Dr. Jim Shaddix encourages Southeastern family with message of gospel hope

At Southeastern Seminary, the final chapel of the semester celebrates and awards students in The College and the seminary who have demonstrated excellence in their academics and ministry. Thursday’s awards chapel was uniquely memorable and encouraging. In a profoundly special moment and an answer to many prayers, beloved faculty member Dr. Jim Shaddix joined 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,” Shaddix shared, “I’m doing really well.” He spoke 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.

Serving 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, Shaddix has mentored and taught countless students during his time at Southeastern, investing in the lives of many and proclaiming boldly the word of truth.

During their conversation, Shaddix shared how his battle with cancer began in January when doctors discovered tumors in his brain which were ultimately diagnosed as stage-four 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 remarked. “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 explained to his audience how 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 Dr. 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. It was a great privilege to hear words of encouragement from a man so equipped and eager to preach the word of God.

Turning and acknowledging those listening, Akin asked Dr. 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 responded, “and it would really be one of the top things on my list: it is just the word help.” Shaddix shared about the immense role that is played in helping someone through such a journey. He shared how blessed he and his wife have been by the support of their family and the body of Christ, how God has used believers as his hands and feet during this time of need.

Shaddix also shared how God has impressed on his heart the importance of sitting and listening at Jesus’s feet, taking the time to imitate Mary and not always Martha. Turning to the students listening to him, Shaddix 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 commented. “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.

Fittingly, Akin and Shaddix 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 expressed to Akin and his listeners.

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

When chapel let out, students and staff left deeply encouraged and with the words of the final song resounding in their hearts:

Death is just the doorway
Into resurrection life
If I join You in Your sufferings
Then I’ll join You when You rise
And when You return in glory
With all the angels and the saints
My heart will still be singing
And my song will be the same
. . .
O Christ be magnified
From the altar of my life
Christ be magnified in me*

*Carnes, Cody. “Christ Be Magnified.” January 1, 2020. Official lyric video.

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