NOTE: this sermon series is largely based on the “Starting Over” series from Big Idea Resources
Introduction: Michael Phelps
Who knows about swimming? Michael Phelps and our very own Chad le Clos had an epic rivalry in the pool. PICTURE In 2012 le Clos upset swimming legend Phelps (28 Olympic medals in 5 games, of which 23 were gold), to with the Olympic gold for the 200m butterfly. Phelps decided to retire after the 2012 Olympics.
But then Phelps unretired in 2014 and the rivalry came back to life. And this is what played out at the 2016 Rio Olympics. VIDEO
For me, however, even more compelling than what he did in the pool was the revelation of how different his story could have been.
After the London games in 2012, Phelps life was spinning totally out of control (not because he was beaten by le Clos). His athleticism had brought him so much success, but he was struggling. He felt empty and turned to drugs and alcohol to numb his pain. In September of 2014, Phelps hit bottom. After months of estranged relationships, increasing apathy towards swimming, and substance abuse; Phelps was arrested for his second DUI and was on the verge of losing everything. In the days after his arrest, he isolated himself and kept drinking. He later admitted: “I had no self-esteem. No self-worth. I thought the world would just be better off without me. I figured that was the best thing to do — just end my life.” (quote with pic)
We’ve all heard this kind of story before, right? Sports hero – success at an early age – life spins out of control – never to recover. All of us could probably name 2 or 3 celebrities or stars that lived that narrative.
Thankfully, Phelps’ family and friends convinced him to check himself into a rehab facility. It was there he discovered he could start over. He’d taken a book to rehab with him given to him by a friend: The Purpose Driven Life. The book changed his life. Phelps explained in an interview that the book “turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet.” (quote with pic)
As bad as hitting rock bottom was, Phelps said it changed everything for him. A situation he certainly regretted became the turning point in his life, and according to Phelps, “I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today, in every aspect of my life, without that.” Since that time, (Picture of him with fiancé and son) Phelps…
- …reconnected with his estranged father…
- …got engaged to his long-time girlfriend (now married)…
- …celebrated the birth of his son…
- …found a new sense of purpose…
- ….and experienced a renewed passion for maximizing his God-given talent.
What we saw in Rio was a new man in the pool. For Phelps, what began as a story of regret turned out to be a story of redemption.
And please understand this today: God wants to take your story of regret and turn it into a story of redemption too. (3x)
Redemption is allowing God to take everything from our past, even our worst regrets; our greatest pain and use them for his great good and his great gain. Paul, who persecuted Christian and even had them killed knew redemption and writes these words: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
How many things? (All things.) All things.
- Good things and bad things.
- That thing you wished had never happened and that thing you wish would happen again.
- Disappointing things and things that make you cringe.
- All things.
God wants to take even your worst mistakes and use them for great good! Grab a hold of this truth: Your worst moments are where God can do his best work. When you are at your lowest stuck in regret, God can bring about the biggest change. He wants to take us from regret to redemption.
David & Redemption
For most of this series we have been following the life of David. HE faces serious regret in his life, but God redeems it for great good.
- He came from obscurity, a lowly shepherd tending sheep but was anointed to be king of Israel.
- An improbable military victory over a giant named Goliath brought him to national prominence, and he was eventually crowned king of Israel.
- He wrote most of the book of Psalms, an honest look into his life with God.
But his life was not without some serious regrets.
- His affair with Bathsheba, the wife of another soldier, was a terrible lapse of character.
- When Bathsheba reveals she’s pregnant, David has her husband killed to cover it up.
- Then the child dies!
Tremendously painful and ugly stuff!
Recap Regrets and Sorry Cycle
We all have regrets. Maybe not as extreme as David, but we all have them. They come in three forms:
- Regrets of Action. All those things that make us smack our foreheads and say, “Ugh! I can’t believe I did that!”
- Regrets of Inaction. The things we failed to do…the opportunities missed, the time wasted, the words unspoken.
- And there are also Regrets of Reaction. Sometimes our greatest regrets start with something hurtful that was done to us. When bad things happen to us, we naturally regret them.
And our regrets leave us stuck in a “Sorry Cycle” moving back and forth between longing and regret, longing and regret. This series is all about breaking the “Sorry Cycle” and moving beyond regret.
- To do that, the first step we talked about is to Recognize Your Regrets. To not ignore it, to not hide it, but to acknowledge it before God, yourself, and others.
- The second step is to (Add) Release Your Regrets. We can’t hold onto it if we are going to move forward. Releasing almost always involves forgiveness whether it be asking for forgiveness, forgiving someone else, or forgiving ourselves. David does exactly that; recognizes & releases his regret when he cries out to God: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1)
- Today we’re talking about the third step in starting over: (Add) Redeem Your Regrets. What does it looks like to redeem our regrets?
As David recognized and released his regret to God; God began to redeem his regrets by giving him a son.
(On Screen: 2 Samuel 12:24-25) David named his son “Solomon” which means “God’s peace.” He had was finding peace. Then God confirmed it by sending Nathan to give Solomon another name; a nickname of sorts, “Jedidiah,” which means “God’s beloved.”
- “God’s peace.”
- “God’s beloved.”
And when David looked into the face of this child, he knew God was redeeming all his regrets. He told Bathsheba: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.” 1 Kings 1:29b-30 Solomon would go on to do great things as Israel’s king:
- He constructs the Temple in Jerusalem.
- Under his reign, Israel enjoys unprecedented economic success and peace with their enemies (God said to David, “You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood”)
- Ultimately, and most importantly, it’s through David and Solomon’s line that Jesus, the Savior of the world is born.
