This is a talk that I shared with a couple of ladies groups. I wanted to share it with you as well but I've edited it a little so it wasn't quite as long. I pray that it speaks to you.
It’s such a big word – a strong word – a significant word. A word that has very much meaning. I know I don’t always grasp the full concept of that word. There are days where I just don’t feel like applying that word. That’s the human side of me that still needs a ton of work. Just after Anne had asked me if I’d like to share on forgiveness, on Sunday morning on the radio a pastor was giving a sermon called “Frustrating Forgiveness”. That is exactly how I feel at times, forgiveness can be very frustrating and the examples that he gave were just perfect for me to hear. It can be very frustrating especially when it’s something that you are repeating time and time again. For example, how many times do I have to forgive my kids, or my parents, or my friends or my spouse or my dog! Then at the same time, how many times do those same people have to forgive me for the amount of times that I mess up? It’s so easy for me to be frustrated and unhappy with situations around me and seeing how others have messed up, but then when God opens my eyes and wacks me on the head with a 2 by 4, I get the picture very quickly. But then what happens the next day or week? I’m frustrated again! It’s never-ending! Forgiveness is not a one-time event, it’s a continual process of canceling the debts of those who fail us again and again and again! It never ends! That’s why I so desperately need God! I need Him so bad!! But it’s still my choice to choose to forgive. It is my choice to choose to look the other way when I see failures and shortcomings all around me. It is my choice to ask God for the ‘eyes of grace’ – His eyes - to look upon others and myself on a daily basis.
Quote: Forgiveness is not dependent on the other person’s apology.
I’ve been waiting since I was a little girl for certain people to say "I’m sorry.” That may never happen but I can’t wait for that to be said to me before I choose to forgive them. I’ve been hurt many times by other people. But it’s my choice to forgive them. If I want God to forgive me, I need to forgive them. It’s easier said than done though, isn’t it? How about if someone hurts my child? It’s my choice to forgive them or not to forgive them. How about if another Christian woman says to me that Satan loves to use people like me? It’s my choice to forgive her. I’ve had a ton of untactful things said to me by others around me. But after I get over the rudeness of how it was said, God has always had something to show me through it. It’s my choice to forgive them. If I choose not to forgive, then I am stopping God’s blessings on me. I am allowing bitterness and resentment to build a grudging wall around me. That’s what unforgiveness does. It builds walls between me and God and me and others.
Forgiveness is a choice – a daily choice. If I don’t forgive, how can God forgive me? Matt. 6:14 + 15 says “If you forgive those who sin against you your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others your Father will not forgive your sins.” The Bible also tells me that with confession and forgiveness comes healing. James 5:16 “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” WOW! I want my prayers to be powerful but then I can’t have any bitterness and resentfulness built up inside of me. So, I continually need to make the choice to forgive.
It's my choice to forgive many bad things that have happened in my past, in my childhood, in my home growing up. It's my choice to forgive siblings, or friends, or neighborhood kids for their influence that they had on the bad choices that I made in my adolescent and teenage years. It's my choice to forgive my parents for the mistakes they made. It's my choice to forgive my husband and myself for wrong choices that we made before we met each other. It's my choice to forgive Christians for letting me down and to not hold it against them. It’s my choice to forgive good friendships that have fallen apart. I could go on and on in the areas that I need to choose to forgive. The list is endless and the forgiveness needs to happen on a daily basis.
Forgiveness takes lots of love – God’s love. Another time in the Daily Bread I read of a “woman who came face to face with the officer who brutally murdered her only son and her beloved husband. She chose to love him instead of hurt him in return. Her words were, “Although I have no family, I still have a lot of love to give. I would like to embrace him so he can know that my forgiveness is real.” As this woman made her way to the witness stand, the officer became so overwhelmed with shame and remorse that he fainted. The pain that woman gave him was not sinful revenge but the purifying fire of a God-given love that leads to repentance and reconciliation. Christian love gives and forgives.”
So, what good would it do me if I were to hold grudges against any of these people from my past or in my present? It would do me no good at all! All it would do is build up hard walls around my heart and keep me from God’s blessings. I have no other choice but to forgive because if I want my prayers to be heard by God, I need to forgive. Mark 11:25 says “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins too.” Broken relationships hinder our relationship with God. Eph. 4:31-32 says “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander and all types of malicious behavior. Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” True forgiveness means that we treat the one we’ve forgiven as we would want to be treated, to forgive and then to be kind. Is there anyone I’ve forgiven but they still need my kindness? Oh yes! There are people around me that have lots of unrest and who hold many grudges and have no peace. I’ve wondered lately if people not forgiving them, holds them back from experiencing freedom. Maybe to some extent but that person also needs to choose to forgive others around him/her as well. There is so much freedom in forgiveness – both in ourselves and in others.
