Second Chances

“God is a God of second chances.” Have you ever heard that expression? It’s one of those things we say about God. It is a Christian cliché, but it’s a good one. If you are a Christian, then you have received a second chance.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. – Romans 5:12 (ESV)

We came into the world needing a second chance. This is why we have a Gospel–Christ died for my sins. Without a second chance we would be eternally divorced from God.

The Gospel gives us a second chance, which allows us to be born a second time. It also gives us many other second chances after we are born again. The Gospel applies to our salvation and to our sanctification (1 John 1:8-10).

Jonah was a believer in God who needed a second chance. He was God’s prophet. It seems like he would have been more obedient to God. But he wasn’t. Jonah was no different from the rest of us.

No matter how hard we try to spread the fame of God’s name, we will need God to be merciful to us again and again. We need second chances until we are finally glorified with Him.

There is purpose in failure

God gave Jonah an opportunity to trust Him. Jonah failed. God hurled a storm and appointed a whale to get Jonah’s attention. It worked. God was reorienting Jonah’s mind. Jonah’s trouble was God’s way of giving him a second chance.

  • How do you perceive your troubles?
  • Are you in a storm?
  • Could it be your storm is your opportunity to respond to God?
  • Is God giving you another chance?

Initially Jonah rejected God’s call on his life. Instead of going to Nineveh, he fled toward Tarshish. It’s as different as heading east when you’re supposed to head west. Jonah was running from what he knew to be the right thing to do.

God brought a big storm and a big fish into Jonah’s life. I’m not sure how long it took Jonah to get a clue. I do know it was no more than three days. It appears he quickly repented and God had him spit out in the right direction (Jonah 2:9-3:3).

The process in which Jonah was exerting his self-will is probably no different from the way the rest of us “run” from God. As you read these six steps of Jonah’s repentance, think about yourself and how God mercifully deals with you when you’re being a knucklehead.

  1. Jonah rejected the word of the LORD. – Jonah 1:1-3
  2. The LORD appointed trouble in response to Jonah’s sin. – Jonah 1:4, 17
  3. Jonah repented to the LORD. – Jonah 2:1-9
  4. The LORD gave Jonah another opportunity–He had him spit out. – Jonah 2:10
  5. The LORD gave Jonah a second call. – Jonah 3:1-2
  6. Jonah did what the LORD asked him to do. – Jonah 3:3-4

Does this pattern look familiar to your life? It does for mine. It seems like I would eventually get a clue and listen to the LORD the first time so we would not have to go through all the rigmarole. Sigh.

The rules of Gospel engagement

On top of being small and insignificant, we are failures. – Ed Welch

The reason I need second chances is because I’m a failure (Romans 3:12). The Gospel declares me a human failure and even after salvation, my imperfections are part of my life. I’m not discouraged by this news because there is a Gospel.

It is only the lost without hope or Christians who don’t understand the practical implications of the Gospel who cannot confront their problems head-on. Gospel people see their failures as opportunities for change–there is victory in Jesus.

Gospel people can quickly recalibrate their hearts when they fail because they know God is a God of second chances. We have a second chance Gospel.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying. – Jonah 3:1 (ESV)

Jonah did not seem to get hung-up on the fact he was a failure. A right understanding of the Gospel can do that for you. Think about it. If God would become a man and die on a cross to give you your first second chance, do you think He would not complete that which He started?

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

It would be better to go ahead and get over the fact you’re a failure, so you can move on to the redemptive purposes of God. You are a failure and so am I. Chill out. This is not morbid introspection, but the reality of victors.

It’s only morbid for people who do not understand the rules of Gospel engagement. The Gospel keeps you from morbid introspection or what some call worm theology.

Damning danger of too much introspection

For every one look at your sin, you take five looks at your Savior. – Tim Keller

You’ll find patterns in people’s minds who can’t progress past the mistakes they made. They get stuck looking inward rather than choosing to look upward. If this inward look continues, there will be patterns etched in their thinking, which can become strongholds.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)

These strongholds will twist a person’s thinking until they are not able to ascertain and embrace the knowledge of God, as perceived through the Gospel, which can give them the victory they crave.

A person who refuses to embrace God’s second chance will spiral into anti-Gospel patterns of thought. Here are a few of those anti-Gospel dysfunctions.

  • Guilt – I am wrong for what I did and I’m not sure God will forgive me.
  • Condemnation – I feel condemned all the time. I so want to please God.
  • Fear – I’m afraid of God’s judgment. What is He going to do to me?
  • Despair – I will never get out of this trap I’m in.
  • Self-pity – I’m a horrible person. I can’t believe I did that.
  • Frustration – This makes me so angry. I did it again … and again.
  • Alleviation – What the heck. I’m in a trap so I’ll have some fun.
  • Rationalizations – Everybody does it, so what’s the big deal?
  • Rejecting God – I’m going to run from God.

Running to your second chance

I’m not sure what happened in Jonah’s heart, other than realizing what he did, what it cost him, and his need to repent. It appears he did experience some of the things above, based on what he said (Jonah 2:1-9).

His mind was mostly reoriented (he repented) to God and when that happened, God had him spit out of the whale. Jonah received the mercy of a second chance. This is one of the underrated blessings of being a Christian.

Maybe it is underrated because we don’t fully live in the reality of what the Gospel can do for us after we are born a second time. The freedom and power of the Gospel can be obscure to us. This kind of favor only comes to the humble heart (James 4:6).

  • How free are you to admit your failures?
  • Can you talk to certain people about your failures?

The implication of the Gospel is we all get a second chance if we want to take it. The question for us is whether we will respond to the second chance call, which is on our lives.

  • You were born a failure. The second chance call was to be reborn.
  • You have failed since your rebirth. The second chance call is similar to your first second chance call–admittance of failure.

The deterrent to receiving a second chance

There is an obstacle for any of us, which will keep us from enjoying the second chance God will mercifully give to anyone who calls upon Him (Romans 10:13).

In order to be born a second time you have to admit you have a problem. Christ did not come for the righteous, but for the unrighteous. There has to be an admittance of “sickness” in order to receive redemptive care.

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:17 (ESV)

In order for the Christian to receive redemptive care, he must do the same thing as the unbeliever: he must admit his weaknesses, faults, or sins. The reason a person is unwilling to do this, whether a believer or unbeliever, is the same.

It’s self-righteousness, the grace killer. Christ helps broken people. The Gospel is for sick people–the unrighteous. There is irony here. Though you don’t want to make a mistake, it is through your mistakes God can help you.

This is not a license to sin so you can enjoy more of the Gospel. God forbid (Romans 6:1-2). It is merely stating the obvious. We fail. God’s restores. And through His restorative work, we are matured and He is glorified.

Only a person with a high view of himself will resist being honest about his life. Grace comes to the lowly, not the exalted. This is why accepting the reality of your blunders is ultimately healthy to your psyche, while rejecting or refusing to admit the reality of your blunders leads to mental instability.

The honest and humble person will receive God’s favor, as experienced through His redemptive grace. Nobody is as psychologically healthy as the person who admits his sin and is restored by the Sovereign LORD.

God ain’t done with you yet

There is still more irony in God’s mercy to you: He gives you a second chance so He can use you. Our failures do not mean God is done with us. Many times our second chances are God’s way of allowing us to have greater usefulness for Him.

Think about this: you mess up and run the wrong way. God hurls a storm at you and then appoints a big fish to swallow you. You then repent and God’s spins you around, tosses you out, and now you’re heading in the right direction.

Do you believe this? It is an act of faith, you know. God called Jonah a second time to respond in faith and he did. God did more than Jonah could have ever imagined. God did this in spite of Jonah.

Imagine that–what can God do for you and through you if you choose to experience the mercy of God through humble repentance? Don’t get bogged down in the guilt of your failures, but see them as opportunities to turn to the LORD in faith. Then expect Him to do some amazing things for you and through you.

I suppose someone could ask, “Why didn’t God get another prophet?” That is an excellent question. Jonah failed to be used by God, to rescue Nineveh. Jonah chose to run the other way. But God persevered. He would not let go of Jonah.

Maybe God was rescuing more than Nineveh. Could it be God was rescuing Jonah too? Have you ever wondered why God perseveres so long with you?

Sometimes we can be so task oriented we forget some of the greater purposes of God’s work. The story of Jonah was not just about a divine rescue of Nineveh. God is full of mercy–to His children and to His enemies (Matthew 5:45).

Part of God’s mercy is to fix the wrongs we messed up the last time we were supposed to do right. The implication of this passage is quite intrusive. God is digging into Jonah’s heart, while seeking to rescue Nineveh.

  • What areas of your life is God calling you back to?
  • Do you fully understand the redemptive care of God in your life?
  • Can you think about the mission (Nineveh) and think about what God is doing in you?

It’s on you now

Your sin does not disqualify you from the Christian life. That kind of thinking mocks the Gospel. However, you can sit in the belly of a fish for a long time if you want to. It’s on you to follow through on your second chance opportunities.

Or, you can have God spit you out of a whale and send you in a better direction. All you have to do is own your sin, turn to God, and receive His free pardon. Kinda cool.

But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” – Jonah 2:9 (ESV)

The implication of sin and the implication of the Gospel means we need second chances from God. Are you like Jonah? Are you resisting the LORD? Will you be like Jonah and turn from your idols?

God was glorified through Jonah, as he responded to God a second time. There is no doubt it was the LORD who brought Nineveh to repentance, but He chose to use His prophet to bring about their repentance. God will use you if you will accept the second chance He extends to you. This is amazing mercy.

This is part of a nine part series on Jonah–a series of sermons preached at my church in the fall of 2012. You can listen to all of the sermons here. This article series has been published in book form.

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About Rick Thomas

Rick has been training in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1997. After several years as a counselor and pastor he founded and launched his own training organization in order to encourage and equip people for more effective living. In the early ’90’s he earned a BA in Theology. Later he earned a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry and in 2000 he graduated with a MA in Counseling. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow with ACBC. Today his organization reaches people in every country through consulting, training, blogging, and coaching.
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