How To Start Afresh after Defeat

How To Start Afresh after Defeat

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The theme for this quarter is ‘Growing in Victorious living.’ And so we have had messages on victory over sin, victory over the flesh, and victory over the world. But this morning we are looking at defeat instead of victory. Why should we talk about defeat? It is because there is often no victory in Christian living without going through defeat. I have had my share of personal defeats in living for Christ. How about you? How many of us here can say that we have never felt defeated in living for Christ before – defeated by sin, defeated by the world or defeated by the flesh? This is therefore the reality that we all have to face: Every Christian who wants to live for Christ will experience defeat to some degree. Some may have less of it and some may have more of it, but all will have it.

Try to recall some moments in your life when you felt really sore and dejected after being defeated by sin -Perhaps you had resolved with all your heart to live your life for Christ, but when temptation came you could not resist it, and you fell right into sin. Perhaps you tried to live a good testimony before your unsaved friends and loved ones to win them to Christ, but in one unguarded moment, you blew your testimony away by doing something very unchristian which caused many to stumble grievously. Or perhaps you had promised to do something that the Lord has convicted you to do, but when the time came you suddenly had cold feet and could not bring yourself to do it. You failed to live up to your promises and to His expectations.

And how did you deal with defeat? Did you handle it well or did you get yourself stuck in a deep rut of regret, self-pity or depression? Perhaps you kept saying, ‘How could I have failed? How could I have done such a thing? I have let my God down. I am a disappointment to Him and to all my brethren.’ And after that you were reluctant to make another attempt for fear of experiencing yet another defeat.

Those who are in positions of spiritual responsibility are especially vulnerable to fall into this trap. They might consider their personal defeat to be the end of the road for them. In their resignation letter they claim that they are unfit and unworthy for God’s use, and therefore they do not wish to hold any spiritual responsibility from then onward.

So how should you deal with defeat when it comes? Should you do nothing at all and leave things as they are? It is so easy to do just that especially when your morale is at an all-time low and your spiritual strength has dried up. But if you do that you may find yourself drifting further and further away from God. And you will look back all the time with regret, wishing that you could somehow turn the clock back to those times before the defeat came – those blessed times when you had enjoyed living for Christ with a sense of fulfilment.

If this describes your situation right now, please take heart. The Lord does not want you to go on like this. He wants you to rise out of the ashes of defeat. He wants you to put closure on the past, start afresh and move on with Him. He wants to restore you to victorious Christian living where you can fulfill your calling for His glory! How do we know all this? We have one clear example in the life of King David. I am sure we all know the story of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and how this led to his sin of having her husband killed in battle. This was surely the lowest point in David’s life. How could he, of all people – the King who was chosen by God to rule His people, the man after God’s own heart, the sweet psalmist of Israel through whom the Holy Spirit spoke – how could he have committed such gross sins?

Well, after his sins were exposed by God through Nathan the prophet, David realized what he had done, and he knew that he had failed miserably. He may have conquered many great kingdoms, and he may have won many impressive victories but he had been utterly defeated by his own lusts. How could he be the king of God’s people anymore when he had set such a bad example for them? How could he be called the man after God’s own heart anymore, when his sins had shown him to have acted after his own heart? Was he doomed to be cast aside like his predecessor, King Saul? Would God now remove him from the throne and raise up someone else to replace him? These questions may have troubled David’s heart at the moment when he was brought face to face with the greatest personal defeat of his life.

But David was restored from that defeat. He rose out of its ashes, and although he had to bear the painful consequences of his sins, he endured them well, and he went on to rule as King over Israel for another 20 years. And by the end of his life it was evident that God had continued to use David to bless Israel despite his defeat. From then onward, David’s reign became the defining standard of what a good king of Israel ought to be.

All this would not have been possible if David had not started afresh after his defeat. In order to understand how David started afresh after defeat, let us turn our Bibles to Psalm 51, the psalm which he wrote soon after his sins had been exposed. We shall read verses 7-10

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.’

Here in this part of psalm 51, we see David seeking for the restoration of his fellowship with God – the warm, intimate fellowship he used to enjoy with God in the days before his defeat. And then in verse 10, David expresses his great desire to start afresh with God. He says,

‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.’

This verse will be the focus of our meditation this morning. I would like to recommend that we all should memorise this short little verse, and keep it in our heart, as it can help to point us to the direction we should take whenever we are defeated by sin.

Four teachings of  defeat as recorded in Psalm 51

I. It teaches us that being defeated by sin is not the end for us.

This verse brings out the possibility of having a clean heart once again after one has sinned against God. It also highlights the prospect of being renewed in spirit. What good news this is for us! How grateful we ought to be that we can be restored after defeat. Awhile ago we saw how King David was restored. His defeat was not the end of his reign. After God restored him, David went on in the strength of a cleansed heart and a renewed spirit to rule Israel for another 20 years.

