Yesterday, TV anchor Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation and well known newsman, announced to the world that he was diagnosed with cancer last August during a trip to the Mayo Clinic. While the prognosis seems to be positive, the noteworthy part of the announcement, at least to me, is that he has multiple myeloma – a cancer of the bone marrow. Furthermore, it caught my attention because it was the same type of cancer that my father had, and eventually died from, back in 1978 after a 4 year battle with the disease.
Since that time, there have been numerous others who have suffered from the same type of cancer. Frank Reynolds, another famous news reporter and Geraldine Ferraro, the politician, as well as Sam Walton, the Founder of Wal-Mart. I have also known several others who have struggled with myeloma. Today, unlike in the late seventies, the future looks much brighter for those who have been diagnosed. Thank God that some cancers are no longer the death sentence they were years ago. We’re on the right track!
Dad was diagnosed during the last week of my college years. I was getting ready to graduate and, hopefully, continue on to medical school. However, with the medical problems Dad faced, I gave up my goals of continuing my education and instead, sat down in my father’s office and tried to run the family business in his absence. Miraculously, my father was one of the very few who went into remission, a condition that he enjoyed for more than 4 years before he finally relapsed and died in mid 1978.
To this day, the most troubling part of that whole season of my life was my father’s denial of his faith in God. Dad grew up in a very religious family, but he renounced religion before he entered the Army and, according to what he shared with me, he never again publicly professed a believe in Jesus Christ. My grandmother used to tell me that Dad had a profound faith as a youngster, but he never communicated that to me. In fact, when he was rather young, he had to have his tonsils removed and Grandma told him that if he died during surgery, she would see him in heaven. Of course, this terrified Dad, and this became the defining event in his decision to renounce his faith.
He was insistent that my brothers and I attend church, but Dad himself didn’t get too much out of the experience. He attended the adult Sunday School class with my mother, but that class pretty much dealt with current events and Dad had no interest in studying Scripture. On several occasions, I remember Dad attending the church service in the sanctuary but that’s about it.
And even when he was diagnosed and fighting for his life, Dad never reversed himself and professed a belief in God. Of course, I don’t know what was going on in his mind or his heart, and I do pray that he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, but I won’t know this side of heaven whether he ever made peace with His Maker. In fact, he thought that it would be hypocritical to turn to God in time of need.
I have also had to deal with the fact that back in those days, when I was twenty five, my own faith wasn’t as strong as it is today and I was remiss in not trying to get Dad to consider the free gift of eternal life offered by Christ. For years, I felt guilty about that, but I eventually forgave myself, realizing that I didn’t understand the importance of leading people to Christ back in those days. I didn’t understand the eternal implications of separation from Christ.
The verse for this evening is from Acts 16:31, “They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” My encouragement this evening is that the greatest thing you can do for someone is to introduce them to Christ and pray that the Holy Spirit will take it from there. Because God has great plans for each of us and it starts with a life surrendered to Christ. Hopefully, you will never have to deal with the question that I have pondered for more than 35 years now – will I see my Dad in heaven? Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…