Tripping Hazards: Regret

This week, we’re continuing our message series entitled “Tripping Hazards”.  In this series, we’re learning about common tripping hazards that exist in life which keep us from running the race that Christ has set before us with full speed and endurance.  We’re going to learn how to put our past in our past and move forward unhindered by it.
So far, we’ve covered a huge tripping hazard: offense.  This week, we’re learning about how to avoid the tripping hazard of regret.
All of us are well aware of how detrimental simple regret can be.  It can make us slaves to our past and take full control of our future.  It can tear apart churches, families, and communities as others move forward and we are left in the dust.  Regret is fueled by the weighty question, “What if?”.  Our thoughts can easily be consumed by what we should have or should not have said, what we should have or should not have done, if we would have decided this instead of that…
The Bible is full of men and women who made mistakes and begged God to forgive them and to remove the consequences for their decisions.  Even the greatest men and women of faith who accomplished great things for God also had some very dark moments in their lives that they lived to regret.
It’s sort of like this guy with whom some of you may be familiar with; Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite:
* Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico Clips *
Right?  Some of us know people just like this in our own lives.  If you can’t think of any, you may just be that Uncle Rico…  At some point, they encountered a tripping hazard in life and just sorta got stuck there and were never able to move on.
We have an enemy whom is also well aware of what posing the simple question, “What if?” can do.  Revelation 12 calls Satan the accuser of Christians and reveals that he stands before God and accuses us day and night.  He’ll use this “What if?” question time and time again as a tool to condemn and accuse us.  He uses it to invoke feelings of grief and guilt.  He’ll use it to overwhelm and consume us, to hold us back.  He’ll use it to create doubt and uncertainty in our lives.  He’ll use it to steal away our confidence and boldness.  He uses it to cripple us and render us useless in pursuing the hope-filled future and plans and purposes that God still offers us.
Many of us live with the chains of regret hung heavy around our necks.  There’s always that nagging thought and question of “What if?”.
What is the answer to this question?  How does God desire us to respond?  How can we possibly break free from this burden and cut loose our regrets?
The only solution that I know is Jesus.
Romans 8 reminds us that there is now NO condemnation for us who abide in Jesus.  There is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love and forgiveness of Christ.  Nothing that we have said or didn’t say, nothing that we did or didn’t do, no decision that we have ever made can stand against us and condemn us.  Although Satan may accuse us day and night before God, 1 John 2 reminds us that Jesus is our Defender!  Every mistake that we have ever made has been covered by the blood of Jesus and cannot be held against us any longer!  This is all obtained through simple faith in God’s gift of salvation through Jesus.
However, let’s be realistic.  This is easy to say and most of us know this fact already.  However, how do we practically do this?  Just because we’ve been forgiven for mistakes that we’ve made and just because we can no longer be condemned for these regrets doesn’t mean that we forget about them.  Some of us live with some very deep and heavy regrets every single day of our lives.  Some of us don’t make it through a day of our lives without shedding a tear or getting a bit angry about our past.  It haunts us wherever we go!
The truth is that we can’t go back.  We cannot re-live our past and correct any mistakes that we’ve made.  We can’t live out our options, then go back and choose the right one.  We only get one shot at this life with no do-overs.  The choices that we make today direct and steer our tomorrow and our yesterdays remain etched in stone.  Not one of our days can be rewritten.  This is a fact that we just have to come to grips with and accept.
I remember an old picture that hung in the living room of one of my relatives when I was growing up.  For some reason, it stuck in my head, but it made absolutely no sense to me at all until I grew up.  It was a prayer that said:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.”
It’s quite the appropriate prayer when dealing with regret.  There are some things that we can change now moving forward, but there are some things that we cannot change no matter what we do.  The things that we cannot change, we simply have to accept and acknowledge.
Why did God create our reality in this way?  He knew that we’d make mistakes before He ever spoke one word during Creation.  Why would He allow us to experience this pain and not make a way for us to completely forget?
Although Jesus forgives us freely, He leaves consequences in place.  Although Jesus heals us, He still leaves scars.  Although Jesus brings forth beauty from ashes, the dust still remains.  Although Jesus restores, the debt is still on our record.  Although our sins have been cast as far as the east is from the west, their shadows still linger.
As I prayed and prayed and lamented about the answer to all of this, I heard God speak this simple phrase.
A past mistake is a future opportunity.
We obviously can’t go back and change things, but we can learn from our past and make better decisions in the future.  We can also use it as a teaching tool for others to help them to avoid the same mistakes that we once made.
Burying these regrets deep down and pretending as if though they are not a part of our lives does us absolutely no good.  It’s how most of us tend to deal with regret, though.  However, doing this just grows these regrets into deep roots of bitterness and depression that pop up in our lives in the strangest sorts of ways.  They are tripping hazards that keep us living in fear and doubt.
Praise God that He made a way to avoid this tripping hazard and to break free from it’s grip.  There is freedom and healing in the choice of open and honest confession.  When we accept and acknowledge these regrets that we cannot change, we’re released from their weightiness and they lose their grip in our lives.
James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
A past mistake is a future opportunity and we miss that opportunity whenever we try to deny those things that we regret.  We often make the same mistake over again or make several new mistakes as a result of trying to cover up and hide that thing that we regret.
It’s sort of like these scenarios:
* DirecTV – Get Rid of Cable Commercials  *
If we try to hide and ignore our past mistakes, we force ourselves to fib.  Whenever we tell a fib, we have to tell a lie to make sense of our fib.  Whenever other people hear about our lie, we have to make up different lies to tell to different people to make sense of that lie to them.  Whenever we tell different people different lies, we’re forced to live a lie and begin to fear that we’ll accidentally tell the wrong lie to the wrong person.  While living this lie of a life in fear, we will have a mental break down.  Don’t have a mental break down, confess the things that you regret.
Jesus said:
John 8:32b
…the truth will set you free.
God’s desire is that we tell the truth; both to ourselves and others.  He wants us to allow Him to heal the wounds from our past regrets.  He leaves the scar so that we don’t make the same mistake again and so that we can show others and encourage them not to make that same mistake in their own lives.  Not only are we set free, but we also stand as a warning sign for others to avoid that same tripping hazard!
This is one of the many ways in which this scripture comes to pass:
Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
God is able to work all things that happens in our lives for good in the life of a follower of Christ.  That doesn’t mean that everything that happens in our lives will be good, but that He is able to take it and use it for good.  Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a time, a season, and a purpose for everything and that God makes everything beautiful in time.
In closing, let the words of the apostle Paul, who had more baggage than most of us ever will, yet did more for the cause of Christ than most of us ever will, encourage us in the area of regrets.
Philippians 3:10-14
10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Just like Paul, don’t let your past regrets be a tripping hazard any longer.  Find freedom and healing by confessing your past mistakes, accepting Jesus’ forgiveness, and allowing the truth to set you free.  Then, forget what is behind and move onward toward what is ahead in your bright and hope-filled future!