Robert Jeffress - Begin Your Second Act Now
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. In the aftermath of a moral failure, or a devastating loss it can seem like your life is completely over, the curtain has dropped, the lights have gone out and everyone around you has exited stage left. Well while your mistakes make feel final nothing could be further from the truth. God wants to redeem your failures. So how do you know when the next chapter of your life is ready to begin? Well, today we're going to look at five important principles for when your story is about to resume. My message is titled, "Begin Your Second Act Now," on today's addition of "Pathway to Victory".
"Tempus fugit", you remember that phrase? It's Latin for "Time flies". Time flies except when you're standing in the wrong line at the bank, or enduring an endless graduation ceremony, or going through an intermission in your life story. Last time we talked about intermissions, that's the period of time between your failure and your future. We're in a series called Second Chance, Second Act: Turning Your Messes Into Successes. And we're looking at five biblical principles for taking your worst mistakes and using them as a stepping stone for your second act in life.
So far we've talked about the first step. That is you've got to 'fess up to your mess up. Before you can move forward you have to deal with your failure and allow Christ to forgive you. Secondly we said: don't mess up for free. You know Proverbs says over and over again instead of repeating your mistakes, why not learn from your mistakes? And then last time we talked about the importance of enjoying your intermission. You know when you look throughout scripture when God's people fail: he usually imposes a waiting time. An intermission time. But waiting time doesn't have to be wasted time. God uses the intermissions in our life to allow us to refresh ourselves, to reflect upon the past, and also to listen to God's redirection about the future. That's the concept of intermission. And of course intermission is followed by our second act and that's what we're going to talk about today. How to know when to begin your second act.
Now you know in the world of the theater you know when intermission is over. You know what the signal is, the lights start to flicker, the orchestra begins to tune up, the lights begin to dim finally and you know the second half of the show is about to begin. Wouldn't it be nice if we knew when our waiting time was over in life, when we knew that new relationship was about to begin, or that job offer would come, or our balance sheet would turn from red to black.
Usually God doesn't give us a clear signal all the time when intermission is over and the second act is about to begin. However today what I want us to do is look at what I believe are five-biblical principles for knowing when God may be saying, "Intermission time is over and your second act is ready to begin". First and foundational, if you want to know when God is about ready to do something big in your future you need to learn how to let go of past regrets, letting of go of past regrets.
Author Erwin McManus talks about the paralyzing effect of living in the past. He talks about that one moment in the past that continues to haunt every moment of your life. A moment in your history that steals from you all the moments in the future. Is there a moment you keep reliving again and again? To relive the past is to relinquish the future. If you are willing to let go of the past then you are ready to step into the future. When you choose to remain stuck in a moment you become incapable of seizing your divine moments.
The writer of Hebrews said it this way in Hebrews 12:1, "Let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us". The writer is saying life is like a footrace, but you know any runner who wants to win the race he's gotta first of all take off any unnecessary weights that are slowing him down. Nothing will weigh you down in life anymore than past regrets. And not only that the runner always has to keep looking forward, he can't afford to look back over ground already covered. We've got to learn how to let go of regrets. How do you that pastor? That's a lot easier said than done. What if there is a giant failure in your past that you just can't get past?
Let me suggest three important realities that will help you let go of your regrets. First of all, the impossibility of undoing your mistake. You know in movies you always have these stories about people who go back in time and change past history. That's only possible in movies, and yet many people engage in what I call mental time travel. They go back to their past, but they can't change it. They just keep reliving that pain over and over again. Ladies and gentlemen that's a trip you can't afford to take: going back to the past to relive those mistakes.
But there is a second reality, the reality of God's forgiveness. When I talk about releasing your regrets you'll never do it unless you deal with those regrets and experience Christ's forgiveness. And I don't care whether you're a politician, a pastor, or the pope - we all need God's forgiveness, don't we? We have to have that time in our life when we admit our sin and receive Christ's forgiveness. But you know Colossians 2 says when we ask for Christ's forgiveness, he takes our mistakes and what does he do with them? He nails them to the cross of Jesus Christ where God stamps it "Paid in full". That's the reality of God's forgiveness. The Bible says he cast our sins into the depths of the sea and he remembers our iniquities no more.
And then, thirdly, to release the regrets of the past you have to be convinced of the possibility of future change. No, we can't undo our past mistakes. Life has no rewind button on it, but we can make decisions that change our future. Many of you are aware of the Nobel peace prizes that are offered for outstanding works that benefit humanity. What you may not know though is how those peace prizes were started. They're named after Alfred Nobel. Alfred Nobel was the Swedish chemist who invented dynamite, and from that invention he made millions and millions of dollars selling dynamite to countries around the world that would use it to destroy armies and people by the millions.
