Jamie and I were driving in the car when a familiar song blasted through the sound system. It was a golden-oldie from our teen years by one of our favorite groups: DC Talk. Even though it was a favorite song, on that day, it was sobering to hear the words:
What if I stumble
What if I fall
What if I lose my step and I make fools of us all?
Will their love continue if my walk becomes a crawl?
What if I stumble; what if I fall?
(D.C. Talk, Jesus Freak, 1995)
Great song---but what should a Christian do if they fail?
Because even though we should strive to avoid sin at all costs, from time to time, we will fail. Whether we are rude to someone when we should be kind, let an expletive slip after we’ve slipped on the ice and fallen in the snow (true story), or even if we’ve made a dramatically bad choice that has damaged not only our reputation but other people’s lives, there is still hope. We can still fulfill God's plan and purpose for our lives.
You may be asking “How? I blew my witness—where do I go from here?”
I believe you start with open and honest repentance.
Don’t make excuses or try to justify what you did—just admit that you were wrong—that you sinned and you are sorry.
Let the same people who saw you sin see you repent.
Don’t just ask God to forgive you, but ask the people you hurt for forgiveness as well. It’s amazing how far humility and true repentance will go toward changing judgement to mercy and grace.
Of course, words will only go so far. After you repent, you need to demonstrate by your actions that you are changing.
While I don’t believe in penance for the sake of penance, I strongly believe in the value of restitution in an effort to restore what you damaged.
For instance, if you stole something, give it back. If you broke a relationship, do all that you can to heal it or at least see that the person you damaged is healed.
Don’t act like you believe that grace is cheap or forgiveness is automatic.
Take responsibility for your actions, truly repent and get back on the road to following Jesus.
How does this get you back on the road to fulfilling your purpose?
Well, even though it would have been better if you’d not have fallen, your choice to get back up and keep following Jesus demonstrates His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness and His ability to restore a broken life. If there’s one thing that our world is looking for today, it is hope. Among all of the brokenness, the chaos, the wounded hearts, and the pain, they want to know that they can begin again.
This is the message of the Great Commission: Jesus came to save sinners. As we allow Him to work on our hearts and radically change our lives, we demonstrate this truth.
So what do you do if you stumble?
Get up, truly repent, and get back on the road to following Jesus.