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Jim Shaddix encourages Southeastern family with message of Gospel hope

In the semester's final chapel service, SEBTS professor Jim Shaddix (left) told SEBTS President Danny Akin about his recent battle with cancer. SEBTS photo

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) — At a service that is typically known for celebration and awards for students who have demonstrated excellence in their academics and ministry, the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary family experienced a different kind of celebration and encouragement in Thursday’s (May 2) final chapel service of the semester.

Beloved faculty member Jim Shaddix joined SEBTS President Danny Akin on the chapel stage for a conversation about his ongoing battle with cancer.

“We’re so honored to have you here today,” Akin told Shaddix as Southeastern family and friends stood to welcome him.

“By God’s grace, I’m doing really well,” Shaddix said. He told of encouraging doctors’ reports, increased strength and a healthy appetite. In particular, he shared how excited he was to have been able to teach one of his classes this past week. It was a special milestone and return to one of his greatest passions: teaching and sharing God’s Word with students.

Shaddix serves as the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching, the senior fellow for the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership and the senior professor of preaching at SEBTS, and has mentored and taught countless students during his tenure.

Shaddix shared with the audience how his battle with cancer began in January when doctors discovered tumors in his brain that were diagnosed as stage 4 glioblastoma. Multiple surgeries and rounds of radiation have followed the diagnosis, but throughout it all, God has remained faithful and sovereign.

“In this journey, God has given me a more mature appreciation for the assurance that we have,” Shaddix told Akin and his listeners. “Hope in the world is different than hope in the Bible. Hope in the world is a maybe, a might be, a want to be. It might happen; it might not. But hope for believers in Christ is a certainty.”

He quoted the passage in Revelation 21 when the new Jerusalem appears and God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (v. 4 ESV).

“I can’t tell you how rich that becomes,” Shaddix said. “Knowing that that is what awaits me on the other side has been such an encouragement, such a blessing, and that Jesus is going to usher that in and usher me in.”

He added that this season has strengthened his hope and certainty in the transformation that Christ will bring for His people, quoting 1 Corinthians 4:16, that “though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

The chapel service was filled with students who at some point or another had sat under Shaddix’s teaching or listened to his sermons in chapel, and once again they leaned forward, listening intently. Few eyes in the room were dry.

Turning and acknowledging those listening, Akin asked Shaddix what advice he would give to students who might someday walk through a similar journey, either themselves or with others that they would be ministering to.

“You mentioned one, Dr. Akin,” Shaddix said, “and it would really be one of the top things on my list: It is just the word ‘help.’”

Shaddix shared how blessed he and his wife have been by the support of their family and the body of Christ and how God has used believers as His hands and feet during this time of need.

Shaddix said God has impressed on his heart the importance of sitting and listening at Jesus’ feet, taking the time to imitate Mary and not always Martha. Turning to the students, he spoke to them about their future ministries.

“The journey has really caused me to think, where do I find my significance? Where do I find my worth, my value?” he said. “I will have to admit that there have been some painful times, I’m loath to say, when I’m dangerously close to finding my significance in my ministry as opposed to in Jesus.”

He challenged them to be aware of this in their own lives and to order their values rightly.

The two men ended the conversation with a discussion on the importance of prayer and the way such seasons of life challenge believers to remain faithful in their prayer lives.

“We covet those prayers, and we are dependent on them,” Shaddix told his listeners.

In his prayer over Shaddix at the end of chapel, Akin asked for strength for Shaddix and especially for his wife Debra; for total and complete healing; and that, ultimately, God’s will would be done.

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