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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. really?

    ok, if religious people are true believers, why the big fight to stay alive at all costs? don't you want to be with your god? guess not.

    April 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • teresa, ohio

      loved your comment. I wondered that too ...once. The big fight to stay alive, is to be the LIVING STORY and realize that Life is an Incredible Gift from the One. Why not go to be with God? God is the giver of Life and the Taker of life.
      Believers know God is in control and will call us home IN HIS PERFECT TIME, not ours.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Cridd

      I can't speak for my Christian comrades, but the reason that I strive for longevity in this life is because I consider life to be a God-given gift. It is something that I should try to make the most of. My understanding is that most atheists likewise believe that life should be lived to the fullest.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  2. DerWeissEngel

    There is no God but Allah.

    April 13, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  3. Robert Gregory Miller

    Like him my wife pulled me from the brink and we have been together for over 30yrs...I asked her why did she stay with me for all those years, she said because she loved me and she believed in our vows – you know the better or for worse part....I believe in god.

    April 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  4. Stu

    Interesting definition of Osteen as a "megapastor". CNN or Osteen's?

    April 13, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • ScottK

      Maybe they meant "megaphone pastor"...

      April 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  5. bob

    Zeus loves you all! Apolo be with you.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • ScottK

      When will you Zeustians stop trying to shove your God down our throats! Zeusus!

      April 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • ScottK

      Apolo Jeez for the poor puns...

      April 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • I_get _it

      ScottK

      "Apolo Jeez for the poor puns..."

      ok, I'll try not to be a Thor head over it.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  6. helloeyes

    This man's story is very touching and he is handling his impending death with poise and dignity.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Cridd

      If I could "Like" any comment in this thread, this would be the one – thank you, helloeyes.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  7. Jess Sayin

    While I am no fan of any organized religions, I don't understand why some people feel the need to bash others' beliefs. No one knows the "truth" (as much as the preachers act as if they do) so it is just as likely the people following the standard religious dogma are getting it right as those who do not believe at all. Or perhaps, the "truth" for you is what you already believe. I just feel that ridiculing others' belief systems (aspecially those facing death) is wrong and mean-spirited. Unless, of course, you have actually seen God or the lack thereof.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Artist

      Jess, I see god every day in the mirror

      April 13, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  8. Andy

    If you truly believe in God and the Bible please visit this website and read it with open mind

    http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/2_heaven.htm

    April 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  9. Nathan Prophet

    Perhaps CNN will do a story on the thousands of other people with terminal diseases, and not just this one case. There are many such cases where people are drawn TO religion, repelled FROM religion, or perhaps neither as a result of their disease exerience. As I noted in another post, Nick is practicing "Pascal's Wager." It is best to believe in God (what do you have to lose)? Some claim to have refuted Pascal's Wager, but I don't buy their assumptions or claims. However, I believe we should seek the truth and go where the facts lead us. I have done that and the facts thus fare do not lead to any organized religion, nor to any "savior" or "prophet", nor to the God or gods of any religion, but to the fact that knowledge about God is undertermined; we know nothing about whether a god exists or doesn't exist; it's only opinion and conjecture. There is no proof either way. We won't know until we know the very foundation of reality which we do not yet know.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • julie

      Theres no proof that God exists, Nathan? Next time you go outside try opening your eyes. The proof is right in front of your face; you just dont want to admit it. If you admitted it, you would have to change your life which is full of darkness. Thats just the truth whether you like it or not. I do pray you find Christ; He is the only way.