One day Alfred Nobel's brother died, but the newspaper made a mistake. Instead of printing his brother's obituary, the paper made the mistake and printed Alfred Nobel's obituary. So he had the strange opportunity to open up the newspaper and read his own obituary. And when he read it he realized the lead paragraph, what he would be most remembered for is developing the instrument that would be used to kill tens of millions of people. And Alfred Nobel said right then and there he did not want that to be what he is remembered for, so he took a large chunk of his assets and with those assets he started the Nobel peace prizes in order to award those who benefit humanity through science, and literature, and the arts.
You know you can't undo your past, but right now you have the opportunity to make changes that will affect your today, your tomorrow and your eternity. You have to release your regrets. Secondly, pay attention to seasonal changes in your life. You know one practical result of letting go of your past is you can be attuned to what's happening in the present and specifically to changes God may be bringing into your life that signaled your second act's about to begin.
Now, speaking of movies, has everybody seen Mary Poppins? If you have children you've seen Mary Poppins. We watched it endlessly with our kids, but remember how the movie opens? There's a weather vane that suddenly does a 180, and it signals a new wind is blowing in, and Bert the chimney sweep notices the weather vane is moving. He says something big is going to happen, and that something big, of course, is the coming of Mary Poppins. At the end of the movie the weather vane turns again, and Mary Poppins leaves never to be seen again until Disney brings her back in another DVD version, but she's gone. You know that's what weather vanes do. They signal a change that is about to take place.
Wouldn't it be nice if we had weather vanes that we could look to to tell us that something big's about to happen in our life and we could know when real and significant change was going to happen, but there are no such weather vanes and yet the Bible says we ought to be attuned to circumstances around us and within us that may signal something big is about to happen. Do you remember a group of men in the Old Testament known as the sons of Issachar? In 1 Chronicles 12:32 it says, "And of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred: and all their kinsmen were at their command".
You know just as a politician knows when the time is right to challenge an incumbent in office. The sons of Issachar were very attuned to the political winds of what was happening in the nation of Israel. They sense there was an unrest among the people. The sensed since they were followers of king David that this might be the time for David to expand his rule to include the entire nation of Israel and topple king Saul. They were aware of what was happening around them.
By the way, let me just add this, this is extra, doesn't cost you anything extra, but you know Christians who say: oh, I don't pay attention to politics, I don't pay attention to current events, I just read my Bible and pray. Ladies and gentlemen, that is no virtue - it's a vice. God doesn't place any premium on being ignorant of what's happening around you. The Bible says as God's people we need to be aware of what's happening around us. We need to be attuned to what is happening not so we can worry about it and argue about it, so that as God's people we can know what we should be doing. That was the sons of Issachar. They were able to discern the times. In the same way we as Christians need to be able to discern the circumstances around us and within us that may be signaling that a future change is coming, our second act is about to begin.
Let me mention three changes that may signal you are ready to begin your second act.
First of all a change in your attitude. Have you quit blaming other people for your first act failure? Have you fessed up to your mess up? Have you received God's forgiveness? Has your attitude changed?
Secondly look for a change in your emotions. Do you still feel emotionally and physically drained from your failure or are you starting to feel refreshed and looking forward to the future?
And finally, look for changes in your circumstances that may signal God's about to bring a change in your life. Maybe you get a job offer out of nowhere you wonder, "Gee, where did that come from"? Or an invitation to dinner with somebody that you're interested in or maybe you sense, see that children are leaving home and you're getting ready to enter into a new era of your life.
Did you know God can even signal your change is about to happen through a negative circumstance in your life. I think about the Old Testament character Jacob. Remember Jacob worked for his uncle Laban for 20 years, and although they had a volatile relationship at first, eventually they grew comfortable with one another. And Jacob assumed that he would spend the rest of his life working for uncle Laban far removed from land of Israel, the Promised Land. But that wasn't God's plan. God had a second act for Jacob that included uprooting him from where he was, sending him back to the Promised Land where he could reconcile with his brother Esau and he could renew his commitment to God. The only question is: how do you move Jacob, get him to move, when he is so comfortable where he is?
God often uses negative circumstances in our life to move us to where he wants us to go, and that's what he did with Jacob. In Genesis 31:2 it says, "And Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold it was not friendly toward him as formerly". His uncle's attitude for no explanation changed toward him. He used to be friendly, but now he was hostile.
