Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.
Some years ago I counseled a man who had been involved in an affair with a coworker. As a result of the affair he lost his business and suffered a very rocky marriage. He had repented and asked for God’s forgiveness. But when he sat down in my office he said, “Pastor, if God has forgiven me, then why am I still having trouble finding a new career? Why is my marriage less than it should be if I have really been forgiven?” I said, “Let me ask you a question. How likely are you to ever again fall into an adulterous relationship?” He said, “Not at all. In fact, anytime I see another woman coming, I run in the opposite direction.” I said, “Do you think you would feel that way if you hadn’t gone through this experience?” He said, “No, because I have always been a flirt, and I’ve had trouble with my moral life.” “So,” I said, “in a way, you are saying that this experience is keeping you from future disobedience?” He said, “I never thought of it that way, but I guess you are right.” I said, “Why don’t we take a moment right now and thank God for this experience?” He said, “You mean, thank God for my sin?” I said, “No, but thank God that in some ways this sin and failure in your life is being used to prevent you from sinning again and to keep you close to the Lord in the future.” When we feel the consequences of our sin, it inoculates us against further disobedience.
In Psalm 119:67 David said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” David had a problem with immorality. But after the fiasco with Bathsheba and Uriah, anytime David was tempted to act immorally, he felt the sting of the public humiliation he had experienced, of the child who had died because of that unholy union, and of the rebellious son God raised up as punishment against David. When David felt the sting all over again, he said, “I’m not going there again.” That’s why God sometimes allows us to experience consequences–not because He hates us but because He loves us. He wants to keep us close to Him.
Remember, there is a difference between vengeance and justice. Vengeance is our desire to hurt somebody for hurting us. Justice is desiring that God or somebody else exact the consequences. Now, admittedly, there is a fine line between getting vengeance and seeking justice. And we need to be aware that our ability to delude ourselves is infinite. We often think we want justice when what we really want is vengeance. This distinction becomes even more difficult when somebody has wronged us, yet we are the ones God has put in responsibility to oversee that person. If it is our responsibility to seek justice–whether as a law enforcement officer, a parent, or an employer–then we need to check our motives. Are we doing this for justice or for vengeance? Whenever possible, the best thing to do is to let other people settle the score for us.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Why Forgiven People Must Still Sit in the Electric Chair” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.