In fact most godly men whom God used to do great things went through defeat at some point in their lives, some even quite drastically. We think of Elijah who ran for his life from Queen Jezebel just after his victory at Mount Carmel – that was surely the lowest point in the life of this otherwise fearless prophet of fire. He was so discouraged that he even requested God to take his life. But that was not the end of Elijah’s ministry. After God restored him, he went on in the strength of a cleansed heart and a renewed spirit to spend many more years as God’s fearless prophet in a time of great apostasy in Israel.

We think of the prophet Jonah – When God commanded him to go to Nineveh, he disobeyed that command and tried to run far, far away in the opposite direction, to Tarshish. But that was not the end of Jonah’s ministry. After God restored him, he went on in the strength of a cleansed heart and a renewed spirit, to preach to the people of Nineveh successfully, and God’s judgment for their sins was averted when they all repented.

Through their defeats, men like David, Elijah and Jonah came to know the Lord as the God of the second chance – and even of the third chance! How precious it is to know that God does not abandon those who are defeated by their own sins. He lovingly restores them so that they are able to get up and go. So whenever you face defeat, think of these words of Psalm 51:10, ‘Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me,’ and let them teach you that there really is much hope beyond defeat! Besides that this verse is useful to:

II. It directs us to turn to God when sin defeats us.

This comes from observing the words, ‘O God’ in the middle of the verse. They stand there like a road sign pointing us to the way out of our defeat. They force us to see that the best way to handle defeat is to pour out everything in our hearts to the Lord. Why do we need such direction? Because the shame we feel when we have wronged God makes it so much easier to just wallow in self-pity and regret instead of facing Him to deal with our sins.

In the case of King David, it must have taken considerable courage for him to do this, knowing how deeply he had offended the God he loves by his sins of adultery and murder. Whenever we sin against someone, our natural impulse is to avoid facing that person, because we know that we have done wrong to him and we are ashamed to look at him. We do the very same thing Adam and Eve did after they had sinned – they hid themselves from the presence of God. But we must overcome this impulse to hide ourselves from God because it will do us no good. There is no way to get rid of our guilt as long as we don’t face the One we have offended.

And so the way out of defeat is to turn to God. Turn to Him and accept full responsibility for the sins you have committed. Confess your defeat. Ask Him to forgive you for breaking His commandments. And seek the blood of Jesus Christ to have its cleansing power applied to wash your sins away.

King David mentioned this in verse 7 of the same psalm ‘Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.’ As a result of coming to God like this, David received the full assurance that God had forgiven him. How relieved he must have felt, to know that the sins that stood between him and God were now removed. David described his great relief in psalm 32:1,2 ‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.’

David would never have received any relief or assurance from God if he had not turned to God after his defeat. He would never have known the forgiveness of his sins if he had chosen to wallow in self-pity and regret and hid himself from God. It was his turning to God that made all the difference. Let this therefore be the first thing that you will do to start afresh after defeat – Turn to God! Let the words, ‘O God’ in Psalm 51:10 direct you to do this whenever you experience defeat ‘Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.’ Besides that, this verse is also useful to:

III. It reminds us that we need God’s grace to overcome defeat.

It does this by causing us to acknowledge God as the prime mover who works in us. Can we have a clean heart if God does not create it in us? Can we have a right spirit if God does not renew it within us? If King David had not believed that he needed God’s grace to overcome his defeat perhaps Psalm 51:10 would have been written quite differently: ‘I will make my heart clean from now on, O God, and I will renew a right spirit within me.’ But it would be utterly foolish to think that such things can be done on our own. No amount of self-effort or self-reformation can work because the heart of our problem is a problem of the heart, and God alone can change the heart.

Please be convinced today that without the grace of God you can never start afresh after defeat. You will keep on falling back into the same sins over and over again, and you will only continue to live in defeat. In fact, God sometimes allows us to experience defeat because we have become too confident of our own efforts to overcome sin. He wants us to realize our daily need of grace to live the Christian life. Without His grace we can have no victory at all in Christian living.

