Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7–8, esv).
We’ve gotten our circumstances and our consequences confused.
Circumstances are events beyond our control, resulting from forces or influences we did not cause and cannot change. Some of these circumstances are what we might call trials—painful circumstances allowed by God in order to transform our conduct and character.
Losing a loved one, struggling with cancer, being rear-ended at an intersection—these are examples of trials and circumstances.
But consequences are life events and experiences that result wholly or in part from what we ourselves have done: what we’ve said, places we’ve gone, priorities we’ve pursued, choices we’ve made.
Everything that God commends in Scripture—those things we’re told to do, things we’re taught to esteem as good—He commends for our blessing, and He makes sure blessing comes to us from choosing them. But everything He forbids in Scripture comes with a painful consequence. Why? To give us a glimpse of the wisdom behind the command. Or, as I’m fond of saying: when God says “don’t,” He means “don’t hurt yourself.” When we choose to sin, we choose to suffer—the consequences.
It’s the law of sowing and reaping. “Whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
And it’s important that we know the difference. It’s important to know if what’s happening in our lives is a circumstance or a consequence, because the Bible gives us different instructions for handling either.
When you are dealing with a trial or circumstance, the faithful response is to wait, watch, and endure. The Old Testament character Job said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, nasb). We’re to wait on the Lord, allowing the ordeal to make us more like Christ. It will teach and train us, making us more dependent on Him as we become more trusting, humble, and usable in His service. We’re to persevere through trials by faith, knowing they’ve been allowed by a good God who is ultimately making “all things work together for good” for those who love Him and are “called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)—even the purpose behind the circumstance.
But a lot of what we consider trials and circumstances are actually consequences. And you don’t endure consequences. You repent of what caused them.
The only door out of the hallway of consequence is repentance. Changing your mind. Whatever you’ve become so adept at rationalizing and so invested in explaining away—just come to the place where you finally say, “It’s not acceptable and I’m not doing it anymore. It’s wrong. That’s what God has always said about it and I’m not making excuses for it any longer. I repent. I’m done with this.”
That’s when the grace falls.
That’s when change is experienced.
“You have plowed iniquity;” God said through the prophet Hosea, “you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies” (Hosea 10:13). But there’s a solution for those who have sown to the flesh and reaped the consequences. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).
Now listen, what’s in the ground is in the ground. There’s nothing you can do about last year’s harvest, but there’s a whole lot you can do about this year’s harvest. And you can start doing it right now.
Lord, thank You for making Your Word permanent and unchangeable. Thank You for establishing principles that can never be refuted, abolished, or skirted around. Your Word holds me steady, blocks me from straying off the path, and promises exponential blessing, simply as I walk in agreement with You. I confess that I’ve needed the threat of consequences to motivate me toward obedience, but I’m grateful that You love me enough not to let me get away with what hurts me. I surrender my will again to You today. In Jesus’ name, amen.