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!