Forgiveness changes my bitterness to joy. I am able to forgive because I am filled with love. If I refuse to forgive others, then I am missing wonderful opportunities to experience real deep joy and to be able to share it with others. To make my joy grow, I need to forgive those who have hurt me.
Forgiveness is the key to my relationship with God. Luke 11:4 “And forgive us our sins just as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” When Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray, he made forgiveness the cornerstone of their relationship with God. God has forgiven our sins; we must now forgive those who have wronged us. To be unforgiving shows that we don’t fully understand how deeply we need to be forgiven. If I don’t forgive and don’t treat others well, how would God deal with me if He were to treat me in the same way that I’ve treated others? Whoa! I don’t think I want to go there cause I know full well that I haven’t always treated others in a good way at all.
Oh, but then, what about the many times when I let others down, I do stupid things or make the wrong comment and I hurt someone. To me, at times those are the worst. It takes me days to get over a stupid mistake I’ve made, of it running through my head over and over again and to get over the feeling of being such a failure, knowing that I’ve hurt someone. It’s bad enough when it was done unintentionally but there have been times, I’m ashamed to admit, where a bit of the intention to hurt had been present. I feel so stupid afterwards!! I know I’ve been blinded by my own stupidity in the heat of the moment and in the middle of much emotion – but it takes time for me to forgive myself and to get over it, but I know I need to do it.
The enemy is often there to discourage me and remind me of the things I’ve done in the past. Even though I know I’ve been forgiven – because that’s what the Bible tells me, the enemy loves to bring it back, and maybe there’s an aspect of it that I haven’t asked forgiveness for. Another morning during devotions, this is what I read: “We are always likely to have sin in our lives, sin we don’t even know about because God’s standards are so high our performance is so imperfect. If we are true believers, all our sins are forgiven because of what Christ did on the cross in our behalf. In Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” In Romans 8:1 it says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” God has declared us not guilty and has offered us freedom from sin and the power to do His will. The Bible also teaches that even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:20), for He knows everything. Satan will often tell me I’m not good enough and lay on the guilt like you wouldn’t believe, and also remind me of all the things others have done that I had supposedly forgiven them for. And I know in my heart, I have, so why do I keep remembering it? If I were to forget, would I forget God’s mercy and grace? Would I then forget the lessons he taught me through that? I don’t think it’s possible to forgive and forget. God does not teach us to forget but instead He teaches us not to hold sins against each other. Using His example and with the help of the Holy Spirit, He enables us to lovingly forgive those wrongs that we remember. We have things to learn from past mistakes, both ours and others and I don’t think we’re meant to forget. We need to ask God what He wants us to learn when things come back to mind and possibly it’s nothing more than to remember that we’re forgiven. “When we feel guilty, we should remind ourselves that God knows our motives as well as our actions. His voice of assurance is stronger than the accusing voice of our conscience. If we are in Christ, he will not condemn us. So if you’re living for the Lord but feeling you’re not good enough, remind yourself that God is greater than your conscience. God’s forgiveness and cleansing are sufficient; they overrule our nagging doubts. The Holy Spirit in us is our proof that we are forgiven in God’s eyes even though we may feel guilty. If we are truly seeking God, we can stand up to other’s accusations as well as our own nagging doubts. If God has forgiven and accepted, we are forgiven indeed.”
But if I hadn’t gone through the hills and valleys that He’s taken me through, where would I be? I know I am being refined. In Job 23:10 it says, “God knows the way that I take and when He has tested me, I will come forth like gold.” As a Christian I have the wonderful potential of reflecting the beauty of my Savior. But sin has lefts its mark on my personality and that all needs to be removed before the lovely character of Jesus can be seen through me. God brings that change of hardship and trials to loosen my rebellion and my selfishness, my bitterness and my unforgiveness. But through all that, He is building in me perseverance, hope, character and confidence by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:3-5). I am a treasure in God’s eyes but gems cannot be polished without some friction happening. For the gem inside of me to sparkle and shine, I need all the junk to be cleaned off first, for the layers of dirt and grime to be stripped away. I’ve made so many mistakes in my life though and often it’s the forgiveness towards myself that I find the hardest to deal with and to forgive.
