SecondChancesGiftHand “I Need a Second Chance."

How many times have we requested a second chance? Probably every time we’ve done something wrong. The sequence is one we know well. We make a big mistake. Our mistake results in a big mess. Our big mess leads to major misery. In the midst of our misery we consider our losses and we admit, “I need a second chance.” Because of our human weaknesses and shortcoming we are all in a desperate need for second chances. Without second chances life seems hopeless; with second chances there is hope for a better future. A second chance is a welcomed gift—the gift of starting over.

On a recent road trip I noticed a sign beside the highway that advertised an automobile repair shop. The name of the shop really caught my attention:  “2nd Chance Collision Repair & Custom Painting.” In my ponderings I imagined a new car that was involved in a major collision. Due to the extensive damage the insurance adjustor was tempted to “total out” the car, but the car requested a second chance. “Please take me to the 2nd Chance repair shop. Give me another chance. I don’t want to be totaled and dismantled for parts or sold as junk. I can be a good useful car if you'll just give me a second chance.” The car in SecondChancesAutoRepairquestion might have caused the collision or perhaps it was the unsuspecting victim involved in the highway crash. Either way the car was in major misery—and needed a second chance.

I also imagined the driver of the car in question. Perhaps he is seriously hurt with life-threatening injuries. Without medical attention he will die at the scene of the accident. However, he wants a second chance. The paramedics arrive, administer appropriate aid, and take the injured man to the nearest hospital where he undergoes emergency surgery. He survives the surgery and his life is spared. During the next few months he completes an extensive program of physical rehabilitation after which he returns to his normal lifestyle. This man wanted—and received—a second chance in life. Without doubt motor vehicle accidents cause a great deal of damage to both automobiles and people. For both cars and people the need for a second chance becomes a vital issue.

Human beings are very prone to crashes and collisions as they travel the Highway of Life. Through these wrecks lives are often abruptly altered and dramatically changed. Sometimes we cause the wrecks. At other times we are the innocent victims. Either way, damage is done and we need a second chance. But what if there is no second chance? What if we are allowed only one mistake and then we get “totaled”? What if we have to live by the “one strike and you’re out” rule? A “no second chance” lifestyle is not the preferred way to live. An effective journey on life’s highway requires hope, and hope is generated and sustained by a second-chance mentality and lifestyle.

Most people know firsthand the value of a second chance. The dying woman who receives a life-saving heart transplant gets a second chance because someone chose to be an organ donor. The prisoner with a life-long prison sentence gets a second chance when the Parole Board chooses to issue an official parole, allowing the convicted person to leave the prison with the opportunity to start over. The adulterous man receives a second chance when his wife agrees to forget the divorce and to work on reconciliation and restoration. The irresponsible SecondChancesNeedx4employee gets a second chance when his boss accepts his apology and changes a decision to terminate into a decision to allow a three-month probationary period for personal improvement.

Most of us like to think about second chances. We like movies in which someone gets a second chance. We listen to songs that describe second chances. We read stories from our literature books about individuals who needed and received a second chance. There’s something about second chances that touches the human heart. Perhaps the connection is the reality that we know deep within us that we are all individuals who need the gift of a second chance.

Let’s stop for a moment and reflect upon our own personal journeys thus far in life. How many times have we needed and requested a second chance? What second chances have been extended to us? What was our reaction to the second chance? How many times have we been refused a second chance? What was our reaction to the refusal? What has been the most significant second chance we’ve ever been given? How have we used the second chance to improve ourselves? How often have we extended a second chance to someone who offended or betrayed us? What was that experience like for us? On what occasions have we extended a second chance to ourselves? These questions can generate important insights about ourselves and other people. Hopefully, the reflection activity will increase our commitment to a lifestyle of giving and receiving the gift of second chances.

                                                       THE GIFT OF SECOND CHANCES

A second chance lifestyle requires a special spirit, a specific type of mentality or belief system. We must believe that extending and receiving second chances is the best way to experience a healthy and effective journey through life. That belief creates within us an inner spirit that allows for the extension and the receipt of second chances.

Giving a Second Chance to Others . . .

