May 27, 2008, was a very sad day for me. On that day, Bob Szoke let people know that his son Steve’s earthly journey was over: Steve had gone on to be with the Lord. Steve lost a hard-fought battle with colon cancer, dying just a few days short of his thirty-third birthday and leaving behind a wife and 7-year-old daughter. Steve had been one of my favorite students at Lincoln Christian University. He had a passion for evangelism like no one else’s and had given his life to reaching people who, as he said, “fall through the cracks of life.” Steve had a huge heart for at-risk youth in the Chicagoland area, and he yearned to plant a church that would welcome and disciple them. I had been praying for Steve since I first learned he had been diagnosed as having cancer, but I was still shocked by an email he sent just two months before he died:
So, I’m not even quite sure how to write this. I went to bed last night and woke up today believing my Dr. was going to call with good news and tell me that today was my first day of remission. Nothing could be further from the truth of the situation. I was instead called in for a consultation and told I was now Stage 4 Colon Cancer. Candy and I went in and were informed that these past 8 months of chemo and radiation were a complete wash and that I did not respond to the medicine at all. That I, in fact, had small cancerous nodules throughout the lining of my abdominal wall. What does that mean? He told me that I would need a new kind of chemo to combat this, that I would now be in chemo on a weekly basis and that I might be looking at 1–3 years left of my life. The one thing I did not want to hear from my Dr.’s mouth is him giving me days on a calendar, which is exactly what he did. I want to thank everyone for their prayers and to continue to pray for me. I have no problem continuing to fight tooth and nail for my life. The one thing I have always wanted in life is to grow old with my wife (whom I love so deeply) and to be there for my child (whom I also love so deeply). This news does put things in perspective for me, how could it not. Now is the time that I need my friends and family the most. I said in a sermon this past Sunday that throughout this disease, there have been many times that I have completely collapsed under the weight and burden of everything and just asked God to carry me. My God has not abandoned me, He’s just needing to carry me a little further.
When I was in college I was a part of a men’s choir called the Master’s Men. While on tour one year, the director asked my friend Phil Rogers to give his testimony at each concert. I remember how Phil skillfully set up the audience for a powerful life lesson. First he would talk about how his dad had died a slow, painful death from a terminal illness called Huntington’s. Then he would share how there was a good chance that he too would inherit this debilitating disease. After everyone was starting to feel sorry for Phil, he would hit them with his point. “Don’t feel sorry for me, we are all terminal!” Whether we have a doctor tell us we are terminal with only a few months to live or not, we are all terminal! Unless Jesus returns first, every one of us will die. We must intentionally remember this truth and live for what matters during the time we have left.
Question: Do you realize you are terminal?
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment . . .”