Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
One thing is very certain about life: we will make mistakes. It’s certain that you and I will make some mistakes, if not many, in our lifetime. Some will be small, others significant in nature, and could well have terrible consequences. But I wonder if there is any positive way of looking at this topic?
I know some people whose lives will never be the same because of a mistake they made. Driving through a red light can have tragic consequences if your car hits a pedestrian or another car. And that kind of thing happens.
But I want to suggest we can learn from our mistakes. I guess the great illustration of this is the true story of a manager of an IBM project that lost $10 million before it was scrapped. He was called into a meeting of the corporate office of IBM expecting to be sacked. He stood there in dread: “I suppose you want my resignation?” His boss surprised him: “No, we don’t want your resignation. We’ve just spent $10 million educating you”. I think that’s a good illustration. Someone has said, “If you don’t learn from your mistakes, there’s no sense making them”.
It’s a fact of life. There are many reasons why people can and do make mistakes. Mistakes can be personal things; some people tend to make the same kind of mistakes time and again. It all depends on the person and their own situation. Everyone is different and everyone makes their own choices and mistakes. Mistakes happen; they are part of life. Successful people take them for the gift that they are—a lesson. Learning the lesson of a mistake can turn something bad into an invaluable tool for the future.
The Way to Gain Experience
There’s another story about a young cashier in a bank who showed great promise. One day the young man happened to be alone with the president of the bank and he said to him, “I would like to rise to a high position like yours one day. Do you have any advice for me?” The head of the bank said two words: “Right decisions!” The young man thought about that for a moment, then asked, “But how do I learn to make right decisions?” The man replied in one word: “Experience!” The young man absorbed that piece of counsel, then asked, “But how do I get experience?” To which the president of the bank said: “Bad decisions!”
“Who doesn’t make mistakes!”, asked Norman Vincent Peale. “But the greatest error of all is to let any mistake destroy your faith in yourself. The only sensible course is to study and analyse why you made the mistake. Learn all you can from it, then forget it and go ahead. Figure on doing better next time.”
There are quite a few verses in the Bible that say helpful things—like Romans 3:23: “All of us have failed, falling way short of fulfilling the beauty of God’s plan, that which God intended us to be”. Jesus was perfect, but we’re not. But there is hope.
How God Uses Our Mistakes
But do you know that mistakes are occasions for God to providentially work all things for good? This is the amazing way that God works in our life. The grace of God that’s available to us is strong enough to turn our mistakes into his masterpieces.
In his book How To Be Born Again, Billy Graham wrote:
There is a well-known story of some men in Scotland who had spent the day fishing. That evening they were having tea in a little inn. One of the fishermen, in a characteristic gesture to describe the size of the fish that got away, slung out his hands just as the little waitress was getting ready to set the cup of tea at his place. The hand and the teacup collided, dashing the tea against the whitewashed walls. Immediately an ugly brown stain began to spread over the wall. The man who did it was very embarrassed and apologized profusely, but one of the other guests jumped up and said, ‘Never mind.’ Pulling a pen from his pocket, he began to sketch around the ugly brown stain. Soon there emerged a picture of a magnificent royal stag with his antlers spread. That artist was Sir Edwin Landseer, England’s foremost painter of animals.
Billy Graham went on to say:
This story has always beautifully illustrated to me the fact that if we confess not only our sins but our mistakes to God, He can make out of them something for our good and His glory. Sometimes it’s harder to commit our mistakes and stupidities to God than it is our sins. Mistakes and stupidities seem so dumb, whereas sin seems to more or less be an outcropping of our human nature. But Romans 8:28 tells us that if they are committed to God He can make them work together for our good and His glory.” (Billy Graham, How To Be Born Again, Waco: Word, 1977, pp. 129-130)
Romans 8: 28 says, “We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him. They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose”.
(To be continued in Handling Mistakes in Life – Part 2)