Have you ever wished you could have a second chance in life? Have you ever done something that you deeply regretted the moment you did it?
We have all made mistakes. We have all done things that we know are wrong. But I have good news for you: God gives second chances … and third ones … and fourth ones … and fifth ones.
Jonah was a man who was given a second chance in life. He was given a job to do, but he basically refused. He was told to go and preach to some people known as the Ninevites, and he said no. Then he boarded a boat going in the opposite direction.
But Jonah found out that it’s impossible to run from God. A great storm came, and he told the terrified crew that if they threw him overboard, the storm would stop. So over the side he went.
The Bible says that “a great fish” swallowed Jonah. This may have been a fish or a whale. In the original language, the term is sea creature. It might be something that exists today or something that no longer exists. Whatever it was, it swallowed Jonah.
Then, in the creature’s stomach, Jonah prayed to God – after he already had been there for three days and nights. Talk about stubborn. I can imagine him wrapped in seaweed, little fish smacking him in the face, saying, “I’m not praying. I’m not budging.” But finally Jonah cried out to God for help.
God directed the fish to the shore of Nineveh, where it opened its mouth and vomited up Jonah. Can you imagine sitting on the beach in Nineveh, catching some rays, and you suddenly see something just off the shoreline. You say to your friend, “Wow. What is that? A boat coming in? Whoa! That looks like a fish. It’s opening its mouth. … Oh no! Sick!”
Out jumps Jonah, who warned the Ninevites of the coming judgment. God loved Nineveh, even though the people were sinful. And amazingly, the Ninevites repented after Jonah preached to them. Some 600,000 people turned to God, and he spared them. He didn’t judge them; he gave them a second chance. And he gave Jonah a second chance as well.
God accomplished His purposes through a storm and a large fish. Sometimes it takes something radical to get our attention. We think we’re indestructible. “Oh, that won’t happen to me. That may happen to other people, but never to me.” Then something takes place in our lives that’s a wake-up call.
Have you had a wake-up call in life recently? Maybe it was a close brush with death. Maybe someone close to you suddenly died or got cancer, or something happened that caused you to start thinking about the big issues of life.
Are you running from God? I heard the story of a lawyer who was trying to deliver an important paper to someone. Thinking it was some kind of a subpoena, the intended recipient avoided the attorney. But this was a very persistent attorney, and he would not give up. This went on for 14 years, until the man ended up in a hospital bed, dying of cancer. As he was lying there, the lawyer wheeled up next to him with the paper.
The man said, “I don’t even care anymore. I’m dying of cancer. Give me the subpoena.”
“What subpoena?” the lawyer asked. “I have a document here to prove that you’ve inherited $45 million dollars!”
That is how it is when we’re running from God. We’re effectively saying, “Get away from me, God, with your forgiveness and your love and your mercy. I want to live the way I want to live.”
Maybe you’ve run from God your entire life. Maybe you were raised in a Christian home and thought, “This is a complete drag. I don’t want to live as a Christian. I don’t want to go to church. I don’t want to live by what the Bible says. I want to go out and have fun. I want to do what I want to do.”
Let me ask you a question: How is that working out for you? After you’ve been out there for a while and have tasted some of the things this culture and this world have to offer, it’s pretty easy to burn out and see the emptiness of it all. Have you come to that point in your life?
I reached total burnout at the ripe old age of 17. I was raised in everything the world had to offer. I saw my mom get married and divorced seven times. She essentially destroyed her life through drinking and partying and the rest. Then I got into the same scene. I pretty much sampled from everything this world offers, and I knew at the age of 17 that it wasn’t where it’s at. I didn’t know where the answer was, but I knew where it wasn’t.
And through a process of elimination, for the first time in my life, I thought, “I’ll check out what the Bible says.” And I found what I had been looking for in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
There is nothing new under the sun. Solomon, who had 700 wives and 300 concubines, wrote, “Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless – like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” (Ecclesiastes 2:10–11 NLT).
Do you need a second chance in life? God can forgive you, wipe your slate clean and give you a fresh start in life. No matter what you’ve done wrong in your life, no matter what sins you’ve committed, God can and will forgive you if you will turn to him.
Greg Laurie is an American author and pastor who serves as the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, Harvest Church at Kumulani in Kapalua, Hawaii, and Harvest Orange County in Irvine, California. His newest book “Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today” about the last great spiritual awakening in America, is available now! You can find it here: http://a.co/d/015o082