"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
August 3, 2016
This past Sunday evening, Jon and I watched TD Jakes on TV, and his sermon really struck a chord in our hearts; and I got plumb excited. The theme was: God will use your mess-up, as a set-up, for your comeback!! I have been thinking about this ever since. In fact, I was telling one of my sisters about it, and got emotional when sharing what we'd heard, as well as, what I've been thinking in regards to this. It was just one of those sermons that made me throw my hands in the air and yell, "YES!!" I don't know if I'll be able to portray how it touched my heart and write where you will truly understand and "get" the message that's been on my mind this week; but I pray that I'll be able to share in a way that will touch your heart, also.
Pastor Jakes was preaching about the fact that when we mess up, we tend to think that's the end.... that what we've done is too bad, or has hurt our chances of God doing something good in our lives. But God uses those mess-ups in our lives, as a set-up, for a comeback!! And those comebacks would never have happened, had we not messed-up.
Granted, we all have sinned and messed up; and no, God doesn't tempt us to try and make us fail or fall or stumble. We sin because we make ungodly choices. We mess up because we yield to our flesh; ignoring our conscience. We do bad things, because at a particular moment our desire for momentary pleasure seems more important than doing what's right. We don't do those things because God "makes" us, or because it's His will for us to sin and fail, or because He tempts us beyond what we can resist; but we make those choices ourselves.
It's not only "bad" men and women who do ungodly things; but good individuals can often make wrong choices and disobey God, too. People mess up!
Here's the good news!! When we mess up, God can take those situations and set us up. God is all-knowing, and He is aware of when we're going to do bad things; therefore, He can position Himself or whatever He desires to use, in order to prepare us for a comeback.
God spoke to Jonah and told him, "Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgement against it because I have seen how wicked its people are."
Honestly, I'm not sure that's an assignment I'd want to take on. Who really wants to go to a city full of wicked people, and tell them that God is going to judge them and destroy them due to their evilness?! That would be a tad scary. But that's not why Jonah didn't want to go. After the city repented, Jonah was greatly upset and angry, and complained to the Lord, saying, "Didn't I say before I left home that You would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you were a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry, and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people." (Jonah 4:1-2 NLT) Jonah wanted Nineveh to be destroyed!
It was fortunate for Jonah that God is filled with mercy and unfailing love; compassionate and slow to get angry; for he, himself, messed up big time! Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He got on a ship sailing for Tarshish; hoping to escape from the Lord. The ship was underway on their journey, when God caused a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the boat apart. The sailors were desperate for their lives, and started shouting to their gods for help, and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. In the meantime, Jonah was sound asleep! The captain went down and awakened him and asked, "How can you sleep at a time like this? Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives." The sailors drew lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. The lots identified Jonah as the culprit; which made the sailors angry and caused them to demand who he was. Jonah answered, "I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land." The men were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. "Why did you do this? What should we do to you to stop this storm?"
Jonah replied, "Throw me into the sea, and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault." The sailors didn't want to do that, so tried to row even harder to get the ship to land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn't make it. Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah's God, "Oh Lord, don't make us die for this man's sin. Don't hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons." Then they picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! The sailor's were awestruck by the Lord's great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve Him.
Jonah 1:17 says, "Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights."
God arranged a set-up for Jonah's comeback!! The scripture says that HE -- God, Himself -- arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah! It wasn't God's will for Jonah to perish or be destroyed, due to his blatant disobedience. Jonah willingly chose to try to run from God. God could have allowed Jonah to perish in a shipwreck, or allowed him to drown when he was thrown overboard. But God had a purpose for him, therefore, arranged for a big fish to be at the right place at the right time to swallow Jonah.
Jonah repented and prayed to God from inside the fish. Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. He had messed up, he had been set up, and now the time had arrived for his comeback! The Lord spoke to Jonah a second time and told him to go to Nineveh and deliver the message that He had been given. This time, Jonah obeyed the Lord's command. Nineveh was so large, that it took three days to see it all; and it had over 120,000 people living there (Jonah 4:11). The people believed Jonah's message, from the greatest to the least, and declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, He changed His mind and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened.
I think perhaps Jonah's message had more urgency and was delivered with more passion, after having just spent three days in the belly of a big fish. His comeback was likely more effective and had better results, due to Jonah's mess-up and repentance.
Here's something else to think about: Due to Jonah's mess up, a ship full of sailors repented and vowed to serve the one true God, instead of worshipping their idols and gods. Had Jonah not messed up and gotten onto that ship, they may not have ever come to know God. This was a life-changing experience for them, too!
Don't despise your mess-up, (or the mess-up of someone you love)! God will be right there, with a perfect set-up, waiting for your repentance, so He can do something amazing and bring about a comeback that far exceeds anything you would have experienced, had this not happened. It may also be life-changing for others!
Here's a personal example: Jon had a mess-up in his life many years ago. He wasn't living for the Lord at that time, as he knew he should be, and made some ungodly choices. But when that happened, God was waiting right there with a set-up! God had a comeback in store for Jon that was greater than anything he had experienced prior to that time. Had that not happened, Jon likely wouldn't have returned to live in Tulsa when he did; which happened to coincide with the same year that I moved to the area. Our paths wouldn't have crossed at church, the two of us develop a friendship, which resulted in dating and marriage. As a result of this, there have been other things that have happened over these past eleven years -- always at the right time -- that have been a part of that awesomely, amazing comeback!! God used Jon's past to set him up for a comeback, that would never have been experienced or appreciated had the mess-up not occurred.
