2. Fallen Christians
If there is anything that has been a difficulty for me; it has been the tendency for people to feel sorry for me, because of those things that I lost as a result of my sin. Often these sincere and wellmeaning individuals will be a discouragement to me.They pity me for that which I cannot do as a result of the sinful choices I made in my life. The feeling I have is one of remorse, and not of regret. I am remorseful that I allowed my relationship to God to be damaged by succumbing to the lusts of the flesh. I am remorseful that I brought hurt to the name of Christ by the actions I decided to take. I am remorseful most of all, that I hurt my Savior and my Heavenly Father by my acts of disobedience. That remorse is the thing that constantly reminds me of the kind of person I am if I do not walk close to the Lord and daily seek His strength and power. Remorse is the sorrow I feel for that which I did.
Regret on the other hand is the sorrow one feels for that which is lost as the result of sin. Although at times those feelings certainly do exist, they are not the feelings that I believe I need to allow to come into my life; lest they lead me to a sense of despair and worthlessness. Opportunities lost are opportunities gained, if we are willing to repent and fully turn to the Lord allowing, Him to use us as He sees fit. If I dwell on the things I no longer can do, I may overlook the things that I still can do. Sin does not forfeit our right to be used of God, it only forfeits that which we were doing at the time of the sin and some of the subsequent opportunities that would have come our way.
God still wants to use me. My responsibility to Him is to allow Him to do so in as many ways as are possible. Some people feel sad because they felt that one day I would have carried on my father’s ministry in Hammond, Indiana. If I had not chosen the paths that I did, I may have. My choice now is to either spend my life regretting what I cannot do, or doing what I can do. I choose the latter.
For a long time I fell into the trap of worrying about what I could no longer do for Christ, and that selfishness led me back into sin. My ego could not handle being a second stringer for the Lord after having tasted being on the starting squad. That in itself is succumbing to the flesh, and that led to more defeat at the hands of my lusts. Service to God should not depend on how great the opportunity, but rather how great the privilege.
To be sure there are things that I once could have done that I can longer do, but there are also things that I now can do that I could not have done before. God did not look down one day and say, “Uhoh.” He in His sovereignty knew the position that I would someday be in, as a result of my sins and He provided things that I could do and opportunities that would be there for me if I was willing to humble myself. As a result, I am excited about the future, instead of living in the regrets of the past.
When David and Bathsheba’s baby lay at the point of death, David fasted and prayed, hoping that God would allow the baby to live. When the baby died, David rose up and ate and went on about the business at hand. People criticized him for it, but David told them that his continued regret would not bring back the life of that baby. Neither will it bring back opportunity lost.
The natural inclination for an individual who has sinned is to try and salvage the ministry that they have been used to build. The natural inclination for others is often to try and pry the individual away from that ministry. The resulting conflict often leaves wounds that are never healed. The solution is to assure the individual that if they truly repent and make their heart right with God, that there are still great things that God will do for them in the future. Do not keep pointing the person back to the past opportunities lost, but to the future opportunities available to them if they walk right with the Lord.
The difficulty comes when someone is pitying you for their perception of how you must feel for what they think you have lost. I have found that the key to it, rests in a couple of simple steps.
1. Gracious acknowledgment of the sincerity with which they are trying to comfort you. Although the person means well, I must appreciate their intentions without being affected by their pity. I allow myself to be encouraged by their love but not discouraged by their misguided perspective. It is easy to allow what they say, to convince you that maybe you should live in the regret for what you have lost. Remember, they know you only for what you were, not for what you can be by the grace and power of God.
2. Sharing with them the marvelous delight of living in the grace of God’s forgiveness and mercy. When a person pities me for my fall, I use it as an opportunity to reveal to them that I am living in the joy of His forgiveness, not the sorrow of my sins. “Boy, isn’t God good to forgive us for those things we do to fail Him, and then to offer to use us again?” Something like that changes the direction of the conversation from the negative of the past to the optimism of the future.
3. Refocusing immediately upon the things ahead that you can still do for the Lord. This is incredibly important because for some strange reason we seem to enjoy sympathy even when it is not good for us. It is certainly not good for us at a time like this. What is good for us is to look at all God has ahead for us if we will but love Him and stay right with Him.
Do not try explaining to the individual that you are not looking back with regret at the past, because they probably will not fully understand it. It also could lead to a confrontation that could leave you hurt and confused if they try to convince you that you have lost more than you will ever gain. That is a thought not ever worthy of your consideration, because it most often is a selfish thought and therefore will not do anything to help you in your service to the Lord. The stub of a severed limb can never do what a limb could do, but it can do much as a stub if it is willing to focus on the potential ahead, rather than the losses behind.
What might have been for me? I do not know, nor does anyone else for that matter. The question is, how can I use the rest of my life to do the most for my Savior? Is that not the question we all should be asking anyway? I am excited about the fact that God can use me. Every day, I am amazed that He would allow me to spend my life serving Him. I must walk worthy, lest I lose those opportunities that lay before me. I am excited at seeing God work through me. I am more excited now, than I ever was before.
I am not trying to minimize the tragedy of sin. I will pay for my sin in many ways for the rest of my life. I do not have to live my life regretting what I cannot change when I can instead focus that energy into rejoicing in what I can do. What was best for me will never be. I trust that others will learn from that, and not choose to do as I have done. For those who have made the wrong choices and thrown away a ministry or opportunities for the Lord by living in sin, I want to encourage you to not waste another moment. The past is the past. Now, you must live for the future. You must strive to do whatever you can for your God. Repent of your sins. Guard yourself from temptation constantly. Walk straight. Be humbled by the fact that you have already stumbled, and that you could stumble again. Do not live in the regrets of the past. Do what you can for God. You owe it to Him. So do I.