Maybe you have a boss whose attitude has suddenly become hostile toward you. Maybe somebody in a relationship that matters to you suddenly they're changing their attitude toward you and they've become cold. Instead of being focused on that, what that person is doing to you, or not doing for you, realize that God is bigger then that person in your life and he could actually be using their negative attitude and actions towards you to move you where he wants you to be so you can enjoy a great second act. Pay attention to negative circumstances.
Now that leads to the third step for knowing when intermission is over and that is develop your second-act script. You know careful planning was the secret to Benjamin Franklin's greatness. Franklin once observed, "I have always thought that one man of tolerable abilities may work great changes and accomplish great affairs among mankind if he first forms a good plan". "And cutting off all amusements, or other employments, that would divert his attention make the execution of that plan his sole study and business".
No wonder Benjamin Franklin had a great second act in life. Think of all of his accomplishments in the second half of his life. I mean the invention of bifocal glasses, he did that at age 78. Or negotiating peace with Britain after the revolutionary war, he did that at age 77, or formulating our constitution, he did that at age 81. He understood the importance of formulating a plan and then executing that plan. Now you know, only a foolish person refuses to make plans. Over and over again the Bible extols the value of careful planning in every area of your life.
Listen to Provers 16:3, or jot it down, "Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established". Provers 20:18, "Prepare plans by consultation, and make war by wise guidance," or Proverbs 21:5, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty". Now obviously any plans we make in our lives are subject to the sovereignty of God. God has the final word about any plans we make but that doesn't mean we should avoid making plans.
Perhaps I'm speaking to some of you here, or some of you watching on "Pathway to Victory," you're in that intermission in life, maybe after a divorce, or after a termination from a job, or some other failure and you're wondering, "Okay what should I be doing during this time"? One thing you oughta be doing is developing your second act script so that when God does raise the curtain and says the intermission is over, you know what you're supposed to do when that happens. We all need a second-act script, a plan for our future. I would suggest if you're interested in developing that kind of plan, that the Bible says we all ought to have, I want to suggest that you take a couple of hours and write out your plan.
I've done this on several key occasions in my life when I was at a significant crossroads. Take out a legal pad and here are four important components of developing your plan, or what I call a second-act script. Number one, clarification of the problem, clarification of the problem. Summarize in a word or a phrase the problem you are trying to remedy in your life. It might be divorce, or financial insolvency, wrong career choice, termination from a job, but write down in a word or a phrase what the problem is. Secondly, visualization of the goal. In a sentence write out what your desired optimal situation would be for this particular problem you're facing, or dilemma that you're in.
Now for the purpose of this exercise let's say it's financial stress. So maybe you would say, "I would like to have enough money so I don't have to worry about finances in the future". So let's say that is your goal to have just enough. That leads to the third part of your second-act script, identification of the obstacles. What is it that is keeping you from your optimal situation, whatever it is that you've written down. Again, let's talk about financial stress. What's keeping you from that financial security you'd like to have? That leads to the fourth step of your second-act script, the specification of steps of action.
Now you know what the barriers are that are keeping you from your present to your future write down specific steps of action that become your plan, your next step of what you do to move you toward your goal. We all need a plan, we all need a second-act script. And that leads to step number four and that is we have to learn how to travel in a fog. We need to learn how to travel in a fog. Wouldn't it be great if we had 100% visibility in our lives? We could see clearly everything between now and heaven that was awaiting us? God doesn't allow us to have that kind of vision. Usually we have to travel with some uncertainty not knowing what is in front of us. We have to learn how to travel, move in our life, with uncertainty ahead of us.
Now to learn to travel in the fog in order to take that next step towards your second act in life there are three requirements for traveling in life with limited visibility. First of all you have to have a need. You know to move forward in life with limited visibility we have to develop a case of what I call, holy discontent. We have to be so discontent with our present situation that we say, "You know what it's time for me to start moving". "I can't stand being in this dead-end job any longer". "I can't stand living alone any longer". "I can't stand having a mediocre relationship with God, that's all I can stand and I can't stand no more". It's that need that propels us forward and that leads to the second step for traveling in the fog and that means movement.
We need to start moving. We just don't sit and stew over our discontent we need to start moving and if we can't see clearly ahead of us it means just taking that first step, moving slowly, but moving. You know one writer observes that when you look at the early church, you look at the apostles, often they didn't do everything correctly, they didn't have 100% visibility, but they were moved to action any way. Jesus had said, "Go, go into all the world and make disciples".