|By: Dr. Steven C. Riser; ©2007|
|Is living life without regret an oxymoron? Is it even possible? How often do we wish we could do parts of life over? Whatever the case, what’s done is done. Right? Well…. not exactly!|
Text – 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 7:10
When I was growing up, I remember my mother saying, Live your life so that at the end of it you’ll have no regrets. Is living life without regret an oxymoron? Is it even possible? How often do we wish we could do parts of life over? As simple as wishing our last spoken word could be undone. All of us have done things that we wish we could do over. It may be an action that hurt us or someone else. It might have been a bad financial decision or relationship. Maybe it was some words we wish we could take back. Whatever the case, what’s done is done. Right? Well…. not exactly! All too often our lives are held captive by the actions or experiences that we regret.
I knew someone who had a very simple mission statement. It was: “Don’t screw up.” Easier said than done! We’re all fallible creatures and we all “screw up”. We all have regrets. As we grow older and more fully appreciate the mistakes we have made and the opportunities we have missed, the more there is to regret, at least potentially. Many of us regret what we shouldn’t and don’t regret what we should. Some of us hold onto deep and consuming regrets that burden our lives, cripple our relationships and hobble our future. You can’t change the past but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future. How can we live without regrets when everyone has them? Everyone has regrets. But not everyone can overcome them, even when they interfere with our ability to function and enjoy life. How can we learn how to let go of: 1) past mistakes, 2) lost opportunities, and 3) failed expectations to live richly in a present filled with hope and new possibilities?
Two key questions: What are regrets and how can we overcome them?
Regrets are defined as unfulfilled or unattained intentions or goals that a person wishes they had had the courage or time to pursue at a previous time in their life. A regret is feeling troubled, sorrow or remorseful over something that happened or something we have done or left undone; it comes is many shapes and sizes.
Consider the following: Seven Categories of Regret:
Are you living in a land of regret? If you’re living with regrets today about: 1) roads not taken, 2) old decisions made in haste, or 3) things you’ve longed to attempt but were afraid to try, then by God’s grace, it’s time to start living in the: No Regrets Zone.
We can discover a way out of the pain, guilt and shame of the past.
We can learn how to create a rich and rewarding life in the present.
We can also take steps to minimize regrets in the future.
What can we do to move forward? We need to learn the steps to deal with regret and to ultimately leave regret behind. This involves identifying component parts of regret: 1) Looking at our role in creating the regret; 2) Identifying those we’ve hurt; 3) Identifying those we blame; and 4) Understanding the consequences of holding on to regret.
There are three basic biblical components of learning to live a life without regrets: 1) Learning to resolve the Past, 2) Living proactively in the Present, 3) Leaning with vision into the Future. Let’s consider these three, one at a time.
What are some of the things that trap us in our past?
There are three ways we need to deal with the past:
If we would live a life of no regret, we must learn to live in the present; we must learn to live purposefully. We must learn to live proactively and seize the day – “carpe deim.” If we want to have no regrets at the end of our life that means we have to live each day of our lives with no regrets. But how? The answer is: proactive, godly Christian living: this life style involves doing three things: doing God’s will, God’s way, for God’s glory. We know we are living and working without regrets when we are fully engaged, alert, alive and enthusiastic about one thing: pleasing God! Pleasing God is something that we can and must learn. How? By God’s Holy Spirit. Where? From God’s Holy Word.
When we are proactive in our life 1) problems are seen as possibilities, 2) obstacles are seen as opportunities to learn and occasions to do things differently and better. What could be possible for us if we were living a proactive life? How would we better develop or more fully utilize the spiritual gifts and natural talents God has given us? What is the major obstacle standing between us and a life without any regrets? Could it possibly be our lack of faith in God and commitment to God? Think about your life, where are you proactive and where do you need a jolt to get you going?
Consider the following – Strategies for Proactive Living – faithful and wise stewardship: First we need to be filled with God’s Word and controlled with the Holy Spirit.
Finally, if we would lead lives without regrets we must learn to lean into the future. What does that mean? It means first and foremost, living in light of eternity.
One of the ways to live a life of no regrets is to begin with the end in view. It is sort of cliché to do this exercise: Imagine yourself at the end of your life: How do you want to be remembered by those you love most. What do you want on your tomb stone? How do you want your obituary to read? What are the things that are the most important to you? What things are you the most happy about having done? What things do you wish you had done, but now regret that you didn’t?
Now take the answers to these questions and make sure you do them! Have you ever done this exercise? I have, it’s not easy but it’s worth the effort. I believe I will have succeeded in life if: “those who know me the best, love and respect me the most.” If we don’t have a biblical definition of success, we will live to regret it. Don’t be like the businessman who said, “I spent my whole life climbing the ladder of success only to reach the top and discover that it was leaning up against the wrong wall.”
God has given us a unique “life message” called the testimony of God’s grace in our lives that He wants us to share with others. What if we don’t share this message? One word: regret. No one else can feel inside of you for you and no one else can speak the words on your lips and offer what you have to share concerning your experience of God’s grace. We all have unique testimonies that we need to share!
Mother Teresa said: “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” Do something with great love. Perhaps it’s the amount of love we are able to give in our small acts that makes them so meaningful to us and others. Let’s never forget, it is the love of Christ that makes things great!
Are you a dreamer living your life with regrets? The future belongs to those with a vision of what God wants them to do and be. Are you making progress in becoming the kind of person that God wants you to be and accomplishing the goals that God leads you to set? Then, you need not lead a life of regret.
Living a life without regrets is possible if we let God define and determine our future. We must have His goals, values, priorities and methods. Living without regret requires making wise decisions about the future and it being committed to those decisions. (Only one life, it will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ, will last!) Are you living each day to the fullest, without regret? Are you doing God’s will God’s way for God’s glory?
These seven steps will keep your life moving in the direction God wants you to go.
In the end what really matters? That God’s grace is greater than all our sins! Living without regrets is living with the clear commitment of doing God’s will, God’s way, for God’s glory. By clearly visioning and writing down what God wants you to do, you create a means of continuous inspiration. As you begin to make measurable progress in your spiritual life, God will use you to inspire others to do the same.
Living a life without regrets doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional action on our part. Living life with the intention of knowing and doing God’s will is living a life that’s pleasing to God. And if our lives are pleasing to God, we will have no regrets. If we live our entire lives for this world only we will have an eternity to regret it.
Here’s my CLOSING CHALLENGE: 1) No reserves—Sacrifice yourself (Rom. 12:1). Offer your entire being (body, mind, and soul) to God as a living sacrifice. Allow Him to use you as He desires, and discover His perfect will for your life. 2) No retreats—Press on (Phil. 3:14). After totally surrendering to God, you will face distraction and discouragements that will make you want to revoke your sacrifice and not follow God’s will. Stay focused on God and rely on His resurrection power to reach forward for what lies ahead. 3) No regrets—Finish the course (2 Tim. 4:7). Offering yourself unreservedly and unrelentingly requires great faith. But God honors your faith, and He will help you fight the good fight so that you can live without regrets and one day hear Him say: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). As you pray, 1) offer yourself completely to God as a living and holy sacrifice and 2) ask Him to transform you into someone who displays more and more the character and the conduct of Christ – all for His glory. Amen!
Daily Dozen Decisions for Devoted Disciples:
A Commitment to Courage and Holy Boldness
If we would learn to lead lives without regrets then we need to develop the courage to act on godly (biblical) convictions – we need holy boldness. What are some of the elements that contribute to developing holy boldness?