My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Every mistake you make has a future.  It may be good or bad.  Despite the outcome or consequences, it is still your mistake.  Sometimes it is bad because it is accepted in the wrong way.  I’ve had people to ask me, “What did you mean when you said. . .?”  The best reply is, “What did it mean to you?”  This allows me to compare what the person thought I said with what I actually meant by what I said.  Sometimes an apology is needed, not because something was said to hurt the individual, but because it probably could have been worded differently so it would not be misunderstood.  James talks about the tongue and how it can cause trouble (James 3:1-2 NKJV).  A mistake may be innocent, but it still has its future!

One’s actions may be misunderstood.  The action within itself may not be wrong, but the error is found in the interpretation placed upon that action.  When Paul returned to Jerusalem, James and the elders met with him (Acts 21:18).  They were concerned because some brethren thought he had “forsaken Moses” by teaching that Jews did not have to “circumcise their children nor walk according to the customs” (Acts 21:21).  Paul was not guilty, but some thought he was.  Their misinterpretation led them to be guilty of gossip and a failure to talk with Paul.  This caused a problem which neither James nor the elders should have been burdened with.  Sin was in the camp due to a mistaken misunderstanding and failing to correct it properly, which was another mistake (Matthew 18:15-17).

To help solve that problem, Paul was willing to go to the Temple with four Jewish brethren and pay for their sacrifice and the Levitical service of the priest.  On the way he was recognized by a Jewish mob.  Their mistake was in believing Paul was bringing a uncircumcised Greek into the Temple to defile it (Acts 21:29).  The commander of the Roman garrison saw the problem but made a mistake by arresting the wrong individual.  The commander ordered Paul to be bound and scourged (v.24).  Paul identified himself as a Roman citizenship causing the commander to realize his blundering mistake (v.25).  This was the beginning of a later event where Paul would make his own.

Paul’s mistake was not sinful.  The Jews demanded that Paul be turned over to the Jewish counsel in Jerusalem for judgment.  Paul used his right as a Roman citizen and appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11-12 NIV).  It appeared to be the best course of action at that time and under the circumstances.  However, after making his defense before Festus, the Roman Governor, he would have been released except for one problem.  Paul had appealed to Caesar.  Luke records how this influenced Festus’ decision.

Festus said: ‘King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man!  The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer.  I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome.”  (Acts 25:24-25 NIV).

If Paul had waited (some might say, “trusted in God”), he would have been a free man and walked out of that Roman Court absolved of all charges.  His mistake was in using his citizenship as his answer rather than trusting in prayer!  Governor Festus had no choice other than to honor Paul’s decision to appeal to the Emperor.  Isn’t it strange how innocent decisions can change the entire course of one’s life?  Innocent decisions that may cause problems that would not have happened if the decision had not been made?

It is true that Paul had opportunities to preach the Good News in Rome that would not have been available to him otherwise.  He would not have written that small letter to Philemon about Onesimus.  He would not have been in Rome when Onesimus was there.  The Jewish council in Rome would not have gone to speak with him.  The Roman guards would not have heard the gospel.  The church in Rome would not have been strengthened by his presence.  The Emperor would not have had his opportunity to hear Paul’s teachings about Jesus.  God uses our mistakes, good or bad, innocent or guilty, to have His will done.  Paul’s mistake resulted in a good number of people celebrating because they were eternally benefited by his presence.  On the other hand, we sometimes beat ourselves to death with “what if” we had not made that decision, “but” decided differently?  Yes, our life would have been different, and our influence would have been experienced by someone else.  Isn’t that the story portrayed in the 1946 movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life” starring James Stewart and Donna Reed?

We all make mistakes.  Someone is going to misunderstand your intentions.  Some mistakenly pull the rug out from under their own feet.  You may not understand the reason you made some decision that turned out bad rather than good.  Your bad mistakes aren’t so terrible that they will cause God to stop loving you.  His Son died to prove how much He does love you (John 3:16).  Besides, God uses those mistakes to benefit you and thousands of others.  Look how he used Paul’s decisions to benefit YOU!  If Jesus is in your decisions, then It’s a wonderful life after all!