One case in point is the apostle Peter. Among the 12 disciples of Christ he was the most outspoken about his loyalty to Christ. At the last Supper Jesus told the disciples that He was going to leave them soon and they cannot follow Him. Peter said, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.’ (John 13:37) Jesus then told the disciples that they will all be offended because of Him that very night. But Peter protested, ‘Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.’ (Matthew 26:33) Jesus told him that Satan was going to test him severely but Jesus had prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. To this, Peter replied overconfidently, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.’ (Luke 22:33) And even after Jesus told Peter that he would deny Christ three times that night, Peter still insisted, ‘If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise.’ (Mark 14:31)

It is obvious that Peter was much too confident about his own loyalty to Christ. How devastated he was later on after he had denied Christ not just once but 3 times, while the Lord was being interrogated at the house of Caiaphas the high priest. Peter was sitting outside the house, together with some other people when a young girl recognized him and said, ‘You were also with Jesus!’ And he replied, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’

Peter then moved to the porch of the house and another person there recognized him and said ‘This man was also with Jesus!’ Peter reacted by swearing that he did not know Jesus. But his Galilean accent gave him away. And now Peter was cursing and swearing that he did not know Jesus at all. At that point he heard a cock crowing and Jesus who was deep in the house, turned to look at him. Then Peter remembered what the Lord had said earlier ‘The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.’ (John 13:38) When Peter realized what he had done to His Master, he rushed out and wept bitterly.

This event cut a very deep wound in his heart. How could he have failed so miserably in his loyalty to Christ? How could he, the chief of the 12 disciples, have denied his Lord 3 times? Well, after Christ had died and resurrected from the dead He was very gracious to restore Peter. He gave him the opportunity to confess his love for Him 3 times in the presence of the other disciples. And from that time onward, Peter no longer put any confidence in himself, but leaned on God’s grace alone. This is evident even in the 2 epistles he wrote where he mentions ‘grace’ 10 times.

Now, Just as Peter learnt of his great need of grace through his defeat, we need to learn how desperately we need God’s grace to start afresh after defeat. Do not put any confidence in yourself to do this. Look to God and plead for His grace to work in you. Use the words of Psalm 51:10 ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’ This is actually a petition for purity at the deepest level of your being – where all your thoughts, motives and intentions originate from. To ask God to create a clean heart in you is to open yourself up to Him for some radical surgery that your soul needs.

And as you keep trusting God to work in you, He will give you grace to start afresh after defeat. His grace will be sufficient for you. His strength will be made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). And you will be able to do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).

And at times, this may include bearing the consequences of your sin. God’s grace to deal with defeat does not exempt you from having to face the consequences of your sins. For instance, if your sin has caused a brother to stumble, you need to make a good effort to win him back. If your sin has incurred debts, you need to settle them to the last cent. If church discipline is required to deal with your sin, submit yourself to it. Do not evade the consequences of your sins but endure them. King David was fully forgiven and restored, but he still had to endure the loss of 4 of his sons because of his sins. But by God’s grace he endured it well and came out of it, a much stronger and wiser King. You see, each defeat that we suffer in our Christian life ought to help us avoid more defeats later on. This brings us to the fourth and final way that Psalm 51:10 can minister to us in our hearts in moments of defeat:

IV. It motivates us to take measures against another defeat.

This comes from the latter part of Psalm 51:10 David where prayed ‘renew a right spirit in me.’ The word ‘right’ here actually means ‘prepared, firm or steadfast.’ This was David’s petition for a spirit that is prepared, firm and steadfast, so that he will not yield again to temptation. He clearly did not want to fall into the same sins again and so he sought God’s help to avoid another defeat.

And if we truly want to start afresh, we ought to pray for a right spirit as well – one that will be firm and steadfast against temptation. But if we are sincere in praying for this, surely we must also take some necessary measures against suffering another defeat. How can you do this? By learning from your past defeats:

Ask yourself some questions. What did you do wrong? How can you avoid those mistakes you made? What could you have done better? What are some changes God wants you to make in the way you do things, the way you think, or the way you react to certain situations? Search the Scriptures and ask the Lord to show you what to do. Seek the help and advice of others, especially from Christians who have overcome defeat.

Perhaps one reason why you had fallen into sin easily, is that your spiritual life is weak. Without realizing it, you have allowed it to become weak through neglect and the defeat you suffered is a warning sign. If this is true, please do something about it. Rebuild your prayer life, feed on God’s Word each day, and walk in the Spirit. Re-consecrate your life to the Lord, and put on the whole armour of God that He has provided.

Please remember however, that there is no guarantee that you will never suffer any more defeats in your Christian life. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, ‘Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.’ Even the most vigilant Christians in the world will tell you that they still experience occasional defeats.

But as you learn how to handle your defeats well, you will improve. You will experience more victories than defeats. You will become more resilient and you will then maintain your usefulness to God. Let us all press on then to victory, and with God’s help let us start afresh after every defeat.


Also read this.

What Should Be Our Response to God’s Goodness?

Psalm 042 – Do Christians Get Depressed?

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Joy Chinonyerem

Joy Chinonyerem is an ardent follower of Christ who believes in Living the Christian Life according to the tenets set by Christ himself. She is passionate about Walking by Faith, as commanded by the scriptures and uses her blog, Walking By Faith Blog, to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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