Regrets: getting unstuck – Luke 22:54-62

NOTE: this sermon series is largely based on the “Starting Over” series from Big Idea Resources[1]

 Introduction: Regrets

Regrets. I think all of us have some regrets. Some of them are big. Some of them are small. But if we pause long enough to reflect — I think we’ve all got them.

Leaving Hanslo’s front door open…

But of course, there are also regrets that we can’t laugh at. It’s either too soon or just too painful. There’s a website called where people publicly but anonymously post regrets they might otherwise never say out loud.  It is gut wrenching to read through the posts – I read though a couple of pages.  Here are a few:

  • SECRET REGRET OF THE DAY: July 25, 2017

I regret leaving my fiancé of 10 years. I did this six years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t regret it. He’s happy now. He is married and happy. I’m stuck in a relationship with somebody who stresses me out daily. I guess this is karma my payback. I’m broke I’m stuck.

  • SECRET REGRET OF THE DAY: August 8, 2017

Didn’t date earlier, didn’t save money, went into debt, didn’t learn Chinese, wasn’t social, didn’t pursue aviation career. How I wish I could go back in time in life. (29/Male)

  • SECRET REGRET OF THE DAY: August 24, 2017

I regret taking so long to realize how a childhood of domestic violence really effected me. I have never had the ability to really open up to trust someone totally or to really feel love. I guess when you don’t know what love is or never learned to love you can never find it. One day you realize it is too late. (F/57)

It is painful and heart wrenching to read – and there are pages and pages of it.

We all have regrets. Some of them big. Some of them small. And you regrets are unique to you. The sorrow we feel in response to our regrets is deeply personal. I think you can put regrets into three categories…

  1. Regrets of Action

(Reveal “Regrets of Action” on Wood Prop)

Regrets of Action consist of all those things that make us smack our foreheads and say, “I can’t believe I did … [fill in the blank]” It might be things like:

  • Lies we’ve told.
  • Relationships we’ve destroyed.
  • Silly choices we’ve made.
  • Anger we’ve unleashed.
  • Money we’ve blown.
  • Addictions we’ve fed.

One of the most common regrets is the things we say.  It’s like toothpaste: once its squeezed out of a tube, you just can’t get it back in!  That is why God gave us teeth – they are prison bars for the tongue.  Sometime we realise our regret immediately, other times it takes longer to dawn on us. Action regrets make up a largest and common category of regrets.

 Regrets of Inaction

(Reveal “Regrets of Inaction” on Wood Prop)

Then there are Regrets of Inaction. The Book of Common Prayer offers us this:

“Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” –The Book of Common Prayer

What we have done: action. What we have left undone: inaction.

Regrettable inactions could be things like:

  • Opportunities we missed.
  • Time we wasted.
  • Risks we didn’t take.
  • Love we left unexpressed.
  • Words not spoken.
  • Forgiveness we withheld.

Research will show that, in the short term, people tend to regret actions; but in the long term, we’re more likely to regret inaction. It’s what gave us the famous poem:

For all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

(John Greenleaf Whittier)

That’s the sound of a regret of inaction.

  1. Regrets of interaction

Many people, when they evaluate regrets, think only of regrets of action or inaction. But we can’t stop there because sometimes our greatest regrets are because of a hurtful interaction with another human – something that was done to us. (Reveal “Regrets of Interaction” on Wood Prop) I call these Regrets of Interaction. Regrets like:

  • The accident I was in.
  • The illness I got.
  • The abuse I took.
  • How neglected I was.
  • The rejection I felt.
  • The betrayal I experienced.

When bad things happen to us, quite naturally we regret them. And sometimes these regrets of interaction are the ones that hurt the most.

I want you to meet Jacqueline. She knows regret…

VIDEO: Testimony Part 1 – Available on Big Idea Resources

 Sorry Cycle

Regret creates something called the “Sorry Cycle.” (“Sorry cycle” graphic) Jacqueline got stuck in the “Sorry Cycle.”

  • It’s a cycle where we feel sorry about what we did
  • sorry about what we didn’t do
  • …and sorry about what was done to us.

We go from longing to regret and back to longing and then regret and then longing and still more regret!