      April 13, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  10. moshi

    its ok artist, i didnt think youd embrace the scripture i quoted, but i do wish you well from the sacred land. best to you and glad youre on a religion blog at least . sounds like you were blessed with a wonderful talent too, so continue to use it well. this is my first time so hope to meet again (only on this side for now!) also when i mentioned the types of ways earlier that we can all leave this earth it was an example, not a wish..i hope we all die peacefully but as the news shows, the chances are slim and there must be a reason that so much unfortune happens in this world, and all people agree w/ that whatever their faith. im just trying to humbly grasp it and come to terms with it. just havent seen any other explanations either that make sense...open to hearing some good ones here, vs attacks.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Artist

      Mo sh i, wish you well. I thi-nk people forget that bad thi-ngs have always hap-pened. How-ever we get inf- or-ma-ton qui-ck-er and all at once. People moved much slo-wer and in-form-ation was slo-wer or nev-er re-ci-eved. Can you ima-gi ne if we had so me-thing like the bla-ck pla-gu-e in this day an age. Sur ely people would think it was the end of the world. Keep a sou nd h-ea-d and you can come to te-rms with what mig-ht be ov er-whel-ming.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  11. Carolyn

    He is at peace when it comes to dying. Why would anyone want to take that away?

    April 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  12. Steven

    Actually, Artist, the expression is that there are no atheists in foxholes.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  13. Lady

    Cancer you hit the nail on (her) the head. Suzie is one hateful person.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Suzie

      Prove it Lady! Typical Christian....hypocrite.

      April 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Suzie

      Yeah lady you did hit in on the head when you support statements like this...."Maybe one cancer isn't enough for you....lets praise Satan and ask him to give 4 or 5 different types and let your love ones watch you DIE!!!!!"

      Oh....that's right their KIDDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Let's see now....can you even apologize as a Christian probably not why because you can't.

      April 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  14. moshi

    to my Christian brothers..counting all joy can also be interpreted as "bring it on" .. whatever the trial. it's a very western attiude to want a comfortable life in all areas (health, wealth etc)

    James says (oops not paul!)
    Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Artist

      moshi, you keep feeding yourself a delusion if you have neither the energy or strength to face reality or the issue. Religion is for the weak that are fearful of what they do not understand and weak. You might say much like sheep.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  15. Artist

    Interesting a very close family member had stage 4 and went the chemo route. They died less than 6 months and the chemo destroyed them. They were aware of my views and it upset them. Towards the end they ack that perhaps my view was not so bad and perhaps right. Interesting how life experiences allows you to see the big picture outside of a delusion.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Artist

      Another family member is in the military. After being shot at, nealry blown up and seeing his friends die he as well has come to a similar conclusion as mine. That saying about there are no christians in foxholes is quite wrong. Now I can see a weaker person turning to a god though out of fear and I am sure that happens.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Cridd

      Artist – I am a Christian. I am not a member of the military, and it is possible that I may never become one. Therefore, I humbly admit that my own bravery as an individual and as a patriot has never been tested by war or the grueling discipline of military training.

      That said, if you are implying that my Christian Grandfather (Major, USMC, WWII, Pacific, Silver Star Recipient), Father (USMC, Marine of the Month Recipient), Great-Grandfather (Canadian RAF, WWI, commended by the Field Marshall of France for bravery), and countless other friends and relatives (USMC, USN, USAF) are somehow less brave than their atheist comrades, you are not seeing the forest through the trees. My relatives, friends, and ancestors fought valiantly as members of the military. I could not be more proud of them or their service.

      If you have served in the military, I respect you deeply for it, and am indebted to you for your service. But I am no less indebted to you than to the Christians who fought alongside you.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • teresa, ohio

      hey, Artisit, if I'm getting the point of your posts, you think most people only turn to God when tragedy strikes or they are desperate. I believe for a different reason: when I was about 5, yes 5, life was great... play play play, right? And then I realized, like an epiphany, that I wasn't walking this life alone. 45 years later, I know WHO is with me, I know why, and have lived thru plenty of tragedies. Some believe out of this uncanny untangible "thing" inside of them that tells them: you are not walking this alone. What an incredible feeling for a lifetime. BTW: the man who sees god in the mirror, sees "satan". you are wise.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Artist

      Cridd, I was speaking of the ones who suddenly find god in the foxhole (regarding the quote). I am used to calling them fighting holes but the quote is what it is. A fox hides in his hole.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Artist

      teresa, people turn to gods for different reasons. As I mentioned in the above post it had to do with a quote and si-tu-ation. With our experiences we can look at them different ways. As I got older I realized there was no one there more and more. "My eyes were openned" you might say. When I was younger I let fear and emotion dictate my actions like a child. I nearly walked down the path of becoming a preacher. Thank god I chose differently. If there was a god he only revealed he was a painful and absentee god. As for the mirror comment, I was being sarcastic of course.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  16. Cancer

