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By the time one reaches old age, and generally a long, long time before one can look back at his life and see things he wishes he had done differently. These things may relate to about any area of our life. I think it would do us some good to look back at some of the Bible's famous men and see if they had any regrets. By doing so it may give us a degree of strength to go on and not give up. Adam was the very first man, our great ancestor. There is no doubt but what this man had deep regrets. He once lived in a paradise on earth and had an unending life ahead of him having free access to the tree of life. For food all he had to do was reach up and pluck it from the tree on which it grew. There was no need to store it or do hard labor for it, for it was always going to be there. God walked with him in the garden and thus for a time he had full fellowship with God. Adam gave it all up. Do you not think while he was toiling the soil by the sweat of his brow fighting the thorns and thistles and realizing his destiny was to but become dust himself, that he must die, and that he had also brought this same destiny upon his children, that he was responsible for what they would have to go through, that he often looked back on how it once was and deeply regretted what he had done? Samuel was a great man of God. I do not recall a single passage that speaks ill of Samuel. He was God's man and judged Israel all the days of his life (1 Sam. 7:15) and, furthermore, he was a prophet of God ((1 Sam. 3:20). In the New Testament we find him listed in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, along with others in what one might call faith's all of fame. And, yet, we find this. "Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel." (1 Sam. 8:1 NKJV) And then a little later we find this, "But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice." (1 Sam. 8:3 NKJV) Do you not think this grieved Samuel greatly? The thought comes naturally to mind when a child goes wrong where did I fail, where did I go wrong in raising him or her? There is possibly no other regret that cuts deeper than this one. We think to ourselves if I had just done this or that differently. We blame ourselves. I failed my child or my children. I do not claim Samuel sinned in the way he raised his family for I have no way of knowing but I do believe every parent will blame himself or herself to an extent and have regrets. When one looks back in time there were a number of great men of God who could not have qualified to be an elder in the church in the New Testament era, one of the requirements being "having faithful children" (Titus 1:6 NKJV), due to the kind of lives one or more of their children lived. David was another great man of God. Here is what God thought about David after his death, speaking of King Abijam, the scripture says, "his heart was not wholly true to the
Lord his God, as the heart of David his father." (I Kings 15:3 ESV) And then in the latter part of verse 4 of the same chapter we read, "David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." (1 Kings 15:4b ESV) He also is listed in faith's hall of fame in Hebrews 11 verse 32. Certainly, we all expect to see David in heaven. Yet, David had occasion for regret in his life. Yes, the most obvious was committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah her husband murdered. No doubt he looked back on that occasion many times in his life with deep regret. Not only had he done this great evil it also brought with it great consequences resulting in much harm down the road to others. Hear the words of Nathan the prophet, "Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.'" (2 Sam. 12:10-11 ESV) What was the evil that came down the road? Absalom, a son whom David loved, murdered another son of David – Amnon. Awhile later Absalom sought to take the kingdom away from his father and even have his father put to death. David had to flee to save his own life. In a battle that brought defeat to Absalom, David commanded those in charge of his army, "Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom." (2 Sam. 18:5 ESV) You know the story of how in disobedience to David's orders Joab killed Absalom. You also remember the deep grief David suffered over this. The Bible says when David learned of Absalom's death he was deeply moved and wept. "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!" What sorrow, what regret. Had David not brought this upon himself by his sin? Much like Adam he could look back with deep regret over his sins. It had cost him dearly and resulted in much harm to others he loved deeply. To me the Bible is clear that had David pursued a different course in his life with regards to Uriah and Bathsheba the life of his own family would have turned out differently. Solomon later had another son of David's put to death – Adonijah. Prophecy was most certainly fulfilled. Sin can have deep consequences in this life not only for ourselves but also for those we love and care about. It is not as we sometimes hear "my life" and no one else's business. There are always consequences for good or ill for others in our acts or lack thereof. But, the subject is regret. There is no doubt about regret being in David's life as he thought on these things in reflection from time to time. In the New Testament we also find great men of God who no doubt had regret. We can readily name two – Paul and Peter. Paul said he was "not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." (1 Cor. 15:9 NKJV) Elsewhere he calls himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). I believe there is every reason to believe that Paul was at the least indirectly responsible for the deaths of some Christians. When Stephen was
stoned to death the Bible says "Saul was consenting to his death." (Acts 8:1 NKJV) In Acts 22:4 (NKJV) Paul says, "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women". Paul says the persecution was "to the death". One wonders how many mothers were in the group of those who were persecuted leaving children as orphans. Do you think Paul had regrets? Do you think those regrets ever completely passed from his thoughts as he lived day to day? Peter's case is too well known to recount here but we are all well aware of his regret having denied Jesus just at the time when Jesus could have used support the most. A lesser known case is that of James and John. Do you remember when Jesus was heading to Jerusalem how he sent messengers before him and as they came to a village of the Samaritans they refused to receive him? James and John respond by saying to the Lord, "do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them"? (Luke 9:54 NKJV) Jesus responds by saying, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." (Luke (:55-56 NKJV) As you know James was killed not long after the church was established, but John lived a long life. Do you not think that John looked back with regret when he thought about the kind of man he once was, a man willing to bring about the death of others? He is known as the apostle of love and yet there was this in his life, the very opposite of love. It had to hurt as he looked back. There had to be regret. Then there was the other time when James and