At this particular time of the year, the Holy Season of Jesus's birth, it seems that pain hurts more. Even a pin prick to the heart by one person's unkind or thoughtlessness seems to touch deeper, hurt worse than at any other time of the year. Regret seems to rush in and tries to steal and rob of us of our joy. Why is that? On first glance, the topic of this blog may appear a bit depressing, but once the door is opened and you look into the heart of the matter, dear reader, I believe you will be pleasantly surprised by the warmth and glow of a message of hope.
Looking at life globally, regionally, and individually we can find good and bad at every turn of the road. Tensions, confusion, and pain brought on by the enemy's use of racism in America to horrific events of the Middle East could dampen any saint's spirit were it not for the message of the Book of Acts and the Hope, with which Paul lived his life alongside the other disciples as they all journeyed through their lives.
Individually speaking, we can think back to some of the arrows flung at us by family, friends, and co-workers over this past year - or even many years past and still feel the twinge of pain from those arrows. Paul and his companions told some real war stories about the arrows flung at them! Thankfully, their stories always ended with what Jesus did with the arrows that came at Him - He died from them and lived to tell about the Power that protected His Life from the sting of death! Oh what glory that message brings to my heart when I try to be wounded by whoever shot what arrow at me!
All of us as humans stop to look at the bleeding wound in our own hearts when someone attacks us! Every one of us wants the bleeding to stop and our pain to go away. It is at those moments that the enemy rushes in to strengthen or entrench us in those paralyzing, pain-filled thoughts with another, equally destructive thought - regret. All of a sudden we find ourselves regreting that we allowed someone into our hearts; we regret being open to people, We regret getting close...and on and on...and on. You can fill in your own stack of regrets. Then every time even a feather brushes over our bruised hearts, those same regrets resurface and here we go again....pain and more pain. Where is that balm of Jesus's Victory over death now? It seems that some have such grief during this time of the year - and maybe the whole year - because of all the regrets that have built such thick walls around their hearts that now, it is difficult to even glimpse the hope and glory that Paul and his friends spoke about in the Book of Acts, Romans, and Corinthians.
In Acts we find amazing accounts of how people handled the arrows of their attackers. We see a good man, Stephen stoned, "While they were stoning him Stephen prayed,;Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell on his kness and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' When he said this, he fell asleep." Do you think Stephen went to Heaven with any regrets? I don't. We see the account of Saul being transformed into Paul. Saul who had been the one flinging the arrows at Christians became the one leading people to Christ! Did he have any regrets? About hurting God's children - yes, but about being hurt by God's children - no. Well...to be honest in 2 Corinthians 7:8 - 11, Paul does express some regret about writing a letter of chastizement/ encouragement to the Corinthians, but he quickly explains that he really didn't regret the letter because it brought good about for the Corinthians! So - I guess that one regret really didn't count!
How many of us have deep regrets that we haven't dealt with? This time of the year seems to stir them up and brings them to the surface, and it hurts. When we hurt, our function in the Body of Christ gets hurt. What if Paul had just said, "You know what, these people just don't get what I am trying to do here! l am working here! I want them to be saved, and believe in God, and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior but all I am getting is pain in return. I don't need this! I am going to just shut down, shut up, and shut myself away from the world!" Now, if anyone had a worldly, fleshly right to shut himself away from mankind, aside from Jesus - Paul was the man! However, he did not chose that path.
Paul kept reminding the very people that hurt him that God never gave up on them! Romans 10: 21, "But concerning Israel he says, 'All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.'" He also reminded them of what God had said in the Old Testament, Isaiah 28:16, "'See, I lay in Zion a Stone that causes men to stumbel and a Rock tht makes them fall, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.'" Of course, Paul was referring to Jesus. Paul's words tells us that those that fling arrows at our hearts are often those that claim to know God, like our family, friends, and co-workers... and .as they fling those arrows , our hearts fill with regret over the loss of those relationships. But, take heart - Paul let's us know that God's Grace ,His Son Jesus, teaches us that our hope is not in the people around us, but in Jesus. Those that chose to abide in Him, He will abide in them - and it is in those people that we can find hope, peace - and yes a regret free life because those people are Jesus focused, God focused and not self focused. Their agenda is love, love of God, love of you, and self just doesn't exist in these folks - there is no room for self because they are filled with and guided by God's Grace!
Remember dear reader, what we chose to gaze upon the most is what we become. If our eyes are focused solely on Jesus - then we can become more Christ-like and regret free! We are not looking at the folks to the right and left of us - we are focused on Our Father and His Love! We can be free to run, jump, laugh with total joy in our hearts because of Jesus. And...guess what - our joy in The Lord IS our Strength!!! Oh yes - with that strength we have no regrets! We are free from the pain of any arrow that has ever been flung at us!!! We can even find the strength to walk amongst those shooting those arrows and feel complete freedom to be who God created us to be...we can be like Paul and say, " So from now on we regard no one from a worldy point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconcilliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconcilliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal throug us. We implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God"(2Corinthians 5:16 - 20).
Paul completely understood what it means to be a wounded Christian. We all know what it means to be wounded by those around us, but it is in our hearts turned towards God and Jesus and through the Power of The Holy Spirit in us that we can be free to turn loose of any regrets of loss and experience the true joy of God, today, especially in this season of rejoicing over the birth of Christ, Our Savior! 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 tells us the joys of what we have in Jesus:
"We put no stumbling block in any one's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in gret endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, impresionments and riots; in hard work, sleepless ngihts and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindess; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand in the left; through glory and hishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."
Yes, we have everything through Jesus Christ - with no regrets! We rejoice with the angels - for unto us is born a Savior -Jesus Christ - King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Amen!