Independence Day


When my wife and I were first married, we were introduced to a remarkable man by the name of Larry Burkett through a video series on managing your money. Among other things we learned to budget and to do something incredibly radical: spend less than we make.

I didn't know at the time that Larry was an avid golfer. Best known for his popular radio program "Money Matters," which is broadcast on more than 1100 stations, Larry wrote more than 70 books with more than 11 million copies in print.

In March, 1995, Larry, his wife Judy, and their four children were stunned to learn he had renal cell carcinoma (or kidney cancer) that had spread to his left shoulder blade. The fact that his golfing days were over was the least of their concerns. The cancer was deadly. Ninety-five percent of those with his type of cancer die within two years, he was told. Burkett underwent two surgeries, one to remove a kidney and a second to remove his shoulder blade. Though his cancer was in remission, Larry lived with chronic pain.

Researching the disease on the Internet, he began to explore alternative therapies, learning he could not access them until they met FDA approval. So he fought and changed the law in Georgia and seven other states so that alternative therapy can now be given if administered by a licensed physician. When he learned of an immune therapy offered in Prague, he talked to ten others who took it and lived longer than expected. After undergoing the treatment, he made changes: He drank filtered and ozonated water. He ate white chicken meat, a little fish, and very little red meat.

After writing a book called Making Life Rich Without Any Money, I was asked to be on Larry's radio program. During a return visit, I was surprised to learn that he wanted to golf with me.

And so one humid fall day we hit the links together. Larry had no left shoulder blade, yet he made no excuses. His swing, though slightly awkward, was strong, and his drives were straight. "It hurts a little," he admitted, "but I've been building up the muscles around it."

I won't tell you our score that day, but after 18 holes we were tied. Rather than a quick playoff, we sat in an Applebee's restaurant together as Larry told me of his life. "God has been so good," he said several times.

"I was supposed to be gone five years ago," he smiled, scanning the chicken section of the menu, "but He must have something left for me to do."

"Are you ever angry?" I asked rather bluntly.

"No," he said. "I don't blame God, if that's what you mean. There must be a reason for all of this. People talk about dying gracefully. I'm focusing on getting well."

"What helps you do that?"

"I pray a lot, I read a lot, and I praise God a lot," he said. "That has made all the difference."

"Do you have any fears?" I asked.

"After my first cancer surgery; when they removed my right kidney, I awoke one night knowing that in two weeks I'd be returning to the hospital for the removal of my shoulder blade. I was full of fear. Suddenly I felt the presence of the Lord in that hospital room, and I heard a voice-not audibly-but in my spirit, saying, `Have no fear. This is for the glory of God. Just do what God called you to do.' Fear is the opposite of faith," said Larry. "Faith is the belief in something greater than we are.

"So is the fear gone?"

He looked me in the eye. "I have no fear of dying," he said, and repeated it, "I have no fear of dying."

After Senator Harold Hughes came to Christ, someone asked him, `What is the advantage of being a Christian?' Hughes replied, "This life is all of hell I shall ever experience. The disadvantage of being an unbeliever is that this life is all the heaven some people will ever know. I was saved when I was 32. My only regret is that I didn't come to Him sooner."

"What will heaven be like?" I asked.

Larry smiled. "There will be no more cancer," he said. "No diabetes, heart trouble, overweight, wrinkles, or gray hair."

"Why are you looking at me?" I asked.

I shall never forget his laugh.

On July 4, Larry declared independence from his body.

I was on my way to the post office when his cohost, Steve Moore, called and told my wife that Larry was Home. Ironically, the cancer that had tested him for eight years did not take him-it was heart failure. At the post office I picked up a parcel, and back home I discovered that it was a personally inscribed copy of Larry's latest devotional book, Great Is Thy Faithfulness. The book is a treasured reminder of that round of golf with a humble servant of God. When I reminded Steve of that golf game, he said, "I guess you were the last one to golf with Larry."

Let me close with Larry's words:

"I've given some thought to what my epitaph should be, and I think I'd like my tombstone to read, "Larry Burkett, a servant of the Most High God."

I just pray that at my death someone will be able to write that, legitimately.

I don't know if people use epitaphs anymore, but if you died suddenly and your family wanted to write an epitaph for your gravestone, what do you think it would be?

Remember, the greatest epitaph will be the one given by Christ. What will He be able to write about you?

"Well done, good and faithful servant. .. enter into the joy of your master." Matthew 25:21 RSV

Phil Callaway, Golfing with the Master. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2006, p. 185-189.

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