I read with sadness the story of a misguided
West Virginia pastor who died recently from a
rattlesnake bite suffered during a serpent-handling
Pentecostal pastor Mark Wolford, age 44, had boasted
about this service, “It is going to be a homecoming
like the old days. Good 'ole raised in the holler or
mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled
speaking-in-tongues sign believers.”
Thirty minutes into the service, Wolford began to
pass a timber rattlesnake around. He then laid the
snake on the ground and sat next to it. The viper
bit Wolford on the leg, injecting deadly venom into
the pastor that eventually took his life.
Perhaps the saddest part of this story to me is that
Wolford’s father had also died years earlier from a
rattlesnake bite that occurred during a similar
We may think it foolish that this pastor did not
learn from his father’s mistake, but pause before
you are too hard on this man.
There is a venomous viper that bit our fathers
before us that we often seem to want to play around
with as well. I am speaking of the serpent of sin.
One of our major hindrances to having the power to
fulfill our purposes in life is the scourge of sin.
Sin saps our power, steals our peace, and can sear
our consciences. Sin is a deadly serpent and must be
avoided at all costs. Note these comments on the
seriousness of sin:
It is not the ship in the water but the water in the
ship that sinks it. So it is not the Christian in
the world but the world in the professing Christian
that constitutes the danger.
Anything that dims one's vision of Christ, takes
away the taste for Bible study, cramps the prayer
life, or makes Christian work difficult is wrong,
and you must as a Christian, turn away from it.
Harboring sin will cost you the presence of God, the
power of God, and the peace of God. Is that vile
television program, that wicked internet site, that
ungodly DVD, or wicked conversation (gossip,
backbiting, etc.) worth what it will cost you? I
Remember what sin did to our “fathers.” Recall the
sordid story of David and his sin with Bathsheba.
Once David was “bitten” by the serpent of lust, he
suffered for the rest of his life.
What about Samson? This man with such potential eventually died a
premature death from the snakebite of sin in his life.
Remember the foolish husband and wife in Acts 5? Ananias and
Sapphira were bitten by the rattlesnake of riches and both died
during a church service.
We dare not toy with, coddle, or play around with sin. To do so is
like allowing poisonous snakes to slither around freely in our home.
Eventually, we are going to be bitten.
We need an attitude towards sin like that of the great baseball
player turned evangelist Billy Sunday:
“I’m against sin,” he said. “I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a
foot, and I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as
long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth.
When I’m old and fistless and footless and toothless, I’ll gum it
till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition.”
Have you been guilty of carelessly “handling” the serpent of sin,
boasting inwardly that you will be the exception? Do you think that
you have more faith than others? Do you really believe that you will
not eventually be bitten?
Why not learn from the mistakes of our fathers? They were not
able to handle this venomous viper and neither are we.
Don’t be a “snake-handler.”
Bazen, Park Meadows Baptist]