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March 4, 2015

How to Begin Again

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs. Is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

Do you ever feel powerless in life? Many people tell me that the number one reason they don’t try to change is because they feel powerless to alter the combined force of all the circumstances in their lives. Maybe you have a habit you feel powerless to break. Or maybe you have a problem in a relationship, and you’ve tried everything to restore it; yet, it’s still falling apart. Or maybe an issue at work is draining your energy and your creativity, and you can’t see a solution. It could be that your schedule is overloaded, your inbox is overflowing, and you feel completely overwhelmed and burnt out. Your emotional batteries are drained, and your mental energy has evaporated. You’re not alone; at times, we all feel powerless.

People facing the end of their lives are forced to recognize their powerlessness and limitations. The weaker they get, the more they have to depend on others to take care of them. At the end of the day, they know that much of their lives are out of their control. Ultimately, they’re forced to turn to God. The ironic thing is that, when they finally stop struggling and rely on His strength, they discover real power to live the rest of their lives to the fullest.

You have the same limitless power available to you each and every day. In Ephesians, Paul says, “I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great His power is to help those who believe Him. It is that same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.” (1:19-20 TLB). He will give you all the power you need.

Maybe you feel like it’s too late. You’ve fallen, and you can’t seem to get up again. When life’s forces hit us hard and we crash and burn, it’s great to know that God is the God of second chances, and He wants to give us the power to begin again. But, if you’re going to have the power to begin again, you must learn from your losses. The key to not only knowing this lesson but owning and activating it is to humbly admit our failures.

The best example I know of in Scripture for this is Peter. Talk about powerless. Like us, Peter overestimated himself and, then to his own surprise, he realized how weak he really was when he denied Christ three times in one evening. After the third denial, the Bible says, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown Me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:61-62) Peter didn’t just fail his friend – Peter denied that he even knew Him. Jesus didn’t say a word to Peter. He just looked at him. He saw the guilt, regret, and shame. Is that how you feel? If so, take heart. God has something to say to you. He says that, because of the power of His love for you, failure is never final. Because of the power of the Cross – the ultimate sacrifice producing the power over death – our weakness and failures and selfishness can never keep us down.

Begin again today. First, admit your failures so you can learn from them.  Proverbs 28:13 says, “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful.  But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.” When we admit our mess-ups, we get another chance. When we take responsibility for our failures and don’t blame other people, God’s forgiveness can gives us the power to start over.

There’s more: you must also release your guilt. Let it go! Confession means not only acknowledging my failure but accepting God’s forgiveness, agreeing with God that, because of Christ’s sacrifice for my sins, I am forgiven!

Jesus knew that Peter was totally broken and thought God could never use him again. Peter believed he had completely blown it and that there was no getting up. But, when Christ rose from the dead, He intentionally sought out Peter because he had a special assignment just for him! God says the same thing to you today, “I haven’t forgotten you. I have a special purpose for you. Your mess is your message! Get up and let’s go!”

After learning from his losses and releasing his guilt, Peter’s next step was to surrender to God’s strength. Like Peter, to begin again, we need to surrender to God’s power. But surrender means yielding – giving ourselves over to His way of doing things. Jesus explained it this way:  “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  (Luke 9:23). Jesus tells us to deny ourselves in order to find fulfillment. I have to choose to give up my way and follow God’s plan and purpose for my life if I’m truly going to be fulfilled. Every single day of my life, I come to the place where I realize I can’t do it. I come to the place where I say I want to engage with my kids, but I feel worn out. I feel selfish. I want to be a better marriage partner, but I don’t have the love I need. I want to make a difference at work, but I don’t have any energy. Every day of my life, I come to the place where I fall on my face and say, “God I can’t do it. I give up.” And God says, Finally, I’ve been waiting for that. Now I can get involved and give you My power and My strength.

When we give ourselves to God, we see results we could never attain on our own. Never! No matter how hard we tried. We will fail repeatedly at our attempts to change if we’re only doing it for ourselves, by ourselves. God has so many more resources available to us – limitless power we can’t even imagine. Receive His power to begin again today and say thanks!

Personal Challenge:

  1. What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned from one of the failures in your life? How has learning that lesson strengthened your character? Your faith?
  2. When we’ve failed and are trying to get back up, it’s often helpful to talk it out with a person we trust. Call someone today and make a plan to get together over coffee to share where you are in your faith journey. Look for ways that God may turn your mess into a message of hope like He did Peter’s.