How Is God a God of Second Chances?
Thankfully, the Bible is full of examples of God being a God of second chances. What’s more, God’s Word repeatedly says He doesn’t want anyone to perish, no matter what they’ve done.
Instead, God wants them to turn from their God-rejecting ways and turn back to Him. This changes how we pray, live, and rejoice.
Stories of Second Chances
Adam and Eve are the first examples of God’s desire that none perish, but that all come to repentance. We sometimes forget that the Lord sacrificed large animals and made clothes to cover their nakedness.
And He stayed active in Adam and Eve’s lives here on earth for nearly a millennium. God never gave up on them (Genesis 1-5).
Abraham and Sarah both received second and third chances from the Lord. We sometimes forget that it took 10 full chapters before Abraham fully obeyed the Lord and did so right away. We’re talking about nearly 40 years of second chances! (Genesis 12-22).
David broke half of the Ten Commandments in one fell swoop. Coveting. Abuse of power. Adultery. Treachery. Murdering one of his most loyal men, marrying his widow, and covering it up.
When I first read his story, I was thrilled to share his name. When I read the rest of the story, I was ready to change my name. But God! (2 Samuel 11; Psalm 51).
Manasseh was by far the worst descendant of David. As king, Manasseh abhorred the Lord, desecrated His temple, destroyed every copy of the Hebrew scriptures that his men could find, oppressed God’s people, and actively promoted the wicked worship of pagan “gods.”
From his grimy cell on Babylon’s death row, Manasseh looked up to the God of his fathers and prayed for deliverance. After Manasseh’s return, he led a mighty revival.
His story shows that before death, it’s not too late to turn to God for forgiveness, no matter what we’ve done (2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33).
Matthew was the scum of the earth when Jesus called him to “Follow me.” So, when he threw a dinner party that evening, guess who received invitations? More scum of the earth.
The religious leaders saw red, but Jesus reminded them that God is the God of second chances. Matthew knew that truth beyond any shadow of a doubt (Matthew 9:9;10:3; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32).
Zacchaeus was the scum of the earth, too. But when Jesus told him to throw a dinner party in His honor, Zacchaeus publicly repented of his sins, offered to pay restitution four times over, and pledged to give half of his wealth to the poor.
In response, “Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’” (Luke 19:1-10).
A few pages earlier in Luke’s gospel, Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son to make the point that our heavenly Father truly is the God of second chances. And, yes, the father threw a celebratory dinner party (Luke 15:11-24).
A few pages before that, during yet another dinner party, a woman anointed Jesus’ feet, and He forgave her sins. Conversely, Jesus rebuked the party host, Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50).
Bible Verses about Second Chances
In Isaiah 48:9, the Lord says, “For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely.”
In Jeremiah 36:3, the Lord says, “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.”
Ezekiel 18:23 says, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”
Ezekiel 18:32 says, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”
Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’”
Jonah 3:10 says, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”
In Matthew 18:14, Jesus says, “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
Second Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Living with a Second Chance
Writing to his protege, Timothy, Paul makes this point: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Why are these prayers of ours so important?
First, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2).
Second, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:3).
Third, “God our Savior…wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Prayers for a Second Chance
I keep coming back to the truths in this article. I thrill at every Bible story and Bible verse. I thank God daily for Paul’s words to Timothy. I’ve written down the name of every person I know who needs the God of second chances.
And I pray week in and week out for each of them to turn back to God. Some have and I continually rejoice. Most haven’t yet but I rest assured that it’s God’s heartfelt desire that they do.
Second Chances Today
Kim Dilworth’s story. For more than a decade, Kim Dilworth was an aspiring young television news reporter on a mission to get to the top. She went from station to station, state to state, and finally landed a job in one of the largest television stations in America.
All this time God was whispering in her ear: “Kim, come home. You’ve forgotten what’s most important in your life.” But she was always off to another breaking story.
Then she learned about pain. “Kim,” the news director said, “we aren’t going to renew your contract.”
No reason, no explanation, no joke! In one minute, she went from being a recognized television personality to being an unemployed single woman.
Embarrassed and confused, Kim went to the only place she could think of to hide: the woods. She stomped through miles of trail. “Please, God, give me back my life!” she pleaded.
Along one trail, an old tree stump caught Kim’s attention. Someone with a big chainsaw had reduced a beautiful oak tree to ruins. It’s just like my life, Kim thought, destroyed in minutes.
Kim got another job as a freelance reporter right away. “Thank you, God!” she exclaimed, thinking that was her miracle. But then she began noticing billboards, bus boards, and yard signs all over town advertising a big music festival with a gospel message.
She didn’t want to miss it. She listened as Luis Palau delivered a simple message: “We are all like sheep, each gone our own way. But God laid on Jesus the sins of us all.” Kim had heard those words a hundred times and always considered herself a Christian. “But truth be told,” she told me later, “I had never fully surrendered to God. I decided it was time I did.”
Afterward, Kim joined a local church, was baptized, and went to work for a ministry helping the urban poor.
A couple of years later, Kim went on a hike and found herself back at that old stump. To her surprise, a strong young sapling had sprouted out of the ruins and was growing straight toward the sky.