We need a special spirit in regard to extending the gift of a second chance to other people. We must be different from those individuals who reject the concept of second chances categorically, for they believe that one chance is all one should get. For these folks there is no opportunity for a “redo”; there is no “control z” computer command for life’s mistakes. In contrast, we can choose a second chance lifestyle and start developing the qualities that are inherently necessary to that way of life. So, we need to ask, “What are these qualities that we need to develop?”  

First, we need a compassionate spirit. We recognize the human condition and we realize that everyone messes up at times. We look at someone’s mistake and we think, ‘I’ve been there and done that.” We understand that we’re “in the same boat together.” We feel a genuine sense of caring for the other person and our compassion compels us toward helpful action.

Secondly, we need a forgiving spirit. We choose to forgive the offense, whatever it is. Thirdly, we need a patient spirit. The person to whom we extend the second chance will probably need time to make changes for personal improvement. We have to be patient with the other person during the growth process. Finally, we need a discerning spirit that enables us to hold the offender accountable and responsible for his misconduct. We need to discern which consequences to remove and which consequences to allow the offender to experience. In certain situations the offender may need to incur certain penalties or consequences even if personal forgiveness has been extended. Being forgiven is not a guarantee that the offender will get everything restored to him. His second chance could involve the pain of personal losses and the struggle of changing long-held patterns of behavior.

Receiving a Second Chance from Others . . .
We also need a special spirit in regard to receiving the gift of a second chance from other people after we’ve made a significant mistake. Interestingly, some people are reluctant to accept and use a second chance even though one is extended to them. They have certain beliefs or attitudes that prevent them from receiving second chances. However, it is to our distinct advantage to be willing and able to receive second chances when we need them. What kind of inner spirit do we need to have in order to be effective recipients of second chances? First, we need a humble spirit which allows us to acknowledge or admit that we’ve messed up in some significant way. Secondly, we need a penitent spirit that makes us determine to stop the misconduct and to live a better lifestyle. Thirdly, we need an assertive spirit that pushes us to ask for and to accept a second chance. Finally, we need a learning spirit through which we gain insight and wisdom as a result of our mistakes. When we receive a second chance we have a much-needed opportunity to learn from the past and to make a better future. The opportunity for a second chance is a gift to be cherished deeply and used wisely. It’s the gift of starting over. When we receive that gift let’s make the most of it. 

Giving a Second Chance to Oneself . . .

Another person who often needs a second chance is oneself. Strangely enough, some individuals seem to be very willing to extend the gift of a second chance to other people, but they refuse to offer the same gift to themselves. Let’s suppose that you make a major mistake and in doing so you betray yourself. You’ve violated your value system and lost your personal integrity. You’re extremely disappointed in yourself. You begin beating yourself up and putting yourself down. Before long you’ve given up on yourself. For all practical purposes life is over. You label yourself with terms like “I’m a loser,” “I’m a bad person,” “I don’t deserve anything good,” and “I’m not worthy of a second chance.” You condemn yourself to a life of failure and you continue to live in misery. The truth is clear:  you do not deserve a second chance. Yet another important truth is also clear: you need a second chance. So, choose to have that inner special spirit that allows you to extend mercy to yourself. Be compassionate toward yourself. Give yourself the precious gift of a second chance. Take responsibility and be accountable for your mistake. Forgive yourself. Work through the guilt. Deal with the logical or natural consequences that result from your mistake. Learn from your mistake, develop a realistic plan for improvement, and work your plan with all the commitment and strength available to you. Through giving yourself a second chance you’ve chosen to travel on a new and better roadway in life—The Second Chance Highway!  

                                                       THE GRACE OF SECOND CHANCES

A second chance is indeed a precious gift we need to give and to receive. Life would be better for us all if we were individually committed to a lifestyle of giving and receiving second chances. That lifestyle is certainly available to each of us, but it is possible only if we incorporate into our lives the marvelous ingredient of grace. The word “grace” is often defined as “mercy” or “unmerited favor.” Clearly, justice is what we deserve but mercy is what we need. If life is based upon pure justice no one would ever get a second chance. However, when we base our lives upon grace a second chance is possible for any of us. When we are motivated and maintained by grace we are willing to give the gift of second chances to other people—and to ourselves as needed.  