God redeemed David’s regrets through the birth of Solomon. It’s how God worked all things for the good in David’s life…even his greatest regrets. And God wants to take your story of regret and turn it into a story of redemption too.
For the last couple weeks we have been following Greg’s story as he recognizes, releases and now – God redeems his regrets!
Video: Testimony about Regrets Redeemed – Available on Bigidearesources.com
Three Truths About Redemption
If you do, here are 3 truths about how God redeems our regrets…
Truth #1: Redemption is Something God Wants To Do.
The first truth is this — redemption is something that God WANTS to do! None of us can do this on our own. And if you don’t believe me, you are welcome to go out those doors and to keep on trying on your own to make something good out of something bad! Go for it!
My experience has shown me that without God, redemption seldom happens. With God, it always happens! God is the one who can redeem any and every regret! And the good news is…God wants to do it!
BUT… this doesn’t mean we don’t have part in redemption. We do! Our part is to trust…to trust that God can redeem our regrets. The original Greek word for “redeem” means “to rescue.”
Think of it this way – imagine that I am out in the ocean in the middle of terrible storm and I’m drowning. I’m about to go down for the third time. It’s obvious I can’t save myself. If I could, I would have done it by now! I need someone to what? To rescue (to redeem) me! And when God shows up; He reaches into the storm of my life and pulls me out of the water. The only thing I can do in that moment is simply trust Him. The most important thing I can do is to not fight Him and let Him do the rescuing. Just trust and let Him rescue me. We have a part, but truth #1 is that redemption is something that God wants to do.
Question: Will you let God do His good work in you and through you?
Truth #2: Redemption Takes Many Forms
The second truth about how God redeems our regrets is that redemption often takes on many different forms; and not necessarily the form we expect or want! Each time God redeems someone’s difficult past for a preferred future, it is perfectly adapted for that person. (Need Graphic with 6 segments filled in as we go along.)
Redemption can look like Salvation (FYWBTG)
Many people, after taking painful detours in life, find themselves considering questions of spiritual depth and ultimate meaning like never before. They often take a second look at God. And when they do, they find God waiting for them with open arms. Redemption can be finding your way back to God for the first time or yet again.
Redemption can look like Spiritual Growth.
Seeing the bottom fall out of your self-made plans can cause you to drop to your knees in humility—which is the perfect posture for allowing God to work in our lives. And when that happens we grow up spiritually!
Redemption can look like Rescheduling.
Perhaps your first business start-up failed, but it prepared you later in life to lead a different successful entrepreneurial attempt. Or maybe you and your spouse wanted children as soon as you married, but the first child didn’t come until years later. In a situation like this, if God delays giving you a gift, it might be because he knows the right time for you to receive it perhaps better than you do.
Redemption can look like Redirection.
This week I was dealing with a lady who had put in an offer on a house – an move to a retirement home and under very unfortunate circumstances the deal was pulled out from under her feet. Faith says: God you have another better direction I am supposed to be on!
Redemption can look like A Chance to Bless Others.
I know recovering addicts who have become counselors, helping others along in a journey of healing. I know former teenage rebels who are great teachers and coaches. Their regrets have been turned inside out by redemption, and the next generation is the beneficiaries. In fact, I would go so far as to say that people who haven’t suffered much don’t have as much to offer others.
Redemption can take lots of different forms.
Question: Will you let God do His good work in you and through you?
Truth #3: Redemption Requires Us to Take the Long View
The third and last truth is that redemption requires we take the long view. We have to try to see things from God’s perspective. And let me repeat, try; cause this will be hard. There are two kinds of perspective:
- Now! (said quickly)
- Eeee-tern-iiii-tyyy (said slowly)
God always sees things from the perspective of eternity and not merely right now. And my experience is that God is almost never in as big a hurry as I am.
Let’s go back to the story about David. He had to take the long view. His son Solomon did not show up immediately and make everything good in David’s life. His first son died! For David to see God’s redemptive work in action he had to try and see things from the long view. The pain of your regret doesn’t vanish in a wisp of smoke – but God does redeem it!
We tend to panic if our regrets don’t get redeemed right away…
Maybe your regret is something more painful…
- An estranged relationship.
- A failed business venture.
- A horrible accident.
Sometimes redemption takes months. Sometimes it takes years. The Bible is full of stories of people waited a long time, but God worked in his time (not ours!) to redeem and recycle.
- Moses was a murderer, but God redeemed his rage and hatred and he became the greatest leader in Israel’s history.
- Peter was a boastful, impulsive, and an inconsistent man who cussed like a sailor. God redeemed his pride and flaws, and Peter became a rock upon which Jesus built the church.
- Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. God redeemed her immorality and she became a saint.
- Paul was a persecutor of the early Christian movement. God redeemed his close-minded legalism and turned him into the greatest missionary in history.
I could go on and on! But remember… Redemption requires us to take the long view.
Question: Will you let God do His good work in you and through you?
Please use / augment / discard these questions so that your group has a fruitful discussion
- Read Romans 8:28.
- What do you find helpful about this verse?
- What do you find challenging about this verse?
- Think of the biblical characters and stories you know.
- What examples can you think of where God took a story of regret and turned it into a story of redemption?
- How did God go on to use these characters or situations?
- Redemption is something God wants to do.
- Do you find this hard to believe?
- What is our response to God’s work of redemption?
- Why is this difficult to do?
- Redemption takes different forms.
- What forms has redemption taken in your life?
- Can you think of other forms that redemption can take?
- Redemption requires us to take the long view.
- How did redemption work out in the ‘long term’ in David’s story?
- What hard things did he have to face in the short term?
- What things are you waiting (in faith) to see redeemed?