By Chad Bonham
“Don’t ever do it the way I did it, because everyone won’t make it. You got to be willing to walk in a storm. That’s what I tell people all the time. If there’s something in your life that you know needs changing, make sure you change it before God’s got to change it. Because if God’s got to change it, you ain’t going to like it.” – Ray Lewis, Super Bowl XXXV MVP
No one is perfect, so it’s inevitable that we are all going to make mistakes—sometimes on a daily basis. Mistakes can be relatively harmless like forgetting to roll up the car windows right before a rainstorm or giving a toddler a sugary snack right before bedtime. Bad things might come of such mistakes, but they are short-lived and easily rectified.
But some mistakes can have more serious consequences. Giving in to the sin of gossip can cost a friendship. Blindly trusting someone you don’t know that well might open the door for that individual to take advantage of you. And of course there are very grave consequences that go along with criminal behaviors such as theft, assault or even taking another life.
No matter the situation, we all make mistakes and often have to deal with some level of consequence.
The Redemption of Ray Lewis
Following the 2000 NFL season, rising Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis nearly lost it all. Lewis was at a Super Bowl party in Atlanta when a fight broke out and two young men were tragically killed. He and two friends were indicted on charges of murder and aggravated assault, but the charges were dropped when he agreed to plead to a lesser charge and to testify against the other men.
Thus began a long and winding redemption process. Lewis had to take a long hard look at his life and make some significant changes. Most importantly, he had to begin an open-ended conversation with his Maker.
“If there’s something in your life that you know needs changing, make sure you change it before God’s got to change it,” Lewis once told The New York Times.
Because of that spiritual renewal, Lewis was able to ride out the storm and become a positive force within Baltimore. Instead of squandering his second chance, he made the conscious decision to rise up from the ashes of near defeat and become a role model for his teammates and for countless young fans.
After The Fall
Just like Ray Lewis, we are all fully capable of making some big mistakes and falling into sinful behavior. We are reminded of this fact by Paul himself who wrote these words:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23 (NIV)
So we’re all in this mess together. No one is immune to sin and its destructive nature. We’re all human and we are going to make mistakes. But the important thing is how we respond to our failures. Here are a few steps that we can take to help us get beyond the sins of our past:
1. Confess the Sin: The first step is to recognize the sin in our lives, confess it to the Lord and then ask for His forgiveness.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
2. Get Up: No matter how bad it might seem, don’t let guilt and shame keep you from rising up and shaking yourself off after a spiritual fall. Why? Because there’s no good reason to get weighted down by a past that even God has removed from His memory:
“Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin.” – Proverbs 24:16 (HCSB)
3. Repair the Damage: Sometimes, we have to take care of things that happened due to our sin. We might need to ask forgiveness from someone. Or we might need to make restitution for something we broke or stole. No matter the circumstance, this is a vital step in moving past those mistakes that not only hurt us, but also may have hurt someone else.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…” – James 5:16a (NIV)
4. Avoid the Traps: As humans, one of our biggest mistakes is falling back into old habits and failing to remove ourselves from situations where temptations keep popping up over and over again. That’s why it’s so important to avoid the traps that the enemy has set for us. It might be a physical location where certain activities or substances are easily accessible. It might be a group of people that readily foster wrong attitudes, impure thoughts or profane conversation. Whatever the case, we will always find ourselves back in the same fallen state if we aren’t intentional about where our physical, emotional or spiritual steps lead us.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)
5. Read Up, Pray Up, Dress Up: The Bible gives us three incredible tools that we can use to overcome temptation and to help us from falling into sin:
• Read Up: The Bible itself is a powerful weapon in our walk with the Lord. When we understand God’s promises and contrast them against the consequences of sin, it’s so much easier to recognize when temptations come our way and try to lead us down the wrong road:
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” – Psalm 119:11 (NIV)
• Pray Up: Active communication with God allows us to share our struggles and hear His Spirit’s leading. The more we pray, the more able
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41 (NIV)
• Dress Up: It’s something many of us have learned about in Sunday School, but the “Armor of God” is a metaphorical description of the spiritual protection we can utilize in our fight against sin:
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – Ephesians 6:13-17 (NIV)
6. Get Connected: It’s so much easier to rise up after a fall when we have trusted friends and a community of believers to help pick us up and keep us accountable. Solomon explains why likeminded friendships are so vital:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)
7. Walk in the Spirit: Ultimately, there is no way we can overcome sin or move past our spiritual failures without the power of the Holy Spirit actively moving in our lives. All believers have access to this priceless gift but we must first submit to His will, listen for His voice and follow His leading:
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” – Galatians 5:16 (NIV)
And when we walk in the Spirit, we will see the fruits of the Spirit begin to show up in our lives:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
1. What is an example of a mistake that you’ve recently made?
2. How did you deal with that mistake (cover it up, ignore it, admit it, ask forgiveness, etc.)?
3. Which of the seven steps are the easiest for you? Which of them are the hardest?
4. What are some things that you need to do today to begin the process of overcoming a mistake you’ve made?
5. What are some things you need to do today to help you keep from repeating those mistakes or falling prey to temptations in the future?