    Suzie you are one smart mouth idiot. Why would anyone Christian or Non Christian wish people to have cancer???? If you think it is rigjt then let me be the first to WISH YOU CANCER. Have you ever watched anyone go through cancer? I doubt it. I watched my mother died from breast cancer. One breast was remove and the cancer ate though her skin to the one good one. The pain for her and us was unbarable. Many days I would go outside and just scream because I could do nothing to help ease her pain nor could the chemo. I watched my father died of throat and stomach cancer, and nothing anyone could do to help him. Maybe one cancer isn't enough for you....lets praise Satan and ask him to give 4 or 5 different types and let your love ones watch you DIE!!!!!
    Go read your BIBLE and you will see GOD didn't give cancer, people like you do!
    You're the DUMB one.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Suzie

      DUH Cancer it was a sarcastic remark read the whole sentence. Typical Christian.....

      April 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Suzie

      Oh, and I had cancer and beat it, both my parents died from it. MORON!

      April 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  17. moshi

    no one is wishing bad on anyone. this mans story aside, many people are led to closer to God thru tragedies (i am a student of old testament and youll see that even God Himself, led his people to tough times with Moses to bring a glory they wouldnt have experienced without it...) Christ is another story of tragedy in his Crucifiction .. the resurrection and Easter wouldnt have happened without the horrible tragedy God led His son to. Sometimes as Paul talks about, we're given thorns in the flesh and trials to become all the good Lord wants us to be. If someone needs a trial, to to save them from a bad eternity or a life that is half lived, then im saying bring on the tough times, because trials bring endurance and ultimately if you run the race well, good things. ve seen it work miracles in lives with people who would have done nothing for the cause without the tough times. (countless saints). again, lets learn from eachother isnt that point of discussion and think about things? vs making statements on "how can someone know Jesus if they think this or that.." we're all human and need to explore the deep things from our own experience". I surely would love to ask God all these questions one day as the atheiest asks, why are children killed? these are deep issues which if you believe in God, Christ or Allah, im sure you one day want to know answers to...
    If anything, we all know that this current world with all its trials is temporary, so lets love one another and i join you in prayer for Nick.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  18. jim

    The story doesn't touch you. You just needed filler.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Cancer

      How can they feel when ice flows through their veins ?

      April 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Azuma

      @Cancer

      Don't talk about religious people like that. Not all of them have ice in their veins 🙂

      April 13, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  19. dr. perry fisher

    Iwould be interested in his faith in God more than the human side of his story.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  20. Frog

    Once again these comment sections get hijacked by christians and God talk.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      This is the BELIEF BLOG! We share what we believe! That means all of us to include atheists, agnostics, jews, gentiles, ect!!

      April 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • drew

      God Bless Nick Charles–what a wonderful spirit!!

      April 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Artist

      Frog, sad isnt it. They days of feed-ing them to the li-ons is gone. Si-gh...the good ole days when they act-ually served a useful pur-pose.

      April 13, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • great

      Didn't we already have a front page story about him? How many more special reports about him, all omitting that he married a 32-year old when he was 51, and fathered a kid when he was 60? If he was an actor or rock star we'd say disgusting, but because he's dying we say he's a great guy.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Rory Sellers

      This is such blatant hypocrisy. Fine, if you want to believe in miracles. If Charles' were missing an arm or leg, and needed to grow one in order to live, and he said he was holding out hope for a "miracle" - would you print his story? No, you would consider him an idiot. I have nothing against holding out hope for miracles. Miracles occur, no doubt. But to think they come from "the Lord" is not only ignorant - it simply holds us back. We make miracles for each other, people. If you want to believe in daddy in the sky, go ahead. But do you have to indoctrinate innocent children with such fairy tales? What if Charles said he thought his cancer might be cured by a miracle cure from Santa Claus - would you still print his story?

      April 13, 2011 at 6:36 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.