles directly: "My goodness what an inspiration you are, not only to the people who know you, but to those you've never met who, through you, can learn and truly understand the meaning of life and living it to the fullest."

In the Philippines, a group of children who have been helped by a charity Charles supports drew pictures and penned notes to him.

Society is uncomfortable with talking about death, Zacharias said, because we like to "always think our comforts will remain." When somebody speaks so openly about the dying process, it helps strip away our fears.

And that's what resonated. "Nick has gotten along with people of different world views, of different callings, of different professions," Zacharias said. "I think he's a reminder to all of us to do whatever you do well.

"That there are people of so many different beliefs, all of whom admire and respect Nick, shows that to the end he knows how to hold his convictions, with dignity and respect for those of other views. The world would be a better place if we followed his example."

Many readers said they cried when they read his story and struggle. Many offered prayers: "Praying for a miracle for him and all those suffering with cancer."

Zacharias, who is traveling in Asia, spoke by phone with Charles on Monday. "Nick, I have watched you over the last 15 years now and seen your love for God and what God has prepared for you," Zacharias told him.

The evangelist quoted 1 Corinthians 2:9. "Eye has not seen; ear has not heard; neither has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love him."

Zacharias told Charles that God has a plan "even though what he's taking you through now is so painful and unbearable."

"I can't tell you what that means to me," Charles said through tears.

Charles said the responses have "morphed into something amazing for me."

"I've never had more feedback on anything in my life."

In last week's article, Charles said Jesus once sat with him on his bed and helped him through the night. "It wasn't a dream," he says. "I wasn't hallucinating."

Charles says he grew up Catholic but "fell away" from the church for most of his life. He returned to Christianity in 1992. He was sitting in the balcony of a church in downtown Atlanta when he saw a homeless man in a ragged blue jean jacket approach the altar at the end of the service.

"This guy needed help, and spiritually I did too," he said. "It just really hit me. I said I've really got to dig into this more and see why it applies to my life and try to build on it from here.

"That day turned me around."

To atheists and agnostics, Charles said, "If I'm wrong, I have lived a better life since 1992."

He said cancer will ultimately take his life, "barring a miracle from the Lord, which I'm still holding out for."

Yet his faith has taught him "there's nothing to fear. Eternity is what we're talking about."

"Faith is fastening on to what is unseen."

He then quoted from 2 Corinthians 4:16. "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."

If you're inspired by his story, Nick Charles and his family would be honored if you made a donation to help stop child trafficking and abuse, increase access to education and allow children to embrace life. Working with the humanitarian organization World Vision and the TEACH NOW: Preventing Child Labor in the Philippines project, the family welcomes support here: worldvision.org/embracelife.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Death • Prayer • Sports

soundoff (273 Responses)
  1. Ted

    I dont see how anyone can wish bad things on smoe one else.and claim to know JESUS. Anyone that truly does will be wanting EVERYONE to the joy that we do. All people go through bad times. Christians are no exception.We are commanded to pray for people not to wish them ill.I wish Nick peace in his heart and Iwill pray for his family

    April 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Nathan Prophet

      Are you kidding? Millions of people including children have been murdered in the most horrible way in the name of Jesus. In essence, the tens of thousands of Iraqis were needlessly murdered by American military people. Many in America claim that America was founded on Christian principles which of course includes Jesus Christ. So, Americans killed innocent Iraqis "in the name of Jesus." Perhaps what's happening in America now is God's punishment for these and other transgressions and hypocracies.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  2. Mike

    If any of you BOTHERED to read the article it says Charles says he grew up Catholic but "fell away" from the church for most of his life. He returned to Christianity in 1992.
    So his cancer did not bring him back to church, it must have been something else that brought him back. Whatever IT was I am glad for him.
    I wish people would actually READ the article and respond correctly instead of going off on tangents.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  3. moshi

    better no one has to have the trials, but God knows the heart...ive had my own tragedies w/ cancer, and i saw miracles that came from them...not the cancer itself but in the response as Ray wisely points to. ive never been on one of these sites...are we supposed to tear eachother down and be right, or come to some good healthy discussion where one learns, maybe is corrected, but walks away humbly and perhaps changed for the better?

