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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. Michael

    I have been watching boxing tonight and you came to my mind Nick. So many fights you have provided great insight and such colorful commentary. I enjoyed you in Baltimore my hometown and was not surprised when you went national. You always made me feel as though I knew you a mark of one of the great broadcasters. You are as we can tell a class act and friend. Ill pray for you and your family and hope you realize the miracle you search for. Love is the real currency in the universe its all God asks of us to love him and all others. With hope and Love Michael

    April 15, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  2. tony

    sounds a little harsh john and sarcastic. most parents understand the longing since we dont know what heaven is really like. look at it from a child's perspective and not your own adulthood. i hope you wanted to be with your parents as long as possible if they were loving people? doesnt look like fanfare – some people sincerely share things, and his message is more for the living on earth now if you watch and see the first story. i sure hope we are all living life to fullest, and doing all we can for those around us and even more people. im inspired to for sure. glad you have sympathy for him and others, thats all we really need, and hopefuly in your time of need, others will have it for you. take care.

    April 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  3. tony

    unfortunately john, he tried science, which blew it still..it's in natures hands.

    April 14, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  4. tobeornottobe

    mr richardson, he's praying for a miracle not to postpone entry into heaven, but to be with a child. pls be kinder and read the story correctly..hes at peace. what's disgraceful, are cruel comments. just let people have their beliefs, he's not preachign to anyone as is pointed out in the story also.

    April 14, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • JohnR

      He has all of eternity to be with that child. Or perhaps he realizes deep down that he doesn't, or that he at the very least can't be sure. You can't have it both ways. He can't use his situation to sell his religion AND "pray for a miracle" whose effect will be to postpone his eternal bliss at the same time. I have some sympathy for Nick Charles, but more for those who face their fears without media fanfare and without trying to sell the world on the validity of some conversion experience.

      April 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  5. John Richardson

    I still find it amazing that Nick Charles is praying for a miracle whose presumed effect will be postponing his entry into heaven. People like this either don't really believe that they are going to heaven or are just ravingly illogical. But they insist on inflicting their insufferable piety on everyone anyway. Disgraceful.

    And what advances there have been or ever will be against disease of all sorts will come from science, not Jesus driven miracles and anyone who has true compassion for the ill will renounce all vapid talk of miracles.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  6. doctore0

    This guy will die like the rest of us; And that will be the end, no continue.... it will be just like before you was born Nothingness

    April 14, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  7. Steve (the real one)

    Excellent word, Wayne

    April 14, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  8. wayne

    nick charles if you want to live you call on the name of jesus its in him that you can be healed his word says he came to bring life and life more abundantly and by his stripes you were healed you need the word of the king on your sickness and have a spirit filled kingdom citizen to speak the word of the king over you .the centurion said just speak the word only and my servant will be healed so nick charles in the name of jesus youwill live and not die i rebuke that cancer and curse it in the name of jesus . itake authority over cancer in the name of jesus i loose the healing power of GOD in your body

    April 14, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  9. 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 10:48 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Reality,
      if you insist on being wrong, at least update your wrongness. You said this 3-4 months ago! You were wrong then and you are wrong now! I admit I do admire your persistence though!

      April 13, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Reality

      Reiteration is great for the learning process. As is reading and rational thinking followed by conclusions based on all of it.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  10. Johnny

    I was diagnosed with gladder cancer at age 18. (Never smoked) I'm 22 now and I'm still going in for treatment. It can happen to you, get a checkup if you feel something is wrong. Luck be to you Mr. Charles.

    April 13, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Johnny

      *bladder. Bad typo.

      April 13, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  11. Dante Orlando Brown

    I hope that this is uplifting:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ha8loxM0JA

    April 13, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  12. Dante Orlando Brown

    I remember him from CNN Sports in the 80's and 90's...Nick Charles...one cool dude.

