People make mistakes all the time. That’s how we learn and grow. If there’s patience and love, and you care for people, you can work them through it, and they can find their greatest heights.” – Pete Carroll
Have you ever made a dumb mistake? Acted inappropriately? Had a moment when you suddenly realized that your path was a bit wide of the mark? Ever exercised bad judgment or poor reasoning because of carelessness or insufficient knowledge?
Good. I like you. We have a lot in common. I also thought I was wrong once – but of course, I was just mistaken. Hahahaha.
Seriously, we all make mistakes. But some people don’t handle their blunders very well. Have you ever had a difficult time “getting over it”? Ever catch a bad case of the “what if’s”?
- What if I hadn’t made this or that decision?
- What if I had just kept quiet and had not said those words?
- What if I had acted sooner, later or differently?
All aboard the emotion coaster! Have you ever been on that ride? Your mind fills with an unbridled torrent of doubt, remorse, guilt or shame. The process will often lead to what some have called the paralysis of over analysis.
- I am so stupid, and everybody knows it.
- What was I thinking?
- I’m such an idiot, a looser, I’ll never get it right.
- I will never be useful to anyone again – even God – not after this…etc., etc.
Look, it is normal to question our choices in life – even the good ones. We deliberate just about everything. It’s so common, we’re not even aware of the process most of the time. Problems arise when we obsess over our past decisions – especially the disappointing ones – and fail to move on. The paralysis of over analysis can trap us in a quagmire of regrets. Think about it, when you are overwhelmed by an unrelenting cycle of guilt and remorse from past mistakes, it can be nearly impossible to enjoy the goodness present in your life every day.
So, how do we move beyond our mistakes? Let’s talk about that.
I think it’s harder to forgive ourselves for mistakes that we’ve made because we keep dwelling on them. We want to know how it affects other people, if they liked us for it, if they didn’t like us. I think we stress over it… It becomes an old recording that years later we continue to play in our mind.” – Sherri Shepherd
I will assume that most of you are familiar with the Biblical writer known as Paul the Apostle. He was born about 10 A.D. in Tarsus, located on the south-central coast of modern day Turkey. Paul was both a Jew and a Roman national. His parents were likely influential citizens and of moderate wealth. He trained to be a Rabbi in Jerusalem under the renowned Gamaliel. Paul was a zealous Pharisee with a fiery temperament and tenacious convictions.
We first meet him in the Newer Testament record as Saul of Tarsus – a man committed to the pursuit and destruction of a new heresy within Judaism (which would eventually become known as Christianity). Saul hated the followers of Jesus. He thought Yahweh (GOD) did too. Saul believed he was on a mission for the Almighty to stop the spread of Christianity. That was his first BIG mistake. The Newer Testament Book of Acts says,
1“And a great wave of persecution of the believers began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and everyone except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria. 2 (But some godly Jews came and with great sorrow buried Stephen.) 3 Paul was like a wild man, going everywhere to devastate the believers, even entering private homes and dragging out men and women alike and jailing them.” (Acts 8:1-3)
After observing the execution of a supposed heretic named Stephen, Saul was off to Damascus to continue his brutal crusade against the Jesus people. But the Creator decided that it was time to put an end to Saul’s BIG mistake. So, in a blaze of blinding light which appeared out of nowhere, the Spirit of Jesus himself knocked him to the ground and corrected his inappropriate behavior. The details of this encounter are also recorded in the the Newer Testament Book of Acts,
3-4 “But on his journey, as he neared Damascus, a light from Heaven suddenly blazed around him, and he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice speaking to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” he asked. 6 “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” was the reply. “But now stand up and go into the city and there you will be told what you must do.” 7-9 His companions on the journey stood there speechless, for they had heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. There he remained sightless for three days, and during that time he had nothing either to eat or drink.” (Acts 9:3-9)
Dazed and confused after his day of reckoning, Saul (now temporarily blind) had to be led into Damascus by the hand. He was so shaken that he neither ate nor drank for three days. But I’m sure he prayed! Have you ever noticed how people seem to pray more when they’re scared spitless?
