Picking Up the Pieces of Your Life
David, Forgiveness, Repentance
Last week we began looking at the sad story of David’s fall into grievous sin. Through a series of compromises and rationalizations, David found himself guilty of coveting his neighbor’s wife, committing adultery, and murder. In the process he also violated the commandment about putting God first (because he put his pleasure first), honoring God’s name, and bearing false witness. Needless to say, the situation was a mess.
Last week we learned several things
- We learned that if David, a man after God’s own heart, can fall into sin, so can we.
- We learned that A Christian who falls into sin will cover-up, justify and excuse their sin just like anyone else.
- We learned that one night of passion can spark many years of family pain.
- We learned that the best defense against such sin is a consistent and vibrant walk with God.
There is much more to the story. After Bathsheba mourned the loss of her husband, she married the man who signed his death warrant! (I wonder if Bathsheba knew what David did). As we turn to chapter 12 of 2 Samuel nine months to a year have passed. The baby has already been born.
The question we want to answer this morning is this one: how do you recover from such a devastating failure in your life? How do you begin to pick up the pieces?
During these twelve months what do you think was going on in David’s mind? Did he think he had “gotten away” with his crimes? Did he believe the worst was over? Was life back to “business as usual” at the palace? Or did David live with regret every day? Did he wonder how he could ever find the joy he once knew with God?
In Psalm 32 (which many believe David wrote about this time) David says,
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. (Psalm 32:3-4)
David may have been telling everyone that “Things were fine” or “I’m happier now than I’ve ever been” but he was actually being eaten up inside. He had drifted from God and he knew it. God will not allow His true children to derive any lasting joy from sin.
Most people handle their guilt by justifying their actions (someone else “made me do this”), rationalizing their behavior (“it really wasn’t that bad”) or simply denying that they have done anything wrong (“it can’t be wrong if it feels so right”). In truth, such people are not trying to convince you, they are hoping to convince themselves.
Someone described the way people handle guilt by using the picture of a warning light in a car. When a red warning light comes on in you car you should pull over or get to a mechanic immediately. However, you could also take a hammer out of the glove compartment and smash the light so it didn’t shine anymore! Then you wouldn’t have to worry about any problems – until you destroy the engine.
The point is that we can justify, rationalize and deny all we want. The Holy Spirit is not fooled. The more we deny, the more spiritually dead we become. The person who fights their conscience long enough stops feeling anything. They become insensitive because they are dead inside.
What happened next is one of the greatest confrontations in history. We are told: “The Lord sent Nathan to David”. It is a difficult thing to confront other people with their sinful behavior because you never know how someone is going to respond to such a confrontation. However, God uses people. He wants us to care enough to hold each other accountable. Nathan was David’s spiritual counselor and his friend.
Why didn’t God send Nathan earlier? I suspect David wasn’t ready to hear what he knew deep down was true. Timing is everything. People need to be ready to listen.
Nathan didn’t come into David’s presence with accusations and threats. Instead he used a powerful word picture. He told a story. David thought Nathan was telling him about a troubling case in the Kingdom for which he was seeking the counsel of the King.
Nathan said: There were these two men who both lived in the same town. One guy was rich and had lots of sheep and cattle. He was very successful. Another man, in stark contrast, had little. What he did have was one little ewe lamb that he treated like a pet. We are told that the lamb was “like a daughter to him.” If you are a pet person you understand the kind of relationship this man had with this lamb.
One day a traveler came to town and needed a place to stay and a good meal. The rich man gladly took the stranger into his home but instead of getting an animal from his abundant flock to slaughter and cook for the man, he came and took the lamb that belonged to the poor man. He slaughtered it and cooked it for the visitor. It was a terrible abuse of power.
David, who used to be a Shepherd and knew what it was like to be attached to your lambs, was furious. I bet his face was red, his fists clenched and the veins were probably swollen in his neck. He was furious that such heartlessness could exist within his kingdom. He would not allow this kind of thing to go on in Israel! He quickly pronounced the sentence,
As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for the lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.
Now we have the most dramatic moment in the whole story. “Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” This was not a compliment, (“You da man!) it was an indictment.
I don’t think Nathan raised his voice and angrily pointed his finger in David’s face. I believe Nathan, as David’s friend, looked the King in the eye and sadly said, “You are that man!”
I suspect there was a powerful pause before Nathan continued,
This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’(2 Samuel 12:7-10)
It’s a message any parent might say to a rebellious child: “After all I have given you; after all the ways I have demonstrated my love and my willingness to provide for you, how could you treat me this way?”
David may have believed that his personal life and his spiritual lives were separate. God says they are not. Nathan announced that when David chose to commit adultery with Bathsheba, this was not simply a brutal act against Uriah, it was also an act of rebellion against God! When you do what God has told you not to do it is as if you spit in his face! You better believe that God takes it personally!
We will look at the consequences of David’s sin next week and the weeks to come. Do note that even though sin is pleasurable at first (otherwise no one would sin) in the end it always leaves waves of heartache and pain.
The first step toward restoring someone from an illness is to identify the illness. You have to recognize the problem before you can treat it. This is the point of Nathan’s confrontation with David. David could not find forgiveness from God and begin picking up the pieces of his life until he recognized his sin. The same is true for us.
After David heard these words of Nathan, he said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” There were no excuses or no explanations. David acknowledged his guilt. They were hard words to say, but I bet it also felt good to have this burden out in the open.
Immediately following David’s admission, Nathan said, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” David’s sin would be erased not because of David’s goodness, but because of God’s compassion and mercy.
