But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.
Reading this about Pharaoh today reminds me of some of my most sorrowful, most shameful, most lost-looking behavior. Pharaoh was lost. He hated the God he refused to believe in. But, on occasion the plagues made Pharaoh realize that he was in trouble and on the wrong side of God’s commands. Pharaoh would then plead for mercy. But, when Pharaoh received that mercy, he would harden his heart and go back to acting exactly as he had before.
I get it. I get Pharaoh. I’ve been there. I’ve had times in my life, even my Christian life, when I would plead with God for some favor. I would ask God to get me out of a mess of my own making. I would declare my intent to follow God and to not put myself in such a foolish place ever again. And, when things would work out, I would often find myself right back where I started.
Here is what is so scary about that. To sin, plead with God, receive mercy from God, and then return to the very same sin is behavior that looks like Pharaoh—behavior that looks like a lost person. And, if we are honest, all of us, yes, even growing believers, have moments or seasons of life that look lost.
What should we do when we see ourselves looking lost? Off the top of my head, I would advocate for the following:
- Repent – Of course this is right. It’s not always as easy as we would wish, but it is the ultimate answer.
- Pray – This goes with repent, but should not be ignored.
- Examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. I think it can be dangerous for a person to question his or her salvation with every failure. At the same time, Scripture is clear that it is very dangerous to assume you are OK with God solely based on some event or declaration you made in the past that is not changing your present.
- Rest in the gospel. Oh, I know, this looks like I’m contradicting the last bullet point. Well, I’m not, at least not really. The truth is, if your entire hope for your eternity, your forgiveness, and your righteousness is in the person and work of Christ alone you are in the family of God. If you have committed yourself to follow Christ under his grace, allowing him to be your Lord and to claim you as his child, you are in the family of God. And if you are in the family of God, you should not allow your failure, even a season of failure, to make you assume that you are totally out of the family.
- Be honest. Don’t play games with God. Don’t try to convince yourself of something that is not really there. Don’t lie to your friends. Don’t fake it at church (don’t skip church either). Don’t be a hypocrite in front of your lost friends, but openly admit that you are a sinner who is only forgiven by grace and not because of your own goodness.
- Work with a friend to grow. Perhaps a pastor, prayer partner, or mentor could help you shake off the pattern of failure that you have in your life.
Pharaoh looked lost, and he was. I have, at moments, looked lost, and I was not. Still today, I am a sinner in need of grace. Still today, I trust in the person and work of Christ alone for my salvation. Still today, I declare that Jesus is my Lord and I owe him total allegiance. Still today, I do not live up to my commitment. Still today, I do not live up to the righteousness that God has declared that I have in Christ. Still today, I press on and give God praise for his astounding grace.
What about you? What do you do when you look lost? To whom do you go for counsel and support? Are you honest about your failures? Are you fighting to get past them? Are you resting in Christ? Are you examining your own faith?