Maturity and Mistakes

“Maturity is not about not making mistakes, it’s about how you respond after the mistake.”

When YWAM Richmond staff Cassy heard this in a sermon, she recognized how often we miss this truth.  In our pursuit of perfection — or at least good optics — we are more prone to dodge mistakes than to humbly own them.

David — a man after God’s own heart — missed this truth extravagantly.

In 1 Samuel 13:22 God says of David “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do,” and we witness it in the ways that he faces Goliath, honors “the Lord’s anointed” King Saul, and eventually leads God’s people.  For much of his life, his decisions were based on going after God’s heart, even if it could cost him dearly.

By 2 Samuel 11, something has shifted.  To be clear, David was never perfect; however, at some point he became “after his own heart”, and the results were ruinous.

It began with him dodging his royal responsibilities:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. (v1)

David was meant to be with his men, but chose to remain home; this mistake made him susceptible to a more egregious one:

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful… Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (v2, 4)

Proverbs 16:27 speaks to this: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.”  David’s self-seeking idleness led to temptation, which led to abuse of power and adultery.  Things escalate: Bathsheba becomes pregnant, and David resorts to a series of manipulative actions to lead Uriah — her husband — to sleep with her in hopes no one does the pregnancy-math.

David woos Uriah and gives him a pass to go home; Uriah chooses to operate with honor and integrity:

Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (v11)

Uriah had no idea that the very thing he proclaimed was the very mistake David had made, remaining in his house, eating and drinking, and making love to Uriah’s wife!

When manipulation failed, David intensified his deceptive tactics; he makes Uriah drunk, but instead of going home to his wife, Uriah sleeps alongside David’s servants.

Still failing to own his increasing mistakes, David crosses lines he never imagined he’d cross.  This man, who had twice spared the life of Saul who was hunting him, devised the murder of an innocent man.  He roped Joab into a plan to send Uriah into the fiercest battle and withdraw support.  The plan succeeded.

When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him.  After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord. (v26-27)

In one chapter we see a man of famous spiritual maturity spiral into increasingly horrendous mistakes; from dodging responsibility, to sexual immorality, to manipulation and deception, to murder, this “man after God’s own heart” proved he was after something much different.  How did he fall so far?

“Maturity is not about not making mistakes, it’s about how you respond after the mistake.”

David’s issue wasn’t that he made mistakes — that was inevitable — but that he responded out of selfish-ambition and self-preservation.  Instead of owning his mistakes, he sought to protect the optics of his “spiritual maturity” by enacting elaborate cover ups.  It is not until God shared a seemingly-simple story through the prophet Nathan that David finally stumbles into spiritual maturity.

God — knowing His audience well — crafted a story about a man robbed of his beloved ewe lamb, which reaches deep into the heart of the former-shepherd.  Emotion gripped David as he resonated with the poor man who’s lamb “was like a daughter to him“, until a rich man snatches it, kills it, and cooks it for a traveler.

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:5-7)

God knew exactly how to circumvent the defenses David’s mind had erected to avoid owning his mistakes, and in one simple story David finally accepts the reality of his misdeeds.

We will make mistakes; if our pursuit is simply to avoid or hide them, disappointment and destruction await us.  If we are honest, though, this is a path we too easily and too often choose.

How can we pursue spiritual maturity when even a man like David failed?  Let’s ask the man himself, using his words in Psalm 19:

  • Pursue God’s heart:  David begins the Psalm by affirming and celebrating God’s glory: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (v1)  Before anything else, we can choose to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”, recognizing that He is all, and all is His.  When we do this, our thoughts and decisions are more likely to be shaped with Him in mind.
  • Hear and obey His words:  David then goes on to elaborate on how vital and powerful God’s words are: “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” (v7)  We can choose to regularly engage with His Word and base our thoughts and actions on it, finding wisdom beyond our own capacity. When we do this, we don’t have to rely solely on our own thoughts and plans, but His.
  • Practice humble introspection:  David shows spiritual maturity in naming that his good intentions are not enough: “But who can discern their own errors?  Forgive my hidden faults.  Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.  Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” (v12-13)  We can confess that we will both unintentionally and intentionally make mistakes, and in humility invite God to bring our missteps into the light.  When we do this, we break the power of sin over us and find forgiveness and freedom.

When — not if — we make mistakes, our bend towards selfish ambition or self-preservation can lead us on a path like David’s, addressing one mistake with another until we’ve dug a hole too deep to escape.  As David says in Psalm 7:

Whoever is pregnant with evil
conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.
Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out
falls into the pit they have made.
The trouble they cause recoils on them;
their violence comes down on their own heads. (v14-16)

Praise be to God, for whom no hole is too deep.  Even at our worst, God has the power to know us, forgive us, and restore us, if we are willing to let Him bring us to spiritual maturity.  David captures it well in Psalm 40:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    you are my God, do not delay. (v1-3, 17)

Related Comments

2 Responses

  1. There is so much that can be learned from the life of David. He made mistakes, but God didn’t give up on him. God actually chose Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, to build the temple and govern the people. Sin always has consequences, but we should remember that God forgave us for all of our trespasses and has chosen us to be sons and daughters and people predestined for good works.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Subscribe To YWAM Posts

Subscribe to our mailing list and get YWAM updates straight to your inbox.

We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously