Grief that Leads to Repentance

Very early in my ministry, I spoke at a church that had its Sunday services on the radio. My Dad listened to the sermon and invited me to dinner the next night.

Our dinner at the Ramada Inn lasted two hours and I was sorry that we didn’t grab a burger at the McDonald’s drive-through window.

For two hours Dad told me where my sermon was wrong. He pointed out how the fact I used a man in a way that harmed his reputation.

My anger grew by the moment, as Dad continued to talk. I thought, “You drink, smoke, cuss, and never go to church. How dare you tell me how to preach?”

The next morning the Lord met with me and said, “Your Dad was right.”

That time with my father was possibly one of the most life-changing times of my ministry. God used it to make me study the Bible and great preachers more deeply.

I was challenged by what I read, spent an afternoon in repentance, and grew closer to God than ever before.

I drove to the home of the man I had preached about the evening after my time of repentance. He very graciously accepted my apology. At a later date, I was able to help him meet Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

The Importance of Repentance

The first letter to the Corinthians caused grief to the congregation and to specific individuals within it.

Like my father, Paul used stern language to show the church their wrongs.

Like me, the church responded with repentance.

2 Corinthians 7.8-10For although I grieved you with my letter, I do not regret it. Although I did regret it (for I see that that letter caused you grief, though only briefly),

Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved but because your grief led to repentance, for you felt a godly grief, so that you were not harmed in any way by us.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.

There are two general reactions we can have when we are grieved by someone’s confrontation.

(1) Grief can result in hardness of heart.

We can double down on why we are right in the matter and complain that we are the victim of someone’s attack.

This was my first response to my father’s criticism of my Sunday sermon.

If you listen to people in public life, there seems to be a general lack of grief that leads to repentance in our country.

Isaiah’s words are an accurate description of speech in the public space around the world.

Justice is turned back,
and deliverance stands at a distance,
for truth stumbles in the public square,
and uprightness cannot enter.
Truth is lacking.
(Isaiah 59.14-15)

Instead of repentance, people with hard hearts question objective facts.

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
(Isaiah 5.20)

What is not obvious to today’s culture is that worldly grief brings death. Repentance is the path to life, but a hard and fixed refusal to accept the truth of our situation results in death.

(2) Grief can lead to repentance.

In today’s YouTube video, Rudy Ross and I discuss times when grief led to repentance and to life.

I am fully confident that God sent my father to confront me about my sermon. God used our painful discussion to dramatically change my approach to preaching and the ministry.

The biggest bonus was the salvation of the man I had wronged while preaching my sermon.

While reading this, we can think of politicians, preachers, family members, and more whom we wish would own up to their failings and repent.

Let’s turn the gaze on ourselves. What do we do when we are confronted with some wrong? It is surely a blow to our ego, but does God want to gain something from it?

Let’s ask God, “What do you think? In what way am I wrong? What behavior change do you want?”

Let’s try it out and see what kind of life God will produce through our repentance.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage and more in today’s YouTube video. It can be seen on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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