I Samuel 12:1-4
No Regrets: Rear View Mirror
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

In the Prophet Samuel’s final public speech, he passed the baton to Saul, Israel’s first king. Leaving public life, Samuel looked in the rear view mirror of his life, and saw no regrets. To make sure he was not deceived, he asked the people to tell him if they saw anything in his rear view mirror he should regret.

I Samuel 12:1-4 (Holman) Then Samuel said to all Israel, “I have carefully listened to everything you said to me and placed a king over you. But now, you can see that the king is leading you. As for me, I’m old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have led you from my youth until today. Here I am. Bring charges against me before the Lord and his anointed: Whose ox or donkey have I taken? Whom have I wronged or mistreated? From whose hand have I taken a bribe to overlook something? I will return it to you.” “You haven’t wronged us, you haven’t mistreated us, and you haven’t taken anything from anyone’s hand,” they responded.

Life with no regrets is what we want. We don’t need to carry extra baggage from the past. We don’t make significant forward progress in life by obsessing over what we see in our rear view mirror, but we had better be checking it often enough to see if anything behind us may be hanging around to load us down.

Don’t obsess over the past. Don’t ignore the past. Bring past failures and unresolved issues back to mind, deal with them, set the record straight.

Enter the future with no regrets. As part of our birthright as Christ-followers, we have opportunity to correct whatever we regret. Let’s do so.

Let’s each take a brief yet honest look in our own rear view mirror. We may see unforgiven sins, unsettled accounts, and other regrets we need to rid ourselves of. To jog our thinking, consider several items believers often regret.

1. Motives. To this point in life what has motivated us the most? What criteria have we used to make decisions?

At our deepest level of life, what is most important to us, what drives us? Significance or success, spirituality or sensuality? Does holiness matter most? As we examine ourselves, do we like what we see?

2. Time management. Have we handled time well? Time management is a stewardship for which believers will answer to God.

Whenever this subject comes up, we tend to think of men who are glued to their work, who spend way too much time at the office, feeding self-esteem through their job. I agree this is a problem, I struggle with it myself, but many years ago, while helping a couple whose marriage was in serious trouble, I received a new vantage point.

The husband was definitely working too much. The wife said she wanted him to work less, but was also enjoying the nice cars, fancy clothes, and worldwide travel. I think she was, without realizing it, silently contributing to the husband’s desire to make more money. She was saying one thing, but exuding another.

Are our schedules under control? Are we living on a treadmill? Is there time for God in our daily routine? Slow down. We cannot have our eyes on God and the clock at the same time.

3. Money management. Here’s another stewardship for which we will answer to God. Have we saved and spent money well?

How do we measure up in regard to the tithe? The first ten percent of what we make is to be given to God.

How much of what we have done as a church was paid by you? We all enjoy the singing, preaching, air conditioning, lights, and heat. Are you parking on someone else’s nickel?

How well are we doing in sharing with those in need? We are commanded to remember the poor. Do we have a systematic method of directly providing help to the poor, or is doing it by proxy our preferred approach? If so, does someone else also do our praying and Bible reading for us?

4. Family life. Do our families know we consider the spiritual to be the most important aspect of life? They know we aren’t perfect, but do they know we want to be holy before them? Do they know our hearts long to please God?

Is the life we live at home sold out to God, or lackadaisical? For instance, do you already know 100% for sure you will be in church next Sunday, or is it iffy from week to week? When did you decide to come to church today? Are you here today because you’re committed or because it was convenient?

Our families see a side of us no one else does. In a former church, a deacon’s wife once told me her husband would have never been ordained a deacon had she been interviewed beforehand. I was once bragging to two adults on how considerate a man their dad was. They said, “To others, but not to us.”

Are we conveying to our children the heritage of righteousness? Are we passing to them spiritual knowledge? We have taught our children how to read, write, and do well in school. Good. Have we taught them how to have a daily devotion time? Are we teaching them prayer and Bible reading by our example?

Too many parents abdicate responsibility for their children’s spirituality to a church’s youth group. Their teens are often more attached to church friends than to Jesus. Thus, when they leave their church, they often leave off serving Jesus.

5. Kindness. When was the last time someone described us as kind? We are too often not gentle in the way we treat others. Since kindness is Christianity in action, unkindness signals an absence of true spirituality.

Who do we need to show more kindness to? An employee, boss, family member, waiters, waitresses, garbage collector, mailman? Practice kindness.

6. Words. Have we left positive words unsaid? Some 90% of men say they have no written comments of affirmation from their father.

Who needs a word of encouragement from us? A spouse, son, daughter, parent, co-worker, student, teacher, neighbor?

Have we used negative words we should have left unsaid? What words have we used that never should have come out of our mouth?

Do we joke and use demeaning terms about our spouse and children? Wives, have your husbands come to expect to hear from you only things you point out about them that are wrong? Husbands, have your wives come to expect being belittled by you?

Marriage and parenting take enough abuse in our culture. We need to honor both institutions by elevating the way we speak to and about those with whom we share the institutions.

Do we yell at people? Screaming shouts a life is out of control. It easily becomes a nasty habit. Often what we say isn’t as bad as the way we say it. A turning point in my life happened when my sweet mother said, with a broken heart, “John, I wish I had a tape recorder, and you could hear the tone in your voice when you talk to me like that.” Take the holler out of your voice. Break the habit of escalating conversations.

7. Worry. Have we worried too much in life? This is one of my chief regrets. I stand embarrassed before God. From the depths of my soul, I wish I had spent less time worrying, and more time trusting. I regret anxious days and insomnia nights wasted in sin due to this failure.

Are we proactively trying to win the victory over worry or have we given in to it? Have we read a book on prayer lately? How is our daily private time?

We could continue looking in our rear view mirror, but this is reflection enough for today. Regrets, regrets, and more regrets. What should we do about them? Drown ourselves in guilt? No.

The objective is not guilt, but no regrets. If need be, we should right wrongs, go talk to key people, isolate ourselves and pray. Forgiveness given and received is the clean air we believers breathe.