• Rev. Mark Tews

Learn From Your Mistakes

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land.’” (Joshua 8:1).


In his book titled “Failing Forward,” John Maxwell talks about the vicious cycle that happens in our lives when we yield to a fear of failure: fear, inactivity, inexperience, and inability. To break that cycle, God often leads us to be willing to risk failure in order to succeed (Failing Forward by John Maxwell, page 38). The question is not whether we will make mistakes, because we will. God’s intent is that we learn from our mistakes and move on. When we make mistakes, we must get over it and move on, remember what we have learned to not repeat it, and maintain the momentum by looking forward rather than back.


Once we make a mistake, it is human nature to withdraw into oneself and become afraid of doing anything else. The Lord understood that, so He told Joshua, "Do not be afraid or discouraged." The Lord had been angry with Israel because of Achan’s sin during the taking of Jericho (Joshua 7). As a result, the Israelites were defeated by Ai. However, the situation had changed; God’s encouragement to Joshua reinforced that He was no longer angry with Israel. Atonement had been made for their sins, and the task at hand was to get on with the conquest.


Most of us realize that God forgave us of our sins, but we are not always ready to forgive ourselves. God says, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, remember your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25). If God is willing to forget about our sins, why aren’t we? The Lord reassured Joshua that the second time they attacked Ai, things would be different. It would be different because they would do it the Lord’s way and not their own. Doing things God’s way is always better than doing them our way. The Lord gives us the victory, but it still requires us to move forward. Moving forward requires us to step out in faith and take a risk. Throughout the Bible, people of faith were usually risk takers. We need to lay aside our mistakes, take a risk, and move on.


"There is no doubt in my mind that there are many ways to be a winner, but there is really only one way to be a loser and that is to fail and not look beyond the failure." (Kyle Rote, Jr. quoted in Failing Forward by John Maxwell pg. 2-3). There are few guarantees in life, but one of them is that we will make mistakes. “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). The problem isn’t making the mistake; the problem is dwelling on it and letting it paralyze you. Don’t allow your mistakes to hold you back. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). If Jesus doesn’t condemn you, then don’t condemn yourself. Realize the sin, confess it, repent of it, and move on. Tomorrow is a new day.


However, we need to not repeat our mistakes. It has been said that those who do not know history are destined to repeat it. Making the same mistake over and over again is not a mistake, it’s a habit. “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” (Proverbs 26:11). When we habitually sin, it makes God sick. Continuing to commit the same sin is not being repentant. “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2). Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that He did not condemn her, but told her to go and sin no more. Instead of making the same mistakes over and over, put Jesus fully in your heart and take joy in Him. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2–3).


We must maintain momentum and make the right plans to learn from our mistakes. But that is only the beginning; we have to follow through. To maintain momentum, it is important to keep moving. In the 1992 Summer Olympics 400-meter semifinal, British runner Derek Redmond tore a hamstring and fell on the track. He struggled back to his feet and began to hobble, determined to complete the race. His father ran down from the stands to help him off the track, but the athlete refused to quit. He leaned on his father, and the two limped to the finish line together. Just as Derek leaned on his earthly father, we too can lean on our Heavenly Father in order to finish our race.


Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t give out. Finish strong. Even when we make mistakes, we must get up, brush ourselves off, and keep moving forward. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1–3). Keep your eyes on Jesus from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterward. Now He is seated in the place of highest honor beside God the Father’s throne in heaven. FEAR NOT! Think about all He endured so that you don’t ever become weary and give up.