We must be careful here because it is easy to draw the wrong conclusion. It may seem that all you have to do to find forgiveness is to tell God ‘I’m sorry’ and God will overlook what we have done. We like to quote 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We calmly declare, “I told God that ‘I’m sorry’ so I know I’m forgiven” and then we move on in life.
The Greek word for “confess” means to “say the same thing as”. Confessing our sin means to see it as God sees it. It means to agree with God that our sin is an act of sinful rebellion. The reason David was forgiven was not just because of the words he used. He was forgiven because he was truly repentant.
What is repentance? The best way to understand it may be to see in illustrated. Psalm 51 was written by David after he met with Nathan. The Psalm teaches us at least five things about true repentance.
First, the truly repentant person stops making excuses. David asked God for mercy. He doesn’t ask God for understanding. He doesn’t claim he has been misunderstood or that someone else led him to sin. He doesn’t blame his circumstances, his spouse, his family, his upbringing, or even his personality. Instead David took responsibility for his own behavior and says, “cleanse ME from my sin”.
Second, the person who is truly repentant understands that all sin is rebellion against God and an assault on His position. David said, “Against you and you only have I sinned.” David understood that when he chose to ignore God’s law he was in essence choosing to serve his desires rather than the Lord. David recognized that he had a heart problem rather than just a behavior problem. What he did was a personal offense toward God.
Third, True repentance reveals a sorrow for the sinful act and not simply a sorrow for the consequences of that act. We see this difference in our children. Often our child is sorry because what they did was discovered and they know they will now be punished. They are not sorry for what they did . . . they are sorry for the consequences that they must face because of what they did. True repentance is sorrow for what we did. The concern is over what we did, not over what will be done to us.
Fourth, true repentance involves genuine change. Let’s say someone stole from you. Their crime is discovered and the person begs you for forgiveness and another chance. You believe the person has changed, so you extend forgiveness and restore the person to a place of trust. Then the person steals from you again. Once again they tell you they are sorry. Why don’t you believe them? It’s because you know that someone isn’t truly sorry until they stop stealing.
A nonchalant attitude toward the severity of sin presumes upon the grace and forgiveness of God. When you tell your children that they need to say they are sorry for what they did you don’t merely want to hear those words, you want them to be sorry enough to change their behavior. In the same way, true repentance involves a change of direction for our lives.
Fifth, the truly repentant person is one who is broken and humble. David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.” The person who is repentant does not brag about their sinfulness. Sometimes it seems people are proud of what a notoriously sinful person they “used to be”. Such people don’t get it. They do not yet see the horror of their sin.
The repentant person is ashamed of what they have done. They have a new softness and a new compassion toward others because they understand what it is like to fail. They live their lives grateful for God’s forgiveness because they know they don’t deserve it. These people are soft, not hard. They are humble, not proud. They are grateful, not demanding.
The incredible news in these words is this: if you will face your sin, confess it, and turn from it, you can be forgiven! Your relationship with God can be restored! Life can return to your empty heart. Joy can light up your eyes once again. God in His mercy and grace will help you get up and start living again.
Yes, there will most likely be some hard work and harsh realities ahead due to your sin, but you will have God’s help as you do that hard work. David was able to rejoice because God is willing to forgive those who face their sin and truly desire to move in a different direction.
For those of you who have fallen (in any area of your life) learn the lessons David teaches us:
- Face what you have done squarely. See it not only through you eyes but also through the eyes of God and the eyes of those who have been hurt.
- Confess what you have done fully before God and before those you have hurt (you can’t do this until you have effectively done #1).
- Trust God’s promise completely. He says He will forgive those who truly repent. Take Him at His word.
Let me make three observations as we conclude this part of the story. To those of you who are in the midst of a painful time let me point out that the times of greatest devastation are also times of great opportunity.
When the World Trade Center was attacked, in the midst of that horrible situation, many people stepped up and proved themselves to be heroic. In times of great disasters heroes rise from the ashes. In much the same way, in this time of pain and heartache there is also an opportunity.
You have an opportunity to see yourself clearly; You have the opportunity to see your predisposition for rebellion against God. This is your opportunity to drop the pretense, the rationalizations, and the other nonsense and understand the depth of your need. In this time of brokenness you have an opportunity to reach out and place your small hand in His magnificent hand. Maybe this is the very situation that will bring you to a genuine trust in Jesus Christ. You have an opportunity to discover just how wonderful our Savior is. Depending on which side of the pain you are on, you have an opportunity to turn from sin and truly repent, or you have an opportunity to learn the true depth of what it means to extend forgiveness out of gratitude for what you have been forgiven.
You also have an opportunity to build stronger relationships, to address problems that have long been ignored, to make important changes in your life, and you have the opportunity to show the world, through God’s grace, that failure does not need to be final. This may be a painful time in your life. . . but it is also a time of opportunity. Take advantage of that opportunity.
Second, God can bring blessing even from a mess we have created. Let me remind you that Jesus came from the kingly line of David. The next king in the line after David was Solomon. Solomon was the second son of David and Bathsheba. Jesus was also Solomon’s descendant. This is a reminder that God can raise something good out of the ashes of our lives if we will face the problem and repent.
Perhaps you need to seek forgiveness from a former spouse, a parent, an employer or someone else from your past. It doesn’t matter when it happened. Dare to make things right with those you have hurt. Once you do, you will discover that a dam of sin has been keeping the waters of blessing from flowing freely in your life. Once the dam is removed the blessing can flow freely.
Third, we learn that the best friends in the world are not those who hang on your every word and do everything you say. The best friends are those who won’t turn away when you fail or ignore you when you are doing something destructive. These friends will wait for the right time, they will choose the right words, and they will tell you the truth because they love you. These friends will be there to help you pick up the pieces of your life. We should seek out these friends even as we try to be these kind of friends.