Wednesday, December 30, 2015

'Woulda,' 'Coulda,' 'Shoulda' and God's Goodness

Regrets have no place in the life of a Jesus follower.

That is a strong sentence because it is opposite of the way most people, even Christians, live their lives. Most people think "Oh my, if I would have only..." or "What a shame, if I could have just..." or "I'm so sad because I should have ...."

Because of these thoughts, many people live lives full of regret. I want to show you from Scripture that there's no place for regretful thoughts in the life of a Christ-believer. Stuff happens; but God happens to be over our happenstances. He promises to those of us who've embraced His Son that He will turn all things, even our mistakes, into ultimate good for His eternal glory. Let me show you a powerful example of this Romans 8:28 principle.

There's a verse in Acts 26:31 that many Christians pass quickly over without giving it serious thought. I'll quote the verse in just a moment, but let me set the context. Paul has been accused of blasphemy for bringing Gentiles into the Temple, a capital offense among the Jews. He stands trial before Felix in Caesarea on charges of inciting riots, being the leader of a sect of people who follow "the Nazarene," and of desecrating the Temple (see Acts 24:5-8).

Eventually King Agrippa, the Roman puppet king over the Jews, assists Felix during Paul's trial because Paul had appealed to Rome as a Roman citizen, being from the Roman city of Tarsus. Paul convincingly argues to both Felix and Agrippa that he is doing nothing contrary to the Jewish religion and that he "worships the God of our fathers" (Acts 24:14-15) and is innocent of all charges. Both Felix and Agrippa believe Paul is innocent of blasphemy charges, but in Acts 26:31 Agrippa makes a stunning statement:

"This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar"

Ouch. Don't gloss over that statement lightly. Paul, in chains and in prison for two years, facing capital charges, could have been set free, if he had not...

Put yourself in Paul's shoes. What do you think he's thinking at that moment? Prison is not fun. Two years is a long time. This episode of arrest, two-year imprisonment, and ultimate trial in Caesarea occured after Paul's third missionary journey. While Paul had been waiting for his hearing before Festus and Agrippa, there had not many people to whom Paul could minister the gospel. Paul had known what it meant to be a success in Christ's Kingdom, but for two years he's been a prisoner in chains. Surely Paul wanted out of prison, right? Certainly Paul wanted to go on a fourth missionary trip, yes? If Paul is like us, he had to have believed being in prison was far worse than being out of prison. Wouldn't you? I think so.

Yet Paul hears, "You could have been set free if you had not...." At that moment, I'm sure the enemy launched the fiery darts of deep disappointment toward Paul. Regret had to have been assaulting the gate of Paul's heart.  It's a little like you hearing, "You could have....if you had not...", or you thinking, "I should have...but I did not..." and all the feelings that come your way during those occasions of regret.

But let me remind you what happened next to Paul.  He is sent to Rome and placed in custody there.  While in prison he shares Christ with both his fellow inmates and officials from Caesar's court. He also writes letters that we know as the Prison Epistles— Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians. It's possible that the initial infiltration of the gospel into the Legion of Thunder and Caesar's court began with Paul's imprisonment in Rome. It is certain that all the encouragement we've received from the Prison Epistles can be traced to Paul's imprisonment in Rome.

More precisely, all the good that's come our way through reading Paul's epistles can be traced back to a day of potentially great disappointment for Paul.

He coulda, woulda, shoulda been free from prison after two years, but he appealed to Rome. Again, I imagine Paul initially thought he had messed up. However, we learn from Paul's life the Romans 8:28 principle that God always has other plans for us, much better plans, even when we think we've screwed-up big time.

Regret is a poison pill. It darkens the soul and deadens the senses. It's a fog that descends and clouds your surroundings, so that you have difficulty engaging what's in front of you, enjoying what's around you, and escaping what's behind you.

Regret has no place in the Christian life because our good Father turns around everything in our lives for our good. Everything. Everything includes our mistakes, our sins, our tragedies, our screw-ups, our "wrong" decisions, and everything else that leads us to "coulda, shoulda, woulda" thinking.

