One of the most common, inspirational storylines we have is overcoming adversity. This can come in two forms. The first is the run of the mill, day to day issues that arise – “the stuff of life.” Nobody likes paying for car repairs. I don’t relish spending time with my dentist getting a filling. But these circumstances pop up in our lives and we simply deal with them. The second is more difficult, more stressful, and likely to impact our lives in a greater way – overcoming the sins of our past.
Past mistakes are designed to devastate, especially in the hands of the enemy. Guilt and shame are powerful emotions that can cripple us, preventing us from receiving the full measure of our forgiveness and stepping forward into what God has designed for us. Satan knows this and uses our past against us. We can spend days, weeks, even years holding onto things. Others can latch onto an action or an event and use the moment to define the whole person. Both actions are not only unfair, but ungodly as well.
They are unfair because no one incident can define somebody. This isn’t to say that everyone in the world should get a free pass for bad behavior, or that patterns in behavior should simply be overlooked or ignored. But we must be careful to recognize that with the power of the Holy Spirit living in our heart, we have the chance to grow – to learn from our mistakes and to change our paradigms so that we can truly overcome. This leads me to my point that defining a person by the moment is also ungodly. God detests sin, no question about it. But God sees beyond the sin to look at the heart of the sinner. This is His desire – to have our heart. In fact, God can use every part of our life, including our most heinous mistakes to become the catalyst to reverse a life filled with sin and mistakes into one of faith, of hope, and abundant blessing.
The mistakes of my past are well known to me. I try not to focus upon them, but consequences and weaknesses have a way of bringing them back to the fore. I can look back upon decisions made and wish I had done something differently. I can stand pat in my current location with no plan for anything better, no hope to overcome. But ask yourself, who would I be serving, whose goals would be fulfilled doing this?
God’s? Absolutely not.
Satan wins when we allow our past sins to fester in our lives. God reminds us in Psalm 103:12 that when we are forgiven, our sins are removed from us as far as the East is from the West. He’s not holding on, reliving the past, hanging it over our heads, so why do we?
In a positive sense, we must use these memories to help guide us away from similar situations and the temptations that can come from them – without continued shame, guilt, or the need to be punished further. Instead, we take knowledge from them – they become training exercises to prevent us from making similar mistakes. They give us insight into how we can help others avoid similar trappings. We learn from them, and through them God blesses us. I don’t know if the singer Luis Miguel is a Christian, but I found a quote by him that certainly sheds great light on how we must approach our mistakes as we move on in Christ.
“I think we all wish we could erase some dark times in our lives. But all of life’s experiences, bad and good, make you who you are. Erasing any of life’s experiences would be a great mistake.”
I know who I am. I know what I’ve done. I know I’m forgiven. I know God has moved me away from that place of error and is leading me to a future of peace, purpose, and prosperity. I know I will make mistakes again. I know I will be forgiven again. May I continue to seek God diligently, every day of my life, that He may be glorified and I may be blessed.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, 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