Editor’s Note: This essay first appeared in the spring 1998 issue of Kindred Spirit, Dallas Seminary’s popular Christian magazine. It has been used with permission of the author.
Daniel B. Wallace
September 10, 2003
It was a month before Christmas, and for George Ponsford the prospects were not pleasing. Doctors had determined he had lymphoma cancer with only a few months to live. Matters of spirituality had not greatly concerned George during his adult life. Now, the closeness of eternity and concern for his standing with God brought fear and sadness.
I had come to know George and his family through one of my sons. George and I are grandfathers of my son’s lovely daughter. As soon as I learned of George’s diagnosis, I expressed my regrets and assured him of my prayers. Unknown to me, George, using his extensive computer know-how, began to search the Internet for answers to his spiritual questions. One day, my son told me George wanted to speak with me, but he had become too ill to meet immediately.
Within a couple of days George was admitted to the hospital. I went immediately to see him. Though in pain and discomfort, he was able to talk. He had been searching the NET for answers, he said. When I asked what he was looking for, he said, “Heaven, forgiveness, assurance.” “Did you find anything?” I asked. “Yes,” he said, and quoted several passages of Scripture and the Lord’s prayer.
I asked George if he believed the promises these passages contained. “Yes,” he replied. As nurses were working on him, I led in a simple prayer of thanksgiving for what I believed was God’s salvation for George.
Two days later—with George feeling much better—we were able to talk alone and at length. It was a wonderful time of fellowship as we spoke about the Lord and our families. Since George knew his health was precarious, the Lord led me to review what George had told me two days earlier and to ask him a question familiar to those who have studied or used Evangelism Explosion. “George,” I asked, “if you were to stand in the presence of God today and He asked you why He should let you into His heaven, what would you say?”
“No way,” he replied, “I am a sinner.”
“So that’s it.” I said, “You don’t get to enter heaven?”
“Oh yes,” he said, “because Jesus Christ died for my sin.”
“George,” I told him, “I believe on the basis of God’s Word and your belief that I can say you have been saved. Your answer was exactly what I hoped to hear.”
Good fellowship followed, and I ventured to ask exactly how he had used the Internet to find the answers he had been seeking. Using the search engine, Yahoo, he had done a key word search first in religion then Bible, specifically, looking for salvation issues. He located the Dallas Theological Seminary (www.dts.edu) and the NET Bible (www.bible.org) sites. He downloaded the applicable portions on heaven, sin, forgiveness, and assurance and memorized several passages, i.e., the ones he had quoted to me.
NetLife? Cybersalvation? Sounds a bit sensational, but there’s no getting around it. God used His Word, the DTS web page, the NET Bible (translated and developed in part by Dallas Seminary scholars), and the Internet to minister salvation to George Ponsford. I was just blessed enough to witness and rejoice in the miracle!
George’s hospitalization and the story mentioned above occurred the last week of January 1997. He did return home with hospice care, and I continued to visit, call, and encourage him. With the help of his son-in-law Jason, George continued to study the Word and downloaded a whole follow-up program for new believers put together by a DTS alumnus on a web site. George got a lot of encouragement, as well, from reading Chuck Swindoll’s Hope Again. On March 31, 1998 the Lord took George home. Although he must have had quite some discomfort in his final days, George nevertheless had a sense of real peace and reconciliation with the Lord.