    April 13, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • NOVANative

      Sadly Moshi, most people on these sites are indeed more concerned with tearing each other down than any learning anyone might find from another's wisdom. I find your peacefulness and humility a refreshing balm in this wilderness! May God bless you and yours, and may he bless those who wish to tear others down, as well.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  4. moshi

    it's both..not backpeddling. cancer comes in many forms. spiritual and physical. what does it matter?

    April 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  5. todd

    Moshi,

    Why are you backpeddling?????

    April 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  6. moshi

    andrew it was a hypothetical, "cancer" meaning a trial, not only physical cancer...and if u see my other response, i even say it for believers..anything that will bring you closer to a strong faith. some folks need it...
    there are many good examples of God leading folks to challenges in life for a good cause in the end.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  7. Remember

    I remember a day that I didn't believe. That I didn't "feel" it. That all changed. I don't blame those that do not believe. It's a tall order to fill. It was for me anyway. But as I said, that's all changed. Now I do believe. Why? Because I FEEL it, just like the heat from a flame.

    I pray every day that people find the happiness that I've found. It took 38 year's for it to happen to me. Better late than never, I alway's say. Life is good. God is good. I wish you all a good day. 🙂

    April 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  8. jennifer

    waves, i am sure people who are touched and sad, it's b/c just like jesus friends at the tomb...they missed him in earthly sense and all that he will miss for his family. thats why. but most clergymen will console folks saying "its harder for you who is left behind, then the one going"...thats why the sadness. it's a gentle love. i hope that whoever is reading this, puts aside differences, and own agenda, debates over stuff we cant prove right now, to just have a moment of kind thoughts for not only this man, but everyone who is suffering in the world.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  9. Gloria

    Nick, Continue to trust God and stay strong in your belief in His word and his plan for your life. You and your family are in my prayers!

    April 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  10. Ray

    I went through my dad having cancer and ultimately passing away. Cancer, or any other disease itself does not lead people closer to God, but it is the situation that the person is in as a result of the disease or other crisis that does this. It actually involves more people than the patient. For example, there are caretakers who are touched. Family and friends learn to care for others and consider other people's feelings more. People who have known the person hear that they are terminally ill, and realize that all of us are going to eventually pass away at some time. They start to think about this, and turn closer to the afterlife. By going though the illness, the patient not only gains spiritual insight, but helps others gain spiritual advancement as well. It is a sacrifice on their part for those around them.
    My dad and I were both in this thing together. Although he is passed on, we are in much better spiritual shape today than we were years ago.
    Pray and meditate for more understanding of this

    April 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Sorry to hear about your loss but you are correct the disease does not draw anyone closer to God. What draws people closer is how they and those around them respond to it! Be blessed!

      April 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  11. Jacks68

    WOW. I have never commented on an article but I had to for this one. I don't even want to comment on the article, but on these responses. The fact that people have so much hate toward this story has ruined my day. I get it if you don't care or believe but the fact that people went out of their way to say such negative things is just depressing. I'm sorry for those that have that much anger in their hearts.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Caroleigh

      AMEN!!! Oh sorry if you don't believe. LOL Just kidding. These comments really went out of the way of the purpose of this story. I agree with you Jack68.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  12. Reality

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" aka angel visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late conceptions).

    Current problems:

    Adulterous preachers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals like Osteen and atonement theology,

    April 13, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  13. mepr428

    It will be a better world when we all believe in the one true creator of Man Allah. Please convert and bask in the glory that is Allah's loving grace.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • waves

      I will believe in Allah or any god as soon as someone gives me some rational reason to believe in divine being. Your allah and any other god claim has yet to be supported by one shred of evidence, it is all irrational beliefs. The believers in Judaism, Christinaity, and Islam themselves can't even form a unified relion of those three abrahamic based cults, they are all splintered, because no one can agree, because there is no evidence to believe in any of them. Atheism is the only rational way to be, be open minded to accept evidence if it ever presents itself, but for the moment the burden of the proof relies on the ones making the positive claim.