There is a man that I know who messed up big time when he was a teenager. He paid the consequences for his actions, spending many years in prison. Upon getting out, he got saved. In the years since that time, he has grown spiritually and is very bold in his witness! He is not shy (whatsoever) about telling people about Jesus, no matter what their past or present is. He knows, firsthand, what God can do in someone's life, that has messed up big time! Had he not gone through what he did, he would never have experienced God's set-up and comeback, and wouldn't have the ministry that he has.
There may be times when the situation we find ourselves in happened due to the sinful choice of someone else. Perhaps they were being vengeful and wanted to see us fail; but God foiled their plans, and because of that situation, we find ourselves in a better place than we would have been otherwise.
In Genesis chapters 37-50 we read the story of Joseph. His brothers sell him into slavery, due to their jealousy of him. Upon his arrival in Egypt, Joseph is sold as a slave to Potipher, who was captain of the palace guard. Joseph ends up spending time in prison, due to him running from Potipher's wife when she tries to seduce him and he refuses her. She lies to her husband, who becomes furious with Joseph and has him imprisoned. It's not clear how long he was there, but it was for a few years. He finally is able to interpret the kings dream, after no one else was able to, and is release and given a place in the king's palace. Joseph rose to a place of honor, where he was second in command of all of Egypt, with only the king having more power than him.
In Genesis 50:19-20, Joseph is speaking to his brothers and says, "Don't be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people."
Others can intend to harm us, but God can use it for good. Satan can also tempt us and try to get us to mess up and fall away from God, intending to destroy our lives and bring us to harm. But God can change that situation and bring about good. God can foil the devious plan of Satan and set us up for something spectacular. He can bring about a change that will not only be a comeback for us, but that can influence and encourage and change the lives of others!
There also may be times when our mess up is hidden and no one may know about it; or perhaps only one or two others. Perhaps we've been able to keep it secret, which seemed like a relief at the time, but over the years the guilt and condemnation that we've battled has hindered our relationship with the Lord and has kept us from fully submitting ourselves to Him. Perhaps we think, "If others only knew what I'd done, they'd be so disappointed! They would never forgive me! They would think I was a fake and not ever trust me again!" Don't let those mess up keep you from allowing God to set you up for a great comeback! Satan will play games with your mind, trying to keep you bound and a slave to your past mistakes and mess ups. But God will forgive and can make something beautiful and wonderful out of that situation.
Don't sell God short! Don't think that your past is too bad or too painful or too sinful for God to give you a comeback. Don't think that your present is too messed up for God to set you up for something amazing. God is big enough and capable enough to set you up for a better future than you ever dreamed of. He loves you that much!! He promises to give us a future and a hope! He desires to do amazing things in your life. Ask God and allow Him to use your mess-up, as a set-up, for an awesome comeback!!
I've heard a lot of people say they have no regrets; that if they had it to do all over again, they would do everything exactly the same. I always find that hard to believe. True, God can turn whatever Satan meant for evil into something good. But that doesn't mean I would deliberately make mistakes again, and I'm disappointed to hear some people would.
Maybe they think they've never done anything wrong. Seriously? They never said anything unkind? And never missed a chance to show someone kindness? I can believe they might not have done any life-changing kind of harm to anyone, but it's hard to believe there is anyone who has never been unkind.
We shouldn't become so consumed with regret that we give up on life, or on living right. But without any regret, we won't improve, either. And God knows I have room to improve.
Fresh Peach Pie
5 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
(about 9 medium)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 425. Prepare pastry. Peel and slice peaches. Mix peaches and lemon juice. Mix sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl; stir into peaches. Turn into pastry-lined pie pan; dot with butter. Cover with a top crust that has slits cut in it; seal and flute around the edges. Cover edge with 2-3 inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking. Bake until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust, 35-45 minutes. If using canned or frozen peaches, decrease sugar to 1/2 cup.
A while back I received an "event" invitation on Facebook. It was encouraging people to do a random act of kindness; not on any particular day, but just to put forth an effort and intentionally do something kind for someone.
Last week, Jon and I traveled to Midland, TX where he had to work for a couple of days. On Thursday, I was at our hotel for the day while Jon was working, so walked to the Supercenter that was across a side street. There was nothing in particular that I wanted or needed, but was looking at various things to fill time. I was in the men's department looking at shirts that were on clearance. I noticed an older gentleman at the rack next to where I was. He got out a magnifying glass, trying to read the label on the shirt. I walked over and he asked if I would mind looking to see if the shirt was an x-large. He has macular degeneration in his eyes, which made it terribly hard to see. He put the shirt in his cart, then walked over to a display of colored t-shirts that were on clearance. I asked if he would like me to help him find his size, and found three t-shirts for him. He was so grateful for my help and thanked me.
Often we think that an act of kindness requires a lot of money or time or effort; thinking we don't have the time or money or too busy. Most times all we need is to look for an opportunity to lend a hand; and it may be something as simple as reading a shirt label for someone with an eye disease.
On our way to Midland, we had stopped at a fast food chain to use the restroom. Jon decided to buy himself a soft drink as we were leaving. He ordered, then when it came time to pay, the guy behind the counter told him, "No charge! This one is on me!" That was an act of kindness on his part to us.
There may be times when we will be the ones doing the act of kindness, and other times when we're on the receiving end. Either way, may we always give or receive with a grateful heart!
Let's be known for the love we share; not the criticism we contribute. - Leah Dipasca
We love you!
Loretta & Jon