You’re a couple of weeks into the new year and you may already be waffling on your commitments. I get it, a couple of weeks without doughnuts should be considered a win!
But when it comes to real commitments, resolving to make big changes that will alter your life and help you become the person you want to be, don’t give up now! Dig deep and keep moving! Here are a few tips to making permanent change.
Find an Advocate
After the story that we cited in 1st Samuel 12, Samuel gave the people a sign that God meant business about following Him into the future. It was the time of the wheat harvest, early in the summer when it was already hot and dry. Sam called out to the Lord and said, “Big guy! I told them how it was wrong of them when they asked for a king. I’m gonna need an amen!” And BOOM! Thunder and dark clouds materialized, lightning and rain began to pour from the sky! And the people just stood there shivering wet with mouths and eyes wide open in awe of the Lord and Samuel. They fell to their knees, tears adding to the downpour, “Oh no! We messed up big time. Sam! Ask God not to kill us. Please! Ask God to forgive us!” And Samuel did. And God did.
“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied…. “For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right….” 1 Samuel 12:20-23
Invite Grace with Humility
“Do not be afraid.” The way that the people won the hearts of their advocates, both human and divine was through confession and repentance, which opened the door for mercy to enter. We need God to succeed. We need people to succeed. We can’t go it alone. We need people to do what Samuel promised to do: pray and point out right and wrong. Those are the kind of allies you want. And the way to receive the help as well as the comfort and the gentleness that we crave in our journey to a better life is clear. We can’t demand that God or others give us grace or compassion. Hard hearts only attract harder stances. But humility…well humility attracts grace.
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Don’t Lament the Past. Leverage It!
The most shocking thing to me about the story of Israel’s new beginning in 1 Samuel is the fact that God used the bad situation they got themselves into and incorporated it into his plan. Should they have asked for a king? No. But they did. And God used the imperfect situation, God used Saul and God used the institution of kingship. It’s amazing that even when we’ve messed up, God will use the circumstances.
You may have done something pretty stupid. You may have bought into a timeshare. You may have bought a new car, right off the lot. You may have invested in a pyramid scheme. Maybe even that one where you sell candles as if we haven’t invented electric lights. If that’s you, I have a pyramid scheme I’m starting where we sell only things that society has outgrown like outhouses, vellum and laundry lines. We can make a fortune together if you just send me some money to get in on the ground floor! Just kidding.
But seriously, you may have married a less than ideal spouse. Maybe had sex out of wedlock. May have moved or changed jobs or jumped the gun or did the wrong thing or did a good thing the wrong way. But amazingly, God doesn’t excuse that, but he can use that. It doesn’t make it ok, but God can use it to develop his story. Phillips Brooks was so right when he said that,
“The only way to get rid of your past is to make a future out of it. God will waste nothing.” Phillips Brooks
A Better Future
God can use our mistakes and help us leverage our past to make a better future. He uses our mess ups to teach us about himself, about ourselves, about what we should be doing. He uses them to guide others into the same conclusions. Our past mistakes don’t change our value in the eyes of God because he only ever sees us as Christ. The question is, do we see ourselves as Christ? When we do, we see sin as a thing utterly unfitting and alien to us. We see guilt and shame as paid for and pointless to dwell on. We see glory as our adoptive birthright.
“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So now here we begin again yet again. Don’t ask yourself what the right thing to do was back then except to repent. Ask what the right thing to do is right now. And do it. Press on! Find your advocates. Recruit them with humility. Don’t overlook the past or lament over it, but learn from it and leverage it into a dazzling future.
“I have not already arrived at my goal. I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
2 thoughts on “Unresolved Part 4”
That is so true that God uses our rotten past to bring a bright and glorious future. I grew up in an alcoholic family and became an alcoholic myself. But because of grace and mercy extended through God and “advocates” I haven’t had a drink of alcohol for almost 42 years. I go down to the rescue mission two Sunday’s a month to help struggling alcoholics begin to understand and enter into a loving and life-transforming relationship with God and others. Been doing it for years.
Wow Bill! Thank you for this awesome testimony of God’s mercy and grace in your life. This kind of transformation from being the one who needs help to being used by God to help others really gives us hope! Praise the Lord!