What Do We Make Of God’s Second Chances?

Neal Pollard

We were living in Cairo, Georgia, and I was in the third grade. It was during a game of kickball on the playground and I was the “pitcher.”  A kid kicked it hard and I caught it.  As the ball hit me in the gut, I felt a sharp pain.  Something wasn’t right.  My parents took me that week to see the local doctor.  He thought it might be a hernia. Exploratory surgery in Thomasville instead revealed a tumor on my liver.  My parents and I flew to Atlanta, Georgia, where I was checked into Egleston Children’s Hospital.  Extensive testing there and Emory Hospital, the general campus for Egleston, led my team of doctors to the same conclusion. It was cancerous. They tried to prepare my parents for how slim my chance of survival was.  Even if their diagnosis was wrong, surgery and attending blood loss may well be more than I could stand. My parents maintained great faith, and my dad solicited prayers from congregations all over the place. Dr. Gerald Zwiren, who led a team of highly-skilled doctors, brought the news to my parents that I survived the surgery and later shared the oncology report that my tumor was benign. That was close to 40 years ago and to this point I have never had further complications. I certainly received a second chance.

Periodically, I ponder at length what I have done with that second chance. The scar I bear from that surgery has long since become invisible to my daily view.  I suffer no lingering consequences. That event is certainly not why I chose to become a preacher, as if to try and pay a debt to God for saving me. Sadly, despite His mercy in sparing me, I have sinned in ways great and small that reveal, in addition to all else, a failure to appreciate that blessing. Spiritually, whether as a preacher, husband, father, or Christian, I am saddled with the realization of how far I have to go.  With the help of His Word, His providence, and His strength, I continue to try to make the most of this extra time He gave me back in 1979.

All of us who are New Testament Christians face the same spiritual situation.  We suffered the terminal condition of lostness in sin. By all human calculations and efforts, nothing could be done to save us.  Yet, when we responded to His grace by believing, repenting, and being baptized (cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38), He gave us all a “second chance.”  We passed from death to life.  More than that, God gave us a way to continually receive the benefits of the blood and grace of His Son as we strive to walk in His light (1 Jn. 1:7-10).  You may have messed things up badly in your life.  You may feel that it is impossible for God to love and forgive you.  Friend, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).  God is the God of the second chance!  His diagnosis is perfect, and His is the only one that counts!  Trust in the Great Physician.  He has never lost a patient who followed His prescription!

Picture of me (2nd from left) about a year after the surgery.



Neal Pollard

Ask George Dawson!  This Texas grandson of a slave, born in 1898, worked from the age of twelve on a ranch tending livestock.  He married at the age of twenty-eight, becoming a father the next year.  What is so noteworthy about this man?  Well, for 98 years he did not know how to read.  In 1996, ten years after the death of his spouse, a young man working for an organization designed to teach adults how to read knocked on Dawson’s door.  He was able to achieve a fourth-grade reading level and even read the Bible aloud at church services.  He summed up his remarkable story by saying, “I just figured if everybody else can learn to read, I could too” (Bingham, Reader’s Digest, June 1998, p. 156).

Ask Medzhid Agayev, who was the oldest resident in Azerbaijan in 1976.   He decided to retire—after 120 years as a shepherd at the age of 139!  The Russian press agency in Novosti said, “He is in good health.  He is thin, active and has excellent eyesight.”  Perhaps he quit his job to enjoy as many of his 150 children and generations of grandchildren as he could.  He was a tribute not only to longevity, but also to changing one’s life even after such a period of time as Agayev had lived.  Yet, he was a baby compared to a 165-year-old man named Shirali Muslimov and a 195-year-old woman named Ashura Omarova, both reported by the Novosti press agency in 1970 as living in the Soviet Union republics of Caucasus (what today is Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia)( The Centenarian Question: Old-Age Mortality in the Soviet Union, 1897 to 1970, Lea Keil Garson,Population Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Jul., 1991), p. 265).

Many Bible characters, Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 18:11-15), Barzillai (2 Sam. 17:27ff), Jacob (Heb. 11:21), Anna (Lk. 2:36), and others teach by their lives that it is nevertoo late to be servant of God.  The foolish may set aside the counsel of the “gray heads” (cf. 1 Kgs. 12:6ff), but the Lord’s church today will carefully consider the wisdom of her senior saints!  Age may bring limitations, but the aged are among the most precious resources we have for spiritual strength and progress!  It is never too late for an elderly Christian to be a viable contributor to the life and work of the church.  In fact, Paul puts such on a high pedestal (Ti. 2:1-10).

It is also never too late to become a Christian!  This is true, whether one is eighteen, eighty, or any time before, between, or after.  Almost is after (Acts 26:28), later is a lie (Acts 24:25), and waiting is a wager few win (Prov. 27:1).

In youth we anticipate the stability of adult life as the time when becoming a Christian will be easier.  With adulthood comes, marriage, children, and job concerns, and retirement becomes a more appealing time to obey the gospel.

Three potential tragedies await those who bank on the elusive capital of tomorrow.  First, old age may find one too distracted with golden year goals to make the commitment to Christ.  Second, death may stand between one and the time he or she hoped to be a baptized believer.  Third, Christ may come before one submits to the Lord’s plan.

However, now—being the accepted time (2 Cor. 6:2)—is not too late!  Are you still breathing in and out?  Is there still within you a heart soft enough to be touched by the power of the gospel?  If so, it is not too late!  As long as there is time and opportunity, it is never too late to do all the will of God!

