The God of the Second Chance
The God of the Second Chance
‘You never get a second chance at a first impression,’ goes the saying, but social media profiles, online communities and virtual gaming provide, for some, an opportunity to seek a second chance in life.
‘Second Life’ is a virtual world. Over twenty million people have created a Second Life character, through which they can live in this new world. They are looking for another chance in life.
‘Second Life’ describes itself as a place ‘to connect… to change yourself, to change your mind, change your look… to be different’.
This virtual world is clear evidence of the longing of so many for a fresh start. Yet, in reality, God is the God of the second chance and third and many, many more. He gives us countless chances to turn back to him and enjoy his love again. God doesn’t just give us a ‘second life’ – he comes to us and transforms our real life.
Make a fresh startPsalm 85:1-7
Like so many of us, the psalmist wants an opportunity to make a fresh start in life. He cries out to God, ‘help us make a fresh start’ (v.6, MSG).
God is not wishy-washy. He hates sin. There is such a thing as righteous anger (v.5). It is one side of God’s love. But the psalmist knows that this righteous anger is not contrary to God’s unfailing love, and in this psalm we see both side by side.
God forgives: ‘You lifted the cloud of guilt from your people, you put their sins far out of sight… you cooled your hot, righteous anger’ (vv.2–3, MSG).
When you turn back to God he restores and revives you through his ‘unfailing love’ (v.7). The psalmist prays, ‘Restore us again… Will you not revive us again’ (vv.4,6).
Lord, thank you that you give me so many chances. Restore and revive me again, that I may rejoice in you.
Enjoy a radical life changeRomans 2:1-16
God loves you. He wants the very best for your life. He does not want you to mess up your life. Sin takes us ‘on a dark spiral downwards’ (v.1, MSG). ‘God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change’ (v.4, MSG).
Paul speaks of the ‘wrath’ of God (vv.5,8). This is God’s loving, righteous anger against sin. But Paul does not begin with the ‘wrath’ of God. He begins with ‘the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience’ (v.4). God is love. His anger is the very last resort – for those who are ‘self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil’ (v.8).
God loves everyone. He ‘does not show favouritism’ (v.11). He loves both Jew and Gentile alike. God is impartial. He is a righteous judge.
All of us have sinned and have no excuse: ‘Every time you criticise someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanours’ (v.1, MSG).
It is so easy to judge other people about the very things we do ourselves. We tend to look at ourselves through rose-tinted glasses and look at everyone else through a magnifying glass. A judgmental mind focuses on what is wrong with others, rather than on what is right.
The opening five books of the Old Testament establish God’s relationship with his people and give instructions on how to live. But ‘merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands’ (v.13, MSG). So all of us will be judged by what we know. For some, that will be God’s law, for others their own consciences: ‘Something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong’ (v.15, MSG).
All of us need to repent. God’s kindness is intended to lead us to repentance. The moment you repent and turn to God, you get another chance, the possibility of a new life. Repentance is not just about turning away from sin but turning towards God.
Lord, forgive me for the times when I judge others. Thank you that every day is an opportunity for a new start, another chance.
Seize a second chanceJonah 1:1-4:11
Jonah is different from all the other prophets. As Eugene Peterson writes, ‘He is not a hero too high and mighty for us to identify with – he doesn’t do anything great.’
The book starts with Jonah disobeying God and ends with him complaining about what God has done. He is a man who suffered from severe depression. God works within and around Jonah’s weaknesses to accomplish his purposes.
Each of these four short chapters tells us something about God’s love:
- God’s love will never let you go (Chapter 1)
You cannot successfully run away from God or from his call. Jonah was a well-known preacher (2 Kings 14:25). He is told to go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:2). Instead, he runs to Tarshish – which is now the Costa Brava in southwest Spain (but Jonah was not there for a holiday!).
You can run from God, but you cannot hide. Jonah ends up in a mess. It is so easy to think that our own disobedience will not affect anyone but us. This story shows that our disobedience has consequences for other people.
Sometimes the storms we face in life are the result of our own disobedience. A storm rages, and Jonah knows it is his fault. He is prepared to die and demands to be thrown into the sea, but ‘the Lord provided a great fish’ (v.17). God’s love would not let him go.
- God’s love can reach you no matter how far you’ve fallen (Chapter 2)
No matter how desperate or hopeless your situation may seem, it is never too late. When he hit rock bottom, from inside the fish Jonah prayed: ‘In my distress I called to the Lord… you listened to my cry’ (2:2).
He recognised what we miss out on when we do not follow the Lord. ‘Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs’ (v.8). It is so easy to put our trust in something other than God. We can so often put our trust in the 'idols’ of money, success, fame or sex. Anything that takes you away from God prevents you from receiving the grace that can be yours.
There is no situation that God cannot rescue you from if you cry out to him.
- God’s love means you get another chance (Chapter 3)
God was persistent in giving Jonah a second chance and when Jonah took him up on it, the result was an eternal impact on many people’s lives.
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you’ (3:2). The first time he messed up; the second time God used him powerfully.
Not only did God give Jonah a second chance, he also gave the city of Nineveh a second chance.
Nineveh was a great city (1:2; 3:2). It had more than 120,000 people (4:11). As a result of Jonah’s message, the people repented; they believed (3:5). The king believed (vv.7–9). Revival came as a result of one person’s preaching. Thousands were saved (v.10).
- God’s love extends to all his creation (Chapter 4)
God loves everyone and wants to be merciful to every person, city and nation on earth.
After all the success of his evangelistic campaign, Jonah fell into another deep depression. He was angry with God (4:1). Jonah was quick to anger, unlike God who is ‘sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!’ (v.2, MSG).
We see now why Jonah ran away in the first place. He was angry that they had repented. The Ninevites were cruel oppressors. They were into witchcraft, torture, greed and prostitution. Yet, they repented and God forgave them. Still, today, some find it hard when really evil people repent and God forgives them.
God sent Jonah a visual aid. He provided a plant to give him shade. He was thrilled with it. Then God destroyed it (v.7). But God pointed out his great love for all his creation (unlike Jonah’s concerns, which are rather narrow and selfish, vv.10–11).
One of God’s amazing characteristics is mercy. Mercy means being kind and good to people who do not deserve it. God has extended his mercy to you and me through Jesus Christ and his mercy never runs out.
Lord, thank you for your great love. Thank you that even when I have messed up, you give me another chance. Help me to bring the good news of your love to others so that they too may turn back to your love.
Jonah worried more about looking good than saving the lives of thousands of people. It matters what we do, not what we look like.
Verse of the Day
‘From the depths of the grave I called for help,
and you listened to my cry’ (Jonah 2:2).
Second Life quote cited in, Robert M. Geraci, Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life, (OUP USA, 2014), p.101
Eugene Peterson, The Message, 'Introduction to Jonah', (NavPress, 1993), p.1265
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.