When your mind begins to be filled with regret, squash it and get rid of it like you do a roach found in your kitchen. It's an invader; it's an intruder in a space where it does not belong. God takes all of our couldas, wouldas and shouldas and works them for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. That's the kind of Heavenly Father we have; He is all-powerful and always good.

Believe it and live it.


Unknown said...

1 Peter 5:8 is a response I have used against such things as regret. from the NET Bible it reads:

5:8 "Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour."

I am that someone. You are that someone. I only say this today because I must continually remind myself as I am often the easy target of doubt and regret and second guessing. I will fall to the temptation of doubt and of regret and yet it is a lie.

In my time living in South Africa I often tell people that the crime was not an issue for us. Here we were, my wonderful wife and 5 children in a country that experiences 50,000 murders a year. That is an astounding number for so small a population. It also has amazingly high rates of crime in many other categories. We lived behind a 9 foot wall with sharps on top as well as a 6 line wire of 10,000 volt electrical fencing. Being sober and alert was critical. After a while it was second nature and I was actually to the point where I feared for nothing but still had concern for my family but even there the concerns lessoned over time and after they (my family members) demonstrated that ability to have their head on a swivel and be "sober and alert!"

My good friend and Pastor John Mulligan counseled me wisely one time as he knew me well and told me that I had a problem with the truth. Not in telling it, but in believing it. I would dwell on and feed the negative monsters in my mind and they would consume me. Today, like every other day I do that very same battle...for we wrestle not against flesh and blood...right?

Being sober and alert has helped me tremendously yet I must remind myself to do so because in doing so when the temptation comes to doubt I will ask "What is the truth according to God?" Further, when the temptation comes to regret I can ask not only the same question but I can also ask "Is there a sin that the blood of Christ did not cover and deliver me from?" We all know the answer is that there is no sin He could not take and cleanse you of and free you from...You simply need to believe and EMBRACE the truth.

Pastor Wade, I so appreciate this refocus on a subject so dear to me. God is on His throne, in control, has a plan, never fails, is 100% consistent in everything and loves me enough to die on a cross to prove it.

Bob Cleveland said...

This wakens a lot in my alleged mind.

For one thing, we profess the truth of the Bible but all to often, we don't seem to believe it. At least we don't act like it. Romans 8:28 is just one example.

I've had people tell me they thought they should go on a mission trip, but when I ask them if they want to, they say no. I then point them to Psalm 37:4, and the statement that if our delight is in Him, He will place the desires He wants us to have, in our very being.

Paul wrote that some plant and some water, but I've had a church member this week tell me they were afraid of disappointing God. I told her she's doing plenty of planting and watering, and to leave the results to God. He told us He is the One Who will cause increase, anyway. And that despite Proverbs 16:1-4.

I can't explain why we see this, except perhaps some pastors want measurable results like Baptisms and professions and folks at the altar, and are willing to forego Victory in Jesus for having folks sing they've wandered far away from God.

Maybe that's why I don't see much victorious living, at least not by people who are aware that's what they're doing.

Ramesh said...

My reading of the text is Paul KNEW what he was getting into when he appeals to Ceasar invoking his Roman citizenship. I don't see any regrets in Paul's mind if I could read into his mind.

That said the theme of this post is sound. There is a great healing that takes place in the subconscious when one is at rest as in trusting Christ that He is working all for your good though one does not see it either visually or mentally.

The logical and rational mind is a small part of who we are. I firmly believe God can change your inner person without your rational self being cognizant of and one is surprised when these bubble out of the depths of your hidden mind.

Of course the opposite is also true. Lot of times we think we are secure in knowing who we are as to our nature but are placed in situations dark and twisted that also twists your inner nature without your cognizance and one is surprised in doing darker things in response or proactively.

Pege' said...