Your eyes may be cloudy, a halt may slow your gait.
But as long as your soul is within you, it is never, no never too late.
The years you may have wasted, and in shame you might hesitate,
But though it be the eleventh hour, it is never, no never too late.

Unprepared For The Conditions

Neal Pollard

As one who was born in Mississippi and raised in south Georgia, I am very proud of my southern roots.  Frankly, I could not hide them even if I was inclined.  It is a heritage that includes the Bible Belt, sweet tea, BBQ, lemon icebox pie, peanut butter, gnats, humidity, pecan trees, Georgia mud cats, the Georgia Bulldogs, and the Atlanta Braves (including the bad years).  But, one thing we rarely needed to be ready for was treating the roads for snow and ice.  Therefore, even a light or moderate amount of snow means impassable roads and gridlock in traffic.  The historic snowstorm that has hit the deep south has come with power outages, massive traffic jams, stranded motorists, numerous wrecks, and seven states of emergency.  Typically, southern cities do not have chemicals for road treatment, a bevy of snow plows, or organized plans because these events are so rare.


I am not criticizing these locales and governments because of this lack of preparation.  Of course, I was not trying to get home from work or school in those conditions. If you were, you likely feel differently.


Yet, there is a general state of unpreparedness for something that is 100% likely to occur at some point in the future.  Every single person could potentially make completely ready for it.  It has been forecast with the greatest of certainty.  It has been described in clear enough detail.  The preparation is outlined in clear and simple detail.  There are even a number of people who have been employed and enlisted to aid in warning and educating the general public.  Those tasked with being prepared and preparing others will be held accountable for whether or not they were involved in enacting that plan.  Every single person who is unprepared will nonetheless be accountable and liable for the consequences of their not being ready (Mat. 25:1-13).  There is absolutely no reason why anyone should be unprepared for the Judgment Day.  May each of us do our part to help prepare as many as possible for it!


“Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now”

Neal Pollard

When did I first know I wanted to be a preacher? I’m not sure, but I remember the day I addressed the city council in Cairo, Georgia.  I was only nine.  We were walking home from school.  Every day, we’d make the trek from 10th Avenue across Broad Street to our house on 12th Avenue.  It was a straight shot, but there was a penny candy store if you went south.  A couple of blocks south, between us and the store, was the court house. Of course, every self-respecting boy looks for shortcuts. Mine was through the court house that day.  It appeared empty to me, so I was singing the far out, new McFadden and Whitehead hit, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.”  Just one more set of doors between me and the back door, I thought. So I burst through them bellowing, “…We’re on the move.”  With that, I brought the city council meeting to a stop and in the instant before my beet-red face welled up with tears of embarrassment, I think I saw looks of irritation as well as amusement.  For some reason, I was feeling really good that day…until that moment.

Do you ever feel unstoppable? Maybe you are bounding with energy, excited, or happy without even knowing why.  It may cause you to sing, exercise, eat, kiss your spouse, give exploding knuckles to a stranger, or pause in grateful thanks to God.  Every moment cannot feel euphoric and golden, but how wonderful when it happens.

Depression is a real malady that many people, including good Christians, experience.  Some deal with clinical depression, physiological and demanding chemical treatment.  However, some without such an excuse seem to have a hard time finding joy in their lives.  It could be because they have conditioned themselves toward negativity, constantly complaining, bemoaning, wallowing in self-pity, and being their own one-person thunderstorm.  Some seem to stand there, waiting for the lightning strike on a cloudless day.

As Christians, we are not expected to be out of touch with reality or even our own feelings.  Yet, only we can choose our outlook and attitude.  Isn’t it amazing that we are all exposed to national politics, economic uncertainties, sickness, disappointment, and betrayal, but some are resilient while others are resentful.  Some count blessings, but others court burdens.  May we, as God’s children, always focus more on what we have been given by Christ, what we have through Christ, and what we look forward to with Christ.  I tell you, it will make you feel unstoppable!

What Playing With Fire Can Do To Married Couples

Neal Pollard

The video from a gas station surveillance camera shows the baffling details. 37-year-old Austin Dawkins was playing with a cigarette lighter and got too close to his gas tank as his 30-year-old wife, Jessica, stood beside him at his truck as he was pumping gas.  Flames flare up, Jessica runs away, and Austin lifts the gas nozzle from tank.  This sets his wife on fire, and she is seen running as the flames envelop her.  She received second and third degree burns to her legs, arms, back, and head.  Her husband was arrested and charged with reckless conduct, a misdemeanor.  If he has a conscience, the far greater penalty will be shame, guilt, and regret at what his careless conduct did to his wife (www.myfoxatlanta.com, 11/2/13).

The macabre moments caught on video, showing the woman on fire, are graphic.  No one can doubt the danger and seriousness of the situation.  Spiritually, men and women so often play with fire unable to physically see the consequences of their actions.  Whether allowing themselves to become romantically involved with someone other than their spouse or even courting temptation, they put themselves into a very precarious position.  In the very context of this moral problem, Solomon writes, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be burned? So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her will not go unpunished” (Prov. 6:27-29).  The Bible illustrates marital infidelity to playing with fire.

Perhaps one rationalizes indiscreet words, actions, or flirtations as harmless, innocent, and victimless.  Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.  The flames can spread beyond just the man and woman, doing harm to family, friends, and the church.  It can ravage so many lives and leave the perpetrators with an enormous load of guilt. How much better and wiser to see adultery for the dangerous entity it is and leave it alone (cf. Prov. 6:32-33)?