You see, too often we are caught in a cycle where we are so mixed up and distressed and hurting and anxious in our regret from what we did, didn’t do, was don’t to us AND we so long that things would be different but our regrets either lead us into bad decisions or paralyse us into no decision at all.  Have you been there?  Friend or b/gfrind choices, career move choices, money spending choice, substance abuse

 Series overview

What regrets did you bring with you today? Action? Inaction? Interaction? We want to make sure you don’t get stuck! And that’s why we are excited about this new series we are beginning today: “Starting Over.”  It is for Christians and those looking into Christianity – we can all get caught in that cycle.  It is also for the next three weeks – I know many here got invited to back to church Sunday not Sundays… but hopefully by the end you will desire to come back next week!

  • It’s a series for people like Jacqueline who have regrets.
  • It’s a series for people like me who have regrets.
  • And it’s a series for you, too.

Word: Jesus Helps Peter Start Over

Someone who really understood regret is Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and a disciple. We are going to look at two short scenes from Peter’s life to see how Jesus helped him start over.

Scene number one: Peter is standing next to a fire warming himself.  Moments previously Jesus had been violently arrested, the rest of the disciples run but Peter follows carefully.  He can see Jesus but he thinks he is just far enough away to not be associated.  Moments before that Jesus had predicted his arrest and told his disciples that the will all desert him – but Peter protest that he will not, he will even die with Jesus.  Jesus says “before the cock crow you will deny three times that you know me”.

A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.“ But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.“ Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!“ (Luke 22:56-60)

And then, a rooster crows.

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)

Instantly Peter feels the pain of regret.  He can’t believe what he has just done! After everything Jesus did for him, he’s abandoned his friend in his most desperate hour. He is overcome with the bitterness of regret.

Over the next couple of hours Jesus is unjustly condemned, beaten, and crucified. Can you imagine the sorrow that burned on Peter’s soul as his closest friend is laid to rest in a tomb? And in one strange sense the resurrection makes Peter’s regret even worse – because now he is going to meet Jesus and have to look Jesus in the face.

Many of us can relate, can’t we? The circumstances are different, maybe even not as drastic, but we know what it is like to feel the sting of regret burning in our souls. (Pause)

 Scene number two: Jesus is resurrected – and rather than make it more painful, Jesus is going to help Peter get past his regret. The disciples are back out fishing.  Peter recognises Jesus on the beach.  The guys weren’t rowing fast enough cause they were towing a net of full of fish, so Peter jumps overboard to swim to the shore.  Jesus is cooking fish for breakfast.

Again, three times Jesus says to Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”.  And three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you”.

Three questions that correspond to the three questions of love.  It is as if each of the questions redeems each of the denials.  Jesus is doing something in this exchange that helps Peter start over.

First, Jesus Confirms the Relationship. Jesus is saying, “I haven’t changed. I still love you, despite your failure. “Do you love me, because I still love you”

When we know we are loved, we can find the courage to face our regrets. Jesus didn’t chastise Peter, he didn’t rehash what happened, he didn’t blow it off as no big deal, he didn’t give Peter the cold shoulder. No, he affirms his love for Peter and gives Peter the opportunity to affirm his love back. He confirms the relationship.

But Jesus does something else too… Jesus Confirms his Purpose. After each affirmation of love comes this charge: “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus, who earlier refers to himself as “The Good Shepherd,” commissions Peter to join him in carrying out his mission in this world. By giving Peter a job to do he is saying, “Peter, you still have a purpose to fulfil. You are not disqualified. I’m not done with you. I need you. I want you to lead and care for my followers.”

This scene between Jesus and Peter is one of the most spectacular interchanges in the entire Bible. Jesus refuses to let Peter get stuck in the Sorry Cycle. He confirms their relationship. He confirms Peter’s calling. And with this, Peter can move on from his regret and start over.

And here is what we have to understand today: What Jesus did for Peter; he wants to do for you!

  • If you are stuck in a regret of action, hear God saying, “I love you no matter what. Nothing can ever change how I feel about you.”
  • If you are stuck in a regret of inaction, hear God saying, “It’s not over. I’m not done with you yet.”
  • If you are stuck in a regret of interaction, hear God saying, “You are not damaged goods. I have plans and purposes for your life.”

