I must admit that for the past couple of decades I have found it “fun” to loudly say “job opening” when I hear dishes crash. But as I thought about the message this week, I thought about how insensitive that statement is. I say it for laughs, but the person who dropped the dishes is not laughing, and I would not be laughing if the dishes were dropped on me. More importantly, I have made many mistakes on the job and felt horrible about it. For instance, two days before Susan and I were married I made a mistake worth a couple of hundred dollars as a teller at a bank. Later, while working with a mutual fund company I made a couple of mistakes that literally involved hundreds of millions of dollars. I have made mistakes in school. I have made mistakes as a pastor. I have made mistakes as a husband, a father, a friend, and most importantly as a human and that is why Jesus had to come – not just for me, but for all of us, because we have all made mistakes against God.
We have already seen that David has made his share of mistakes as well. We know of his adultery, ordering a murder, lack of discipline as a father, etc. But today, we look at one of his biggest mistakes – a mistake that costs the lives of 70,000 men. What was the mistake? Specifically, the mistake was taking a census of the nation of Israel. Categorically, the mistake was pride (or arrogance).
But mistakes need not define us. When we make mistakes, we can fall or we can fail. We all fall, but the question is how do we respond? We really have three choices. We can:
- Stay down and wallow in our misery.
- Get up and keep making the same mistake over and over because we do not learn.
- Get up, make adjustments and do things better, until we get it right.
Over time, the first two choices mean we have failed. The last choice means our falling has turned to success. But before we can succeed, we must first learn to address our mistakes. Today, I want to share five steps to address our mistakes. In doing so, I want to share some mistakes I have made as the leader of this church.
1. Be Aware (2 Samuel 24.10a)
The first step should be obvious, but it is not always so. Sometimes we make mistakes because we are ignorant of the situation. Perhaps we do not know traditions or certain customs. Or perhaps we just do not have the information we need to know that a mistake has been made.
In 2 Samuel, David takes a census. I mentioned last year that the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles says that Satan was directly involved in tempting David (1 Chronicles 21.1). Even though David was warned against taking a census (2 Samuel 24.3), he ordered it anyway. However, as soon as the final numbers were known, David’s “heart struck him” (2 Samuel 24.10a). That is, he became aware.
As we will see being aware is not enough. Like David, many people discover their mistakes at some point. Maybe they realize the issues on their own or maybe someone has to tell them. How people realize they have made a mistake is secondary. The primary issue is what do they do with that knowledge. Do they simply ignore or minimize the mistake by making excuses or do they attempt to rectify the issue?
Personally, I have done some good things while pastor of this church. But in recently evaluating my efforts, I have become aware of some specific issues I need to address. One particular area which cannot be undone, but from which I can learn is the handling of our recent renovations. I will expand on this in the next section.
2. Acknowledge (2 Samuel 24.10b)
Once we have been made aware, we have a choice. Do we avoid it or acknowledge it? Apart from David’s actions as a father (which we can only infer), one thing we must credit him for is that he acknowledged the reality of his situation in all areas of his life when he became aware. While this is certainly true when David was confronted by Nathan regarding Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12), David acknowledged his place when God said David was not to build the temple (2 Samuel 7), when Absalom usurped his power (2 Samuel 15), and in other places as well.
But to acknowledge our mistakes requires two distinct aspects.
- It takes maturity. As I have mentioned many times, most people will say they are sorry. But the sorry is for being caught. Maturity means the sorry is because of sorrow. Jesus didn’t say to be sorry. He said to repent – which means to turn away from something. Those who are only sorry, often return to their actions when they believe no one is watching. But those who are sorrowful will turn away completely. That takes maturity.
- It takes courage. Trust is needed because to acknowledge our mistakes should naturally lead to the next step, which is to apologize. To acknowledge the mistake, however, is to let someone else know that we have wronged them in some way. Perhaps the mistake was innocent, but still we must admit the issue. When we do, we make ourselves vulnerable to them – and potentially to retaliation or punishment. Thus, in a very real sense, we must have courage and even trust that the other person will still receive us after we acknowledge our mistake. And after we acknowledge our mistake, we must then apologize.
We saw David acknowledge his sin and we saw the courage he needed. He not only realized he had offended God, but that is actions were foolish – trusting in the number of people instead of placing his trust in God.
Again, I can relate to David. Perhaps you can too. I realize all that I have is from God. I also realize that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12.48). The problem is that I often try to fulfill those requirements myself, which is not what God has asked me to do. But let me acknowledge a specific mistake related to the sanctuary renovation. My goal was to try to get consensus on all matters of this process. I know that issues like carpet and paint have caused church splits and I was determined not to let that happen. But, regardless of how a vote goes, some will not be happy. And the leaders job is not only to motivate, but to inspire people to support the church even if they may not agree with the decision. The problem is that we were following a process and near the end that process was abandoned. People were hurt, not because of a vote, but because of my lack of leadership. I realize that now. I can learn from that for the next issue that arises. Thus, knowing my mistake, the next thing I must do is apologize.
3. Apologize (2 Samuel 24.10b)
Until we acknowledge we have made a mistake, we cannot truly be sorry for it. But, if we own our mistakes, we should apologize for them. David’s apology is not as clearly defined as saying the words, “I am sorry,” but his plea is an earnest appeal for forgiveness, which is the hope behind a true apology. READ v 10. David uses the word, “please,” and describes his action as, “foolish.” In addition, he cries, “O Lord,” which is a deep appeal to gain the attention of the God he loved so much.
