A number of years ago while doing a graveside service with a family I saw the tombstone of a young man. I don’t know what took his life, but it was obvious that there was a family who deeply loved this young man because his grave was not left unattended—flags, flowers, and hockey paraphernalia adorned the site.
As I stood there, my heart was deeply stirred and I thought, God, is a God of second chances. My mind returned to the person I was laying to rest…a believer…this was not his final resting place. Rather, when he took his last breath—he took his first breath in heaven.
Every day is an opportunity for second chances. How many times have you said…
“I wish I could just go back.”
“I wish I could have a do-over.”
“If I got a second chance, I would take it.”
A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Master, the one you love so very much is sick.”John 11:1-3 MSG
Martha and Mary were saying, “Jesus, you have the power to change this situation!”
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.” The disciples said, “Master if he’s gone to sleep, he’ll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine.” Jesus was talking about death, while His disciples thought He was talking about taking a nap. Then Jesus became explicit: “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”John 11:11-15 MSG
Sometimes we don’t understand and Jesus speaks plainly; aren’t you glad He does?
“I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.”John 11:25 MSG
But remember the earlier story of Mary & Martha…
As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed Him and made Him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word He said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.” The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”Luke 10:38-42 MSG
There are days in life when you feel overwhelmed, underappreciated, and without help. Can you imagine how many times Martha was turning over in her mind the fact that her sister left her with all the work? If we’re being honest we’ve done that too. And she complained…
But that was not the end of Martha’s story!
When Jesus finally got there, He found Lazarus already four days dead. Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet Him. Mary remained in the house. Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God He will give you.”John 11:17-22
Something happened to Martha in these two books of Luke and John. From busyness to going out and away to meet Jesus when she heard He was coming. She dropped all that she was doing to seek him out!
She took her second chance, a chance to respond to the “essential” thing. She dropped her grave clothes of busyness and embraced this extremely important moment with Christ.
Our Father in Heaven is waiting for us to get to this point….to seek out that which is essential!
And here is the end of Mary’s story…
Six days before the Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.John 12:1-3 MSG
We often see Mary as the one who sat at Jesus’ feet and that’s the end of it, but she too had a second chance. In her first encounter with Jesus, she listened—she withheld her expensive and sacrificial act of love.
Mary was saying, “I held back the first time, this is what I should have
done—I am giving it all NOW! Mary giving the aromatic oils was her taking off the grave clothes of regret & shame.
Martha, Lazarus, and Mary had now all been changed by Jesus—all been given a second chance, and all found themselves at His feet.
In 2015 a beautiful young lady, Ronnie Livingstone, was diagnosed with Brain Cancer, in April of the same year, she passed away from her battle.
One day as I went to the hospital to make my weekly visits, I found Ronnie laying out a lot of chocolate on her bed, she also had some in her hands, and she was humming and dancing. As I walked into the room, I said “Ronnie, what are doing?” She replied without a thought, “I’m having myself a little chocolate party, If I’m going to die then I’m going to live in this moment!” That day she had a little party and a whole lot of chocolate.
Powerful and YET Confusing! You see cancer was her second chance, it was the opportunity to remove grave clothes that she had been wearing for so many years(doubt, bad choices, poor lifestyle, rebellion, etc). It was cancer that brought her out of the grave and into His marvelous light. She truly traded in her grave clothes for the Love of her Heavenly Father.
Sometimes our days of wanting—wanting to be used by the Lord, wanting more, wanting to see change, wanting to hope, wanting to believe is prefaced by a death experience.
Just when you think you have lost it all, just when you think you can’t go any farther, just when you think Jesus has abandoned you and His Glory is nowhere to be found—He comes in only as God can with His Mighty power and infuses you with that Resurrection Power!
Could we, not all use a second chance?
Do you have moments where someone talks you out of (or, you talk yourself out of ) the Holy Spirit’s leading?
Have there been times when you knew you should have given it all?
Times when you were at the altar and you pulled back from God?
Times in your marriage when you knew you should have sacrificed more,
served more, loved more, and you withheld?
Times when the Lord asked for a greater commitment and you gave excuses?
I believe with all my heart that GOD IS A GOD OF SECOND CHANCES! Each day is full of His resurrection power, a gift of second chances, an opportunity where Christ extends His grace over these frail lives and gives us HOPE for something that exceeds what this world has to offer.
It’s time to trade in our grave clothes, lay our selfishness, our shame, our way of living, our agendas, our vision, and our plans down—trading them in for all that Christ has to offer.
Maybe you’re tired of carrying the weight of an empty life. You’re tired of living for yourself. Christ is present, and His Holy Spirit is waiting to help you experience what Martha, Lazarus, and Mary experienced—the realization that it’s never too late to trade in those grave clothes and experience life!
It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that He could be our Master across the entire range of life and death…Romans 14:8b-9 MSG
Obedience to Jesus…