Revive Our Hearts Podcast

If I Could Do It All Over Again, with Jon Gauger, Day 2

Leslie Basham: As you prepare for a new year, what should you be doing less of? What should you be doing more of? Here’s Jon Gauger.

Jon Gauger: There is hope! There’s always hope to become what we might have been. The grace of God is there and real, and takes us where we are and moves us where we ought to be.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe, for Thursday, January 5, 2017.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’re talking this week with Jon Gauger, who has servesd at Moody radio for many years as a producer and radio host. Our friends over at Moody radio have been such great partners with Revive Our Hearts over the years.

We’re thrilled to have Jon in the studio today talking about a book that he’s written that’s based on a series of interviews that he did with a number of Christian leaders. He asked them questions related to: “If you had a do-over in your life—if you could do it all over again—what would you do?”

Jon, I’m so thrilled that you’ve written this book based on interviews that you did with twenty-eight different Christian leaders—some men, some women, some authors, speakers, people that we look up to and we respect.

You asked them some probing questions, and you got some really helpful answers. I know as I’ve been reading these and listening to some of these audio clips from your interviews, I’ve just been challenged to consider some areas of my own life where I would like to make some course adjustments, some tweaks. 

We don’t want to get to the end of our lives and look back and say, “Oh, wow, I want to do this over!” Because you can’t do it over again. So the challenge is to walk in wisdom and in the ways of the Lord now and to learn from these who have walked before us and who have learned some of these lessons.

So thank you for writing this book. Thank you for joining us today on Revive Our Hearts.

Jon: It’s an honor to be here. And Nancy, speaking on behalf of Moody radio, we are so grateful for the reliable biblical content that is the centerpiece of everything you guys do at Revive Our Hearts. Nobody ever worries or wonders when it’s Revive Our Hearts. We’re just honored to have the program on with Moody. So, thank you from your brothers and sisters over there!

Nancy: I appreciate that. You know, it all comes back to the Scripture—to grounding our lives in truth and in the Word of God. And that’s one of the questions you asked these leaders, myself included. I’m not going to give my answers today, because at the end of this series I’m going to do a whole program on my answers to these questions.

One of the questions you asked them had to do with a favorite or meaningful Bible verse.

Jon: Yes. Bible memory for all of us . . . I think sometimes we wan and sometimes we wax in what we’re doing.

Nancy: I know I do.

Jon: I remember a dramatic story from when I was a kid. I was fifteen years old and underwent back surgery for scoliosis. I was cut open from my neck to my waist. They take the surgical equivalent of a car jack, straighten the spine out (I got two inches taller on the operating table). They anchor in two stainless steel rods about a foot long, about the diameter of a pencil, and pound those into the spine. They sneak under the incision, grab some bone chips from your hip, put those fragments along the spine, and it’s all fused together. And there you are . . . in agony!

Nancy: I would say, that sounds really painful!

Jon: You’re in intensive care for a couple days on morphine. Then for the next two weeks, you’re on a circular frame bed which is rotated every four hours. I remember, the night before I was to get a body cast, they said, “Your incision is going to start itching; don’t scratch it. Whatever you do, don’t scratch that itch!”

Well, that’s like saying, “Don’t think about water,” when you’re thirsty. I started to itch the thing. And it wasn’t just an urge to itch—it was an assault! It was a warfare. And it was a horrific, horrific thing.

The only thing that brought me back to sanity was quoting every Scripture verse I had ever learned. Nancy, I’m ashamed to say, that was the first time in my life that I knew that I needed the Word of God.

Those memorized verses—boy—what a blessing they were then. And what a blessing to hear from these folks that we talked to: “What about your favorite Bible verse?” So we had a great conversation, and people all had a story; they all had a favorite verse.

Josh McDowell was no exception. We know him as the great apologist, right? He's the writer of all those books: More Than a Carpenter, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. It probably would come as no surprise verse that he chose and why.

Josh McDowell: “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jon 8:32 paraphrase). But you have to understand . . . to me, truth was not given to be cognitive. This is what separates me from most (not all) apologists.

I never looked at truth for the sake of knowing truth. Truth—all truth in the Scriptures—was given to be applied to relationships. Truth should always be personal. If you don’t have your behavior, your relationships, your family, your marriage based upon truth that then is lived out in that relationship, you’re going to fail.

