Robert Jeffress - Fess Up To Your Mess Up
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. No one likes to admit when they're wrong or when they've made a mistake, and that includes me. However, admitting your failure is actually an essential first step to starting over. As we continue our series called "Second Chance, Second Act", I'll show you four biblical reasons why confession is truly good for the soul. My message is titled "Fess Up to Your Mess Up" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
You know life is filled with perplexing questions for which there are no easy answers. For example, have you ever asked yourself, why isn't the word phonetics spelled the way it sounds? Have you ever thought about that? Or here's one. Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii? I mean, think about that. Here's one I bet you've never thought about. If you throw the cat out of your car window, is that kitty litter?
Now, I've never thought about this. You all have seen on television those virtually indestructible flight data recorders that they're always fishing out of the smoldering remains of a crash jetliner, you know what I'm talking about. Have you ever wondered why don't they just go ahead and build the whole plane out of that material. Something worth thinking about. Here's one more question. Why is it that we instinctively deny our failures rather than admitting our failures? I mean, you would think we would eventually learn the lesson that cover-ups never work.
You know, failing to accept responsibility for our failures prevents us from receiving the forgiveness from God we desperately need, but it also prevents us from experiencing that new beginning we all desire. Gordon McDonald was a well-known pastor and author who by his own admission suffered his own moral failure. And he noted that God, although he's willing to forgive, doesn't automatically turn our messes into successes. Macdonald wrote, failures are transformed or not depending on the state of our hearts. Some people drench failure with clever euphemisms, wiggle out of responsibility, circumvent consequences and scattered blame with panicked liberality. God requires a radically different response to failure. Failure must be named consequences accepted.
In our series "Second Chance and Second Act", we're talking about five biblical principles for turning your greatest messes into incredible successes. And today, we're going to begin with the first and the most foundational principle. And that is, we have to fess up to our mess up. Today, we're going to talk about the value of admitting our failure. Now, I'll be the first to admit, confessing failure is not an easy thing to do and it's certainly not our first impulse. Denial is more than a river in Egypt. It actually describes the predilection we all have to want to cover over our mistakes. Have you ever wondered why that is? Why is it we want to try to cover our mistakes rather than admit them?
I believe there are three reasons that we instinctively try to cover over our failures and deny our failures. One reason is pride, pride. Pride keeps most of us from admitting our failure. You know, in Romans 12:3, Paul has a great antidote to pride. He says, "For through the grace given to me I say that every man among you do not think more highly of himself than he ought to think". We need to realize what God already realizes about us. We are made of dust, we're prone to mistakes.
You know, many times pride not only keeps us from admitting our failure, many times pride is the source of our failure. For example, a wife convinces herself that a friendship with another man is harmless because after all she's far too moral to ever fall into an affair. Or a worker close to retirement takes all of his retirement nest egg and invest it in a "can't miss stock" and against the advice of his stockbroker and against the advice of his wife because he feels like he knows better. The fact is, pride keeps us many times from admitting our failure and many times, it's the source of our failure.
On the other end of the spectrum is the second reason we deny failure and that is fear. We're afraid many times that if we fess up to our mess up, there'll be painful consequences. For example, we're convinced that admitting to a poor decision at work will result in our termination, or admitting an affair will result in the loss of our marriage, or admitting an addiction will cause us to lose the respect of those people we care most about.
Now, I wish I could tell you that if you will just confess your failures, everything will turn out just fine. Well, it doesn't always work that way. Many times, admission of our failure does result in a termination, or divorce, or a bankruptcy, or some other hurtful consequence, sometimes even imprisonment. Well, then doesn't it make sense that we should try and hide our failure as long as we can and avoid that day of reckoning? Well, this leads to a third reason we avoid confessing our failure and that is ignorance. Quite frankly, we try to hide our mistakes, because we think we can hide our mistakes. Even though we regularly witness other people's secret sins being exposed, somehow we think we can hide our sin but eventually that sin will be exposed.
You know, a great illustration of that is the sort of story of king Saul found in 1 Samuel 15. Do you remember the story? God commanded Saul to destroy the Amalekites and not only the Amalekites, but every living thing associated with them, including all of their livestock. And Samuel thought to himself, that doesn't make sense. I mean, why slaughter all of these good sheep and oxen? I'll just keep a few of those for myself, surely God doesn't care about that and I'll hide them so that no one finds them.
Well, one day the prophet Samuel approaches Saul and says, "Why have you done this great abomination and not killed every living being"? Saul said, "What are you talking about? I've done just as the Lord commanded me to do. I commanded everything including the livestock". 1 Samuel 15:14, but Samuel said, "Well if that's true Saul, what then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear"? Oops. Those animals refused to remain quiet. Remember this ladies and gentlemen, no matter how hard you try to cover up your mistakes, eventually the sheep will bleat, and your mistake, your sin will be known by all.
