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Living with consequences
- Jacob Ninan
Paul had a 'thorn in the flesh', a messenger from Satan, which reminded him constantly about his frailty and helped him to deal with the pride that might have come up because of the enormity of the revelations God had given him (2Co.12:7). We don't know what exactly this 'thorn' was. But we do know that another thing that reminded Paul about the need for humility was the memory of his old life when he had blasphemed against God and persecuted the church (1Ti.1:13,14). For us, some of the consequences of our past sins may be powerful reminders now of how gracious God has been to us.
God has forgiven us our sins when we repented from sin and put our trust in Jesus and His sacrifice for us. But it is still possible that the consequences of some of our past sins still prick us like thorns. Perhaps people still associate us with those sins even though we have changed. Perhaps some people whom we sinned against are not willing to forgive us even though we have apologised to them. There could be other consequences such as losing our job, ending up in divorce, being put in jail, our children suffering because of our folly and sin, suffering constantly because of marrying an unbeliever, etc. Are we unhappy with God that He has not taken them away and 'healed' our circumstances even though we have repented?
These are not 'punishments' from God. They are the result of the spiritual law that says we will reap what we sow (Ga.6:7,8). This spiritual law operates even if we were unaware of it or after we have prayed for forgiveness. Now that we have been forgiven and our punishment has been taken away, God can cause even these unpleasant situations to work for our eternal good (Ro.8:28,29). One thing we can do is to learn from our sins--why we committed them, how we could have avoided them, how to avoid repeating them, etc. Isn't it good that these consequences of sin are there to regularly remind us to be careful with sin?
Another blessing is to be able to help others with our experience. Aren't we in a good position to warn them not to go the way we have gone ourselves, and to tell them how to overcome the temptations in which we failed at first and learnt later in the hard way to resist them? In this way we gain a double victory--our own personal victory and also helping others to gain victory.
Imagine what many do usually. They blame God for their suffering now (but which they had brought upon themselves), get upset with God for not answering their prayers to take away their suffering, do not seek to overcome their temptations, and pass on the message that victory is not possible.
Now we can understand what good God can bring about even from our past folly (Ps.119:71). The Devil thought he would tempt us to fall, and then afterwards condemn us with guilt forever. But God can turn things around and teach us many precious truths and make us past sinners and blasphemers great witnesses for Him and a blessing for others.