This daily devotional was waiting for me this evening, when I finally had a chance to take a seat and read a bit....
Week of September 28, 2008
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." ~ Colossians 3:13
When God assigns us to a job in a particular work environment, He has many purposes in mind besides providing for our financial needs. He may have us there to be a light in the surrounding darkness; to minister mercy, grace and prayer to those He puts in our path; to test and purify our hearts through challenges; to prepare us for the next glory--otherwise known as a promotion; to bring excellence, influence and transformation to the organization; to be an example to others; and the obvious purpose: to simply work unto Him.
All of these purposes are disciplines. And all of these disciplines offer opportunities to forgive others and ourselves all along the journey.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines forgiveness as "To excuse for a fault or offense; pardon. To stop feeling anger or resentment against. To absolve from payment of."
Forgiveness does not mean condoning other people's bad behavior. It simply means that, by choice, we cancel any debt we feel others owe us due to a wrong we feel they've caused us because Jesus died to pay all sin debt. When we choose to forgive, we extend mercy and grace to the person who wronged us, just as our Heavenly Father extends mercy and grace to us through Jesus when we have wronged Him, or sinned. Therefore, forgiveness is a reflection of Jesus' character. It is an expression of sacrificial obedience in that our "flesh" surrenders to God's higher ways and His divine love in the process.
Forgiveness can feel unjust to our emotions because the enemy tries to provoke and manipulate our emotions negatively. This is one of his devices for keeping us in bondage. He tries to cause us to focus on the offense or hurt by getting us bound up in a web of anger, woundedness and revenge that can grow every time we think or talk about the issue, or every time we feel sorry for ourselves.
We must not become victims of the enemy's plan. Instead, our emotions must come into alignment with God's word on forgiveness. We must be ruled by the Holy Spirit, not by our emotions. In choosing this truth, God rewards us with divine peace and rest. And He promotes us to a level where former offenses will not bother us, a level where He can trust us even more with more.
We must choose to pass the test by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and by asking for His help. Doing so gives us the power to proactively guard our hearts, refusing to allow the enemy to embed hurt, fear and anger long-term. Sometimes, this is a process, depending on the level and the number of hurts.
Over the years, the Lord has taught me that forgiveness is a daily journey (Matt. 18:21-22). It is part of the Christian love walk (I Cor. 3:15). It often helps me to pray, "Lord, please help me see others as You do and love them as You do. I cannot do it alone." It also helps me to remember that no one suffered greater hurt than Jesus, who died on a cross a painful death so that we could be free of all bondage. Indeed, Jesus understands and knows our pain. And by His stripes, our hearts are healed (Is. 53:5).
It may surprise you to know that healing ministries have found that long-term unforgiveness is a leading root cause of disease. Simply put, unattended wounds glorify the enemy by tormenting us inwardly (eating us alive) and persecuting others outwardly (hurting people hurt others). We must choose which master we will serve.
Unforgiveness is also a form of disobedience, selfishness, idolatry and pride. It is haughtiness that rises up and says, "I'm entitled to process this my way because they hurt me." Truth be told, this is a victim mentality. By choosing unforgiveness, we remain controlled by the person who hurt us, claiming this hurt as our portion (a lie from the enemy), and we choose our self and our hurt over God. This choice, this sin, opens the door for the enemy to gain strongholds in our hearts and destroy us, making us an instrument of destruction. Again, we must choose which master we will serve.
Jesus prayed, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt. 6:12). Therefore, if we forgive others, we will be forgiven. But if we do not, God will not forgive us (Matt. 6:14-15). This is a powerful and loving precept that sets us free. God holds us accountable for what we hold in our heart, even if others have hurt us. When we do our part, He deals with the situation and the person who wronged us for us. Hebrews 10:30-31 says, "'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.' And again, 'THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.' It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Let us have faith in God's word, His truth.
If you struggle with unforgiveness, I encourage you to let the hurt go with God's help. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you who you need to forgive. Confess having walked in the sin of unforgiveness. Ask the Lord to heal and purify your heart and convict the other person's heart concerning the wrong. Then sincerely intercede for that person, blessing them, speaking healing and deliverance over them (just as Jesus would do). Then release them to the Lord. Rest assured, the faithful and almighty God we serve will take this burden off your heart and handle it in His higher way for you.