Proverbs 24:16 “for the righteous falls seven times and rises again . . .”
1 Samuel 12:20 “And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”
One of the things that can discourage a believer perhaps more than anything else is thoughts about the past. Past sins, past failures, regrets for wrong choices, things we would wish we could do over again – do these things ever creep into your thinking? I can assure you that they sometimes creep into mine. So, what do we do in such situations? Do we stew on our failures over and over? Do we live in an attitude of regret? Do we allow such thoughts to paralyze us from moving forward with life and serving the Lord due to thoughts of the mess we’ve made of things thus far, so what’s the use of doing anything more?
As I reflect on this, a couple of thoughts come to mind. One is that one the names of the enemy of our souls is “the accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10). Of course, “our brothers” is a reference to Christians. One of the main ways that Satan attacks believers is to bring accusations against them. This can be either directly before the throne of God, as he did in the case of Job, or by way of thoughts thrown our way either (seemingly) from within our own minds or from others around us. It’s a temptation to keep looking back, to regret, to feel condemnation and thereby be paralyzed with regret. These feelings can come our way even though God has told us that “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), and that “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). These verses were given to us for a purpose; as a weapon in our warfare that is “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
But then we also have other scriptures that are like wonderful beacons of hope to us who are certainly sinners, yet sinners saved by grace. One such verse is Proverbs 24:16 above. It talks about the righteous in terms that are very encouraging to those who may forget that God sees them as such. It talks about how the righteous can fall – repeatedly. Many theologians see this “fall” as subjection to mistreatment and persecution by the ungodly, as the surrounding verses seem to indicate. Others have seen this “fall” to include sin, for believers can and do sin and they can fall far short of how they sincerely want to live. So, what do the righteous do? In either case, they get back up. They continue to trust in their sovereign Lord, confess their sin, accept God’s awesome and gracious forgiveness, and they move on. They “forget. . . what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13-14).”
And then the word above from the prophet Samuel to the nation of Israel as he confronted them with their sin. Notice his gracious words to these people of God: “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.” In other words, although you have failed and failed miserably, don’t turn away from God. Turn back to Him and from this point forward seek yet again to serve Him. You see, for the true believer, there’s really no other choice. It’s like when Jesus had so many of His (false) disciples turn away from Him and walk away. It was then that Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” To this question, Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-68). Of course, one of the 12 was Judas, and he eventually did turn away – but not the other 11, the true followers of the Lord. In their failures, which were many, they kept getting back up, kept seeking, kept following the Lord, this One whose name is “Wonderful” (Isaiah 9:6), and of Whom King David so wonderfully said, “Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5). It was something that David knew full well, and something the Lord would have us to know also.