Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Growing up, when I heard the verse, “Be ye holy as I am holy,” I interpreted that as, “Be ye perfect as I am perfect.” It didn’t take long for me to realize perfection was impossible. I would fail, beat myself up for not being holy, feel shame, repent and repeat. I stayed in that cycle for a while because I didn’t understand that verse, I didn’t understand grace and I didn’t understand know how to trust what had been done for me on the cross. I’m not saying I understand them fully now, but I do have a better grasp of them. I haven’t even figured out how not fail, but I have figured out how to trust God more when I do. I’ve learned He’s not up there waiting for me to fail so He can banish me to Hell forever. Instead, like a father, He’s cheering me on, picking me up when I fall, dusting me off and encouraging me to try again.
One of the things that helped me break the cycle was having a teacher break down Romans 7 and 8 for me. He had me circle all the I’s, me’s, myself’s and my’s in Romans 7. When I did, the page was covered in circles. Then he had me read verse 24. It said, “What an agonizing situation I am in! So who has the power to rescue this miserable man from the unwelcome intruder of sin and death?” (TPT) He then had me do the same thing in chapter 8, except I circled all the spirit’s, God’s, Christ’s and Jesus’. Again, the page was covered in circles. He then had me read verse 4. It said, “So now every righteous requirement of the law can be fulfilled through the Anointed One living his life in us. And we are free to live, not according to our flesh, but by the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit!” He then said, “It’s not up to you. Quit trying to live this life on your own. Trust God’s grace and let His Spirit lead you.”
All my favorite people in the Bible failed miserably, and sometimes often. The psalmist wrote, “Lord, so many times I fail; I fall into disgrace. But when I trust in you, I have a strong and glorious presence protecting and anointing me. Forever you’re all I need! (Psalms 73:26)” Being a Christian isn’t about being perfect. It’s about learning to trust God’s grace and being Spirit led. He’s given us the tools we need to follow where He leads, we just need to use them. When we fail and fall into disgrace, know that He’s not angry with you. He’s there ready to help you up, to forgive you and to surround you with His presence. Keep trusting in Him, learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and quit listening to the voice of condemnation. Romans 8:1 reminds us that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That’s a reminder for you as a Christian when you fail. This life isn’t about achieving perfection. It’s about learning to trust a perfect and holy God.
I love watching the Olympics because I love sports, competition and people performing at their best. I don’t celebrate when people from other nations fall or mess up. I’m sure it’s devastating to them. They’ve spent a lifetime trying to perfect a skill and then, when the whole world is watching, they slip up and fall. We shouldn’t celebrate when anyone messes up simply because we don’t like them, are in competition with them or they’re from another country. We should celebrate with those who win and help those who didn’t.
I read the story of Dario Cologna from Switzerland. He won the gold medal in men’s cross country skiing. After skiing 15 km (9 miles), he, like everyone else collapsed at the finish line. He had given it his all. Instead of going back to get a massage or to celebrate, he waited until the last person came across the line and congratulated him for completing the race. Roberto Carcelen of Peru finished in 87th place and about 30 minutes behind Cologna. Carcelen is Peru’s first winter Olympian and raced even though he fractured a rib in training. The last person he expected to see was the gold medal winner.
Each one of us are in a race as a Christian. Paul told us to run as if to win the prize. At the end of his life, he said, “I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful (II Timothy 4:7).” He wanted us to approach the Christian life as a race. It takes training, discipline and hard work over time. We are to stay focused on the prize as we run it. At the end of our life, we should be able to say we gave it our all and collapse at the finish line. We should be like the gold medalist in the Olympics who knows they gave it their all and has a great feeling of accomplishment.
We should also be like Dario Cologna from Switzerland. We should celebrate with others who complete the race. We should encourage others to keep going when they’d rather give up. We should recognize this life isn’t just about getting across the finish line in first place, but it’s also about helping others make it to the end. Galatians 6:1 says, “If another believer is overcome by sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.” We shouldn’t be so competitive in our faith that we fail to stop and help others who have fallen. We shouldn’t be so self righteous that we celebrate when other believers whom we don’t like fall.
Its never a good day when someone falls, especially those who are well known in the faith. It’s our responsibility to help them up. It’s our responsibility to restore them. It’s not our job to laugh or to make fun of. Each one of us are human and will fail in our race at some point. Each one of us will need restoration from other believers. Keep your eye out today for others who need a hand back up. Look out for those who may not be as swift as you are in the race. Celebrate their victories and share their burdens when they fall. That’s how we can fulfill the law of Christ.
I saw a poster recently with a picture of Michael Jordan on it. It caught my attention because it’s been over ten years since he played. Underneath his photo, in big letters, it said “Victory”. Then it wrote out the definition of victory. As I thought about it, he became synonymous with winning and victory, but that’s not his full story. Before he became a star, he couldn’t make his high school team. After he became a star, he failed at gambling, marriage and baseball. He failed in more areas than he succeeded in, but he did not let those failures define him.
You and I are the same. Our failures outnumber our successes. I get caught up sometimes just thinking about my failures. I wonder why I still try. I beat myself down because my failures seem so stupid. I think I should be able to beat them, but each time I fail, I get down on myself. I saw a friend on Facebook ask the other day, “Is it a true portrait of a man to see him when he is tempted?” I thought a lot about that. My first inclination was to say yes. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I thought that because I allow my failures to define me.
You and I are more than who we are when we are tempted and when we fail. We are also the person who knows where to seek forgiveness after a failure. We are the person who stands on mountain tops with our arms outstretched looking up to Heaven when we’ve succeeded. We are the person who pushes through when we don’t feel like it and no one seems to care. We are complex and should never allow ourselves to be defined or think that an accurate portrait of ourselves is who we are when we fail.
In Romans 8, Paul listed all kinds of things that could define us. At the end of that list, he said, “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ.” It’s time we started to see ourselves as God sees us. We are not all the mistakes, failures or temptations that we face. You and I are victors. We are the very definition of victory if we are willing to get back up, seek forgiveness and to try again. We may not be considered synonymous with victory in the world’s eyes, but we are in God’s. When He looks at you, He doesn’t see a failure. He sees someone made in His image with the power to win.