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If Only…

Do you have any regrets in this life?  I sure do.  There are some clothing and hair styles I regret.  There are some words I’ve said and left unsaid I regret.  Some of my action and inaction is regrettable. Regret is rooted in condemnation, guilt, and shame.  Regret tells you you’ll always be enslaved to that thing you did or said – your past.  But your past doesn’t have to define you.  God defines and gives you worth.  No matter how bad your actions have been God still loves you and has a plan for your life.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.”  God chooses to love you despite what you’ve done.  He knows everything about you and still loves you!  This verse also tells me He has a calling (purpose) for my life.  He can turn my mess into a message and my tests into a testimony.

Think about Peter in the Bible.  He was hot and cold, having times of regret.  When Peter did the unthinkable and denied Jesus (even to a little girl while he cussed in frustration) the Bible says he “broke down and wept” (Mark 14:72).  What regret he was feeling!  Peter at times was seemingly so committed to Jesus even defending Him with a sword in the Garden of Gethsemane but didn’t even show up during Jesus greatest time of need on the Cross and couldn’t even stay awake to pray with Jesus before He was crucified.  Surely Peter should just give up, move on, and live in shame, right?  Jesus used him anyway, loved him regardless, and forgave him unconditionally.  That same Peter later would preach and 3,000 people would be saved (Acts 2).  Peter dealt with regret and turned it into motivation and a testimony for Christ.

To overcome regret we must do a few things.  First, we must really receive forgiveness.  Really receive.  Not feeling forgiven doesn’t mean you aren’t forgiven.  Feelings can lie to you.  Psalm 103:3 says God forgives all of our sins.  Micah 7:18 says there is no one like God who pardons and forgives sins.  1 John 1:9 says God will forgive and change us.  We have to remind ourselves daily to walk in forgiveness, not shame and condemnation.  Shame off you!  Secondly, get rid of “if only” thoughts.  The “if only” scenarios are endless.  There is therefore now no condemnation of those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  My favorite word in that scripture is “now”, meaning right now.  Paul reminds us to forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13).  You can’t go forward always looking in the rearview mirror.

Thirdly, we must move regret to motivation to be used for Christ.  When someone or something brings up your regretful past you should say, “That’s who I used to be, but that’s not who I am now.  Let me tell you how Jesus has changed me.”  God wants to heal ugly situations.  Satan wants to rub them in your face.  Use it against the devil instead of him using it against you! Lastly you must allow God to do whatever work He needs to do in your life.  Heal, forgive, extend grace, love, show compassion, soften your heart – whatever it takes to move you from regret to healing.  Don’t get stuck in past sin and mistakes.  Truly be sorry for what you have done (Godly sorrow), allow God to heal your past, use you in the present, and lead you in the great future He has planned.

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Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.

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