What Jesus did for Peter; he wants to do for you. He wants to confirm your relationship. He wants to confirm your calling. He wants today to be the day you start over. Just like Peter, it was when Jacquline met Jesus that he/she got unstuck from regrets of the past…

 VIDEO: Testimony Part 2 (available on Big Idea Resources)

Starting Over

Regret can feel like a finish line.  It can end in a sorry cycle of longing and regret.  But in the hands of Jesus it can be a starting line.  It can actually be a helpful thing if we allow it to spur us forwards.

What Jesus did for Peter; he wants to do for you today. The last thing Jesus says to Peter around that charcoal fire is this: “Follow me.” (John 21:19) He invites Peter on a journey to live beyond his regrets. It is both a decision (I will lean into the acceptance of God’s love and the purpose He give my life) and a journey (a once off decision doesn’t fix everything.  And we are going to be taking the first few steps of that journey over the next couple of weeks

  • Next week we will challenge you to Recognize Your Regrets: a decision to stop hiding it, running from it, or chewing over it.
  • In two weeks, we will give you the opportunity to Release Your Regrets: forgive others and ourselves
  • Then three weeks from today, we will show you how God wants to Redeem Your Regrets. There is no such thing as Plan B for your life.  God knows you, he knows what you’ve don’t and his plan has not failed.  He can use everything for your good and his glory!

Conclusion: Prayer Moment

In a moment, I am going to ask anyone who wants to start over to stand up.

It was a Danish philosopher named Soren Kierkegaard who once explained, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” As you look backwards we all have regrets: regrets of action, inaction, and interaction. This is the moment where we can choose to love our regrets because we know that God promises to love us and use us for his great cause!

 If you have a regret – big or small and you want to start over go ahead and stand up now before I pray for us. With every head bowed and every eye closed…

  • Maybe your regret is RELATIONAL. Perhaps you wish you had loved better or been loved better. If your regret is relational, would you raise your hand?
  • Perhaps your regret is HEALTH related. Perhaps you wish you had taken better care of yourself or you are struggling with “Why?” questions over what’s happened to you. If your regret relates to your health, would you raise your hand?
  • Maybe you’re stuck in a FINANCIAL regret. You wish you had been smarter about money. You wish you’d made different decisions. If your regret is financial, would you raise your hand?
  • Perhaps your regret relates to your PURPOSE in life. You wish you’d taken a different path. You wish you’d given your life to a bigger cause. If your regret relates to purpose, would you raise your hand?
  • Maybe your regret is SPIRITUAL. You’ve taken steps that have led you away from God. Maybe you just wish you’d thought about God and spiritual things more. If you have a spiritual regret, would you raise your hand.

Whether your regret fits into one of those categories or some other, if today, you would like to start a journey to start over, would you raise your hand? Let me pray for us…

Jesus, we come to you this morning carrying our past regrets. I pray you would start a work in each of us today. May today be the starting line for a new story…a story of life beyond regrets. Lord, I pray for every person here today who wants to start over. I pray we would hear your still small voice inside of us saying, “I love you.” I pray we would find courage through our relationship with you to start over. And I pray that you would begin to give us a vision for how you want to redeem our regrets. Lord, I know you have plans and purposes for every person in this room. Today may we begin to discover those purposes as we take the next step on this journey with you. It’s in your name we pray, Amen.


  • I’d encourage you to join a small group for this series. All our small groups will be going through this material for the next four weeks.

Sermon Questions

Please use / augment / discard these questions so that your group has a fruitful discussion

  1. Grant suggested that you could break regrets into three categories: Action, Reaction, Interaction.
    1. Can you think of any other categories?
    2.   How is it helpful to break regrets into these three categories?
  2. People often get stuck in a “sorry cycle” of regret.
    1. Why do people get stuck in the “sorry cycle”?
    2. How have you seen this to be true in other’s lives?
    3. How have you seen this to be true in your life?
  3. Read Luke 22:54-62
  4. How do you think Peter felt when Jesus turned and looked at him?
  5. Read John 21:15-19
  6. What two things does Jesus do for Peter in in his interaction with him?
  7. How do “confirmed love” and “confirmed purpose” empower us to move out of the sorry cycle?
  8. How do you believe God can help you out of regret?
  9. If people are feeling brave enough, ask them to share one hope or expectation that they have for this sermon series