Nancy: And Josh McDowell not only knows the truth as well as just about anybody we can think of, but he has lived out that truth in some hard and painful relationships, as he’s told about his journey with his own upbringing and his father. So he has lived out what he’s talking there.

Then I think of another person . . . You mentioned being on that bedframe, being turned around. Well, someone who knows all about that is Joni Eareckson Tada, who had that similar experience after becoming a quadriplegic as the result of a diving accident many decades ago.

She knows the value of God’s Word hidden in her heart, and she’s been a great example of how that Word can bring strength and encouragement and hope in some of life’s darkest valleys. Here’s what she had to say when you asked her about a favorite Bible verse.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Well, I love to read passages in Scripture which remind me that God has a poor memory when it comes to my sin. He remembers my sin no more; He separates me from my sin as far as the east is from the west, as high as the heavens are above the earth. That is what makes the good news so great. God will not remember our sin. So you know what? We shouldn’t either!

Jon: Isn’t it great to hear these Bible verses that are coming from our guests, Nancy? Michael W. Smith, the Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter, was asked this same question: “What’s a Bible verse that means more to you now, more than ever?” This is what he told us:

Michael W. Smith: “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God; how vast is the sum of them. If I were to count them, they would outnumber the grains of the sand” (vv. 17–18 paraphrased). That’s from Psalm 139. I go back to that one all the time.

Even though I feel like I’ve grown up and I’m getting there—and I’m probably more mature now than I ever have been (I’m on the journey, just like we all are)—there are still those days that you just get frazzled, and you just lose perspective a little bit, and you sort of find yourself meandering down some crazy road and starting to feel unproductive.

You say, “Am I ever going to ever get my act together? . . . or this addiction, or that addiction, or whatever." You start beating yourself up. And then I just go, “Wait . . . whoa . . . wait a minute!” I can’t forget that His thoughts about me are precious and they’re vast, and there are so many good thoughts from Him that they outnumber the grains of sand. That reels me back every time and gives me the right kind of perspective on how I should feel about myself.

Nancy: I love how these different people have anchored their lives in specific Scriptures and have said, “This isn’t just something to know cognitively, not just something to know in my head. But it's something that really gives me grace when I need it most.”

Out of these scriptures, out of this biblical foundation, you asked these people, “What is a life lesson that you’ll never forget?” And these are life lessons that, again, are grounded in God’s Word. I love some of what you learn from them.

Jan Silvious is a name that might not be as familiar to some of our listeners, but you talked to her about a life lesson.

Jon: Yes, conference speaker, author and life coach Jan Silvius has brilliant perspectives. Boy, did I connect with what she had to say on this subject of life lessons. I think you will, too.

Jan Silvious: When you’re my age, there are a lot of lessons. But I think one that sticks out particularly is this: “What might have been does not exist, so don’t even go there!” I know a lot of people who live in regret, and they live in the “what might have been.” And since it doesn’t exist, why do we even visit that place?

So I have learned to look at my life in the past and just simply say, “You know, what might have been does not exist.” Those what-might-have-beens will take us down every time. One thing I see that people struggle with as the years roll on is the fact that, “Oh, if only I had done this . . . If only I had done that . . .” And that takes us nowhere. You didn’t, and what you did was what you did.

God is bigger than all that. He promises if you love Him, He will cause it to work together for good, so why waste time looking at the what-might-have-beens? I just don’t do it!

Nancy: And what a great opportunity for us, Jon, as we read this book and listen to these clips, to learn from these life coaches, these people who have walked in places we may not have. To say, "What are some of the what-might-have-beens in my life?" Some of the “if-onlys,” some of those tracks that play over and over again in our heads. 

Jan is saying, “Let it go! Don’t even go there!” I think that’s a really wise word that she gives to us.

You told me that one of the most meaningful stories you heard on this life lessons theme was from singer and songwriter, Michael Card.

Jon: Boy, does this story illustrate the importance of how we treat young kids—young kids at church, young kids at home, young kids in the neighborhood. Listen to the impact that an older man had on Michael Card as a little boy.

Michael Card: When I was a kid, I sat next to an old man in church; his name was Basil Edwards. I got in trouble in church one time (I was about seven years old) and was crying. He came up to me and got down on his knees and got right face to face with me.

