Larry Burkett, who died July 4 in Gainesville, Georgia, was a kind of financial guru for many evangelicals. His 70-plus books sold more than 12 million copies, and his four radio programs were broadcast on more than 2,000 stations worldwide. But in recent years, Burkett's writing turned from freeing Christians from debt to freeing them from fear of disease. Two of his most recent books told the story of his own battle with kidney cancer, and his seeking treatment through both traditional and alternative means on two continents.

Burkett did not die of cancer, but of heart trouble. In fact, he received a diagnosis that he was free of his kidney cancer a week before his death. In his final book, Nothing to Fear: The Key to Cancer Survival /(Moody, 2003), Burkett laid out the lessons he learned during his treatment—including coming to terms with his own mortality.

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When I was first diagnosed with my shoulder problem, I went to several orthopedists. Every one of them misdiagnosed my problem. One said it was bursitis, another diagnosed it as a rotator cuff tear, and still another said it was arthritis. The last orthopedist I saw was absolutely convinced he knew what the problem was. He wanted to do arthroscopic surgery on my left shoulder to trim some of the small bone that goes under the collarbone. He was convinced that would fix the problem. He was a nice guy and very persuasive.

We actually scheduled the surgery for about three weeks from the time I last saw him. I committed to pray about it, just to be sure I had God's wisdom and peace. However, I didn't. In fact, I didn't have any peace about it at all; the closer we got to the time for surgery the less peace I had and the more confused I was. I thought I was holding to my commitment to seek God's wisdom and his peace, but I wasn't absolutely sure that I wasn't just trying to avoid the surgery (ever feel that way?).

I called him about three or four days before the scheduled surgery and told him I'd like to cancel. He was quite irritated about it and asked why I had changed my mind. I told him that I wasn't sure—I just didn't have peace about his diagnosis. (Try that one on your average doctor.)

He sarcastically challenged my "diagnosis" and wanted to know what I thought the problem was. I had to admit that I didn't know. And that was the honest truth: I didn't have a clue. All I had to go on was a feeling. I just felt like it wasn't the problem he had diagnosed. Well, of course, he was very upset and our conversation ended. I would have had a hard time getting another appointment with him at that time.

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It was a short time later that I called my friend at Emory and went over to the Emory Sports Clinic in Atlanta. I went through the diagnostic clinic and they determined that the problem was not in my shoulder. Ultimately the doctor there was the one who called for an MRI, which correctly diagnosed it as a tumor under my shoulder blade.

If I had gone through with the surgery, not only would it have not helped the pain, it would have delayed the appropriate diagnosis. Perhaps it would have caused other complications, and who knows if I'd still be here.

I believe the wisdom to refuse the procedure that was proposed by the orthopedic surgeon came directly from the Lord. God simply provided the wisdom I needed when I needed it (see Proverbs 12:15). I believe there are three essential elements to finding such wisdom while suffering from an illness like cancer.

1. Personal faith in Jesus Christ. When the woman who had been hemorrhaging came up to Jesus and touched him, she believed that Jesus was going to heal her. The Scriptures indicate that Jesus didn't know her; nor did she know him, except by observation. She didn't know the plan of salvation at the time, and we aren't even certain that she was a Jew.

This woman had a personal belief that Jesus could help her—enough that she was willing to walk through a crowd and touch the hem of his garment, knowing that if she did he would heal her. She simply believed that Jesus couldheal her and that he would heal her. That's personal faith in Jesus Christ.

2. The faith of others. Because there are times when our faith may be a bit lacking, we may need the faith of our friends. I believe that often, when my faith was wavering, there were friends who carried me through that period by praying for me, even when I couldn't pray for myself.

Dwight L. Moody was fond of pointing out that there are three kinds of faith in Jesus Christ: struggling faith, which is like a man floundering and fearful in deep water; clinging faith, which is like a man hanging to the side of a boat; and resting faith, which finds a man safe inside the boat—strong and secure enough to reach out his hand to help someone else.

I think the biblical account of the friends of the paralytic man is a good illustration of this principle. Jesus was teaching in a home and it was so crowded that no one else could get into the building. Fortunately, this paralyzed man had four friends who were determined that he was going to see Jesus.

