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We talked a few episodes back about the slippery slope and how to avoid it, but what happens if you didn’t avoid it? If you’re smack dab in the middle of consequences?
Bad decisions, our own or others’, have consequences that aren’t just for the future, but that hit us hard in the here and now. Consequences that affect our relationships, our witness, our ability to obey God.
Consider Galatians 6:7-10: “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”
Good counsel. But being human, there are times we don’t follow it. So what do you do when you’re experiencing the consequences of:
1. Being in a bad place of your own making
2. Being in a bad place of someone else’s making
What Are the Consequences of Bad Choices, Either Our Own or Others’?
● Damage to reputation
● Damage to relationships
● Damage to our usefulness to God
● Damage to our plans
How do Writers’ Own Choices Put Them in a Bad Place?
- Taking on writing projects that aren’t what you’re passionate about, and finding yourself caught writing something you don’t enjoy – and being tempted to break the contract (or even breaking it)
- Agreeing to a contract with a delivery date you know is unrealistic then not being able to fulfill it
- Not being faithful in writing so that you miss your due date
- Not being honest about the due date being a problem until too late in the process
- Hedging the truth in interviews, then having the truth come out
- Gossiping about others in the industry
- Spending money you don’t have and can’t afford to “achieve” success and ending up in financial trouble
- Putting so much focus on your career and your writing that you neglect your family
- Compromising on the types of material you put in your books so now you feel bad about them
- Getting so busy doing this writing thing FOR God that you forget about your relationship WITH God
- Not taking care of your health
- Saying yes to too many things (even good things) which make you not have time for the BEST things.
How Do Others’ Choices Put Writers in a Bad Place?
- Your editor leaves and you’re orphaned at publishing house
- Publisher cancels your line/contract
- Someone posts false/negative reviews that hurt your sales
- Someone in the industry has a beef with you and talks negatively about you
- Someone plagiarizes you
- Your spouse decides to leave, or your babysitter quits and that changes the amount of time you can write
- Family members make poor choices that you now have to deal with
How to deal with a bad place of your own making
1. Admit your wrongdoing to God, repent, and seek His forgiveness.
- 1 John 1:9: “But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
- This restores your relationship with God
2. Admit your wrong to those you hurt.
- Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar of whole burnt-offerings and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave there your gift before the altar of the whole burnt-offerings and be going away. First be reconciled to your brother, and then, having come, be offering your gift.”
- This puts you on track to rebuild your relationships with others
3. Accept the consequences of your wrongdoing.
- Hebrews 12:5-6; 10-13: “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child. As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children…For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”
- This is remaking you, shaping you, and restoring your usefulness to God
How do you restore your reputation after your bad choices?
You have to evidence your repentance (your change) over time. You have to grow a new reputation over repeated demonstrations of your ability to make the right choice and be responsible.
What about your plans?
They’re probably going to need to change. Or be delayed. Re-submit them to God. Were those plans His plans or yours? Does there need to be a re-direction to something different?
How to deal with a bad place of another’s making
If the one who wronged you is a believer:
1. Follow the biblical directions for reconciliation when you’ve been wronged.
- Matthew 18:15-17: “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.”
2. If the person admits the wrong, then ask God to help you forgive them, then move forward with wisdom and forgiveness.
3. If the person denies the wrong, then verse 16 kicks in: “But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.”
4. If the person admits the wrong then, as with step two, you seek to forgive and move forward. But if the person still denies wrongdoing, then it’s on to verse 17a: “If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church.”
5. 17b: “Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
This process is the start of restoring your relationship. But let’s face it, when someone wrongs you, it hurts.
- We need time to grieve and deal with our emotions, and then we need to forgive. The temptation in our flesh is to punish the person, to make them suffer our anger, our sullenness, our withholding of affection, or whatever. But that’s not what God’s word says to do.
- Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
- God sees and cares when someone wrongs us, but He cares just as much about our response to it. If we’re not forgiving, not only are we missing the opportunity to restore our relationship, but we’re hurting our usefulness to God because we’re living in disobedience. We can’t expect God to honor that.
If the one who wronged you isn’t a believer:
1. Follow Christ’s example.
2. Seek your ultimate justice from God, not man.
- Romans 12:17-21: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the LORD. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
- But let’s talk about this in regard to something like plagiarism. If someone steals your book and puts it up on Amazon as their book, does this verse mean you’re supposed to say, sure take it with my blessing? I don’t think so. They’ve broken the laws of our country. So you report them. You don’t malign them, or attack them, or hold a grudge forever—that’s one of the ways we’re overcome by evil. How? We’re not meant to carry those kinds of burdens, those grudges, around. Not only are they ultimately too heavy, they’re toxic. They poison our heart. So, Can you get a plagiarist to take down the book they stole? Probably eventually with several tries. But know that they may well do it again. Yes really. That’s why ultimate justice needs to come from God.
3. Make peace your aim, not justification or vengeance.
- Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
- 1 Peter 4:12-19: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world. If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by His name! For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? And also, ‘If the righteous are barely saved, what will happen to godless sinners?’ So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.”
- And again, we have to forgive them and drop those burdens. We have to give ourselves time to be angry, and hurt, but then give that to God and with His help, move toward peace and forgiveness.
- One of the things that can help us forgive is to reflect on the ways we’ve failed. Not to revisit guilt, but simply to recognize our own sinfulness. There are people out there who’ve had to forgive us for thoughtless or hurtful things we’ve done. Those same people who have forgiven us have very likely needed forgiveness themselves for thoughtless, hurtful things they’ve done to others. It goes around and around, this pattern of hurting and forgiving, and will continue until Jesus comes back because we’re fallen, broken people in need of grace.
When someone else has wronged us, how do we restore the damage to our usefulness to God or to our plans?
- Others’ choices don’t hinder our usefulness to God, because “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). But it can still be terribly frustrating for us. Especially when we thought our usefulness to God was wrapped up in our plans.
- We have to go back to God and refocus and re-submit our plans to Him. Yes, God will somehow work this situation for our good, but the ultimate purpose is for God’s glory.
How do we restore the damage to our reputation?
- Seek to speak the truth but not gossip. Make the circumstances known that will clear your name, but don’t vindictively damage someone else’s reputation, especially if they’ve simply made a mistake.
- You should absolutely clear your name, because Proverbs 22:1 says, “a good name is to be more desired than great wealth…” But pay attention to the spirit in which you share the facts. It’s easy to let anger, condescension, and judgment drip from our words. When we keep in mind what Romans 12:18 says and work for peace, we’re less likely to be vengeful.
Final thoughts about consequences
Are we saying that if you deal with anger and a sense of vengeance and you want to see justice come on people who hurt you that you’re a bad person? It’s really not about you being a bad person. It’s about the fact that God created us and what He tells us in His word is the best way for us to live, because it’s what draws us closer to Him. It’s what completes us as a reflection of His image to this world.
It’s easy to give into the world’s responses and be hateful and resentful. But when we stop, when we rest in God, when we let Him bring about whatever justice needs to happen, we shine a light in the darkness.
So how do we deal with consequences? Don’t make the wrong choices. But when you do, you can come back. You can restore relationships, reputation, and your usefulness to God if you come with a humble heart—a heart submitted to God, willing to bear whatever consequences you need to through His grace. Consequences aren’t easy. They’re a part of life. But God’s grace is so much bigger than any of them.
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How have you dealt with consequences of your own or others’ choices?
Are you facing the consequences of bad decisions? Here’s how deal with them God’s way.
This was so thorough, you guys. Congratulations on a well-thought through treatise! (Still smiling about our prayer times you led at Mt. Hermon.)
Thanks so much, Cathy. I love that this helped you, and that you enjoyed the prayer and praise time at Mount Hermon. 🙂
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