I started teaching first grade this year at a wonderful Christian school. I love teaching, and I love first graders! They are so fun, sweet, and honest….brutally honest! Just last week, a student told me that I did NOT use my best handwriting when writing on the board! Yikes! The same student asked me if I had trouble picking out my outfit that morning because…my hair looked like it had not been brushed! Ouch! Honesty!!
Well, one of my favorite parts of our school day is when we get to dive into our Bible lesson. My kids are AMAZING at memorizing Scripture. They are always engaged in our Bible story. Right now, we are studying the Old Testament. Our first week of Bible class focused on Adam and Eve. Our second week focused on Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel. Each week, there is a Bible poster that accompanies the lesson. During week two, the Bible poster was a little graphic; it showed Cain hitting Abel and Abel cowering back in fear. One of my students said, “Mrs. Cochran, that picture is disturbing me (actually they said disturving)!” :-)
When we began to discuss the story of Cain and Abel, we talked about how Cain and Abel each brought an offering to the Lord. Cain brought his leftovers (Bad Choice #1) to God, and Abel brought his best to God. God was not pleased with Cain, but He was pleased with Abel and accepted Abel’s offering. As a class, we discussed who made the right choice in bringing their offering.
Well, as the story goes, Cain was mad at Abel because God accepted Abel’s offering. Was that Abel’s fault? No! It was between Abel and God, just like Cain’s offering was between Cain and God. Even though Abel wasn’t to blame, Can was still steaming mad at him. Scripture records that “sin was crouching at Cain’s door, seeking to overtake him”, but God warned Cain that he should not let sin “master” him. At this point in Cain’s life, he had a very important choice to make. So I told my kiddos that even though Cain received a warning to resist sin, he still killed his brother (Bad Choice #2) anyway because he was so angry.
At this point, my kids were in shock. They couldn’t believe Cain actually killed his own brother out of anger (for something that his brother didn’t even do!). Then, we discussed that God came to Cain and asked, “Cain, where is your brother Abel?” Cain made a third bad choice, and in a disrespectful way, answered “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Bad Choice #3)
After this, we started discussing better choices that Cain could have made. One student responded, “Mrs. Cochran, after Cain killed his brother, he should have told God the truth. God would have given him a second chance.” Wow! That is so true! Not only did Cain kill Abel, but then he proceeded to lie about it when God was giving him the opportunity to be honest. My students were sad for Cain. They wished he would have been honest with God and believed the truth that if he would have been repentant, God could have given him another chance to make the right choice.
Second chances. How many of us need a second chance? Third? Fourth? Hundredth??? Maybe you feel like you’ve completely blown it in having little patience with your children. Maybe you’ve allowed anxiety to master your thoughts again instead of giving your cares to the Lord. Maybe you feel like you’ve messed up again in the way that you disrespect your husband. Maybe you feel defeated at how many times you have a bad attitude at work. Maybe you feel hopeless at how many times the same sins creep back in. Maybe your road rage has gotten the better of you again. Maybe you hit snooze for the millionth time instead of getting up to spend time with the Lord. Maybe you’re doubting your faith. Maybe you’re doubting if this life is even worth it. Maybe you’ve turned your back on your faith because you want to go your own way. Maybe you’ve never turned to the Lord at all.
Whatever your struggle is….Our God is a God of second chances. You have not fallen and will never fall too far beyond His reach. He will not give up on you even when you’ve given up on yourself. There is nothing that you could do that is unforgivable. If you are willing to trust in His love and forgiveness, then He is willing and wanting to forgive you and save you from your brokenness. He knows that we are fallen, and He knows that we are not perfect. That is not an excuse to sin more. Rather, that is a big flashing light bulb that shows how much we NEED GOD. You and I need the Lord. We need a loving heavenly Father to remind us of us love and forgiveness. We need a firm, yet gentle King who will extend grace and discipline to us in our failings. We need a sovereign and good Master that knows what we need even when we, who are finite and sinful, foolishly think we know what we need. We need a kind and consistent Shepherd who will guide is in the way that we should go. We need a patient Teacher who will show us how to live in a way that pleases God. We need Jesus Christ, the only One who can save us from our darkness and brokenness.
What we don’t need is guilt, shame, and self-pity. We don’t need cheap, empty, and temporary sinful gratification. We don’t need to believe the lie that we’ve messed up one too many times for the Lord to want us back. We don't need to stay defeated. We don’t need to run any further than we are now.
Instead, we need to run to the Lord. He loves you. He cares for you. He longs to have an intimate relationship with YOU – a relationship that is only made possible be the saving power of Jesus Christ who sacrificed his life so that you could be made right with the God of the universe. Turn to Him today!
1. EVALUATE: In what areas of your life are you believing the lie that you don’t deserve a second chance – that you’ve messed up too many times? Make a list (but don’t dwell on it!) of the things that seem to defeat you. Honestly, there’s not one of us who actually deserves a second chance. However, we serve a God who freely gives us grace, mercy, and second chances even though we are undeserving!
2. MEDITATE: Psalm 40:1-4 – “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” Do you need a "new song" - one that is filled with victory instead of defeat?
3. PRAY: Pray with a heart of thankfulness to the Lord for loving you, forgiving you, saving you, and extending grace and mercy to you. Talk to him about the things that are on your heart – your worries, your sins, your struggles, your fears, your dreams – anything. He wants to hear it all because He cares for you.
4. FURTHER STUDY: Read the rest of Psalm 40. Learn from the psalmist’s honesty and transparency. Find ways that he was open and broken before the Lord. Model your prayer life after Psalm 40.
I pray that whatever situation you’re facing, whatever sin you’re battling, whatever discouragement is ensuing, that you would turn to the Lord, not away from Him. Remember the simplicity of my first graders’ hearts and minds – “Why don’t you just turn to God? He will give you a second chance!” It’s a hard thing to give yourself over to the Lord, but it is the most freeing thing you can do. In a first grader's mind, it's black and white - turn to God! In our minds, we see our sin and how undeserving we are - so that hinders us from turning to him.
Think like a first grader! God longs to give you a second chance. Turn to Him!