I get this from 2 Corinthians 10:5...
TAKE EVERY THOUGH CAPTIVE". When I find myself dwelling on thoughts guilt or shame, ( I refer to them as stinkin thinkin"), in my mind I take the thoughts and mentally place them in handcuffs or behind prison bars.

I test the thoughts and feelings against what scripture tells me.

Jesus tells me in Romans 8:1 "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."

Psalm 103:12,"As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."

Thanks for the encouragement and reminder to remember WHO I am because of JESUS!!

Alaskan in Texas said...

Thank you for meditating on and sharing your insights into King Agrippa's "could-a would-a should-a" statement to Paul. Like so many people -- friends and otherwise -- King Agrippa opined what he thought would have been the best thing for another person, in this case the Apostle Paul. King Agrippa's statement comes across to me as a sort of back-handed way of reprimanding Felix for his timidness and Paul for his boldness. I need to avoid being a "King Agrippa" when I listen to people talk about their lives. And, also, I need to avoid letting what the "King Agrippas" in my life think about my choices influence my countenance. When I listen to intently to what others think about what I could have or should have done, I indeed become dragged down by regrets. I appreciate your encouragement to stop falling prey to what other people think about my life, and instead focus on what God has done and IS DOING in my life. When I focus on Him, instead of "them", my heart fills with gratitude, humility, and joy. This is good stuff, Brother Wade.

Christiane said...

I agree that 'regrets' cannot un-do the sin we have committed against God. But we are bound to go to those we have injured and make recompense for harming them, whatever is possible to do . . . it is right to do for them. And, since we know that certain places, people, and circumstances have led us into temptation that we have not successfully resisted in the past, we know to consciously AVOID these temptations in future.

Then there are the sins we commit by NOT doing what we rightly had the responsibility to do, and thereby others came to harm because of our lapses. The same would apply to going back to those we injured by our neglect, and making recompense for our wrongful neglect that led to their suffering. We cannot always 'go back' . . . in cases like that, we can then look ahead in our lives with hope that we will recognize our power to cause hurt to others by our sins and by our failure to act responsibly when we knew we had an obligation. So sometimes, having learned from our weaknesses, we can find ways to 'pay it forward' by making a commitment towards doing better with the time and talents we have been given by God in order to live in a manner that honors Him.

some thoughts . . .

Rex Ray said...

Yes, Paul was accused falsely of a capitol offence in the temple. At his trial, who could have proved him innocent?

Answer: the ones that sent him there! (“Here is what we want you to do…Go with them to the Temple and join them in the purification ceremony…Then everyone will know that the rumors are all false…” (Acts 21:23-24 NLT)

What were the rumors? “…the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching…to turn their backs on the laws of Moses…not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs. What should WE do? THEY WILL CERTAINLY HEAR THAT YOU HAVE COME.” (Acts 21:22 NLT)

Was Paul’s life in danger? “…Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law.” (Acts 21:20 KJ) (Breaking the law was death; would teaching against the law be worse?)

But why were they NOT at the trial when he needed their help? Would their witness have been unreliable? I think not because Foxes Book of Martyrs records the Scribes and Pharisees telling James (pastor of the church) “Thou just man, whom we all ought to obey…”

Paul records their absence: “At my first answer no man stood for me…I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” (2 Timothy 4:16 KJ)

Paul’s prayer was the same as Stephen’s when he was being murdered. Had the same crime been done?

Wonder if the TV “Cold Case” would be interested?

Gordon said...

John Milton has the captured and humiliated Samson say:

" O loss of sight, of thee I most complain !
Blind among enemies, O worse than chains,
Dungeon ,or beggary or decrepit age"

Samson was dejected and his enemies made sport with him. But what they didn't know is that God had graciously designed to forgive Samson and restore his strength again. In answer to prayer Samson was yet able to achieve more in the end than in all that had gone before.

Samson did not dwell on his regrets and failures, but remembered the good days, returned to his Eternal Source and was instantly revived and rewarded with success.

A prayer : " Lord, lift us up to see further ".