The ABC’s of Wisdom: Building Character with Solomon - Understanding



Learning from Your Mistakes


Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly brings punishment to fools.

Proverbs 16:22


Some people never learn from their mistakes, which is why they repeat them. Others learn the first time and gain what Solomon calls “understanding.” It is an inex­haustible fountain of practical truth that God gives to those who are good students of their own decisions. By contrast, fools never learn, and so God’s discipline is wasted on them.

Here is a wonderful truth: God can redeem your mis­takes if you will let Him. When Peter denied Jesus, the Lord never criticized him and never gave up on him. Je­sus knew about Peter’s denial long before it happened. He knew what Peter would do, He knew how he would re­act, and He knew the kind of man Peter would be afterward.

There is an important principle at work here. A bone that is broken often becomes stronger after it is healed. Something in the healing process actually makes the break point stronger than it was before. The same is true of a rope that breaks. In the hands of a master splicer, the rope once repaired will be stronger than it was before.

The same thing is true of our failures. God can take us where we are-broken-and can make us stronger than we were before. Though we fall and fall and fall, and though our faces are covered with the muck and grime of bitter defeat, by God’s grace we can rise from the field of defeat to march on to new victory.

That’s what happened to Peter. His guilt was turned into grace; his shame, into sympathy; his failure, into faithfulness.

Here is the proof: Peter did much more for Jesus Christ after his fall than he did before. Before his fall, he was loud, boisterous, and unreliable; afterward, he be­came a flaming preacher of the Gospel. Before, he was a big talker; afterward, he talked only of what Jesus Christ could do for others. He was the same man, but he was different. He was still Peter through and through, but he had been sifted by Satan, and in the sifting, the chaff of his life had been blown away.

When I pastored in Texas there was a woman in my church who called me often asking for spiritual help. I suppose over the course of five years we must have talked on the phone at least one hundred times. She stands out vividly in my mind because she always ended our conver­sations the same way. Whenever we came to the end of the call, Betty would always say, “Remember, Pastor Ray, we’re only human.”

That’s a crucial insight for all of us less-than-perfect people. I often tell people that your past isn’t nearly as important as where you are right now and where you plan to be tomorrow. Direction makes all the difference. We all stumble in many ways, and some of us fall hard because of our own stupidity. The wise man learns from his mistakes, gains understanding, and discovers that his failure has become a fountain of life to him. Only a fool keeps doing the same dumb thing over and over.


Lord God, I ask not for an easy road, but for new under­standing of the path I should follow. Amen.


Can you think of a major mistake/sin/blunder that eventually became a “fountain of life” to you?

What lesson is God trying to teach you right now?


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