Funerals signal an end to one phase of our lives and the beginning of another, much like the approaching yearend. As you assess the past year and plan your goals for the New Year, it’s a good time to examine the choices or decisions, if you will, that have held sway in your life. Ask yourself:
- Did I make good decisions?
- What motivated those decisions?
- When held up against God's standards, do those decisions still apply now?
- If they do, how am I going to improve on them or move to the next level?
- If not, have I the courage to admit that they’re passé or the will to choose differently?
After a full scale “but-I-don’t-wanna!” tantrum, I finally settled down to do the assignment as given by my Pastor. (All the while mumbling to myself, why God always gotta give me assignments I’m not ready for? First it was “Father into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit” and I got nothing good to say about fathers. What frame of reference did I have? Now it’s forgiveness? Open a vein, why don’t You? Bible School is not all it’s cracked up to be! What with stuff like obedience, humility and compassion? What’s a drama-filled sister to do? When--light bulb! Why, I could use those very same tools to bring the Word to life…that’s what!)
After successfully working through my reluctance and being still (and repentant) before God, the Message, “A God Who Forgives” emerged. I was blessed, freed (if I chose to be) and was the conduit of freedom for a few women in the congregation. That being said, I’ll share an excerpt of that sermon with you:
Just a few thoughts to ponder as you approach 2006.
“…Unforgiveness hinders our communication with God? It most surely does. To remain unforgiving, you have to nurse the hurt, recall it quite frequently, harden your heart. In essence you slowly poison yourself with bitterness. The bitterness acts as a wall between you and God.Two reasons:
Why do we need to forgive?
- Matthew 6:14: which states “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;”
- Romans 6:23 states that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Which means that no matter how big or small the disobedience, the punishment is death.
Right about here, we get comfortable, because we’re confident in the fact that we love God, haven’t murdered, raped, committed adultery, blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, robbed a bank, embezzled funds or run over anyone with our car. Which is all good, but don’t get too comfortable just yet.
If you’ve never told a lie, been envious, run a red light, stolen a quarter from your parents, jaywalked, listened to gossip, failed to return a library book, cheated, or disobeyed God in any way; if you’ve done everything you were ever supposed to do every single time…then you have no need to forgive. But for the rest of us, the following are some practical steps towards the process of forgiveness:
- Choice -- Decide you are going to forgive - it’s the best gift you can give yourself.
- Love –Allow love to continue flowing – don’t shut down or close yourself off.
- Faith -- Realize that we forgive by faith, not by feeling: Utilizing faith allows us to act as if a thing is so, in order that it may become so. In other words…you may start out faking it, but your genuine desire to act on your faith will connect you to God’s store of faith for you.
- Obedience--We must forgive others if we don’t want to disobey God and break our fellowship with Him. As Christ forgave us without being asked we may need to forgive others who have not nor will ever ask our forgiveness. The forgiveness may be undeserved, but the reward of healing and reconciliation makes it worthwhile.
- Forget --You must be willing to forget past hurts. Forget about it. Stop willfully calling it to mind. Or if it does come to mind consciously replace it with a good memory or find something positive you learned out of the bad memory. You may even want to print out some scriptures dealing with forgiveness like Matt. 6:14 or Romans 6:23 on an index card and carry it around with you, to whip out when needed.
- Prayer – Pray for the offender, a biggie, I know.
- Turnover -- Give the hurt to God. Resolve to let it go.
I think the hardest thing for me to get about forgiveness is that it isn’t about me, it’s about obedience to God and in my obedience I reap the reward of being released from the yoke of my hurt. I had to realize that accepting grace means I have to be responsible enough to show grace myself. I had to remind myself of how I felt when I discovered that no matter what I had done previously, God still loves me. Or if you can’t relate, I reminded myself that no matter what a screw-up I was or still am at times, my family loves me.
Forgiveness is about passing on that kind of revelation, to others who have no concept of it themselves."
Peace, love and prosperity in the New Year!