The concept of grace is deeply rooted in spirituality. In particular, the Christian faith as described in the Scriptures is grounded in grace—the grace that God extends to his creation, and the grace that Christians extend to one another and to the world in general. Because of his marvelous grace God could be thought of as “The God of a Second Chance.” That truth is illustrated beautifully in a parable told by Jesus recorded in Luke 15. A young man demands his inheritance from his father. Upon receiving the inheritance the son travels to a foreign city where he wastes his money in hedonistic pursuits. Soon his money is gone and he is personally bankrupt. He is forced to work at manual labor or to beg for his basic survival needs. In his misery he remembers his life back home, and he realizes that even his father’s servants were much better off than he is now. He decides to return home and ask his father to allow him to live there as a servant. So he makes his way home. Apparently his father has been watching and waiting for his return. Seeing the son at a distance the father literally runs to meet the son. With a grace-filled heart the father embraces and kisses his prodigal son. The young man asks to be received as a servant, but the father will have nothing of that. Instead, he gives his son not what he deserves but rather what he needs. The son is given a second chance. He is received back as a son and is given new clothing for his body, a ring for his finger, and a huge party as a celebration. As a parable the story is about God, the heavenly father who extends grace in the form of second chances to penitent individuals who place their trust in him. The story is about you and me, for we are the prodigals who are lost in misery and in need of restoration through a second chance. If God were not a God of grace we would be doomed in our misery. Since God is a God of grace we have the opportunity for a second chance.

Another illustration of grace-given second chances is the story of a woman who had been caught in an adulterous relationship, recorded in Scripture in John 8. The Jews brought the woman to Jesus to see how he would deal with the situation. They made reference to the “Law” and stated that the woman should be stoned to death. Surely Jesus would agree with them and condemn her to the death she deserved. However, he responded differently and thereby deeply disappointed the blood-thirsty Jews. He could not legally condemn the woman because the requirements of the Law of Moses had not been met (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 17:6-7; 22:22). A minimum of two eyewitnesses was required, and those eyewitnesses were not present to condemn her and throw the first stone. Both the man and woman were to be punished, but in this case the adulterous man had not been brought with the woman. Legally, Jesus could not pursue the matter without violating the specific requirements of the Law of Moses regarding capital punishment for adultery. Since he could not legally convict the woman Jesus chose to extend grace and to give her a second chance. In doing so he commanded her to change her behavior:  “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11 NIV)  His extension of grace did not nullify the necessity of a change in lifestyle. The second chance she received from Jesus was not a license to continue in immoral sexual behavior.

A third example of second chances is the apostle Paul. Reared as a devout Jew he became a zealous persecutor of Christians, imprisoning many of them and even putting some of them to death. Through his conversion to Jesus he received a second chance. In his own words Paul described himself as the worst (or chief) of sinners, but he received the grace of God in the form of his second chance. (I Tim. 1:13-16)

Paul was given the gift of starting over, and he used that gift wisely to become the kind of man God wanted him to be. Thankful for his new start in life Paul began to extend God’s second chances to individuals who needed the gift of starting over. His new way of thinking and his new lifestyle are reflected in his inspired writings. For example, in Eph. 2:1-10 Paul describes a lifestyle of sinful behavior as spiritual death. He states that all people are in that state of death. That’s the bad news. Then he presents the good news. The individuals who choose to trust in Jesus are made alive and are given a chance to start over. This second chance that individuals receive by grace through faith is described as the “gift” of God. This “bad news” and “good news” theme is found throughout Paul’s writings. Another example was the group of Christians who lived in Corinth. They lived in the midst of a pagan culture that rejected God and promoted sinful lifestyles. Prior to their conversion they were lost spiritually and were dead in their sin. Clearly, they all needed a second chance. Paul’s description of “what was” and “what is” provides a marvelous illustration of second chances by the grace of God.
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:  Neither the sexually immoral nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 6:9-11 NIV)

Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians that they had practiced these behaviors and were therefore lost spiritually. As long as they continued in these sinful acts they could not inherit God’s kingdom. Paul tells them “that is what some of you were.” That state was the “bad news.” Then he reminds them that they had received from God by grace a second chance: “you were washed . . . sanctified . . . justified.” They stopped their sinful behavior and began living the Christian life. They were given a second chance—the gift of starting over. That opportunity was indeed good news. It is vitally important to note that a second chance with its inherent forgiveness was not a license or a liberty to continue wrong behavior. Paul described their sinful actions as past behavior (“such were some of you…”). For example, the individual who had lived a lifestyle of drunkenness was expected to stop the alcoholic behavior. The ability to stop the wrong behavior was certainly within the control of the individual. God would never command someone to stop a behavior that was literally outside of that person’s control. The drunkard could not use personal genetics or family conditioning or difficult circumstances to justify a continuation of the wrong behavior. Without doubt the alcoholic struggled daily to maintain sobriety, but his goal was to abstain from the sinful lifestyle.  He could be successful in his second chance in that he relied upon God’s grace and upon the grace extended to him by fellow Christians. The same process was necessary for every other sinful pattern identified by the apostle Paul in his inspired writings.SescondChancesGraceArrow

Numerous other examples could be cited from Scripture that reflect the role of grace in the gift of second chances. How does that grace affect us today? In regard to spirituality and grace we understand from Scripture that Jesus’ church is comprised of saved individuals, each of whom has needed and has received from God the gift of a second chance. The message Paul wrote to the Corinthian church is the same truth for us today that it was for them in the first century. In the 21st Century people who commit the same sinful behavior as did the Corinthians can change their lifestyles to harmonize with God’s desire for his creation. This opportunity for starting over is a good-news message! In a real sense the church in any generation could be thought of as “The Church of Second Chances.” Literally, 100% of the church membership are “second-chance people” in that they have each been given grace in the form of forgiveness and restoration. Because of grace each member is given a much-needed gift: the opportunity of starting over with a “newness of life.” (Rom. 6:1-4; II Cor. 5:17) Jesus wants all Christians to imitate him and practice a second-chance theology on a daily basis. The Christian lifestyle based in Scripture is a way of life that promotes the practice of second chances.

When we choose to give an offender a second chance we’re actually extending grace to that person. We give him what he needs rather than what he deserves. What he does with his second chance will be his responsibility; hopefully, he will use it wisely. When we as the offender choose to accept a second chance given to us by the offended party we are getting what we need rather than what we deserve. We are thereby the recipients of grace. If our attitude is right we will experience a great sense of relief, humility, and gratitude. When we choose to give ourselves a second chance we’re extending grace to ourselves. Admittedly, we don’t deserve the second chance, but we need the opportunity for starting over. In each of these three scenarios the key ingredient is grace. Without grace second chances will be withheld; with grace second chances will be given. How thankful we ought to be for that marvelous quality of grace—and for the God of Grace who has given us the ultimate demonstration of grace through the sacrifice of His Son through whom second chances are available. Since God has extended such grace to us how can we refuse to share that grace with people who offend us? How can we refuse to extend grace to ourselves when we violate our values and disappoint ourselves? The answer is clear:  we must be men and women who, because of grace, practice the lifestyle of giving the gift of second chances.  



As we travel through life which highway would we prefer—the “One Chance Highway” or the “Second Chances Highway”? With certainty we know that our journey is always better when we choose to travel on the highway that provides second chances. During this journey every breath we are allowed to take is essentially a second chance at life. Every new dawn represents a second chance to make life better. Our second chance is a gift for starting over. Let us treasure that gift and use it wisely for meaningful change and positive growth.

I hope that each of us will hear—and heed—the call for a lifestyle of second chances. Our individual health and our human relationships will be improved significantly when second chances are the gifts that we give and receive with heart-felt compassion and love. I wish you the very best as you continue your journey in life on the Second Chances Highway.



                                                                       (Mental Health #1319)

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VIDEO:  To watch a television interview in which Dr. Baker discusses “Second Chances:  The Gift of Starting Over” please click on the image to the right or click here.






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