John came to Jesus asking that they might sit, "one on your right hand and the other on your left, in your glory." (Mark 10:37 NKJV) There would have been no problem with this if it had not been for leaving others out seeking only glory for themselves. The Bible says, "when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John." (Mark 10:41 NKJV) In time to come James and John could look back and regret the attitudes they once had. We have seen enough examples to make the point. There is often in even the best of men things they look back on with regret. Things they wish they had done differently, attitudes and actions they very much regret or things they wish they had done but didn't. These are things that can drag us down and destroy us if we allow it – a deep inner regret and sorrow that clings to us and will not seem to abate. When I look at you or you look at me we think we know the person we are seeing if we have been acquainted with them for any length of time. That is often not the case. We do not know the inner man and the sorrow he or she may be carrying everyday of his/her life. Paul said in 1 Cor. 2:11 (NKJV), "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?" There may well be a very deep regret within others that we know not of and cannot see, a burden that is carried everyday. Sometimes we see those who are overly righteous so to speak. They feel they have led exemplary lives and perhaps their sins have not been as great as that of others except for one thing – their attitude. One is reminded of the two men who went up to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee prayed thanking God he was not like
the tax collector. (Luke 18:10-11) He busied himself telling God the good things he was doing and how he was not doing evil and yet Jesus says of the tax collector "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other." (Luke 18:14 NKJV) The Pharisee did not deep down feel a need for God for to him his works were of such a quality as to fully justify him. He had no sense of sin and guilt, had no regret. When we begin to think too much of ourselves we ought to stop and consider. If I am so good why do I need Jesus' blood? There is not a person on the face of the earth who has lived such a life that on its own merits deserves anything other than eternal hell fire. A nasty bad attitude toward others is just as bad as anything else and even more distasteful to others. It is disgraceful and unbecoming a Christian. It matters not how bad a life a person, or even a Christian, has lived in the past. When a person repents and comes to God or back to God, as the case may be, they deserve all the honor and respect that can be given one of God's children whom Jesus came to earth to save. No matter how bad a life they may have lived they are just as good as you in God's eyes no matter how good a life you have lived or think you have lived. You probably never committed the sins David did but would you dare say, because you have not, that God sees you as superior to David? We sometimes, despite ourselves, carry about a sense of superiority. We did not do this or that and we become the Pharisee that went up to pray. Remember the account of the man who sent workers out into his field at different times of the day in Matthew 20? When evening came those who had worked longer felt they deserved more money than those who had worked less hours and in some cases far less hours. They felt the landowner was unjust when he gave the same amount to every man regardless of the hours worked. It seemed unfair to them. We have to be careful that we never develop that kind of attitude toward our fellowman and especially toward one another, brethren in Christ. The attitude of we have done more, we have been better, we deserve more, is unchristian. Truth is we deserve nothing, nothing that is but punishment for our sins, the sins we think we don't have. Why do people sometimes develop this kind of negative attitude? Perhaps there are other reasons as well but here are a couple that come to mind. One, they are not willing to be honest with themselves for they find more comfort in self deception. The Bible says, "Every way of man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts." (Prov. 21:2 NKJV) God said in Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV), "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" If we want to be self deceived it is not hard to do so. A second reason some develop this negative attitude is their ignorance of the scriptures. Some really do not know the scriptures well enough to know what is and what is not sin. There is all kind of sin apart from just sins of commission but some are relatively unaware of this. If I do not love my brother have I sinned? Some act as though as long as they do a man no harm all is well. Is it? Did you do him any good if and when he needed it?
We sometimes blame a person for his or her past and seem to want to see it corrected before we will accept them. There are a ton of things in our past we cannot correct and if that is to be the standard of Christian love one toward another it is a standard that sinners can never attain to. How do you correct the past? There is only so much any one of us can do to correct the past. We want mission impossible out of people sometimes rather than accept them as full fledged brothers and sisters in Christ. We will love them later when everything has been corrected. The trouble is that it is often impossible to correct the past no matter how much we might desire to do it. I would like to reflect on the men that have been mentioned in this study. Of the men we have studied some were already children of God at the time events unfolded in their lives that brought them regret. I guess Paul would be the only exception. Of the 6 men we have mentioned I believe we all agree that we expect to see at least 5 of them in heaven. As for Adam I am only willing to say that I do not know what happened in the many years after his fall in the garden. Did he repent? Did God forgive him? I am willing to leave that with them. Because we are all in the same boat together should we not fully accept one another with all of our faults of the past and count them as but nothing (the assumption being we have repented and turned to God)? We have all sunk our own boat and all of us are reaching up to Jesus for salvation. We are all hoping with Christian expectation that Jesus will reach out his hand to us as he did to Peter when Peter was sinking in the water he had been walking on. Only Jesus can save us. The past is the past but we can help one another, comfort and console one another, and help one another get to heaven. We all have regrets but we all can have hope if we will as the old song goes but trust and obey. The time comes when we must move on. The past cannot be undone and we do not want it to destroy us. Paul gave us inspired advice when he said, "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way." (Phillipians 3:13b-15a ESV) The inspired advice is let the past go. Look to the future. That is the best advice you will ever get on this subject – inspired advice. Turn loose of the past, let it go. Christ has called us to freedom, not to bondage.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?