God’s perspective on mistakes, failures and missed opportunities -video link added
I was talking with a friend recently who told me of a chance she missed to avoid a whole lot of woe that has since befallen her. She felt that if she had only been stronger or wiser back then, her life would have taken a different and better course. There was a grim sense of having missed God, that now she was on her own, left to her own meager devices to solve her escalating problems and make something of her life.
I’m no stranger to feeling that way myself. Somewhere deep in the bowels of this blog I have shared how my first church rapidly went from being “on fire for God” to being just plain “on fire”, due to leadership failure. The devastation to the church was immense, but even worse was my own personal loss. I lost faith in man, in church, in myself, and ultimately even in God. I did transfer to another church, and was a very active contributor there, but my heart was no longer fully sold out for God. When serious difficulties arose in the new church, I stopped attending there as well. I had become a spiritual dropout. 1
Satan uses our mistakes, failures and missed opportunities as weapons against us, in an attempt to destroy our faith and effectiveness. For this reason, it is essential that we understand God’s perspective on these things, because His perspective is much better than ours.
We need to understand that nothing takes God by surprise. God exists outside of space and time. He is all-powerful and He knows everything – even the end before the beginning. Our trials, our failures, our falls, do not cause Him any worry. He knew they would happen, and He knows how they will end. And he also knows how to use them for our good, if we will let Him.
David Wilkerson points out that when the disciples encountered a brutal storm on the Sea of Galilee one night, it actually was Jesus who had caused their plight. Jesus had sent the disciples ahead in the boat, and then He had gone up to a mountain to pray in solitude. Surely in prayer the Son of God knew exactly what was going on on the sea below, and was in complete control of the situation even from his mountain overlook. But he let them go into the storm, and then at the right moment He showed up and calmed the sea.
As I get better perspective on my own life, I’m beginning to see that God does indeed work all things for good for those who love Him – and that He allows things to befall us in order to accomplish deep things that would not occur were we to live our lives on a smooth “business-as-usual” basis. our failings are not inherently good things, but God can and will use them for His purposes if we will turn to Him in faith.
In my case, because of the call to leadership on me, and my monumental ill-preparedness for it, I needed to experience the failing of the church. I needed to learn not to trust pastors, religious fads, man’s approval, or my own abilities. I needed a major lesson in trusting the Lord when things go wrong.
Jeremiah explains why: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Make no mistake, trials would not be trials if they simply were little intellectual exercises. They are designed to hit us where we live, and to cause us to give ourselves to the Lord in a very real way. That church trial nearly killed me, but I found it to be true in the Lord that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
That storm brought up a treasure trove of self-righteousness, unforgiveness and bitterness issues that were beneath the surface when the waters were calmer. But when the water got choppy, the issues became visible indeed. Thus the Lord used deep offense and betrayal to lead me to the crucifixion of my flesh, the only way the negative attitudes that were killing me could be removed. As the skilled master craftsman that He is, He creatively used evil to work good.
Oh, how painful it was to go through this process, and how long it took! But if I have one regret, it is not that the evil befell me, or that I had to go through the pain to be purged – the freedom and power that resulted is too precious for me ever to give them up. No, my one regret is that it took me so long to place TOTAL, UNCONDITIONAL TRUST in the Lord in the darkest hours of the trial, when nothing made sense. The Divine fellowship and spiritual growth that I missed! It is in the dark hours that our greatest opportunity for advancement is presented, and they are to be cherished.
The Lord has dealt with me exactly as was needed, including exercising infinite patience while I found my way back to Him, in order to bless me with His maximum blessing. He has used my weaknesses, my flaws, my lack, to guide me into situations where turning to Him was the only possible way out. And that is exactly what had to happen, for at the time I was not capable of doing better. Despite ourselves, He is going to perfect that which concerns us, and He uses our weaknesses to do it.
If you are racked by regret or remorse regarding past decisions, now is the time to put them to rest for good. Paul told the men of Athens: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). He explained to Timothy, regarding his own violent past: “Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” ( 1Tim 1:13). And peppered throughout the New Testament (and even the Old) there is plenty of support for Paul’s assertion that ignorance mitigates culpability:
Sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. -Rom 5:13
These verses and others teach that God is categorically unconcerned with the failings of our past, except as He can use them to help build us and others up now. It is absolutely crucial that we stand on the Word in this matter, because satan wants to devour us.
We do not confess our sins in the manner of pagans who scourge their backs – as if they could even begin to pay for their own sins or prove their worthiness of God’s forgiveness. It took the holy Blood of the Son of God to redeem Creation. We could never earn our own salvation. We confess in simple childlike faith that He will forgive and cleanse, just as according to 1Jn 1.9.
The time is short, and opportunities are precious. God wants each one of us free and empowered to fully represent His Kingdom of grace, truth and love. Let’s get all our issues behind us, and in faith let’s press forward into the glorious destiny the Lord still has for us – for all of us.
1. John Bevere deals with this “cruise-a-matic” phenomenon, which he calls “spiritual vagabonds”, in his book The Bait of satan. While that book is a powerful warning about letting offense keep you from God’s purposes, it is seriously flawed in placing responsibility on the person offended to reconcile with an unrepentant authority figure).
Update, 7/8/10: I’m adding a link to a powerful video about a modern-day Mary Magdalene from The Stranger series. Here is Part One; you can cycle to the other two parts from there.