Upon further meditation on Rev. 3:15-20, I realize that Jesus was modeling the attitude we can take toward ourselves, when we fail. [See yesterday’s Journal for this passage from Revelations and for reflections on Jesus’ attitude toward the Laodiceans.] We can either kick ourselves for our failure for days on end, becoming more and more discouraged and full of self-hatred. Or, we can quickly choose to forgive ourselves and draw on the goodness of God, which resides in us through the Holy Spirit, to get back on track—or even step up to a new level of maturity.
I see two principles at work in the person who quickly gets back on track with the Lord after realizing his failure. One is a healthy, proactive mindset (as opposed to an unhealthy, reactionary mindset). A reactionary person reacts to failure with emotions, angry remarks, sulking, avoiding anyone who knows about his failure. As long as his embarrassment lasts, or as long as anyone seems to remember his failure, he seems powerless to regain a grip on his life. A proactive person does not allow his emotions or the attitudes of others to have such a strong effect on him. He takes responsibility for the situation and—in spite of what he feels or others are saying—takes some forward-thinking actions that will get him back on the road to success. –It is especially easy for a Christian to be proactive. All he needs to do is “open the door” to the Lord who is ready to encourage and enable him to change course (Rev. 3:20).
The other principle that helps a person quickly get back on track after a failure is humility. We might think that wallowing in regret is a sign of humility, but it is not. It is a sign of pride. If we are that shocked about our failures, we have too high an opinion of ourselves! A humble Christian knows that “nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Rom. 8:18). A humble Christian knows that the whole secret of Christian living is “not having a righteousness of my own . . . but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Phil. 3:9). The humble Christian is more concerned about getting back in right relationship with God than she is about saving face.
Steve Gray, pastor of the church in Smithton, Missouri, which experienced such revival in the 1990’s, made a statement when visiting our church which utterly melted my heart. Quietly he confessed the effect that revival had had on his heart, saying, “I’d rather be good than be right.” How relieved our Lord must be when we are more concerned about being good again, than grieving that our past attitudes and deeds weren’t right.
Just think of the potential for growth and maturity if we react to every rebuke from the Lord by quickly forgiving ourselves and allowing him to encourage and restore us! Think of how much better we will feel about ourselves if we see ourselves as Jesus does—as beloved children, whom he does not see as being “bad” but as promising works in progress.
Note: The proactive approach to life is one of the concepts thoroughly and helpfully described in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. I highly recommended them both. The teen version is downright entertaining--and very enlightening, just like the "adult" version.