It seems to me that one of the most difficult things that God asks us to do is to forgive. And yet God sets it to us straight when we are told in Matthew 6:12 in the Lord's prayer, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." The "as" is important, because it tells us that God forgives our sins based on the way we forgive others. And if we haven't gotten it by that, Jesus says it again 2 verses later: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Pretty strong words for us to think about. And my first reaction to this is like what my children often say to me: "That's not fair!" We think it's not fair because we think that we if we have faith in Jesus, then we should receive the forgiveness of Jesus that He talks about.
So how is it that our being forgiven is tied into how we forgive others? Let me list a couple of reasons. First, it is for reconciliation. God desires for us to find reconciliation with others. Just like a parent doesn't want their children to be at odds with each other, so God does not want us to be at odds with each other. So, through forgiveness we can seek to be reconciled with each other. And the important factor here is that we can't determine how anyone else will act. Our role is to seek to be at peace with all (Romans 12:18).
Second, it is for our own well being. You might have heard of the saying, "Forgiveness sets you free." This is very true. God knows that when we don't forgive, we harbor feelings of pain, hurt, anger, frustration, bitterness, and on and on it goes. Having an unforgiving heart can tear us up inside. To forgive another person isn't saying that what they did is okay, it is saying that you won't hold on to it, you will seek to not remember it, you will not allow it to control your mind and your emotions. By forgiving the other person you are setting yourself free. Jesus Himself, while on the cross forgave those who were crucifying Him with the words, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Third, it is for our own understanding. If we don't know how to forgive, then we won't know how to receive God's forgiveness. We learn by experiencing. And when we experience what it feels like to forgive another, when we experience the strength it takes to forgive another, then we begin to understand what God goes through every time God forgives us. Our forgiving heart helps us to be thankful for the forgiveness God so readily offers to us: "If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I heard a story yesterday about a pastor who invited a professional tightrope walker to his church. They set up a tightrope in the sanctuary, and he walked the tightrope and performed some tricks. Then they set up a tightrope about a foot off the ground, and challenged the pastor to walk it. The pastor struggled to keep his balance. So the tightrope walker told the pastor to hold on to his shoulder and look at him, not the tightrope. With this the pastor did much better. The tightrope walker then talked about how when he walks the tightrope, he has to focus on a point in front of him. If he looks down at the rope he will start to lose his balance.
There is an important life lesson to be learned here: if and when we look down at all of our issues and problems, we lose the focus and will lose perspective. With this we will struggle and probably fall. Instead, we need to hold on to Christ, and focus on Christ. Only then can we move forward with confidence and without fear. As Hebrews 12:1-2, "....let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us focused on Jeus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith..."
If you are like me, you can become unfocused by dwelling on your problems. The answer is to look to Jesus, and let Him give us the spirit of perseverance to move forward, and to rejoice in this life we have with Him!
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
While on Facebook today I came across this quote from Brian Clark, church planter on Acts 17: "What distresses you could very well be your next ministry opportunity." This quote intrigued me, because I have been feeling distressed somewhat lately. I think what has been distressing me is that ministry has not been going like I planned, and people are not responding like I think they should.
However, this quote perked me up. I wanted to understand the context a little more, so I turned to the Bible, to Acts chapter 17 and began to read. I discovered that the apostle Paul was distressed by what he saw in his ministry travels. He was distressed by how the people acted, and by whom they were worshiping. And yet, as Brian Clark stated, Paul used this distress to lead him into ministry. Paul jumped right in and preached the word of God and the good news of salvation to all who would listen.
As I thought about this, I realized that often times our distress can lead us to become frustrated or maybe even feel like quitting. Instead, this distress should remind me where God wants to use me. If I am distressed by the situation, then maybe God is distressed by it as well. I need to jump in and serve the Lord all the more in these times! I need to look for opportunities to try and counteract what is being done. I need to preach God's word and the good news of salvation.
I was praying today to learn something about God. How wonderful that I learned that God wants to motivate me by what distresses me. How wonderful that I learned that this distress is actually a ministry opportunity. How wonderful that I learned that God wants me to be proactive with my words and action. Distress should not bring me down, but perk me up. Praise be to God!!