Well, those are the negative reasons of why we don't confess our sins. What are the benefits of confession? Let me mention four benefits of fessing up to your mess up that you may have never thought about before. Number one, admitting our failure allows us to receive God's forgiveness. That's the greatest benefit of forgiveness. Admitting our failure allows us to accept God's forgiveness. Augustine said, "God only gives to those whose hands are empty". You know, as long as we are holding on to denying our failure, rationalizing our failure, being better towards somebody else for our failure, we're never in a position to receive God's forgiveness.
Can I tell you something that may make it easier for you to admit your failure to God? He already knows about it. You may have hidden it from other people, you may have hidden it from yourself, God knows about it. He knows about your addiction. He knows about that affair. He knows about that squandered opportunity. He knows every mistake you've made. So why not open your hands and empty them of that denial, that rationalization, that bitterness so that you can receive his forgiveness. God only gives to those whose hands are empty.
Secondly, admitting our failure results in renewed emotional and physical vitality. Admitting our failure results in renewed emotional and physical vitality. Nothing will sap your strength anymore than trying to cover over your failure. Nothing will sap your emotional energy anymore than that constant nagging worry, what if somebody finds out? Do you know, by the way, researchers have found that there is a link between confession of our mistakes and good health?
Timothy Jones notes in that recent studies have determined that people who admit their failure and openly discuss their foibles experience both short-term and long-term health benefits. According to one researcher, James Pennebaker, there appears to be within us something that can to an urge to confess. Not disclosing our thoughts and feelings can be unhealthy, disclosing them can be healthy. Are you physically and emotionally exhausted from covering over your failure? If so go ahead and admit it to God, you're not giving him new information and experience that physical and emotional relief that comes from confession.
Number three, admitting our failure encourages us to hit the reset button of our lives. Admitting our failure encourages us to hit the reset button of our lives. Let me explain what I mean by that. When we admit our failure, it is like we're drawing a line of demarcation between our past and our future. When we admit to God and to others that we have failed, no longer do we have to be prisoners of our past. Whenever Satan or anybody else wants to bring up our failure, we can easily say, well, yeah, that was a part of my past, but that's not part of my future. That's the benefit of confession.
Number four. Admitting our failures allows us to learn from our mistakes. Admitting our failure allows us to learn from our mistakes. We can never learn from our failures if we're not willing to admit our failures.
You know, somebody has said that word M-I-S-T-A-K-E-S is an acrostic. Write this down.
M - in mistakes stands for MESSAGES that give us feedback about life.
I - stands for INTERRUPTIONS that should cause us to reflect and think.
S - SIGNPOST that directs us to the right path.
T - TESTS that push us toward greater maturity.
A - AWAKENINGS that keep us in the game mentally.
K - KEYS that we can use to unlock the next door of opportunity.
E - stands for EXPLORATIONS that lead us journey where we've never been before.
S - STATEMENTS about our development and progress.
Those. Are benefits of mistakes, but let me note they are only potential benefits of our mistakes. They only benefit us if we're willing to admit that in fact, we have made a mistake. You know, Proverbs 26:11 says, like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. It's a great verse before lunch, isn't it? But it's a very picturesque description. A foolish person is one who keeps repeating the same mistake over and over and over again, but the wise person is the person who is willing to learn from his mistakes. We can only profit from our mistakes if we're willing to admit our mistakes.
Well, we've talked about the benefits of fessing up to our mess up, how do we go about doing it? I want to share with you four practical ways from God's word that we can fess up to our mess up.
Number one, determine if in fact you've really failed. Determine whether or not you have really failed. Our friend John Ortberg says, "Failure is not an event. It's a judgment about an event". Failure is not an event, it is a judgment about an event. You know, sometimes our judgment about failure is accurate because it's based on God's word. But sometimes what we label as a failure is not really a failure at all, because we're basing it on something other than God's word.
You know, before you label something in your past or even present as a failure, ask yourself a couple of important questions. Number one, what standard am I using? By what standard am I judging this event to be a failure? Is it God's word or is it perhaps an unrealistic standard I've set for myself? For example, if you open up a small retail business, two blocks down from Walmart, are you a failure because you don't have the same sales volume as Walmart does? Of course not. That is an unrealistic standard you are using.
Second question, am I making this judgment prematurely? Am I labeling this part of my life a failure prematurely? Just because your children are rebelling against you and God today, doesn't mean they'll always be rebelling against you and God. Or just because you didn't receive that promotion at your job this year doesn't mean you won't receive it next year. Just because your relationship with God is not everything you would like it to be right now, doesn't mean it won't one day become exactly what you and God want it to be. Make sure you're not making your judgment prematurely.