He said, “Mike, I want you to know, you’re wrong, right? What you did was wrong. But I want you to know, I’m on your side. Right or wrong, I’m on your side. And, in fact, especially when you’re wrong, I want to be on your side.”

I think what I’ll take to my grave is, that was the first time I really got the gospel. Because while we were sinners, Jesus says, “I’m going to be on your side.” Before there’s any hope or indication that we would repent and turn and come to Him, Jesus still—He gets down and basically gets face to face and says, “Okay, you’re wrong, but I’m going to be on your side.”

I still think that changed everything for me, in terms of understanding the gospel. And later, I had a son who’d been arrested a couple times, who was involved with smoking pot. Every time we went to court with him (I went to court with him four times), I would say, “Nate, what you did was wrong, but I want you to know I’m here because I’m on your side.”

“Right or wrong, I’m on your side. You need to know that. You’re wrong. And I choose to be on your side.” Later, after he kind of turned his life around, he called me and he said, “That was the gospel, wasn’t it?” And I said, “Yep, absolutely!” 

Jon: You think sometimes that when we sit in church and hang out and maybe interact with little kids that it’s a small thing. Obviously, that’s a very big thing. Michael Card to this day considers that a lesson he’ll take to his grave.

Nancy: And a lesson that was impressed on him as a child, that he then found himself passing on to his child, to the next generation. Isn’t that the point of wisdom? We learn from those who have been before us, and then we become part of the “coaching staff”—the team to pass those lessons on to the next generation.

In your interviews with these people, one of the things you ask them—and it’s a whole chapter in this book—is, what principle have you learned in life that you’re eager to pass on to those who are coming behind you? And you heard some interesting comments from some of these leaders along those lines.

Jon: We did. One qualification for everyone we interviewed for this book was that they had to be fifty years old or older. We wanted the wisdom that comes with time.

Nancy: That doesn’t seem so old anymore . . . as I’m approaching sixty.

Jon: Oh, no. That’s very young. But you’ve had some time to think about it, and you’re aware of the fact that you’re not going to be here forever, and you would like to pass something on. Listen to what Tony Evans had to say:

Tony Evans: Live all of life under God’s rule. Don’t pick and choose. Don’t have Him in one area and out of another. Put all of life under the rule of God.

Nancy: That’s our friend, Pastor Tony Evans. It’s a short, succinct way of saying something that’s a huge life principle, about living all of life under God’s rule. Heaven rules . . . the Sovereignty of God.

Jon, as I think about my life, I’d have to say that’s a huge one I want to pass on.  I’m not God. God is God, and that all of my life has to be lived under His rule, which could sound dictatorial if God weren’t such a good and gracious and wise and loving and sovereign God.

But the peace that comes, the freedom that comes from saying, “Yes, Lord!” That’s something we’re always talking about here at Revive Our Hearts—just waving that “white flag” of surrender and saying, “Yes, Lord!” to whatever God says.

So Tony Evans is saying, “I’ve learned that lesson,” or “I’m learning it, and I want to pass that on to my children and grandchildren.”

Another older statesman that you talked with who gave a neat answer to this question about, “What principle I want to pass on,” was Ravi Zacharias.

Jon: It could be that you have read one of Ravi’s books or maybe heard him speak. This renowned apologist speaks on university campuses across the world. And so when Ravi speaks, he usually says something worth hearing.

Ravi Zacharias: Every day counts! Oftentimes, it is with decisions that are made on the spur of the moment . . . it could be a friendship that you did not think so carefully about . . . it could be spending—how you manage your finances . . . what you read, what you study . . . what habits you take. These are oftentimes done without careful pondering of long-term consequences and implications.

So, every day counts. God tells us as we pray to “give us this day that daily bread.” I think that can go way beyond just what we need for spiritual sustenance. It goes to the choices we make that have an impact on all of these things.

So I would say, every day matters, and one choice and one day can ruin years of other investments.

Nancy: You know, listening to Ravi makes me feel I’m listening to my own dad (without the accent). My dad’s been in heaven now for many years. But over and over again (and this is something that has stuck with me) he would emphasize that you are what you have been becoming—and that you will be, someday, what you are becoming today. 

