Summary: As Christians we are to learn from our past mistakes only to the extent that it redeems the present and get our eyes focused on what truly matters: winning the prize of eternal life with Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour!
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We all have regrets for those things done or not done, said or not said, imagined but not realized. Even though an average life has over 2.2 billion seconds to live; life span is short, for we truly are here today and gone tomorrow. For the 86,400 seconds of each day, people strive to make the very best decisions so that they might increase their chances of improving their present and future circumstances. While the ultimate goal of a Christian is to live a life so pleasing to God that upon death one hears those sweet words “good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21), our sin craved minds keep our decisions focused on receiving earthly rather than heavenly treasures. While the depravity of our minds might seem to have no limitations there always comes a time when one’s conscience forces one to bow to a time of reflection. Since we as Christians will be held accountable at the judgment seat of Christ for our decisions (2 Corinthians 5:10); reflection and course directions should not just be done only when faced with tribulations or physical death, but moment by moment.
In Philippians 3:7-14 Paul looks back at his life and concludes two important facts when it comes to reflection. First, a successful life lived is one that focuses on pleasing God, not ourselves. Even if one regrets their decisions and efforts have not led to obtaining the worldly markers of success such as fame, power, money or good looks; one can still feel like a success for what this world has to offer is garbage in comparison to knowing our Lord! Paul’s second point is that righteousness is not obtained through one’s effort but through faith in Jesus Christ. For all of us who regret sinning so frequently there is a cure for the guilt and shame we feel – repentance and forgiveness! We need not live as the depraved and mortally wounded but as confessing, redeemed children of God!
Dealing with Regret #1: Failure to Become Famous, Rich or Powerful
Every person wants to feel like their life matters. It is human nature to strive to become “all that one can be.” Success or failure is often determined by comparing ourselves to the most “successful” people that we know. Based on worldly standards the “success” that is assigned to one’s life depends on how much money, fame or power one has in comparison to the money, fame and power of the people that we know. After all, don’t the richest, most famous people of this world have access to the greatest sources of pleasure? The one hundred foot yautes, tropical vacations, servants, fast cars, and endless vacations certainly do sound enticing! This world tells us the better one’s decisions and the greater one’s effort to obtain success, the greater one’s chances of moving further up this temporal pleasure chain to become truly “successful” at life.
Day in and day out the world reminds us that those who are average or below average in terms of acquiring wealth, fame and power are believed to have failed to grasp the ever existing opportunities of this very rich country! Who has not heard the statement that North America is the land of opportunity. The world tells us that the poorest in this country can become the richest! The problem with this philosophy is that better decisions and greater effort does not always equate to success. Matthew 5:45 states God causes the sun to raise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous. In Ecclesiastes 9:11 Solomon states that often the “race is not won by the swift, or the battle to the strong, or wealth to the brilliant, or favour to the learned; but time and chance happens to them all.” Better decisions and greater effort only leads to worldly success when circumstances allow opportunities come to fruition. When life circumstances turn for the worse often no level of effort or skill can reverse the tides of misfortune! Those who go through some of the most debilitating tribulations of life often do not perceive their lives as valuable because they were unable to acquire wealth, fame and power.
Left with the world’s definition of success then value is partially determined by effort and skill but mostly based on winning the lottery of chance. As a Christian I choose not to join this world on its sea of meaninglessness, but choose to embrace a better and proper definition of the value of a life as given by Paul to the church of Philippi.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ (Ephesians 3:7-8)