Second principle for fessing up to your mess up. Identify the role others may have played in your failure. Identify the role that other people may have played in your failure. You know if we're going to learn from our mistakes, we have to acknowledge what role other people could have played in our failure. You know, divorce, bankruptcies, terminations usually are not only one person's fault. Now, I know this is counterintuitive because we think the Christian thing to do is to play like nobody else played a role in our failure. To ignore it, to sweep it under the rug. But it's really important if we're going to have a second chance and second that we admit the role others could have played in our failure.
Why is that? Because first of all, failing to acknowledge how others have failed us may cause us to fall into the same trap again. But secondly, failing to acknowledge the role other people play in our failure keeps us from being able to forgive them. You know, one of the most important ingredients ladies and gentlemen, for moving on to that second act in your life is experiencing the freedom that comes from forgiveness. And remember this saying, you can only forgive people you're first willing to blame. If you don't blame people, you can't forgive people.
You see, forgiveness doesn't mean sweeping it under the rug or denying that somebody has wronged us, forgiveness means acknowledging that somebody has hurt us and wronged us. But then surrendering, letting go of our right to hurt them for hurting us, that's what forgiveness is. It's not about denying. It's not about sweeping under rug. Remember what Joseph said to his brothers, "You meant it for evil". No sweeping under the rug there but then he went on to say, "God used it for good". I'm letting go of my right to hurt you for hurting me. If we don't acknowledge the failure of others, we can never forgive them. Ephesians 4:32 Paul said, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven us".
Principle number three. To fess up to your mess up, acknowledge your responsibility for your failure. You know, even if the failure you've experienced is 99%, the fault of somebody else, and you're only 1% responsible, you need to concentrate on your 1%, and acknowledge that to whomever it needs to be acknowledged to. You know, if we don't do that, if we never admit our role in failure, first of all, we can ever learn from our failure if we don't acknowledge it. But secondly, admitting our failure encourages other people to help us in our second act in life. Other people will most likely help us in our second act in life if we're willing to admit our failure.
You know, in 1 Peter 5:5, Peter writes, you younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders, and all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud but he gives grace to the humble. God resists anyone who is proud and refuses to acknowledge his failure, but he offers grace to those who acknowledge their failure. Now, listen this. How does God's grace come into our life? Many times it comes through other people, doesn't it? He places other people in our lives who are willing to help us after our failure, but those people will only be held open to helping us if we're willing to humble ourselves and admit our mistake.
Now, the question comes, okay, I know I'm supposed to confess my failure, but whom do I confess it to? Well, it depends on the nature of your failure. If your a failure is really something that hasn't hurt another person, and your failure has not offended God, it's not an overt sand that violates God's standard, if you have fallen short in some way that hasn't hurt other people, and it hasn't wronged God, then many times you just need to confess your failure to yourself. Many times we need to do that with our failures. We just need to admit it to ourselves and pledge we're going to do better next time.
Now, if we've offended somebody else and wronged somebody else, then we need to go and ask for their forgiveness. That's an important principle to ask people for forgiveness. Now that person may or may not choose to forgive you. That's their responsibility. But whenever you try to ask somebody for forgiveness, it gives you what the Bible calls a clear conscience.
Did you know in 1 Timothy 1, Paul says there are two ingredients necessary for success in your Christian life, faith and a clear conscience. You've heard me say it before what is a clear conscience? It is the knowledge that there is no one on the earth who can accuse you of a wrong you have not attempted to make right. That's the value of asking for forgiveness. Now, again, you can't control whether that person chooses to forgive you or not.
And that leads to fourth principle. Receive God's forgiveness for your failure. Whether that person you have wronged in your failure ever chooses to forgive you or not, you can always know God does forgive. Listen to David's prayer for forgiveness found in Psalm 51:1-4. David said, "Be gracious to me, o God, according to thy loving kindness, according to the greatness of thy compassion, blot out my transgressions".
When God forgives you of that major, major sin in your life, he blots it out. It is as if it has never happened. "Wash me thoroughly," verse 2, "From my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin for I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me against thee and thee only I have sinned and done what is evil in thy sight, so that thou are justified when thou speak and blameless when thou dost judge".
Ladies and gentlemen, a gift is only a gift if it's received. God is willing to forgive you of anything you have done in the past, but you have to be willing to ask. Are you ready to do that today? Are you ready to open your hands and your heart to God and say God, today I'm letting go of all of my excuses, my denials, my bitterness toward others. Today, I'm ready to receive your unconditional and eternal forgiveness. Remember, God only gives to those whose hands are empty.