One thing all human beings have in common is failure. King David was no different. One day, from his balcony, he saw a woman named Bathsheba bathing. He saw, he looked, and he kept looking. Then he sent for her and committed adultery with her. Some time later, Bathsheba informed the king she was pregnant. At first, David tried to cover up his sin by bringing her husband home from battle so he would think he fathered the child. When that plan failed, he had Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle and took his wife as his own.
Yes, David failed big time but that wasn’t the end. It was a moment when all could have been lost, but it wasn’t. With God, failure never has to be final! No matter how bad, how wrong, or how ashamed you may rightly feel, God is there for you. Even though you knew better, God is willing to meet you. At times like these we need to turn to God like David did. Will there be consequences? Sure. Will there be pain? Of course. Does it have to ruin your life forever ? No, absolutely not. It is interesting to note that it was God who referred to King David as “a man after my own heart.” And this was after the Bathsheba affair. David was also the measuring stick against which God compared all future kings. It’s not just that God forgives our past failures, but forgets them as well. It seems that He is more interested in where we are, at any given time, than where we have been.
But the difference between the old David and the new David was seen in the way he handled his sin. Although in denial for a long time until he was “outed” by God through the Prophet Nathan, David dared to come clean with God. His response was “I have sinned against the Lord.” He then threw himself upon the Lord’s mercy and compassion.
As a pastor, I frequently see people trying to cut deals with God. This will never work. God provides a way to be forgiven, but it’s not by trading a few good deeds or promising to make up for what you’ve done. Sin must be owned up to. It must be openly confessed. It must not be justified or blamed on people or circumstances. And then it must be followed by genuine repentance—a conscious turning away from its root causes and a determination to not live that way again.
George Barna, the Christian polling expert and best selling author of many books, including “Revolution, The Habits of Highly Effective Churches” and “The Second Coming of the Church,” has often been highly critical of evangelical, Bible-believing churches. He criticizes them not because he doesn’t share their doctrinal position, but because he does share it. He recently wrote: “The challenge to church leaders is to stop pandering for popularity and set the bar higher. People only live up to the expectations set for them. When the dominant expectations are that people show up, play nicely together and keep the system going, the potential for having the kinds of life-changing experiences that characterized the early Church are limited, at best.” He went on to say, “There has never been a time when American society was in more dire need of the Christian Church to provide a pathway to a better future. Given the voluminous stream of moral challenges, and the rampant spiritual hunger that defines our culture today, this should be the heyday for biblical ministry. As things stand now, we have become content with placating sinners and filling auditoriums as the marks of spiritual health.”
The criticism is appropriate and well put. This is not the time for Christians to be sitting around congratulating one another because we have found a way to fill our church buildings. Our society is decaying from within and so many of our citizens, even the non-religious, are looking for a more meaningful life. That is what we have committed ourselves to do at CCF, to provide the direction to a life of meaning and purpose—becoming everything God has called us to become. But we can only offer the direction and give opportunities. The congregation has to act and step out and embrace that disciplined, godly lifestyle the Lord has called all of us to live. If we don’t step out and step up to other levels in our Christian walks we will only be adding our names to that long list of churches that are “fiddling while Rome burns.” Do you want to make your life count for something that will outlast it? Do you want to hear God say “Well done, good and faithful servant” when your life is over? Then it is time to get ready to perform as we raise the bar. Take the time to get in a small group, step out to lead, build relationships, and minister to those around you who need you. Only that kind of response to our decaying society can justify our continuing existence as a church family.
Life is full of both opportunities and challenges. That is one way to see it. Another way is to see life is as a series of problems interspersed with fun and pleasure and rest. The thinking goes that if we can just get through the next problem, get the frustration to stop, or solve the issue that plagues us, then we have a better chance of experiencing what we want, which is fun and rest.
But, more and more I am seeing this approach as completely wrong. We all face storms and waves and scary moments. We all face things that we are unsure of. What will the future hold? How will we find provision? What does God have in store for us? If we see these questions as things to be solved so we can get to the life we always wanted, we miss what God wants to show us in the moment, namely Himself.
What if the beauty is found in the midst of the storm? What if God’s best for us is not getting us to a place of rest and relaxation but in actually training us to enter the battle and find Him there with the love and hope that we need? With Himself? Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” No matter the storm, if we are in God’s presence, there is joy and beauty. Sometimes, we find God in the midst of the crashing waves and the storm. Sometimes the beauty that we seek is hidden in the midst of the trial that we are trying to escape or just get through instead of in what we perceive to be the pleasure and satisfaction that we seek out of life.
God’s way is better. God is sovereign. He is committed to our sanctification and to us being conformed to the image of Christ. He is also committed to us treasuring Him above all things and learning to worship Him in everything. He is committed to revealing His beauty and worth to us. But, He is also often hidden beyond the obvious. He sometimes calls us to seek Him in places that we would not expect Him to be. I pray that you will seek and find God this summer and that you would seek Him with all your heart. And find Him.
C. S. Lewis once said: “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a wonderful idea, until he has something to forgive.” The Bible speaks often about forgiveness and the writers understand that we are often conflicted about this issue. That is one of the reasons their teaching is usually coupled with a statement like “...even as God has forgiven us through His Son.” Jesus went even further and in that model petition we refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer,” he follows it by saying…”But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Mathew 6:15).
An excellent survey was conducted based upon what people say when they are sorry, and also what they like to hear when they are apologized to. They gave five basic answers:
1. I am sorry - most common and the most disliked. Has no depth, lacks sincerity but is better than the usual silence.
2. Sorry, I was wrong - second most disliked - admits guilt but offers no chance for interaction.
3. Sorry, I'm wrong, can I make amends? - a middle of the road answer, welcome to most.
4. Sorry, I'm wrong, can I make amends?, do you forgive me? 2nd most popular answer for obvious reasons.
5. Sorry, I'm wrong, can I make amends?, do you forgive me?, can you tell me how to avoid doing this to you again? Least common, but #1 favorite, because it gives both parties the best chance to resolve any issue.
If we could all be so bold as to go to a level 5 "I'm sorry", just imagine how many grudges out there would be out looking for someone else to carry them going forward!
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship