While our son and family were here for Christmas, we had beautiful snow for cross-country skiing and sledding, but also decided to play disc golf in the snow. My wife served as spotter so we could find our discs that would burrow into the snow. We also have a little ground rule for 18-hole course and that is that you can take one “mulligan.” A “mulligan” is a second chance to perform an action, usually after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder. Its best known meaning is in golf whereby a player is informally allowed to replay a stroke. While not allowed in competitive golf, sometimes in recreational golf, there is agreement to allow for a “mulligan.” It is probably named after Canadian golfer, David Mulligan. Once after making a poor tee shot, he re-teed and shot again, calling it a “correction shot,” but his friends thought it more fitting to name the practice after him.
I’m so glad we serve a God who allows for “mulligans,” or “second chances.” As we read through the Bible we find it full of examples of individuals who had some very poor starts, or committed some major blunders but were given second chances. It all begins, of course with the scene in the Garden of Eden with the original couple, Adam and Eve who disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17). God made provision for their sin by slaying innocent animals and covering them with the hides (Gen. 3:21) so that they could be restored to fellowship with God. Moses, when he was 40 years old, became so angry with the way his Hebrew brothers were being mistreated by the Egyptians that he killed an Egyptian and had to flee to the desert for 40 years. But then God called him to go back and help the Israelites escape from Egypt. He was given a second chance. Abraham, with whom God made a covenant to bless him and make of him a mighty nation (Israel), had several lapses of faith, but he was still known as the “friend of God” (II Chr. 20:7; Jas. 2:23) and is listed in the “hall of fame of faith” (Heb. 11:8-10). David, in a moment of weakness, committed adultery and murder, yet later, when confronted by Nathan, repented and was used mightily by God and was known as “a man after God’s heart” (I Sam. 13:14). Jonah, the prophet, when asked to go to Nineveh to preach, refused and ran the opposite direction. But, after his experience of being swallowed by the great fish God sent, was ready to go! He was given a second chance. Unfortunately his attitude toward the Ninevites hadn’t changed.
Saul of Tarsus was a persecutor of followers of Jesus, and even stood by and gave consent when Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:58). But then Saul met the risen Christ as he was headed to Damascus to search for believers to persecute and he was totally transformed and given an opportunity to take the Gospel to Asia and Europe. He was given a second chance for a new beginning. The apostle Peter, during Jesus’ trial, denied his Lord three times, yet after meeting with the risen Christ and being filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, became a great, bold, leader in the early church.
God is definitely the “God of new beginnings,” and as we start a new year on the calendar, we are reminded that God is not limited by our shortcomings and our blunders. He is willing to give us a fresh start many times over. We read in I Jn. 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The prophet Micah said, “Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19), and He puts up “NO FISHING” signs! Jeremiah records God’s promise, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34). The Psalmist, David, who really understood what forgiveness and new beginnings meant, wrote:; “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12).
We should note, however, that while God is able and ready to forgive and not hold our sin against us, and to give us a fresh start, it doesn’t mean we won’t face some consequences of our lapses. Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought a curse on the earth and passed on a sinful nature. Moses’ anger kept him from getting to enter the Promised Land. Abraham’s lapse of faith resulted in a multitude of people, the Ishmaelites (Arabs) who became and are the enemies of the chosen nation, Israel, that came through the son, Isaac, promised to Abraham and Sarah. David’s sin resulted in all sorts of turmoil in his family. There is a law of sowing and reaping (Gal. 6:7,8) which we cannot violate. While we can experience the freedom of forgiveness, sin leaves scars as reminders of how much God hates sin. The brutality of the Cross is evidence of how much God hates sin and how much He must love us to pay such a great price to offer forgiveness.
Maybe you need a new beginning as we enter this New Year. God is the God of new beginnings. If you need forgiveness, He alone can, and desires to, provide it. Just be honest with Him (that’s what it means to “confess”—to agree with God concerning), and He will forgive and provide a fresh start. Though He hates sin, He also knows our weaknesses (Heb. 4:13), and while He doesn’t ever condone sin (In His perfect holiness, He cannot… Hab. 1:13), He does allow for “mulligans” or “do-overs.” Praise God, that we can begin anew this year to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33) and to “set our affections on things above and not on things on this earth” (Col. 3:2).
“Live with the realities of the present, anticipate the future with hope, and let go of the past disappointments” (Charles Swindoll).