Anyway, in the interlude, God aroused a local believer named Ananias by entering into his dreams one night where he told him to head over to Straight Street and find Saul from Tarsus. God dream or not, Ananias was troubled by this assignment. He reminded the Creator that Saul was a very dangerous enemy of the followers of Jesus. Once again we’ll pick up the narrative from the Book of Acts,
13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I have heard about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And we hear that he has arrest warrants with him from the chief priests, authorizing him to arrest every believer in Damascus!”
15 But the Lord said, “Go and do what I say. For Paul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the nations and before kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for me.”
17 So Ananias went over and found Paul and laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Paul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you may be filled with the Holy Spirit and get your sight back.”
18 Instantly (it was as though scales fell from his eyes) and Paul could see…” (Acts 9:13-18)
Talk about exciting. This is better than Indiana Jones. I just love adventure. Saul (called Paul after his “come to Jesus” moment,) went on to become Christianity’s most zealous ambassador. In spite of some horrific past mistakes, he would end up traversing the ancient world spreading the message of the Liberator Jesus to the Gentiles (all the non-Jews). Even today, Paul towers as a charter member of the Christian Hall of Fame.
Victorious living does not mean freedom from temptation, nor does it mean freedom from mistakes.” – E. Stanley Jones
What about the Apostle Paul’s mistakes, regrets, and potential to suffer the paralysis of over analysis? How did he live with himself as one who was responsible for persecuting so many of the very people that God had appointed and ordained? Did Paul ever have to deal with any thoughts of guilt and remorse? I think he did. He certainly acknowledged his past mistakes. He even spoke about them:
9 “For I am the least important of all the missionaries. I should not be called a missionary because I made it so hard for God’s church. 10 I am different now. It is all because of what God did for me by His loving-favor. His loving-favor was not wasted. I worked harder than all the other missionaries. But it was not I who worked. It was God’s loving-favor working through me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10 – NLV)
4 “I worked hard and killed men and women who believed as I believe today. I put them in chains and sent them to prison. 5 The head religious leader and the leaders of the people can tell you this is true. I got letters from them to take to our Jewish brothers in the city of Damascus. I was going there to put the Christians in chains and bring them to Jerusalem where they would be beaten.” (Acts 22:4-5 – NLV)
Yes indeed, after he became a follower of the Liberator Jesus, Paul certainly had a lot to think about. He had every reason to be overwhelmed by guilt and remorse. But Paul understood the power of God to forgive even our most heinous mistakes. He eventually left the past exactly where the past should be left – in the past! He learned to take his life one day at a time and live for each moment. Here’s what he wrote,
11“…How changed are my ambitions! Now I long to know Jesus and the power shown by his resurrection: now I long to share his sufferings, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain as he did, the resurrection from the dead. 12-14Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep moving on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Jesus grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal my reward is the honor of being called by God in Christ.” (Philippians 3:11-15 – PHILLIPS)
The moral of our story today, my friends, is that God can change anyone no matter how BIG their mistakes may be. Life’s slip-ups need to be left behind so that we can move forward. And whenever regrets echo through the corridors our mind they should serve only as a reassuring reminder of the amazing power of the Creator’s grace to erase every past blunder.
I know for certain that God does not make mistakes, but he does make miracles. I am one. You are, too.” – Nick Vujicic
That’s what I love the most about the Christian life; correctly understood, it’s guilt free. My former transgressions have been expunged. The liberator Jesus removes ALL of my mistakes – past, present and future. As a result, I am free to live each day in the joy that comes from absolute dependence upon God. Like Paul, I have chosen to forget all those things which are behind me because no matter what comes my way, I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me.
Today, your life may seem like just another BIG mistake. Do you really want to drag that entire poop pile into your tomorrow? The late actor John Wayne once said,
“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. It comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”
Have you learned something from your mistakes? I hope so. It’s your life, but remember; God has boundless resources and he makes them available to all who turn to him in absolute trust. Liberty in Jesus – it works for me. How about you? It certainly couldn’t hurt to find out.
Jesus, please help my friends to leave their past mistakes behind and take a giant step of faith toward you today. I know your arms are open wide to receive, forgive and love them. Show them the genuine side of Christianity that is found only in you. Thank you Lord, Amen.
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656