Forgive and Give to God

“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes (lashes) save (less) one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings (sleeplessness) often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

II Corinthians 11:24-27

We recently attended an open house event at a Christian college so that our son, Nate, could check out the school. We had been there once before when our oldest daughter graduated from there, but we did not get a chance to have a good look at the classes and campus. We arrived early on Friday morning, and they had activities planned for us throughout the day. We received the red carpet treatment, and on the schedule was a chapel service which I was interested to attend.

The chapel speaker was a pastor from Tennessee and he opened up the service with these verses from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. The pastor used this passage to discuss forgiveness, and showed how the apostle Paul had not grown bitter over the events of his life. Paul had endured many difficult things, but he only recounted these things to show how God had delivered him. He did not mention these trials and tribulations because he was bitter, but rather to show the goodness of God in the midst of the trials. Paul held no ill feelings towards those who had beaten him, and no ill will towards God who had allowed these trials in his life. Paul instead chose to forgive, which is hard to do, and we need the grace of God to forgive as we have been forgiven.

The pastor went on to tell the story of a girl who had been badly hurt in her life, and she found it hard to forgive. The pastor alluded to the fact that many of us have been hurt by someone else. We have dealt with pain, trials and disappointments. We may not have gone through things like Paul or the young lady he mentioned, but we have been hurt and can relate because we know what that feels like. Isaiah 53:3 tell us that Jesus knows this pain as well, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Jesus knows what it is to be sorrowful and to be grieved, but He chose to forgive even his executors in Luke 23:34a, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…”

I believe Paul learned forgiveness firsthand from another Christian, Stephen, whom he saw martyred for Christ. If we were placed in the same situation as Stephen, I am not sure we would have held the same attitude of forgiveness. Acts 7:60 shows us Stephen’s Christlikeness, “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep (died).” Stephen had forgiveness for those who persecuted him, and he did not seek revenge, but rather had the mindset of Jesus. He forgave and desired of God that his executors not be charged for the sin of murder they were actively committing against him. Paul saw this godly forgiveness firsthand, and learned to apply this same forgiveness later on in his life. There is joy and relief when we forgive, while nothing but destruction comes from bitterness.

What about you? Are you quick to forgive, or do you hold on to grudges? Do you desire to get even, or do you have a desire to forgive? Are you holding on to the burden of bitterness for those who have hurt you? Are you willing to trust God that He will be just in His judgement? We may never see justice in our lifetime, but we must know and trust that God will make all things right in His perfect time. Remove the burden of bitterness off your shoulders and lay it at Jesus’ feet. May we forgive others like He forgave us. Matthew 18:21-22 states, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

Stay in the Fight!

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