It is not quite the right title, because God gives us more than just a second chance.
I felt this word quite opposed by the Oppressor, and I wonder if it’s because so many people face this problem. We become Christians, followers of Christ, and at some stage, sometimes very early on, we want to really give our lives to God, to answer the high calling of God and be available to Him. We set out with high hopes but discover that we are still ‘us’ with our old nature, and sooner or later for most of us at some point we spoil it, and we feel that we have spoiled the call of God. This can happen more than once, and we think of plenty of people in the Bible, people like Joseph, of whom Jennifer and I have spoken in recent days.* He says to his brothers ultimately: ‘You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’ We can see lots of examples like that: another is Daniel, whom the evil one meant to destroy, but God had His own purpose. That’s fine, that’s wonderful. They came out with flying colours.
But this is a different scenario. It’s when we know that we’ve taken wrong turnings and perhaps made seriously wrong decisions; we may even at times have seriously backslidden and brought dishonour on the name of Christ. Or it may be in more subtle ways that we feel we have marred our calling and really made a mess of life in some ways. I don’t know whether it’s a help or not when we hear those who have been further along the road and very deeply used of God say that they have felt a failure. In some I’ve drawn comfort, but in other ways I’ve just thought: ‘Well, I don’t need to worry any more. If they’re a failure, obviously I am, and there’s no point in worrying.’ Whether I’m a success or a failure is not actually something I give any attention to nowadays. But what is very weakening is if we feel that we have displeased God along the road and seriously marred our calling, and we hardly have the courage to keep going, or to keep trying to serve Him.
Our God is the great Creator, and He gives us not only a second chance but more than that. And He does something, I think, that is very wonderful. Out of what has been a mistake and has marred life for us and interfered (we think) with our usefulness, He brings something that is actually good. He sometimes brings out what proves to be the deepest part of our ministry, and He has done that out of our failure.
An easy illustration comes from the life of Sir Edwin Landseer, the great painter of Scottish Highland scenes. He was staying at a home in the Highlands where his hostess had just had her room decorated, and somebody had spilled soda water, leaving a mark that wouldn’t come out of the newly painted walls. He said to her: ‘Don’t worry,’ and when they all went out one afternoon and he was left in the house, he transformed the stain into a beautiful painting. And that really is marvellously what God manages to do.
A wonderful example of this is the life of King David. I often feel that like most of us I would do anything to remove certain parts of David’s life. We hate the sin, we hate the fact that he brought such dishonour to God in murdering Uriah and in his immorality with Bathsheba – shocking sins. But he terribly deeply repented. He had to suffer the consequences, and God warned him hat he would suffer a consequence in his own family because of the way he had behaved. It brought sin into his house and it ultimately resulted in Absalom, a very beloved son, murdering another of his sons and then rebelling against David in the most serious rebellion in David’s reign. He is an old man by now when Absalom, his beloved son, rebels. In this whole tremendous story, as David is fleeing with his followers from Jerusalem because Absalom is coming against him, we have these wonderful verses:
They crossed the Kidron valley and then went out toward the wilderness … David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. When someone told David that his adviser Ahithophel was now backing Absalom, David prayed: ‘O LORD, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!’ (2 Samuel 15:23, 30–31)
Later on he is being cursed by one of Saul’s household, and his generals want to kill this man, but David says: ‘My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so?' (16:11). And we can feel the incredible depth of grief in David’s heart.
But we cannot read the story without seeing another figure that crosses the brook Kidron to face the wilderness – the wilderness of great grief. David climbs the Mount of Olives, weeping as he goes, and hears of the betrayal of his friend and counsellor Ahithophel. And we see another, don’t we? We see Christ crossing the brook Kidron (John 18:1); we see Him suffering the rebellion and hatred of His own whom He had come to save and whom He so loved. We hear in his ears the words of Judas’s betrayal. He has climbed the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane, and He climbs the little hill Calvary.
David is one of the outstanding messianic prophets in the Old Testament. His psalms, more than any other book than perhaps Isaiah, speak of Christ. Psalm 22 has the very words that Christ utters upon the cross. And his confession ‘I am a worm and no man’ is so fulfilled in Christ. Out of his sin has come the rebellion of Absalom. But the grief of that has opened up in David a fountain of compassion, a fountain of love, an actual feeling of bearing something of the sin of Absalom. He really wanted to take it and the punishment on himself. That becomes very evident when he hears of Absalom’s death. He so wanted to spare him:
O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son. (2 Samuel 18:33)
There is no bitterness; but he is really bearing Absalom’s sin and rebellion. What an insight he must have had into Calvary. I don’t know if anything would be revealed concretely to him at that point, but it comes out through his psalms, in the prophetic utterances concerning the Messiah. His heart was opened, and out of his very failure God has woven something very wonderful. So behind that figure of David we see that other King in whom was no sin, whose grief and sorrow were all because of our rebellion. But He took it as His very own upon Himself. ‘O that I had died instead of you!’ – but He did die instead of us, His children. And so God brought something very wonderful out of something that was not good in David and can’t be denied.
Can He not do for you and for me something wonderful? Instead of spending time mourning, grieving over the mistakes and wrong decisions and wrong turnings that have left you scarred and feeling you’ve fallen far short of God’s high calling, say: ‘Lord, I come exactly as I am. All that there is of me I commit to Your hands. Can You do something with it?’ And indeed we stop thinking of ourselves and we see our God revealed in Christ. He is the great Creator, and He understands. He has never made any mistakes. He has never done anything wrong. He had made a beautiful creation that got spoiled: His plan got spoiled too. And what has it resulted in? The redemption of mankind! How deep the relationship now between God and His redeemed souls. We love Him, and I think I dare to say we love Him now even more than Adam could have, though not more than Adam does now, for he has been redeemed too. But oh, the devotion that God awakens in His followers, the loyalty that He wins from even the weakest of us, as we find how faithful He is. He is the great Creator who has become our Saviour, and He is forever in the business of making another plan for His child. Blessed be His dear Name.
*Between the recording and transmission of this message, Diana also spoke on Joseph.
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