If you’ve ever made a bad decision, you aren’t alone. Every human, except Jesus, since the original creation has made many bad decisions. Every spiritually strong leader found in the Bible and throughout history has made a critical error. John Ortberg says it well: “If only people who made correct choices were used by God, the Bible would be a much shorter book, and Jesus would be the only character” (p. 29).
It’s important to know that God can still use, in a mighty way, someone who has made some bad choices in life. Certainly, it may not be in the same way God would have used them if they made a different decision. Our decisions do carry consequences. For example, King David (in the Old Testament) committed adultery and even though he repented and restored his relationship with God, he experienced consequences such as the death of that son born from infidelity, family feuds, and his wives having sexual relations with others publicly (2 Samuel 12:10-14). Yet, King David still went on to do things for God, had other children, and wrote many Psalms that are found in the Bible.
We see a similar story of repentance and redemption following a bad decision in the parable of the two sons as told by Jesus in Luke 15:11-32. Here Jesus tells this story to illustrate how God is not looking for perfection, but for repentance and a turning back to God. The younger son disgraces his father and leaves town with his early inheritance. The son spends all the money on foolish living to the point of poverty, begging for food. The son decides to go back home and repent of his ways hoping to be at least a hired servant for his father because they get fed. Upon his arrival back home, the father is ecstatic and restores the son to all the previous privileges of being the owner’s son along with a grand celebration. The older son was quite upset. He didn’t understand why the father would treat the younger son so nicely after he made so many hurtful and bad choices. However, the father responds:
‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” (Lk. 15:31-32)
Some people believe that God gives us one grand plan to follow, “Plan A”. And if we mess up or make a bad decision, we have lost our ability to be used by God and receive His blessings. There’s no doubt that God does have a high desire for us to always live within His ways, commands, and principles. He does know which ways are best. We saw that in Psalm 1 (Happy is the man…) and when we deviate from His ways, we do experience a bumpier road. However, God does not give us only one chance with no side paths or abilities to get back. God is not so cruel that we become ineffective and invaluable once we sin, choose a different path, or stall.
The key is a heart that repents. When a heart repents, they admit they made a sinful or wrong decision and admit that following God’s ways are best. They resolve to seek God’s ways going forward. They may not be able to get back on the original path, but they can still experience the blessings of following God. In Psalm 51, King David records his transition from repentance to restoration. He says:
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart. (Ps. 51:17)
Our ability to discern God’s good, pleasing, and perfect Will has direct relationship to our desire to offer ourselves to His ways (Romans 12:1). We must remain humble and turn back to God when we make a bad decision. The consequences may linger for a while, but God is ready to put you back on the path and back to work.
PAUSE AND PRAY
Take a few moments and thank God for giving you another chance and another chance when you failed to follow His plan. Write down any further steps God is asking you to take to fix what was broken from your decisions. Resolve to know that God has gladly welcomed you back and is excited for the plan He has for you.
This is part of a 4 week devotional plan for the series “Figuring Out God’s Will.” For complete details, see here.