Who doesn’t want a second chance? It’s a blessing when we get a second chance in school and have the opportunity to retake a test or rewrite a paper or when we get a second chance in sports to prove ourselves and test our ability. We often look for second chances at work to redeem a mistake we made or do better on a future project and we always need second chances in relationships because we often fail and let people down. We all need second chances to prove our love and faithfulness. We all want second chances and we all seem to like second chance stories.
I was thinking back over my own life and trying to identify all those moments I got a second chance and there is one rather small moment from my freshman year of high school that I have always joked about but because I remember this moment so clearly it obviously has made an impression upon me. I started taking piano lessons when I was a freshman in high school and my teacher was Mrs. Mack, who led our church’s children’s and youth choir. At the end of the first year, all of Mrs. Mack’s students had a recital and I was expected to play. Now you need to understand that all her students were in elementary school and I was in high school so I really did not fit in and many of her students were very good and I was a not so good beginner.
The song I chose to play was the song called “If” and I chose to learn this song because it was my sister’s prom theme and she did not go to her prom so as an annoying brother I learned the song and played it endlessly. When it came time to play the song during the recital I sat down and started to play the song twice as fast as it was supposed to go. I realized I would not be able to keep that pace up through the entire song so I stopped and just sat there with my hands on the keys staring forward very embarrassed. Mrs. Mack leaned over and said, start again, but this time, play slower.
I know that seems like a pretty insignificant moment in the course of one’s life, but I have never forgotten it because that second chance told me two important things.
#1 – Mrs. Mack believed in me and was on my side. She cared about me and wanted me to succeed. She loved me so gave me a second chance.
#2 – It also told me that even though I made a mistake and felt foolish – I could try again and keep going. A small second chance that revealed to me two big truths about grace and love.
There have been other second chances I’ve had in life. I dropped out of college – but had a chance to return and finish up with a renewed sense of purpose. I’ve had second chances in ministry when sermons didn’t come off very well and programs failed. I’ve had second chances in relationships when forgiveness and grace were extended to me and communication and love restored. We all have been blessed with second chances and the beautiful thing about God is that he is the God of the second chance.
The bible is full of stories of people being given a second chance. In fact, most people we read about got a second chance in life. After spending the first half of his life hiding in the wilderness as a shepherd, Moses got a second chance to be the leader of God’s people. King David got a second chance at faithfulness after an adulterous affair and his violent scheme to cover it up. The prophet Jonah got a second chance to serve God after he ran away from God’s purpose and plan for his life and Jesus gave many people a second chance and that’s what we want to focus on for the next few weeks. Jesus gives people a second chance at life, and love, and mission and today we are going to see that Jesus even gave someone a second chance to put his faith in him.
On the day Jesus rose from the grave, Mary saw him in the garden early in the morning. She told the disciples what happened but I’m not sure they believed her. The disciples needed to see Jesus alive in order to believe it to be true because they had seen him arrested, beaten and crucified and they knew Jesus died and was laid in a tomb that had been sealed. They knew beyond any doubt that Jesus had died so to have faith that Jesus was now alive they needed to see him. They needed this proof and they got it. It was later in the evening on that first day that Jesus came to them and stood among them and talked to them. To all of them except Thomas.
Thomas was not with disciples when the risen Jesus first appeared. We don’t know where Thomas he was or what he was doing and we don’t know if he even heard the news that Jesus might be alive. It could be that Thomas had simply left everyone to go and try and figure out what to do with the rest of his life. With Jesus gone, Thomas’ life as he knew it was over. Unlike some of the rest of the disciples, Thomas didn’t have a business to go back to. Thomas had been a tax collector and the day he walked away from his tax booth to follow Jesus was the day he closed the door on that part of his life. There was no going back to work in that field. Thomas had nothing to return to so it could be that Thomas was off trying to figure out how to put the pieces of his life back together. What would he do now? Where would he go? How would he survive? Thomas was in a very difficult situation.
When he finally got back together with the rest of his disciples who had seen Jesus alive, Thomas refused to believe. There was no way that the testimony of his friends could wipe away what Thomas had seen with his own eyes. Jesus had died a horrible and painful death – there was simply no way he could now be alive. John 20:24-26.
This is part of why we call him doubting Thomas, he doubted that Jesus could be alive. He doubted the word and testimony of his friends and there was no way he was going to be able to have faith in Jesus’ resurrection until he could see Jesus himself and place his own hands in Jesus’ wounds. Thomas refused to have faith.
I have often wondered what that week must have been like for Thomas. All his friends trying to assure him that Jesus was alive and Thomas digging himself in deeper and deeper to his own reality that it simply wasn’t true. Did his anger and resentment grow? Was there any part of his heart or head that tried to think that Jesus might actually be alive or did he just push everyone away?
One of the interesting things that Thomas teaches us is that the faith of others will only carry us so far. We might learn about God from our parents and believe in Jesus because we see the power of Christ in our family and friends – but the faith of others will only lead us so far – at some point in time we all need to experience Jesus for ourselves and it was a week later that Thomas got this chance. John 20:26-28.
