The Wasted Years

“The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions,”
Bernard of Clairvaux --- c. 1150.

The wasted years of our lives are those actions done in our own strength, on our own steam. In this definition is contained a horrific indictment of human effort! Only what Jesus does in and through a person has enduring worth in the annals of heaven. Wasted efforts not only plague individuals., entire churches today can be seen to be treading water wrongly assuming God is pleased with their group performance “in the flesh.”

We usually think of a wasted life as one characterized by a failed marriage, homelessness, alcoholism, drugs and the like. But some of the most wasted lives of all are found among the very rich, the upwardly mobile, the entrepreneurs, and the entitled.

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)

We don’t know ourselves well, but God does! “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided? “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21)

However, Jesus is quick to credit our account with all the actions we mortals do that are selfless and self-giving. Love covers a multitude of sins!

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10)

Seldom do we act with pure motives! We often have mixed motives when we set out to do things. Doing our best, giving things our best shot, might be cool as far our peers are concerned, but Jesus sees down to our very motives!

We are, however, accountable for what we know about God, not for what we don’t know. We all know enough to be without excuse. For example, Romans Chapter One teaches that glimpses of God in nature are sufficient to pull us all up short before the bar of God’s justice.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21)

Reverence, awe and respect for an awesome Creator should characterize every one of us. Beyond that bare minimum we live in a land of comparative freedom and enlightenment sent down to us by our Creator. His love for us is self-giving and self-sacrificing. It's a huge mistake to take God for granted.

Actually we would know nothing about God, His nature, His Person If He had chosen to stay hidden behind the scenes. But God has given us vast amounts of information about Himself, His character, His agenda.

In the Bible we are encouraged to trust God and to act upon what He declares to be true. This process is called “faith.” Blind faith and presumption are ruled out. God shows up when He is welcomed, but politely stays out of our affairs when we insist on doing things “my way” or “our way.” To trust God is to lean upon, wait upon, and obey Him in all circumstances.

Because we don’t know our own motives, or are running on autopilot, or enslaved to tradition, we often mess up in life. We think of our failures as “accidents” though there are no accidents in God’s scheme of things.

Set backs, failures, losses depress us. But the whole life of Jesus on his first trip to the planet was a dismal failure as seen by many people.

The theme of the foolishness of God runs through the Bible. Consider how much God let’s us know about Himself in the following passage:

For the message (logos) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

The Prophet Joel to the Rescue

An especially great promise is found in the book of Joel.

All things considered, everyone messes up in life, everyone defaults to wrong assumptions. Who does not make poor choices? Here is where the Prophet Joel brings good news. He writes concerning God’s people not to the unconverted. A horrific “natural disaster” has plagued the land of Israel:

“Is not the food cut off before our eyes,
Joy and gladness from the house of our God?
The seed shrivels under the clods,
Storehouses are in shambles;
Barns are broken down,
For the grain has withered.
How the animals groan!
The herds of cattle are restless,
Because they have no pasture;
Even the flocks of sheep suffer punishment.
O Lord, to You I cry out;
For fire has devoured the open pastures,
And a flame has burned all the trees of the field.
The beasts of the field also cry out to You,
For the water brooks are dried up,
And fire has devoured the open pastures.
(Joel 1:15-20)

Seeing the extent of the problem, Joel calls everyone, the whole nation, to fasting and prayer. No one is left off of his list!

Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
Into the house of the Lord your God,
And cry out to the Lord.

Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is at hand;
It shall come as destruction from the Almighty.
(Joel 1:14-15

It is God who has caused the locust invasion! Can He gain the attention of his wayward people? It seems “touch and go” at first.

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
Who knows if He will turn and relent,
And leave a blessing behind Him—
A grain offering and a drink offering
For the Lord your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes;
Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
And the bride from her dressing room.
Let the priests, who minister to the Lord,
Weep between the porch and the altar;
Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord,
And do not give Your heritage to reproach,
That the nations should rule over them.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’ ” (Joel 2:12-17)

This time the whole nation listens to God and responds!

Then the Lord will be zealous for His land,
And pity His people.
The Lord will answer and say to His people,
“Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil,
And you will be satisfied by them;
I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations...

Fear not, O land;
Be glad and rejoice,
For the Lord has done marvelous things!

Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field;
For the open pastures are springing up,
And the tree bears its fruit;
The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.
Be glad then, you children of Zion,
And rejoice in the Lord your God;
For He has given you the former rain faithfully,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you.

And the latter rain in the first month.
The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,
And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.

Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
I am the Lord your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame. (Joel 2:18-27)

Does this restoration apply to us today who know God? Yes!

Ray Stedman writes,

I will never forget the agony in the eyes of a young man who a number of years ago looked at me and said, "You know, I've become a Christian and it's wonderful. But when I think back to what I've missed and the years of my life that I've wasted, my heart gets sick remembering it. If I'd only had the sense to come to the Lord before I did all those terrible things." And I had the joy of being able to say to him, "Son, God says, 'I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten.'" That is God's promise. He will make up for the barrenness of our lives when we turn back to him.

"I will restore to you the years
which the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
"You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God..." (Joel 2:25-26a RSV)

The whole point for us to heed is that God only has life. He is the Source. We ought not to ask for healing and restoration if we insist on being Lone Ranger Christians disconnected from fellowship and accountability to other remembers of the Body of Christ.

We ought to remember that we reap what we sow. All sin can be forgiven but all sin has consequences. In mercy God heals and restored but we can run out of time and bury ourselves in our own debris—and burrowing out to freedom can be cumbersome. God is always to give us new beginnings! (Zechariah 4).

Everyone who knows Jesus personally will make it to New Jerusalem! The book “Imagine Heaven” by John Burke, documenting many Near Death Experiences by credible persons, bears witness to God’s faithfulness no matter what.

The following passage ought to dawn on anyone who takes seriously the teaching of Jesus, about vines, vineyards and grapes.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branches that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:1-8)

In actuality how does God give back our wasted years?

I believe He edits the books! He cleanses old sins, shedding new light on the past, so we see things differently (“in a new light”). Jesus heals old wounds by restoring broken relationships. He shows us clearly who we hurt and who we helped. He clarifies past actions, shows us His perspective, takes away excess baggage, unstops clogged conduits, freshens polluted springs, renews.

God is a great healer. This is seen in His name YAHWEH ROPHE Everything we do has consequences. There is a consequence engine at work in the universe.

Since the promise of restoration of our "wasted" years applies only to believers, we will still suffer loss of those family members and friends who have refused to be forgiven, healed and made whole.

The great promise of Joel, however, is to an entire nation!

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, ‘God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? 

But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,
‘God opposes the proud,
   but gives grace to the humble.’ 

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:1-10)

How To Recover your Wasted Years

In prayer think back to traumatic events, failures, disappointments in your life. Invite Jesus to show you those incidents from His perspective. If you feel guilt or shame, ask Jesus to wash your slate clean. If you were at fault and another person was injured, give that sin to God so He can edit the records. Seek reconciliation for unhealed, damaged relationships that happened in the past. In so far as possible, pay back money you owe. Seek the forgiveness of people you have wronged or exploited in the past. It's OK to ask for justice for past incidents when you were wronged, but be careful! Clean house. We don't know ourselves well at all, so expect to be surprised. Joel's call to the nation was for everyone to repent. That seems to have happened in history. The wasted years of believers today may happen in part for individuals, but the final healing will be after the Rapture.

The Coming Renewal of All Things

"Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.
Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is new creation; old things have passed away;
behold, all things have become new. 

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ,
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 
that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,
not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

Please enjoy your life in company with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let go of the past, give Jesus unlimited access to your heart, mind, possessions, plans, protocols--and watch what happens.

Jesus will indeed begin a grand cleanup campaign with new seeds planted and much cleansing from dead works.

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.
The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Some Homework

The Ego Papers | That Last One Percent

Deliberate Sin | Is God Ruthless? | Accidents and Disasters does God Care? | What is Revelation from God? | No Such Thing as Chance

Recovery | Christ in You | The Exchanged Life | How God Saves Us | Famine in the Land | The Royal Road to Wholeness | Everlasting Destruction

Jesus our Great High Priest | Healings | Intercessors | Papers on Prayer I | The Prayer Papers II | The Holiness Papers | The Spiritual Gifts

Notes by Lambert Dolphin


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Originated: June 28, 2019. December 28, 2021. September 16, 2022. November 14, 2022. April 14, 2023. June 26, 2023. October 27, 2023.