“The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” This brief phrase, easily overlooked, reveals a great deal about God’s character. God is the God of the second chance. If you miss that discovery, you miss the message of the book of Jonah, not to mention, the entire Bible. God doesn’t turn a deaf ear or a cold shoulder to the repentant—no matter how blatant the rebellion or which border the runaway crosses.
A failure is an event, not a person. There is a vast difference between who one is and what one does. One mistake or one hundred mistakes does not make a failure. We are God’s special treasures. We are of extreme value to God.
The movie City Slickers is about three New Yorkers who are approaching midlife crises. They decide to take an adventure vacation; a cattle drive out West.
Phil’s life was a wreck. He was in a meaningless job at his father-in-law’s grocery store, and he was facing a divorce. In one scene, he and his buddies are in a tent. Phil breaks down and begins crying. “I’m at a dead end!” he sobbed. “I’m almost forty years old; I’ve wasted my life!”
One of his friends tried to console him. “But now you’ve got a chance to start over,” he said. “Remember when we were kids and we’d be playing ball and the ball would get stuck up in a tree or something? We’d yell, ‘Do over!’ Look, Phil—your life is a do-over. You’ve got a clean slate!”
As I watched the scene, I thought, How is a guy like Phil ever really going to be helped? And the answer is only through the kind of do-over that he can get from God. After all, God is the world’s biggest dispenser of do-overs. He loves granting them to contrite and humble recipients.
Individuals like Phil, and Jonah, and you and me, can wish we’d never committed the wrongs we have, or try to paper over them like they never really happened, or try to deal with them on our own. But God says, “I can erase them so you can start over. I can forgive you, and I can help you begin again.”
Forgiveness frees us from our indebtedness that we could never repay. It casts us on the resources of God’s amazing grace. It restores us to usefulness in society. It removes us from the torment of guilt.
We should reject the notion that if we turn away from God’s will we are forever thrown on the ash heap. Satan likes to muddle us into thinking that we are beyond salvage, doomed to meaninglessness. Don’t believe it. Hear from the megaphone of God’s Word that God is in the salvage reclamation business. He delights in transforming us into something beautiful and useful. God never discards a repentant life. Restoration qualifies us for renewed service. No matter what the disobedience, God wants to restore, reinstate, and reshape your life.
The most meaningless statistic in a basketball game is the half-time score. God wants you, like Jonah, to get up and go on back into the game.
You have a second chance.
How has God given you a second chance?
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