I came across an amazing story in 2 Chron. 33 – the story of King Manasseh. He was just 12 years old when he became king and he reigned for 55 years in Jerusalem. He was an evil king, copying the detestable practices of the pagan nations that God had driven from the land of the Israelites. He rebuilt shrines that his father Hezekiah had torn down. He worshipped Baal and other gods. He built pagan gods in the Temple of the Lord! He even sacrificed his own sons in the fire. He practiced sorcery and witchcraft and consulted with psychics. He murdered so many innocent people until Jerusalem was filled from one end to the other with innocent blood. Tradition says that this massive slaughter included Isaiah. Manasseh was more wicked than the pagan nations around him – he did more evil than they did. The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people and warned them but they just ignored him. The Lord sent Assyrian armies in and took Manasseh captive – they put a ring in his nose, bound him in chains and led him to Babylon. Now get this! 2 Chron. 33:12 NLT “But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and cried out humbly to the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request for help. So the Lord let Manasseh return to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Manasseh had finally realized that the Lord alone is God.” WOW!! After this he tore down all the altars he had built, he restored the altar to the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings on it and encouraged the people to worship the Lord, the God of Israel.
Incredible!! Even a little bit of Manasseh’s evil sickens us and we wonder how God could ever forgive him. God showed justice to the king by warning him and punishing him. God then showed His ultimate mercy by responding to Manasseh’s heartfelt repentance by forgiving and restoring him. We’re not surprised by God’s punishment but we are very surprised by Manasseh’s repentance and God’s forgiveness is unexpected. The king’s life was changed and God gave him a new start. How far does God go to get our attention? God goes a long way to get our attention. Only your repentance and a prayer for a new attitude stand between you and God’s complete forgiveness. I came across a quote “Forgiveness is limited, not by the amount of sin, but by our willingness to repent.”
In a list of wicked kings, Manasseh would be near the top. After a life of idol worship, murder, sacrificing his own children, and desecrating the temple, Manasseh realized his sins and cried out to God for forgiveness. And God listened!! If God can forgive Manasseh, he can forgive anyone. We don’t need to be burdened by overpowering guilt or doubt that we’re beyond forgiveness. Until death – no one, absolutely no one, is beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. For the soldier’s that nailed Jesus to the cross, for the Pharisees that were glad to see him suffer and die, for those that stood by and mocked him – if any of them would’ve repented and asked for forgiveness, I’m sure God would’ve answered, “yes child, you are forgiven.”
Yesterday (Monday, Nov. 14/05) Our Daily Bread was about forgiveness.
It’s called “A Past Long Gone”
According to the English novelist Aldous Huxley, "There are no back moves on the chessboard of life." Yet we remain aware of things we have done and things we have left undone. Our sins worry us. They motivate us to wish fervently that somehow we could undo the past.
That's why those who put their faith in Jesus can be thankful for God's message in both the Old and New Testaments. When Paul preached in Antioch, he said, "By [Jesus], everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39). The law condemned us (Romans 7:10-11), but Jesus offers deliverance and new life (8:1).
Are you worried about what you've done in the past? Rejoice! God has "cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). Are you still concerned about your sins? Rejoice! "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Hebrews 10:17). And "I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions" (Isaiah 44:22).
If you have put your faith in Jesus and asked Him to forgive you, the past is truly forgotten. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). Trust and rejoice! —Vernon Grounds
'My sin—O, the bliss of this glorious thought—My sin, not in part but the whole,Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.' —Spafford
God's forgiveness frees us from the chains of regret.
Forgiveness is the focus of the Good News – forgiveness of sins and freedom from guilt are available through faith in Christ to all people – including you. Have you received this forgiveness? Are you refreshed each day by the thought that you are right with God? My prayer for you is that yes, you are. God bless you!
After I had written this, I had not realized, Anne – the one who had asked me to share – had earlier decided that she was going to play a song sung by Brian Doerksen and his father, “It is Well With My Soul.” It is when we forgive, that it is well with our soul. Anne had not known that I had included that song in my talk and I had not known that she had chosen this song. It was amazing! We felt we were one in Spirit – this was totally a God thing and a complete confirmation for me that this is what God had wanted me to share. That was so cool. I then knew that I had been obedient. God is so good and rewards us so well!!
The following are questions for you to ponder in regards to your own life:
1. What is forgiveness to you?
2. Has there been a time when forgiveness has been frustrating for you?
3. Who in your life do you have trouble forgiving?
4. What actions do you need to take to begin the healing process of forgiveness?
5. Who do you have the most difficulty with forgiving; yourself or others?
6. What character or characters in the Bible has impacted you or speaks to you the most when it comes to how forgiving God can be?
7. Are there any scripture passages that you would like to share that have spoken to you or speak to you the most on forgiveness?