Jesus gave Thomas a second chance at faith. Jesus came and stood among the disciples again and this time it seemed like he came just for Thomas. He spoke directly to Thomas and he told him to do the very thing Thomas said he needed to do if he was going to believe. Place your hands in my hands. Place your hand in side. Stop doubting and believe. Thomas – have faith. Jesus gives Thomas a second chance at faith.
Actually, this wasn’t a second chance – it was at least a third chance. In John 11 we read about Jesus making the decision to return to Bethany when he heard that his friend Lazarus has died. The last time Jesus had been in Bethany the religious leaders wanted to stone him. Thomas believed that to return there meant that they all would die. Thomas didn’t have faith that Jesus knew what he was doing in making this journey – he doubted that Jesus was making a good decision, but Jesus did go to Bethany and he not only wasn’t killed but he raised Lazarus from the dead and he took Thomas with him. He gave Thomas a second chance, a second chance to put his faith in Jesus. He gave Thomas a second chance to trust him and follow him – so in many ways, after the resurrection it was Thomas’ third or maybe fourth of fifth chance to put his faith and trust in Jesus.
We all get a second chance to put our faith in Jesus. Like Thomas we all get a second or third or fourth chance to put our trust in Jesus and sometimes all it takes is being willing to be there. Why did Thomas get this second chance – honestly, it was because he was there. He was with the disciples that day. Even though he must have been frustrated with his friends and firm in his doubt that Jesus was not alive, he was still there and when we are willing to still be there – God will show up.
When we are willing to still show up in worship even when we have doubts we are giving God the chance to show up and speak to us. When we are willing to keep serving in and through the church even when we aren’t sure of what we believe – we are giving Jesus the chance to show us his presence and reveal to us his power. When we are willing to keep reading God’s word, keep being with God’s people and keep praying through the darkness we are giving God the chance to show up and show us his hands and his heart. Many times to get a second chance at faith we just need to make sure that we show up.
It’s not hypocritical to come to worship or be involved in Bible study when we have doubts or struggle to believe – it is allowing God to give us another chance at faith. Thomas was there and because he showed up – he got a second chance and once that chance came – he took it. Jesus invited Thomas to reach out his hand and touch him – and while we don’t know if Thomas ever did that, he might as well have because his faith was now certain. Thomas accepted this second chance – he grabbed hold of it and made it his own and worshipped Jesus. Thomas said to Jesus, My Lord and my God. Thomas accepted Jesus as his Lord and his God. He made his faith his own and he accepted this second chance.
We need to accept the second chances at faith that God gives us. Whatever that second chance may be, we need to take advantage of it and make it our own. A second chance at faith came for me one October day in 1982. A few weeks after deciding I really didn’t want to believe in God anymore and decided to live life my own way without God, I heard God say to me, Andy with me there is life, without me there is death. The choice is yours. I was being given a second chance – more like a third, fourth of fifth chance, but another chance certainly. I took it. I accepted it, told God I wanted life and the fullness of life that Jesus promised and I got up from the bench I was sitting on and moved forward a new person. When God gives us that second chance at faith, we need to accept it and make the most of it.
Which leads us to a question we will ask just about every week during this series on second chances. What will we do with the second chance we are given? In life, in love, in relationships, in school and sports and yes in faith – what will we do with the second chances we are given. The life of Thomas tells us we need to take the second chance, make the most of it and never look back.
Thomas accepted Jesus as his Lord and God, he made his faith his own and he never looked back. Tradition tells us that Thomas took his personal experience of Jesus went East to India to tell others about the Risen Lord – Jesus Christ. While Peter and many of the other disciples went west to Rome – Thomas went east and founded churches across India that thrived for generations. He not only accepted a second chance at faith but his life’s passion and purpose was to now give others a second chance at faith as well.
What will we do with the second chance at faith that God gives us? How will we accept this second chance and move forward with God never looking back? For some, this second chance at faith may mean personal healing and wholeness, for others it might mean renewed relationships and restored families, for others it might mean a new purpose and passion for living life a new way. God has something for us all which is why he gives us this second chance. Like my piano teacher Mrs. Mack, God loves us. God believes in us and God is on our side and believes we can do far more than we think or imagine. God wants what is best for us in all areas of life so gives us another chance at faith in Jesus Christ. You are here today so you are getting a second chance at faith and life and love and purpose. Grab hold of it and make Jesus your Lord and God.
1. When have you been given a second chance in life?
• What did you learn from that experience?
2. Read the story of Thomas in John 20:19-29.
• Why did Thomas have a hard time believing before he saw the risen Jesus?
• What would you have needed to believe if you were in his place?
3. What elements of our Christian faith do you struggle to believe?
• Why are they difficult to believe?
• Who helps you understand, believe and have a stronger faith in God?
4. Thomas got a second chance because he showed up.
• Continue to show up in worship.
o Give God a second chance to speak to you through each week of this sermon series.
• Continue to show up in service.
o Sign up to serve through our outreach event on April 28 – Serving Our Seniors.
5. How are you making the most of the second chance God has given you in faith?
• Where are you worshipping Jesus?
• Where are you learning more about Jesus?
• Where are you sharing about Jesus?
• Where are you loving others for Jesus?
• How are you sacrificing for Jesus?