I have failed many times in my life. I have made some really poor decisions and, as a result, I have hurt many people. Sometimes my faith has failed. Sometimes I have just let others down. This is a hard thing to face when I have spent most of my life trying to please people.
Making people much bigger than God has been a huge struggle for me. The Bible says you can’t please both God and man. It also says in Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. This sin can wreak havoc in one’s life in many ways. God showed me that even His Son didn’t please everyone…and He was perfect! Why did I think I was so special and able to keep everyone happy?
I have seen first-hand how SOME people respond to our failures but how does God respond?
Let’s look at Abraham in Genesis 20. Now Abraham is one of those guys you would just flat out admire. He had a faith that was credited to him as righteousness. He obeyed the Lord when He said leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. God also made a covenant with him to build a great nation. So right off the bat, if I was born in those days, I would probably struggle with thinking Abraham was all that!
In Genesis 20, Abraham finds himself in a situation with Abimelech where he distorts the truth (lies) about his wife. He convinces her to stand with him in stating that she is his sister. He suddenly doesn’t trust that God will protect him and he allows his fear of losing his life to cause him to lie.
Abraham had struggled with this sin before. He did the same thing in Egypt by lying to Pharaoh (Genesis 12). Have you ever been so hardheaded that you didn’t quite learn your lesson the first time? God is so patient with us. He will gladly discipline us again if we need it because He loves us so much. In this particular situation, even though Pharaoh had no idea that Abraham was lying about Sarah, there were still consequences to Pharaoh taking her as his wife. He was afflicted (and his household) with great plagues. Why would God allow these consequences on Pharaoh when he didn’t even realize that Abraham had lied? We have to understand that, when we choose to sin, it doesn’t just affect us.
But God forgives Abraham…you can tell by the rest of the text regarding Abraham that his relationship with God was healthy and intact. God blesses Abraham with material goods from Abimelech and Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech and also healed his wife and female slaves.
God also protects us when we fail. Have you ever messed up so bad that you think you have just lost all of God’s promises and protection? I have had thoughts that God won’t help me because it was my sin that got me in this mess in the first place. God shows up in Abimelech’s room in a dream and tells him that he “is as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
Abraham sins. His sin could have caused the promise to him from God to be ruined. But God…in His mercy…intervenes and protects us even when we fail to obey.
I have experienced this first-hand…PRAISE JESUS! I could have gone way too far in my sin and, at just the right time, God reached down in his GREAT MERCY and said…ENOUGH MY CHILD. He protected me cause He loves me like that!
Sometimes when we fail, it may seem that we have fallen too far to ever be used for God’s Kingdom again. Sometimes people will join in the spiritual battle and “help” you feel that you are no longer useful for the Kingdom. But God, in His extravagant Mercy and Grace, will forgive our repentant hearts and use us again. He delights in us when we return to Him.
Look at what he did with Abraham! He still used Abraham despite his faults.
I even find it interesting that when Abraham was confronted by Abimelech about what he had done, Abraham didn’t seem to be all that repentant in his responses. In fact, he basically said well, I lied because I was thinking “there is no fear of God at all in this place.” BUT THEN it seemed he justified his lie by stating that Sarah was technically his half-sister.
I can’t judge Abraham’s heart but it is not in God’s character to use an unrepentant person to be the father of His nation. Unrepentant ones are the ones that are separated from God. I think people tend to create their own list of what repentance looks like. We are not capable of doing that. Repentance is a GIFT from God…A GIFT of His Mercy and Grace. We, as children of God, are walking out our repentance daily. It looks different daily and for each person.
Yes, there should be fruit of repentance. First fruits would be whether or not that person has turned from their sin (against God) and turned back to God. But after that, repentance is something we work out with God. We cannot place ourselves on the throne of God and decide whether or not someone has earned or deemed worthy of our forgiveness. We forgive because God forgave us.
Please don’t let someone convince you that you shouldn’t forgive someone because they don’t complete a check-off list of signs and symptoms of repentance. Your unforgiveness could be what would cause that person to miss the grace of God. I’m so grateful for His discipline when I sin. I’m so thankful that He pursued me and put people in my path to help me understand that He disciplines those that He loves. He really loves me and He loves you too.
This season of my life was very difficult…life-changing though…and good…very good. I didn’t think I would ever be able to set foot in a church again because of my sin. After several months of major social phobia and not leaving my house, we finally stepped out and visited a church. I will never forget it. I got out of the car. I thought I was going to throw up. My legs didn’t want to move and I was a nervous wreck. The pastor’s wife came up to me…she literally got belly to belly with me and looked me straight in the eyes. I don’t remember her exact words but this is what has stuck in my brain and I believe it was from Jesus. She said “I know who you are and I know what you did. I want you to know that I forgive you, I love you and I just want to help you. I want to hold your hand and help you walk this out because one day I’m gonna need you to do that for me.” It was Jesus music to my ears and heart and it changed me. I will never forget it.
I fell. Jesus said “come back to me…I’m right here.” I ran and tried to hide. Jesus said “I see you…come back to me.” I peeked out from behind the tree and caught eyes with Him…Jesus said “I know who you are and I know what you did.” I cried and said I’m so sorry. Jesus said “I forgive you and I love you and I want to help you…hold my hand and walk this way with me…cause I want you to show who I am to others.”