No Regrets

preached at ELC September 29 2019 | bwk

Luke 16:19-31

Regrets 3 x 5 index cards…privately write down one thing in your life that you regret. Then fold it up and place it in your pocket or purse.  We will deal with them at the end of this sermon.

Stephen Covey’s second habit of highly effective people is to “begin with the end in mind.”  What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?  What do you want to be remembered for?  Picture what your legacy might be and live into it.  

Wayne Gretzky is quoted as saying, “you miss every shot you don’t take.”  Do you have regrets for opportunities lost—shots you didn’t take?  

My guess is that we all have words spoken we wish we could take back.  We all have times we wished we had spoken up, but didn’t.  We have things we have done—mistakes, silly, stupid mistakes—we wished we could go back and do differently.  But what about the big ones?

Ron Wayne was one of the founders of Apple, along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. He helped to steer the computer company in its early days, and had a hand in designing the famous Apple logo. Wayne owned 10 percent of the company, while Jobs and Wozniak each owned 45 percent. But Wayne decided to hand back his stake, fearing that he would be liable for a portion of a $15,000 loan if the company went under.

Apple succeeded, of course, and if Wayne had held on to his stake it would now be worth more than $37 billion.

Does he have any regrets? 

Surprisingly, no. “I made my decision on the information I had at the time,” he tells James Thomson of SmartCompany. “I’ve got my health, my family and integrity — and that is the best fortune you could ask for.”

Do you believe him? Thirty-seven BILLION dollars — and NO regrets?

Jesus tells the story of a rich man who was “dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19). The man dies, is buried and finds himself in Hades being tormented (vv. 22-23).  He is miserable and sees Lazarus “in the lap of luxury” Abraham’s bosom, while he is in torment.  Interesting, isn’t it that the rich man is unnamed (implying we should put ourselves in his place) and the poor man,Lazarus, is named.  Their situations are completely reversed.  Does he have any regrets?  Sometimes we regret the consequences of bad decisions we have made, yet don’t really regret the bad decision.  

A nurse specializing in care of the terminally ill has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and there’s no mention of missed business deals. No regrets about skipped bungee jumping opportunities or even about marriage — despite the many jokes that link regret to the choice of a mate. (According to one, a woman inserts an ad in the classifieds: “Husband wanted.” Next day, she receives a hundred letters. They all say the same thing: “You can have mine.”)

No, the top five regrets discovered by the nurse include:

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. People admit that they feared change in their lives, so they pretended that they were content. In fact, they wish they had laughed more and allowed themselves to be sillier.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. People feel badly that they were so caught up in their own lives that they let important friendships slip away.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. This regret was expressed by every male patient. Every single one of them.

And the number one big regret, discovered by nurse Bronnie Ware and reported in The Guardian (February 1, 2012):

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This is the most common regret of all. “Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams,” says Ware, “and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”

Do these big regrets ring true? 

What would you regret if this were your last day on earth?

This unnamed rich man—again being unnamed he seems to picture all of us, put yourself in his place—still seemed to look at Lazarus as a servant, less than himself.  “Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue.”  And then, when that fails he says, “send him to my father’s house to warn my brothers…”  It seems to me the unnamed rich man is regretting his circumstances, not his poor decisions.  The reason Jesus tells this parable is for us to cause us to LISTEN, THINK AND CHANGE—improve our response and examine our decisions.  

Consider the following thoughts:

1. Cared for the people around us. Who is sitting outside our gates?  How can we see and respond to those in need around us?  

2. Listen to Moses and the prophets. God has given us His Word.  Do we read it?  Do we “pay attention?”  Does the Bible have any impact on our thinking and values? How we act? How we drive? How we spend our money? How generous we are (or aren’t)?  How we vote?  How we fight or disagree or speak up for those less fortunate than us?  You see, we need to not only read the Bible, we need to live it and let it change us.  

3. Find the courage to live a life true to my Savior, and live consistently to what I say I believe. One of the biggest challenges we face—I face, you face—all of us—is to give in to peer pressure.  We get wrong impressions about what it means to be a believer and follow Jesus when we let the crowd tell us what to believe and do.  If we are really following Jesus we will keep the law of love as Jesus lived and taught it.  And that means seeing and identifying with the weak, the disenfranchised, the widows, the orphans, the foreigners at our gate.   

This unnamed rich man responds to Abraham’s suggestion that they have Moses and the Prophets—whereby he means the Law and Prophets, the Old Testament of the Bible because that is what they had back then—by saying send someone back from the dead, then they will certainly believe.  Yet, Jesus prophetically predicts that even if One would come back from the dead, they won’t believe.  

Jesus tells this parable not so we could judge the unnamed rich guy, but that we would see ourselves in his shoes and judge ourselves.  None of us is perfect.  We will all come to the end of life feeling that we have made mistakes along the way.

Don’t make excuses for past blunders.  Accept yourself as human—we are all in the same boat! Confess your need for forgiveness.  Accept the forgiveness God gives you in Christ Jesus.  Claim the indwelling Spirit within you and practice making better choices.  Live your faith out loud.  Be aware.  Be kind.  See the invisible, unnamed people around us.  See Jesus in them.  Give to the poor through all the many charitable organizations available to us.  

Putting our actions in line with our beliefs — living a life of integrity — is a change that is made one choice at a time.

The result is a life you won’t regret.

What to do with your 3×5 index card with its regret.  Change your regret if you can still do so.  If not, take it to the cross, give it to Jesus and leave it there.  

Pastor Bruce Kolasch

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