    April 13, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  13. tattooedchick

    I lost my mother to colon cancer when I was only 26. I saw her take her last breaths. I with there was a miracle answer for cancer, some sort of cure. Too many people are suffering and dying from this disease. I send prayers to Charles and his family.

    April 13, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  14. mich48

    Spencer ...Yes I would turn the other cheek and then try and beat the living hell our of you! You just want a fight, and that is not what this blog should be about.

    April 13, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Suzie

      You are not the moderator nor are you a Christian with that comment.

      April 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Spencer

      Mich your the one that keeps posting, I am replying. Sorry dude I wouldn't fight you since I am a black belt.

      It's called turn the other cheek and walk away, not beat someone up. That's how wars start. 😉

      April 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  15. mich48

    Sorry to blog so much, but there is a SUZIE that has posted many blogs ......she sounds like a nut case. Mybe she did have cancer, but it didn't make her a concerned nice person. She is just nasty and has not wished the Charles family prayers, as they deserve.

    April 13, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Suzie

      "Sorry to blog so much, but there is a SUZIE that has posted many blogs ......she sounds like a nut case."

      LOL! Got to love it on person bashing another person for bashing. Classic. What does that make you now?

      Do honestly think they are bothering to read this slop? NO! It's CNN making news.

      April 13, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  16. mich48

    For Spencer ....yes, you turn the other cheek!

    April 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Spencer

      But I don't believe in turning the other cheek do you?

      April 13, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  17. Deborah

    Reading these posts make me very sad for all the people out there that have the resources and the ability to read the Bible and believe! It's sad that so many think that this life is it, that there is nothing else. What purpose is your life if this is it? I pray that God reaches as many as possible. America is becoming a pitiful place for Christianity, which is what she was founded one, people forget that though. God bless!!

    April 13, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Spencer

      Can you co-exist with others that don't believe as you do?

      April 13, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Deborah

      Everyday

      April 13, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Spencer

      If we can co-exist and respect each other there is no reason that this country has to be called a pitiful for anyone. This is a great country, lets keep working to keep it that way.

      April 13, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • humanbean

      Yes Deborah, the reality is that this may be it. So make the most of it. Stop waiting around and preparing for some afterlife that may never come. Make your mark here, on mother earth. I get so tired of people who don't get something that's right in front of them. Cherish every moment and breath in as much of this beautiful place as is possible. A "perfect" place like heaven seems boring. It's the good, the bad, the ugly, the hurt, the joy, the beauty...that makes this life worth living. Stop the delusions

      April 13, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  18. mich48

    The poor man is dying, does anything really need to be said about it? All these rude commets between you blogers, it is poor taste on your part. If you don't agree then write nothing. You should wish him good thoughts and prayers.

    April 13, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  19. veronica

    dear great...32 is not 20 and it appears mr charles marriage has lasted longer then many marriages and is strong. im sure they thought he would get cancer. seems like an unnecessary attack but no one is surprised, at the low blow since so much of this site goes off tangent. my parents were same age and died same time, but still doesnt make it easier for children any age. my nieces lost their dad when he was only in 30s, married to mom of same age. who is to say?

    April 13, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  20. Kelly

    All of the people writing negative comments about this story should really be ashamed of yourselves. IF this world would be all that we have then how horrible that would be. My prayers to out to Nick and everyone else who is suffering in the world. Even more my prayers go out to all of those negative commentors, you need them more than anyone!

    April 13, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • jimtanker

      The fact that this IS all the world that we will ever have and that people go around wasting thier life believing in fairy tales is the real tragedy.

      April 14, 2011 at 4:07 am |
    • Bdub

      @jimtanker did you read the article? Charles said, "If I'm wrong, I have lived a better life since 1992." Jim – try reading the article before you post. Also, consider for a second, that you're impression of whether God exists or not is NOT the only one. In fact, you're in the minority (that is, if you're atheist, which I presume you are). This might sound cheezy, but open up your heart. It seems as if yours is hardened.

      April 14, 2011 at 9:37 am |
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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.