We are not meant to wallow in our failures. God’s mercy is not contingent on our perfection.
Have you ever failed at something and then sworn to God and others that you’d never do that again (whatever that is)? If you’re breathing and you’re human, then the answer is yes.
Sadly, if most of us are consistent at anything, it’s failure.
We think thoughts that we shouldn’t think.
We do things that we shouldn’t do.
We say things that we shouldn’t say.
Or we don’t think, do, or say the things we should!
We all fail. Consistently. Like every day.
We have good intentions. We truly do want to behave. Only a truly evil person relishes in evil, and it’s rare to find someone that twisted. Nonetheless, we blow it on a regular basis.
If you’ve ever read the book of Judges, you know it’s a bit depressing. Yes, God rescues the Israelites from their troubles again and again, but they always end up back in a cesspool of their own making. You find in this Old Testament book a cycle of failure, desperation, repentance, God’s mercy, complacency—leading to more failure and so on. More than once I’ve read the stories and thought, How stupid can these people be?
Answer: Pretty stupid.
Then it dawns on me: Their story is my story. I’ve fallen into the same cycle of idiocy over and over again too. (And so have you.)
Granted, all of this sounds pretty negative and disheartening, but hang in there with me; it gets better.
What if God understands us better than we do? Is it possible that God is never as surprised by our failures as we seem to be at times?
Sin matters. Of course, it does. It’s never okay for you or me to just resign ourselves to being idiots. God calls us to holiness. He wants us to grow. Our sanctification is important to him.
But maybe, just maybe, what matters most to him is a broken and remorseful heart. Perhaps God desires our repentance more than he does our perfection. (Especially, since perfection is never going to happen on this side of eternity.)
Here’s what David wrote in Psalm 51:17: “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” David understood the mercy of God. He knew God would never detest or reject a heart that honestly regrets sin.
Okay, you fail, but don’t let the story end there, and don’t give up or lose heart. Of course, don’t excuse your sin or wallow in it either, but confess it, learn from it, grow and then move on.
I’ve decided not to focus on the failures of Israel in the book of Judges but rather to stay fixed on the mercies of God. Why?
Because I don’t want to fixate on my failures either.
Every Sunday, I preach to a large group of people who failed at some point during the previous week. Every one of them has sinned at some point and at some level (including me). But that’s not the whole story.
We can walk in forgiveness.
We can live free.
We don’t have to live under condemnation or in fear.
As Preston Sprinkle says, “We are prone to wander; God is prone to pursue … and he’s faster.”
A guy named Harry (not his real name) recently said to me, “I feel like a hypocrite when I come to church. I can’t worship. I can’t lift my hands in praise. I’m not able or qualified to do so because my hands are dirty from all my sin.”
I told Harry what I desperately want you to know, “Harry, a hypocrite is someone who pretends to have it all together when they don’t. And dirty hands are precisely the hands God wants us to raise in worship to Him because it’s ALL about him and his goodness, not yours or mine!”
He cried. I cried.
Last Sunday, I saw Harry worshipping Jesus with all his heart. I cried some more for Harry, but this time they were tears of joy.
My friend, please don’t let the enemy or your self-talk drive you away from God’s throne of mercy and grace. He specializes in accepting and embracing the contrite of heart. I know this from firsthand experience and from the Scriptures.
So, run to him, not from him. He will never reject you. Never.
“Jesus understands our struggle with sin. He empathizes with our weaknesses and relates to our battle even though he never has sinned as we do.
“So come to him. In fact, run to the throne—the source of God’s amazing grace—with confidence rather than fear.
“That is where you’ll find God’s inexhaustible mercy and his unmerited favor.
“That’s where you’ll find help when you need it the most.”
—Hebrews 4:15–16 (my paraphrase)
Kurt Bubna is the senior pastor of Eastpoint Church in Spokane Valley, Washington, a regional purpose-driven director (Saddleback Church) and the author of the book Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot. This post was originally published on KurtBubna.com.