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Admitting Failure Gives You a Second Chance From God

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

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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

We came into the world needing a second chance, which 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 provides us many other second opportunities after we are born again because the gospel applies to our salvation and 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 was not, which makes Jonah similar to 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 will need second chances until He glorifies us fully with Him in heaven.

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 thinking. 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 is as different as heading east when you are supposed to go 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 am not sure how long it took Jonah to perceive the clues, but 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 are stubborn.

  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 repeated rigmarole.

The Rules of Gospel Engagement

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

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

Unregenerate people are without hope; and Christians who do not understand the practical implications of the gospel. These two people groups do not confront their problems the right way. Gospel people see their failures as opportunities for change; there is a 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… – Jonah 3:1

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 the Lord 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 had begun in you?

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

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

It is morbid for people who do not understand the rules of gospel engagement. The gospel keeps you from morbid introspection, or what some would call worm theology.

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Damning Danger of Too Much Introspection

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

You will find patterns in the thoughts of people who cannot 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

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

Running to Your Second Chance

I am 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, which is one of the underrated blessings of being a Christian.

Maybe it is underrated because we do not 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 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 that the Lord provides.

  • 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 that will keep you from enjoying the second chance God will mercifully give to anyone who calls upon Him (Romans 10:13).

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” 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

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

It is self-righteousness, the ultimate grace killer. Christ helps broken people. The gospel is for sick people–the unrighteous. There is irony here. Though you do not want to make a mistake, it is through your mistakes that God can help you.

This realization 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. You fail. God’s restores. And through His restorative work, you are matured, and He is glorified.

Grace comes to the lowly, not the exalted, which is why accepting the reality of your blunders is ultimately healthy to your psyche, while rejecting or refusing to admit the existence of your errors 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. God is not finished with you just because you failed. Many times your second chances are God’s way of allowing you to have more significant usefulness for Him.

Think about this: you mess up and run the wrong way. God hurls a storm at you and appoints a big fish to swallow you. You repent, and God’s spins you around, tosses you out, and now you are 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? Do not become 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 fantastic 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 saving Jonah too? Have you ever wondered why God perseveres so long with you?

Sometimes we can be so task-oriented that we forget some of the higher 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 His enemies (Matthew 5:45).

Part of God’s mercy is to fix the wrongs you messed up the last time you 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 respond a different way?
  • 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. But you can sit in the belly of a fish for a long time if you want to. It is up you to follow through on your second chance opportunities.

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.

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

The implication of sin, as well as the gospel, is that 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 Jonah 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 accept the second chance He extends to you, which comes from His amazing mercy.

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