Starting Over
by Mark L. Williams
I

read about a man who picked up his local newspaper one morning . . . and found his own name in the obituaries! There in bold type was his full name, his correct birth date, a date reported to be his death, and the announcement that funeral arrangements were pending.

Flabbergasted, he hurried to the editor’s office. “This is going to cause me no end of embarrassment and humiliation, and might even cost me my business!” the man yelled.

The editor apologized profusely, but the man continued to rant and rave, demanding that something be done immediately to correct the mistake. At last, the editor said, “If it will make you feel any better, I will put your name in the birth announcements tomorrow. That way you can have a new beginning!”

There is One who can give you a new beginning—Jesus Christ can revolutionize your life. He can say to you, “Your past is over, your present is secure, and your future is bright and glorious.” He can set right what is so wrong.

Jesus, the Son of God, came into this world “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came so we “might have life . . . and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He came “to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18), and “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (v. 19 NIV).

“Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43 NIV). “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).

You do not have to continue to live the way you are living right now. You do not have to continue to carry guilt and a tormenting, embarrassing, incarcerating sense of shame. You do not have to continue to live without hope or without God in this world. You can have peace you never knew existed and joy that is inexpressible. You can be changed, transformed, and recreated! You can be set free! “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

My dad, William Fenton Williams, was born on March 11, 1931, in Olcott, West Virginia. Olcott was a mining camp owned by Black Diamond Coal Company. Dad’s father, Ernest, like most other miners of that day, was paid in script, which was used to rent a company house and purchase goods at the company store.

In 1938, when a job opportunity as a plant superintendent opened for Ernest at a chemical company in South Charleston, he and his wife, Ruth, moved there, eventually settling in a three-room house at 4802 Floyd Street in Spring Hill. It was here, “the old home place,” that so many memories were made.

Though guided by a loving father and mother, one thing was glaringly absent from the Williams family—faith. Alcoholism had Ernest in its grip. Some of my father’s earliest memories are of riding in a car with a drunken dad or trying to assist him to his room after a drinking binge. Ruth had red hair and a temper to match. The only time the name of God was ever mentioned was in a swear word. All of that changed, however, when my father (Bill) met Rose Marie Underwood.

After playing basketball with Paul and Raymond, these brothers invited Bill to their home, where he met one of their sisters, Rose Marie. Dad was smitten.

Though he was shy, it did not take him long to ask her out for a date. To his surprise, he learned that Rose Marie, Dora Lee, Nora Vee, Raymond, and Paul were all children of a Church of God preacher, Reverend R. B. Underwood; and the only place Rose Marie would go with Bill was to church. Cheap date, Dad said to himself. The time was set, and the plans were made.

It was a storefront Assemblies of God mission in St. Albans, West Virginia, where my father, Bill Williams, first heard about Christ. As the altar invitation was given, a layman, Mr. Burnside, walked back to where Bill was and asked him to come forward to pray. “Sir,” he said, “I do not know how to pray.”

Assured of his help, Dad accepted that invitation, and together they walked forward to the altar. Mr. Burnside showed my father 1 John 1:9—about Christ’s readiness to forgive sins—and led him, step-by-step, in a prayer to receive Christ. Though Bill knew absolutely nothing about God, church, or the Bible, he was gloriously saved.

The same glorious gift of salvation and new life is available to you. Today is the day; now is the time. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31 NIV).