      April 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • j

      i admit to fully understand you have to research the religons and also put forth the effort i would think before deciding on aetheism. for me, it was compelling that both judaism and christianity have the same portions of the bible, although i know that is only one small piece that people could mention. i was christian first but later did some research on judaism to see what their points were. if you are interested, there is a book called 'case for christ' that was written by an aetheist and former legal editor of the chicago tribune. he applies a reporter's scrutiny to christianity. it might be of interest to you.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  14. betty quezon

    My husband and I read Nick's story last week and decided to base our family devotion on it last night. Each family member prayed with boldness. I've read the article 3 times, and I still cry my heart out because of the love of God that manifest through Nick. It hits a strong cord because we have 3 young girls and friends who have passed from and who are struggling with cancer. Thank you NIck for sharing your story and allowing God to use you in an awesome way. God bless you and may you have the peace that surpasses all understanding in the coming day... month.. year. We will continue to lift you and your family up in our prayers.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • mepr428

      Allah loves your family and he will protect you if you believe in him unconditionally.

      April 13, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Nathan Prophet

      Is praying with "boldness" better than just "praying"? Please answer this: Why would a God who knows Nick is dying and is able to prevent it, allow him to die and leave a young child without a father, a wife without a husband, and many other of this friends and loved ones to grieve over his death. Why would an all-loving, all-beneficient God do that? If you were God and were able to prevent Nick from dying, would you save him? I would.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  15. vegan

    only thing is, our creator is Rich...why do folks always get the $ stuff into the story on God..rich or poor we all come into this world naked...i find the ones pointing fingers at wealthy (even the pastors who do work hard and do give a ton away) have own financial struggles at home.
    Blessings sometimes come in form of wealth. ive been rich and ive been poor...the thing i found in both is i was happy and content in both. when folks are happier w/ things then theres a problem. (study in AARP recently showed that people who spend money on activities are happier then those spending on physical goods anyhow). Lets let God judge others. not us..

    April 13, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  16. moshi

    if cancer or anything (trials in life, struggles) can bring anyone Christians too closer to God or even to just treat folks w/ more respect, i agree, bring it on . aso, suzie. id never say your comments are stupid, frankly its not even a word in my vocabulary.. aanyhow God bless you. have a wonderful day..

    April 13, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Nathan Prophet

      You folks are nuts, and stupid too. Stupid is in my vocabulary and the word fits perfectly as it is used. Please try to reflect on what you are saying – the reality of it – the implications of it. Surely, when you have that epiphany moment, you will say, "Wow, I said a very stupid thing,"

      April 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  17. waves

    Joel Olsteen, the rich pastor who takes money from memebers of his megachurch to tell them that god will take care of them. A real minister is not rich, I am sorry, but becoming rich is not Christ-like, which is what every "Christian is suppose to be attempting to be, as like Christ as possible. I agree with "HaveLove" in that his article appears very CBN like. I feel bad for anyon who is dying of cancer, or is dying in general. But, if he truly is Christian and if has been a good Christian, and if Christianity is correct then he should be going to heaven, so why is everyone sad or touched by the story? We should all be jealous.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Caroleigh

      I think the sadness is knowing that his family has to go on without him. It will be hard for the 5 year old to be without her daddy. The touching story is that he had a great life and now has a wonderful family and he has found peace with dying of cancer. We have turned this story into who is Christian and who is not and how Christians should act and what is real and not real. The story is about a man who is dying and has a faith. Why do we have to bash those who choose that path? We are who we are. If you believe, GREAT. If you don't believe, GREAT.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • jen

      We are sad and touched by the story because we feel compassion for his and his family's pain and unknown that he's going through. Christians can be rich or poor, and are all types of people, not just one type 🙂 We all still have feelings and can be afraid even though we take comfort in our faith.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Steen

      To Suzi, God didn't create cancer, man did. Our bodies are originally designed not to die; cancer comes from pollution-flat out. Our waste, in the air, water, land, and food is what causes cancer. Maybe if you took the time to know God personally, you wouldn't need someone to tell you that. I hope you work through your anger and pain that is causing you to feel this way about the One who Created you.

