One of the most significant religious figures of the 20th century would have to be the late Billy Graham. Over six decades of ministry, he has preached to more than 100 million people in 185 countries, with nearly 3 million having ‘accepted Jesus into their hearts’. He became known as ‘America’s Pastor’, counseling presidents and speaking during national crisis such as the memorial service after the 9/11 attacks. For all of his achievements, he also had his share of regrets which are found in his autobiography, ‘Just as I am’:

Although I have much to be grateful for as I look back over my life, I also have many regrets. I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family. When I look back over the schedule I kept thirty or forty years ago, I am staggered by all the things we did and the engagements we kept. Sometimes we flitted from one part of the country to another, even from one continent to another, in the course of only a few days. Were all those engagements necessary? Was I as discerning as I might have been about which ones to take and which to turn down? I doubt it. Every day I was absent from my family is gone forever…

I would also spend more time in spiritual nurture, seeking to grow closer to God so I could become more like Christ. I would spend more time in prayer, not just for myself but for others. I would spend more time studying the Bible and meditating on its truth, not only for sermon preparation but to apply its message to my life. It is far too easy for someone in my position to read the Bible only with an eye on a future sermon, overlooking the message God has for me through its pages.

And I would give more attention to fellowship with other Christians, who could teach me and encourage me (and even rebuke me when necessary). About one thing I have absolutely no regrets, however, and that is my commitment many years ago to accept God’s calling to serve Him as an evangelist of the Gospel of Christ”.

Graham’s reflections make for instructive reading. Living without regrets doesn’t mean we will get things right every single time. That’s impossible. We will stuff things up. That is part and parcel of living and growing up. Remember, God is gracious and merciful. What’s critical is that we take up the opportunities God gives us to learn from our mistakes and grow rather than make excuses for putting off doing something that God requires of us, for our failures and disobedience because they come with consequences.

When it comes to second chances God gives us, don’t take it for granted because we never know what’s around the corner. Instead, take heed to Jesus’ words, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28). No more excuses!

“Lord, increase our faith in you!”