Well, there is more, much more to the Radical Message of the Kingdom of God. When I think about this Radical Message I think about God’s Grace. And when I think about God’s Grace, I think about Jonah. Let me back up. When I think about God’s Grace in its entirety, of course I think about the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. But today I’m thinking about God’s Grace at work in the human arena of life as it actually happens to each of us. That is why I connect the dots, from Jonah to God’s Grace.
There are a number of things we do in life in which we have only one chance to get it right. For example, if you borrow money from the bank or from a friend and don’t pay it back, you probably won’t get another chance to borrow. If a job promotion is tied to a certain project that you are doing at work, and you muddle the project, you probably won’t get another chance to do the job right, and you’ll miss out on the promotion.
Or, if you invited all your friends to your house for a big party, and then when everyone showed up you said, “I decided I didn’t feel like having a party tonight, why don’t you come back another time?” I doubt if any of your friends would come to another one of your parties. In any of these cases, if the appeal was made, “I’ll do better next time,” more than likely the appeal would be ignored and the second chance would be denied.
Another example: Each Sunday I have one chance to deliver the message that God has laid on my heart that week. What if, after I finished preaching one of those mornings, I was to say, “Folks, I think I can do better. Why don’t we all stay an extra 30 minutes after the service, because I’m sure you’ll enjoy it more the second time around?” How well do you think that idea would go over? How many would stay? I doubt even Debbie would stay. She would say, “Listen, I hear it twice every Sunday. I’m going home.” That’s because everyone pretty much expects me to get it right the first time. And, of course, I don’t blame them.
There are many situations in life in which we have only one chance, and even if you need a second chance, it’s just not available. You had one shot, you blew it, and that’s all there is to it. This is the way it is in many areas of life, and there’s nothing you can do. The good news is that with God, it works differently. With him, we get a second chance. We don’t deserve a second chance, but we get one.
Enter the story of a Jonah. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach the word. Instead, Jonah got on a boat headed for Tarshish, which is basically in the other direction. Once the boat was in the middle of the sea, a storm came along and the boat started to sink. When the sailors found out that they had a backslidden preacher in their midst, they tossed him overboard.
Believe it or not, getting tossed out was Jonah’s own idea. Apparently he decided he would rather die than repent. So he allowed himself to be hurled into the sea. I’m sure everyone thought that was the end of Jonah, but God had other plans. A great big fish came along and swallowed Jonah.
Then, the Bible says three days later, 2:10— Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. The very next verse is one of the most encouraging verses in all of scripture. (3:1) Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time. Jonah got a second chance from God. He didn’t deserve it, but he got it. This is God’s grace at work; this is what He does. Even if we blow it the first time, God gives us a chance to try again. This is good news, because without exception, from time to time we all need a second chance from God.
There’s only one way to interpret Jonah’s behavior. He sinned. God said, “Go to Nineveh” and Jonah said, “No.” In Jonah’s story we learn an important truth: God Could Have Given Up On Jonah—Some May Even Say God Should Have Given Up On Jonah—But God Was Gracious To Jonah—He Gave Him A Second Chance. The story of Jonah teaches us that God’s grace is greater than our sin, and there are simply some things our sin cannot change.
It is God’s nature to give a second chance. Nothing can change that. He forgives and lets you try again and again and as often as you need it. Your boss, your coach, your teacher, your spouse may not give you a second chance, but God will—He Is The God Of The Second Chance. His grace is greater than our sin. We tend to think in human terms. But God is not human nor does He think and react the way we humans tend to think and react.
We make the mistake of thinking that once we have blown it, we can never get back on track—God can never use us again. The story of Jonah shows us this simply isn’t true. If you have been running from God or even God’s plan and purpose, and you are now ready to come back, God is willing to pick up where you left off. If you have blown it, it doesn’t mean you’ve blown it forever. He will bring you back to the place He wants you to be, and He will forgive those sins. Period. They become part of the past, and there are some things your past sin doesn’t change.
And in the next post we will look at some of the things our past sin doesn’t change. And remember, love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!