      @ Waves-You and the many Christians like you are idiots. Being rich is Christ like! Jesus was rich-read the Bible for yourself! He didn't say that He didn't have the money to feed the 5,000; they didn't see a store. Had to have money to look to for a store to feed that many people. Judas was the TREASURER! They had to have some money, dude. Also, the Bible never said there were 3 wise men; there were 3 gifts-hundreds of wise men! Study before you speak, just making a bad situation for Christians worse....

      April 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Suzie

      Steen you are kidding being rich is Christ like. YeeHaw!

      "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'" Matthew 19:23-24

      "The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall." Proverbs 18:11

      "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." Deuteronomy 15:11

      "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." 1 Timothy 6:17-19

      "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:9-10

      Need I go on.....Who's the dumb Christian now...

      April 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • I_get _it

      Steen,
      "God didn't create cancer, man did."

      What a convenient cop-out answer. Who, then, created the malaria parasite, salmonella, e. coli, botulinum, tapeworms, bubonic plague... and I could fill the rest of this page with more man-killers...?

      April 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Chucky

      Maybe the reason people are sad would be because a little girl is losing her father. Maybe we are sad because a good woman is losing her husband.

      Why is there so much anger on this site regarding this story?

      April 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Nathan Prophet

      I agreed with you up until the last few sentences. You have drunk deeply of the religious Kool-Aid spiked with the "Holy Spirit". You are intoxicated like a member of a cult who has lost all ability to reason; have lost the ability to think critically. Nick has cancer due to natural causes. If he recovers, he will be cured by medicine based on science; however, I have seen cases of people apparently recovering from terminal illnesses when large numbers of people prayed, meditated and/or thought about them and their recovery. These cases may be coincidences, but I believe that may be something to it, so I am thinking of Nick and his recovery much of the time.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  18. lisa

    God bless him.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Nathan Prophet

      Whose "God" – the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God, the Hindu God, the "Great Spirit", Zeus, Apollo, Re, ... Heck, may all the gods bless him.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  19. moshi

    If cancer would bring people closer to God, then i truly wish it for all the non believers. Sounds like cancer brought nick closer to the Lord, so id say, better to be closer to God, live a few less yrs (he's not 20 !) and have a new body in heaven. He's more fortunate then you all, unless u know you have a disease, at least he knows what will most likely kill him. Many of you may be victims of a crime, car accident, plane crash, your own suicide, (since so many of you dont believe in God and are unahappy) Plus its not God who is giving cancer, it is mans creation..nicotene, extra radiation, chemicals..

    April 13, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Suzie

      I think all Christians should get cancer to make them realize they need to be more loving and closer to their God. Oh and it is God giving cancer if you believe that he created EVERYTHING! Duh! Really stupid isn't it just like your comment.

      April 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Spencer

      "since so many of you dont believe in God and are unahappy"

      Prove it!

      April 13, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • waves

      I agree with Suzi.

      April 13, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • chris

      yeahh....actually to both of you it's pretty horrible to wish suffering on any person....

      April 13, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Wow! Not sure even what to say except Wow!

      April 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • andrew

      moshi, why would you wish something like that on anyone, especially since you are claiming to be such a christian person. believers and nonbelievers alike get cancer, its a horrible illness.

      and so you know, while you sit there and wish cancer on others, i'll be spending my second summer doing cancer research that will hopefully contribute to an end to this disease. and guess what, i'm a NON-believer.

      April 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Random Internet Person #1324135

      .. are you seriously wishing pain and suffering on people just because they don't "worship" as you supposedly do? Wow.. I hope you're just a troll, because if you actually believe that, then you're quite possibly one of the worst human beings ever.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • wow

      moshi, youre going to die and go nowhere just like the rest of us. stop talking about jesus on cnn.com and go do something that matters.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  20. HaveLove

    Sad
    I wouldnt blame CNN, sounds like they did the story as CBN would..what we have here are a few Sad/sorry and not so blessed readers.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.