by David Sisler

It was only a college poker game. Every week, five or six friends met for a few hands of "50-cent limit." That means the most you can bet on any card, or after drawing all of your cards is 50 cents. Very early in the evening, Joe picked up his cards, looked at them, and said, "Let's take the limit off of this hand." That meant he had drawn a very good hand. Another player, evidently having a good hand, too, said, "Okay. Let's take the limit off."

Before the hand was over Joe put the title to his car, his high school graduation present, into the pot to cover a $600 bet. The car was worth much more than $600, but that was all of the security he needed. Joe lost the hand and his car.

Pushing himself back from the table, Joe stood up and said, "That's it! As long as I live, I will never play another hand of poker."

Joe went back to his room, packed his bags and hitchhiked home. He wrote a letter to the dean of the college explaining that he was withdrawing from school. He took a very minor job, got married and began to raise a family.

You can easily guess what Joe is best known for. Playing poker. But the night that he lost his car and swore off of the game forever, he was filled with genuine sorrow and was totally sincere.

Joe's story is only one variation on the theme of worldly sorrow. It is a tune that is played out in countless lives, countless times.

The man is facing surgery and promises to serve God if he lives through the operation. He lives, but never serves God.

The man is remorseful about his drinking, pours out the last of the bottle and says, "I'll never touch another drop." He sobers up only to get drunk again and again.

Maybe it is nothing quite so severe.

The college student gets a bad grade report at mid-term and vows, "I'm really going to hit the books and pull these grades up." He studies diligently for a night or two, then puts the books aside and flunks out of school.

You gained a few pounds and join a diet group. You promise yourself, "Never again am I going to treat my body in that fashion." Before long you have joined the 98 percent of all dieters who gained back all of the lost weight and more.

What is going on?

The Apostle Paul explains, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."

Worldly sorrow is concerned with the consequences of being found out, with the punishment for discovery, with the loss of image or with embarrassment. It never changes a life.

Worldly sorrow attempts to make a bargain with God. Worldly sorrow says, "I'll never play another hand of poker. I'll never touch another drop." Worldly sorrow is concerned only with the consequences. Worldly sorrow causes an individual to make a promise to God, to mean the promise, but not to fulfill the promise. Worldly sorrow always leads to death.

Paul said, "There is another kind of sorrow. It is the kind of sorrow which causes you to put aside the embarrassment, the humiliation, and the consequences. It is the kind of sorrow which causes you to be concerned with the sin you have committed and the God you have offended. It is a sorrow which works repentance. It always leads to eternal life."

Godly sorrow means that even if you could go back to your old life you would not. Only godly sorrow works repentance. We have forgotten that repentance has nothing to do with the past, but everything to do with the future. When you asked Him, God forgave your past. Now with godly sorrow, turn your life 180 degrees around, face the future, and live it in the strength of Jesus Christ.


Copyright 2002 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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