Does God give second chances? The large majority of Americans believe this to be true. According to a recent LifeWay Research survey, more than 80% of respondents “Strongly Agree” or “Somewhat Agree” that God gives second chances (84%). Among Christians, the number jumps to more than 93% believing that God gives second chances.
In some ways it seems like a no-brainer. If God did not give second chances, how would any of us still be alive? The writer of Psalm 103 may have had this in mind when saying,
“For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14, HCSB).
In another place we read the question,
“Yahweh, if You considered sins, Lord, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:4)
God, in His wisdom, knows we will need second chances and sometimes third, fourth, and fifth chances as well!
Second Chance: Jonah
A clear example in scripture of God giving someone a second chance is in the case of the Old Testament prophet, Jonah. After a failed attempt to flee from God’s presence – and from God’s mission for him – Jonah found himself in the stomach of a large fish. While riding in his underwater taxi, the prophet had a personal revival. As a result, he found himself on the seashore, much closer geographically to his original assignment: preach judgment to the city of Nineveh.
Jonah did ultimately preach, and all of Nineveh repented. Even though Jonah was not thrilled about the revival itself, God did use him during his second chance. God’s will was accomplished, even if Jonah’s was not.
With scripture as a guide we can see this: God may extend a second chance when we repent of the sin that brought the need for the second chance. God will accomplish His will, and He does invite us to participate. However, He will not abide sin. Once sin is repented of, however, God may offer a second chance.
This second chance, however, is not guaranteed. Adam and Eve did not receive a second chance after sin entered the world (Genesis 3:24). Nor did Ananias and Sapphira receive a second chance after lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11).
The Big Picture
One important distinction to make is that God’s second chances may involve a larger picture than we see. That is, God may not extend a second chance on a specific failure. However, He may extend many chances over the course of a person’s life. Ultimate Christ-likeness is God’s goal, not our opportunity to get something right we got wrong the first time around.
We should approach life knowing that God has great patience, but let us not presume upon God’s patience. We should never assume any opportunity besides the one before us.
Bible Studies for Life takes the approach that life happens best in a community of believers. This helps minimize the need for second chances. However, our small groups exist to be your support when and if you do. As we spur each other on to love and good deeds, and disciple people with wisdom, our pursuit of God becomes more focused, and, prayerfully our sins less frequent. As the prophet Samuel said,
“To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd
Senior Pastor, Cross Church Northwest Arkansas
General Editor, Bible Studies for Life