These little choices, these seemingly insignificant ways that we spend our time, the friendships we establish, the books we read, the input we take into our lives—these add up to a lifetime. And so when we say, “Every day matters,” does it really? We don’t really live that way.

But you get to later in your life, and you realize that those days added up to weeks and months and years, and, before you know it, a lifetime. When we were kids, Jon, I’m sure you remember people saying, “Life goes so fast!” Well, when you’re a kid, it’s going so slowly. You’re fourteen, and you’re thinking, I’ll never be sixteen. But now we’re in our fifties—plus or minus—and saying, “Wow, those days really did matter. They really did add up!”

Jon: In the opening of this book, If I Could Do It All Over Again, we refer to the guy, I think, who is kind of the poster child for do-overs: Ebenezer Scrooge, the accountant/miser of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. He is visited in that story in a dream (supposedly) by his former business partner—Jacob Marley.

Jacob Marley has this enormously long, heavy chain, forged (as he says) of links of the things that he had done or not done in his own life. “Link by link I made it,” he said. And he asks Scrooge, “How long and how heavy is the chain that you now bear about yourself?”

These are heavy questions, and as you’ve said it so well, it’s a day at a time—a deed at a time, a link at a time, as you will—and that chain is forged.

Nancy: And the chain is forged and can ultimately become deep, long-term regrets. But it can also, the choice to honor the Lord, to fear Him, to seek Him, to trust Him, to wait on Him, forge a lifetime of joy and the ability to look back with gratitude, with peace.

Now, nobody does it flawlessly, and that’s why we need Jesus—that’s why we need the cross. But, again, I think the message I’m taking away from this book is, “It’s not too late to start now!”

Jon: I hope we’re not miring people down in any notions that, “Our regrets are there and, too bad, and that’s it.” Absolutely not. You are spot-on, Nancy. There is hope! There’s always hope to become what we might have been. The grace of God is there and real, and takes us where we are and moves us where we ought to be.

Nancy: You asked Jan Silvious—who’s a life coach, author, conference speaker—what principle she’d want to pass on to those coming behind her, and she referenced a verse that’s familiar to many of us, and that I think is so helpful as we consider how we spend our days to have this mindset. 

Jan: Philippians 4: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication and thanksgiving [primarily with thanksgiving] let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God, that passes all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus” (vv. 4–6 NASB).

That is a truth that sustains me, and I believe will sustain them in these days that are filled with anxiety, and in this time where there seems to be nothing to hang on to—and as soon as you grab hold of it, it disappears, but that one thing. We don’t have to be anxious because God is on the throne. Jesus has finished it all, taken care of it. We can just come to Him with thanksgiving—thanksgiving that He’s there.

Nancy: And Jon, there’s not anyone listening to our conversation today who can’t relate to rough storms, who have been in some rough times.

I can remember when we started Revive Our Hearts (it’s not the last rough storm I’ve had, but it comes to mind). In those early days, coming up with new content and launching this ministry, it was the hardest thing I had ever done. There were many days when it felt like such a storm!

They were good problems, but just so many challenges. And I remember thinking, If I didn’t know that Jesus was in this boat with us, I would think we were going under. To have the assurance and the promise and the command of Philippians 4:6 and 7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

My husband and I had lunch a couple days ago with a couple. He’s in seminary, and she does some work for our Spanish-language ministry. They’re in a whole new season of life: they’ve made a major move, they’ve got major changes going on, they’ve got two little kids, they’re living on a shoestring because they’re living on support while he goes through seminary. 

We were reconnecting at the end of their first nine months in this new season of life. They’ve had a lot of storms. They sat there over lunch, and this young man—Moises—said to us, “You know, the things I’ve been learning over these months are: number one, God really listens when his children talk to Him!”

“When my children talk to me,” he said, “I listen. I care about what they’re saying. God really listens.” He said, “Number two, God really does answer prayer.” Here’s a guy in seminary, and this is his great takeaway from the semester—things we’ve known since we were little kids, many of us.

But he says, “I’m learning this in the laboratory of life. That God really cares, God really listens, God really answers prayer.” And his third thing was, “We need to learn to wait on the Lord.” Not just to plow ahead, not just to stress about it, not just to tell everybody else what our problems are, but to wait on the Lord, tell Him our needs.

