Failures?

3/19/1996

Some thoughts that I wrote to record HOW God had brought me to think during a tough season some time ago... Hope there is something helpful for you here also, as it was for me....

Personally, I can’t allow myself to fall apart when I see my failures, many as they may seem to be at times. However, I do CARE deeply about them. People have seen me in the last week shed tears and express great remorse over times that I have failed in conversations or other things. But, with God’s help, they’re not going to see me be unstable because of it. I won’t back off. By His Grace, I won’t be unfaithful to God.

How could someone be in remorse and tears, with great anguish of heart over sin and then still not lose a step in faithfulness? Well, the only way that’s possible is if you’re not consumed with self-life. I was an utter failure, and I cried over that. But that didn’t affect me, because my thoughts are Christ-centered rather than man-centered, or me-centered. I’ve got to stay with the thought process of, “not I but Christ.” The “I” part is trash, and “I” got in the way again. But... not I but Christ. I’m breaking free from that stuff. That stuff is just clutter in my rearview mirror. It doesn’t concern my tomorrow.

I’m totally confident in God’s grace and in the provision of His Spirit. I have this unwavering confidence that walking on water is not hard. Forget impossible—it’s not even hard! There’s an unwavering confidence inside me that says, “All that garbage is in the past.” The fact that I failed is not going to make me unstable. I’m not going to fear anything. It just doesn’t affect me. If I’m afraid that somehow my reputation has been ruined, or if I get depressed because I failed again and I can never get over this because I’m always going to be this way, then my problem is pride. It’s what people might think of me. Or maybe I justify it by saying, “It’s not so bad... they did it too.” That kind of judgment of others is also rooted in pride. But if Christ is truly my all in all, as the Bible expresses it, I can experience tremendous remorse, crystal-clear repentance, without wavering, without excuses, without saying, “Yeah, but...” And yet I’ll be stable all the way through that process and right on into the next minute. I’m not talking about being cocky. “Grace covers.” Nothing foolish like that. No trampling underfoot God’s grace by being presumptuous. Great remorse. But great peace and confidence to go forward, because Christ is our all in all. That, basically, is the definition of faith.

So, how do I manage to have that kind of response? Well, I know what God has said about this and what my attitude ought to be. I know what stability and faithfulness are. And I know this feeling I’m having about being down on myself, for example, is not from God. So I renounce it. If you’re not clear like that, then it lingers ten times longer than it would have. You can make the journey from point A to point B ten times longer than it needs to be by not being really clear about what truth is. Jesus, in the wilderness was tempted and responded, “It is written... it is written... it is written.” He was relentless and ruthless about it. He didn’t allow any additional interpretation of things, or His own feelings and emotions to affect what truth was. It was written, and therefore it was. I don’t care how I feel. It is so, and I renounce anything to the contrary. You can make the journey between points A and B a lot shorter if you’ll just believe God and renounce everything to the contrary.

I think part of it, too is recognizing that we, as individuals start off being very little like Christ. As time progresses, our likeness to Christ isn’t even yet all that great. Because that’s true, we realize that God has a ton of work to do in us. So if...

1. We recognize this truth about ourselves, that God has a ton of work to do in us, and...

2. We believe that He loves us, He’s sovereign and He disciplines those He loves...

Then we can accept things happening in our lives that seem devastating, that seem unfair. I’m thinking of David’s response to Shimei. Here was David, an innocent man being dethroned by a corrupt, lying, manipulative son—a total ingrate. And there was Shimei, standing on this hillside and shouting curses down on him. Yet David was able to absorb the whole thing. He didn’t blow it off. He didn’t say, “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Boy is he in trouble!” He didn’t have that attitude. But it wasn’t like he said, “Shimei is probably right. I’m scum. I’m slime.” He didn’t do that either. But he said, “God sovereignly orders my circumstances, and boy does this hurt! I’m tempted to curl up and die. As if life isn’t bad enough already, I need this guy? It’s unfair.” And yet David considered the whole thing to be from God.

I think part of the process of growing from point A to point B as fast as possible is recognizing God’s hand. He sovereignly brings devastation in order to speed up that process and shorten the distance from A to B. If you resent that or resist it rather than welcoming it, you’re only stunting your growth. Even if you can’t totally understand it. David didn’t understand. He said, “Well maybe God...” David didn’t understand it while it was happening to him. He didn’t see the fairness of the situation and he didn’t understand it. In fact, he knew a lot of it wasn’t even true. He knew that. But it didn’t matter, because what he wanted was to gain as much ground with God as possible. And he didn’t have the pride invested in it that would have kept him from using it to grow.

Again, that’s a major part of the growth process. We’ve got to allow those things that could be considered devastating to be used, instead for our growth. We’ve got to let them grow us up, without curling up and dying on the one hand, but without retribution or getting even on the other hand. To be able to walk through these situations with courage and stability, not demanding justice, but grabbing as much as possible from it as we go along. I’m not talking about being dishonest about it. Shimei was wrong. David knew that. But David wasn’t looking at it for the facts involved. He was looking at it for how he could use it to grow. He wasn’t playing some kind of game of how much is fact and how much isn’t fact. The real question was, “How much of this can touch my heart?” It wasn’t about how much of this I can analyze with my mind as accurate or inaccurate. Rather, how much can I let this get into my heart to change my character, to soften me, to change me? Surely some of it is true that I don’t even recognize. It’s way beyond me. But that’s okay. I trust God to work it out in my life. And so David was stable even in the midst of cataclysmic tragedy.

You know, David’s men wanted to go up and kill Shimei. But their beloved leader said, “No. God could use this to change my character. Leave him alone.” And it was many years before David’s son, Solomon, ended up bringing justice to the situation. Much later, justice was served. And it wasn’t like Solomon just said, “I think I’ll go kill him.” Actually, Shimei got himself into a situation where he deserved it. It was sort of like God ordered his circumstances so that justice was served for a much greater thing.

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