“Mark,” Ted* said to me, hanging his head and staring at the floor, “I blew it again.”
“This time I charged a new computer. I figured I would just use it while it was still under warranty then return it and charge another one from somewhere else.” His compulsive behavior was destroying not only his finances but taking a huge toll on his marriage.
Ted and his wife were regular fixtures in my office at the time. He was a serious slave of sin. He’d turned to Christ a couple years before and seemed to truly despise his sin, but kept sliding back into it. He’d never deny it or make excuses for it. He’d freely admit it and was clearly fighting it. He’d run strong for a couple weeks then plunge headlong again. He had an accountability group of guys who took turns calling him every day. He and his wife removed everything tempting they could from the house. Yet he kept falling. At times I wondered if he was truly born again or if his marriage could survive. But he never gave up.
After a few years Ted and his wife sensed God leading them to a different church. When they left I really hoped their marriage would make it.
I was glad to see Ted’s face not long ago when I walked into a local coffee shop.
Taking a sip from his Americano, he said, “Mark, I’m a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness. All these years God has kept me. I’m still married, my kids are serving the Lord.” He’s an active member of his church. “In fact,” he said, “One of my kids leads a Bible study I attend. God has been good to me.”
Ted’s a living example of Philippians 1:6:
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
God is relentless. He’s not phased by our failures. He is determined to complete his good work of transforming every believer into his own likeness. And he will not fail. If we cling to Jesus, he will vanquish our sins little by little, day by day, year by year. Jesus will have the final word. He will be victorious. He will be successful in his transforming work.
So have you failed again? Fallen again? Get back up and get back in the race. God hasn’t quit working in you, so don’t you quit working. If God hasn’t given up on you, then don’t you give up on God. He is infinitely greater than all your sins. If God could raise you from the dead and give you spiritual life he can give you victory over your sins as well.
Ted never gave up. Every time he fell he’d get back up and try again. He’d confess his sins and ask for prayer. He’d dust himself off, retie his shoes, take a deep breath and get back in the race. And now, some 20 years later, he sips his Americano and proclaims, “God is faithful.” I could almost see his spiritual sword lying across the table, nicked and dented from many battles, and his shield of faith, stained and battered, propped up against a chair. Someday he won’t need them anymore.
So sip your Americano, then pick up your sword and grab your shield of faith again. Jesus isn’t finished with you yet.
*not his real name
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.