He gave illustration after illustration of how in financially tough places—in challenging points of this major move, the storms they’ve been going through—how he’s learning to cry out to the Lord and how God hears and answers and provides, if he will just wait. He’s learning Philippians 4:6 and 7 there in the context of his everyday life.

So we all have a story to share about what God has been teaching us—lessons we’ve learned through life.

In fact, Jon, I just want to ask you—I’ll put you on the spot here (you asked all these other leaders these questions). What’s a principle or a life lesson that you and your wife, Diana, have learned in your years of marriage, your years of life, that you want to make sure you pass on to your children and those that are coming behind you?

Jon: Well, somebody a lot wiser than me said, “Be very careful about saying that you’ve learned something; better for me to say, ‘I’m trying to learn,’ or ‘I’m in the process of learning.'” (Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, I think, made that statement.)

Nancy: I’m sure that would be true of all of us.

Jon: I am desperate to pass on to my children that they must own their faith. It’s not enough to say, “Hey, we go to church. Isn’t that nice?” “I’ve received Jesus as my Savior.” Obviously, nothing is more foundational, fundamental and important than that. But they have to go on and own that faith and grow in that faith.

We think about their children, now. I’m desperate for them to grow up in the Christian faith, to own Jesus as their Savior. And you think of the day in which we live—how much more difficult that is now than when I was a kid or when you were a kid.

So this idea of owning your faith, really owning it. Not just verbally giving assent or having your quiet time and then calling it good and showing up in church on Sunday . . . but really owning it, and making sure that you’re passing it on to your children. That is, very much I think, at the top of our hearts and minds.

Nancy: And, as you think about that, I know that you realize that they’re not going to own their faith without going through some hard patches, in the same way that you and Diana have come to own your faith by tests and trials and challenges in life. You want to spare your children and grandchildren from those hardships and heartaches, but you know that often that’s exactly what God uses to make Himself real to them.

Jon: Our firstborn grandchild, Jocelyn, when she was two or three, was out at our camper. We built a set of wooden steps with a platform at the top. Kids are still a little wobbly at that age. She happened to be going down the steps and took a tumble. She just tumbled, tumbled, tumbled onto the ground.

Nancy: Ouch!

Jon: She’s crying and screaming, and we’re all afraid, “Did she break her neck?” We go to her; we kind of dust her off. She’s just fine, in God’s providence. And a few minutes later, we see her at the top of those steps again, tears still smudged in the corner of her eyes.

And she says, “Now, let’s try that again.” And she went hopping down those stairs just fine, without incident. And I thought, Boy, what a neat life-lesson there. What a little sermon there is in that: “Let’s try that again.”

I wonder if Jesus isn’t saying that to some of us listening right now to Revive Our Hearts. “Let’s try that again!”

Nancy: And you may have a life lesson that the Lord has spoken to you about today, or one that’s totally your own, or a Bible verse that you find yourself clinging to these days, or a principle that you’re desperate to pass on to those coming behind you. 

We have a listener blog at the bottom of the transcript of the Revive Our Hearts daily program. If you scroll down to the bottom of the transcript there at ReviveOurHearts.com, there’s a place where you can make comments and share with us and other listeners your response to what you’ve heard.

So I’d encourage you to just take some time, go that site, scroll down to the bottom of that transcript and share with us a Bible verse, a life lesson or a biblical principle that you want to pass on. As you do, it will get cemented even more deeply in your own heart.

This book is available to our listeners, If I Could Do It All Over Again, by Jon Gauger. We’re making it available this week as our way of saying "thank you" when you make a gift of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

You can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or you can go online at ReviveOurHearts.com. Let us know that you’d like to give a gift to the ministry, and then be sure you request a copy of Jon’s book, If I Could Do It All Over Again.

This book will not bury you in regret. This book, I think, will instead cover you with the hope that God really has mercy and grace to let you get up and do it again, by the grace that comes through His Word and His Spirit. So be sure and ask for a copy of that book when you contact us to make your gift to Revive Our Hearts.

Now, be sure and join us on the next Revive Our Hearts, because we’re going to be talking about something we can all relate to, and that is this whole issue of regrets. We’re going to hear about some of the regrets of these Christian leaders, and we’ll talk about how to deal with them in a way that is constructive and life-giving, rather than life-sapping.

Be sure and join us here again for Revive Our Hearts with Jon Gauger.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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