Again, it is verses like this that make David’s life such a good study. Once again, we see David not as a perfect man, but as one who sinned – just like you and me. But God called David a man after His own heart because whenever David became aware of his transgressions, He eagerly sought the Lord and His forgiveness.
Ultimately as the pastor of this church, I am accountable to God first, and you second. But, my mistakes affect you and so my apologies must be directed to you as well as God. So, I ask for your forgiveness even as I have asked God to be a better leader having learned from this mistake.
4. Act (2 Samuel 24.14, 17)
Apologies are important, but they are not enough. As the old maxim goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” The important aspect in this fourth step is to fix the problem. We must be aware before we can acknowledge. Once we acknowledge, then we should apologize. But this step is where our apology gets real. Do we try to make it right? That is, do we try to fix the problem. On the surface, the problem David needed to fix was to stop his people from getting killed. Verse 15 says that 70,000 men had died. As the commander of the army, David could usually fix this kind of problem by ordering the Israelite army to war. But this killing was not from anything natural. It was God’s word. Notice verse 16 says is was an angel doing the work. Thus, the problem was not what it seemed to be on the surface. The problem was David’s pride.
Thus, the action that David needed to take was becoming humble. In this case, the action was to speak to the Lord with true humility. David spoke of God’s mercy before the killing began (v. 14) and pleaded for his mercy to end the killing (v. 17). In this case, David’s actions were his words, but it was the humility with which he spoke that spared Israel from further decimation.
Frankly, I have had a difficult time determining what I can do at this moment related to the renovations. Again, the apology is important, but what act can I do at present to make it right? Once I understand what I should do, I must do it. Remember, when Jesus was talking about the wise and foolish builders, he said the one who acts on what they have heard (or know) is the one who is wise! I choose that option.
5. Apply Additional Generosity (2 Samuel 24.24)
Apologies and actions are the start, and often times they are enough to make amends. But going above and beyond indicates a level of sincerity that is otherwise lacking in most situations. Perhaps, we will do this to keep others from hostility, but truly being overly generous is an opportunity to show our appreciation to a person or to God for the opportunity we had in the first place. And, by showing additional generosity, we may have another opportunity in the future. As Danny Meyer states,
“We can’t undo what was done, but what is the next chapter when the story is told?”
– Danny Meyer
David could not bring back the lives of the 70,000 men. David could not ease the pain of those whose husbands and fathers had died. But David could worship God for being merciful. But a hugely important part of this story is that the place where David went to offer praise and sacrifice was owned by a man named Araunah, and this man was willing to give the king the land for free. But David applied additional generosity by paying for it (v. 24). And remarkably we learn from 2 Chronicles 22.1 that this exact place was where the temple would later be built.
Again, not knowing what to do, it is hard to go above and beyond. But what I know is that my lack of firm leadership caused problems and that needs not happen for whatever may be next. I also realize that I need to do a better job at empowering others and you will hear more about that in the coming weeks as we begin our next series – “The Church in HD.” Whatever the case may be, the next chapter awaits and I want it to be a good one for me, for us, for this church. So, I will continue to explore what I can and must do. And then, I will seek to do it – even if I must return to the five “A”s – aware, acknowledge, apologize, act, apply – once again.
The five “A”s are not mine. They originated from a leading restauranteur named Danny Meyer, whom I quoted earlier. He has seen many mistakes in the restaurants he owns. He has watched many items be spilled including on people. But his restaurants are known for their impeccable service and when they make mistakes, they seek to remedy the issue by applying these steps rather than make excuses.
What about you? When you make a mistake are you one to make excuses or do you seek to learn from it, grow from it, and overcome it.
Ultimately, we can only overcome our mistakes through the grace of Jesus. The magnificence of God and His love is shown very clearly through the five “A”s I shared today. God was (is) aware of our sin even when we are not. He does ask us to acknowledge our sin before Him. He commands us to repent which is one aspect of apologizing. But, and here is the beauty of God’s majesty, He knew we could do nothing on our own to fix the problem, so God acted on our behalf by sending Jesus to die for us. And while that is certainly generous, not only did Jesus die for us, but the applying of additional generosity includes the promise of an abundant life forever with Jesus if we simply repent and believe.
The JOURNEY letter for today is: R – REVERE.
How can we not revere God if we truly understand what He has done? Of course, sometimes we make mistakes because we are simply not capable of perfection. But sometimes we make mistakes because we think far too highly of ourselves. That was David’s issue in ordering the census. As David realized, and we must too, the only Person we should lift up and exalt is Jesus. It is in Jesus that we find our strength. It is in Jesus that we are made whole. So, let us lift Him up. Let us exalt Him as King. And yield ourselves to what He wants us to do. That is true reverence. And that is what Jesus desires from us.
NEXT STEP(S): LEAD
I mentioned earlier that to acknowledge our mistakes takes maturity and courage. Those two characteristics are true of a good leader as well. The challenge in our culture today is that too many people are not willing to acknowledge their mistakes. It is far easier to make excuses. And, if we do not acknowledge them to ourselves, we will never acknowledge them publicly, and therefore never apologize, to others. As Christians, we must set the example. As Christians, we must be the leaders in acknowledging our mistakes, and our faults. After all, if we truly believe that Jesus died for our sins, and if we truly believe that God forgives us when we confess our sins, then we would be foolish not to confess them! So, fellow Christians, let us lead out in not only being aware, but in acknowledging, in apologizing, in acting to better the situation, and in applying additional generosity in every situation we can because God has already done all of those things for us!