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The paralytic man might have believed, but the Word doesn't say he did. However, because of the determination and faith of his friends, Jesus healed him.

3. Persistence. The Scripture clearly indicates that God appreciates those who are persistent. A great example of this is the widow who came to a judge's door in the middle of the night to get legal protection from an opponent. She was so persistent that finally he got up and said, "I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out." To make his point, Jesus said that if an unrighteous judge would do that, "Will not God bring about justice for his elect who cry to him day and night, and will he delay long over them?"

Persistence is one of the characteristics of a faithful steward who needs and wants God's wisdom. To get through the hardest journey, we need to take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping. Be like the persistent widow who needed justice. Don't give up. And if you don't receive God's answer the first time you ask, keep on asking.

God Above All
"Much that worries us beforehand can afterward, quite unexpectedly, have a happy and simple solution. Worries just don't matter. Things really are in a better hand than ours," said Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Above all else, trust in the Lord, and trust the Lord. He cares about you, and he loves you more than anyone else does—more than your own mother, your father, or your children. Many years ago, Andrae Crouch, a musician who truly loves the Lord, wrote a song that says, "Through it all, through it all, I've learned to trust in God." Let that be your song.

God cares about what's going on in your life. Pray for him to intervene on your behalf. And get your friends to pray for you too. You may not need to be lowered down through the roof for healing like the paralyzed man in the Bible, but no one can have too many friends praying for him or her. Martin Luther said, "None can believe how powerful prayer is … but those who have learned it by experience."

As I have said many times, nobody lives forever in these bodies, and unless the Lord Jesus Christ returns first we will all die. But God told us that a seed can't grow into a plant or a tree unless it first dies. Therefore, when we pass from this life, we will pass on to a more excellent and expanded life, as we enter eternity with our Lord Jesus Christ, creator of this universe (see John 1 :1-5 and Genesis l:1-31).

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Afraid to Die
It has been my observation that as human beings we all have, to one degree or another, a fear of dying. I think it's built into us.

Our families fear that we will die, and that places a great burden on a cancer patient. One of the ways to overcome this fear of dying is to face death straight on. Let me give you an example.

For a long time I had a fear of flying. However, I did not realize that until I joined the Air Force and was flown from Florida to San Antonio, Texas. It was the first time I had flown, and I found that I didn't like being in the back of the plane while some pilot was totally in control of my life. It probably would have been okay with me if somehow I could have been up front and in control; then I might have loved flying. But my personality didn't lend itself to passivism.

One of the ways I learned to overcome my fear of flying was to face it over and over and over again. Since then, I don't know how many miles I've flown, but I'd say it has been in excess of a million miles. Now I enjoy flying. I don't like flying in bad weather, being fogged in, or having mechanical problems, but I no longer fear flying.

When an aircraft breaks the sound barrier, it soars with freedom. A Christian must break the death barrier while living, so that he or she can live without the haunting uncertainty and fear of dying. I accept my mortality as a fact of life. Perhaps as a younger person I chose to ignore it, but once you get past the halfway point you become more realistic. Furthermore, once you have cancer, you recognize that there's probably much less time left than what you have already spent.

The fear of dying is normal, but it must be faced, and the fear must be conquered. The way fear is conquered is to face it through faith in Jesus Christ. His promise to us is that "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

Your family must face fear with you. Fear is contagious, and if just one person around you is continually bemoaning your circumstance and is living in fear, it will spread throughout your family.

You must nip that sort of thing in the bud—through your faith—because faith is also contagious. When those around you observe you demonstrating your faith in Jesus Christ and see that you're willing to stand up to whatever it is God has for you to face, including this cancer, they're going to catch this attitude as well.

Even if you can avoid dying from cancer, you'll certainly face something else that will eventually kill you, because all of us are going to die. As good as modern medicine is, it is not the ultimate answer. It will let you down. Trusting God is the answer. He will never let you down.

Excerpted from Nothing to Fear: The Key to Cancer Survival, © 2003 Moody Publishers. Used by permission.