As we walk this road of life as born again believers, redeemed by the spotless blood of Christ, we face trouble. Just prior to the cross, Jesus warned the disciples that they would experience hardship. He informed them that they would be hated and persecuted by the world because they belong to Him (John 15:18-25). As Christians we face opposition from the world because we belong to the Christ. Be encouraged believers! Jesus has conquered the world (John 16:33), and in Him we have victory over the world (1 John 5:1-5). This is the first area in which we experience trouble. But, it is not the only one.
The next area in which we experience trouble relates to our enemy – Satan. Jesus described Satan as, “the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Satan hates born again believers and desires to destroy us. He attempts to confuse, mislead, and distract believers and local churches (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 13-15). The enemy desires disunity in our marriages, families, and churches. One of his tools of destruction is unforgiveness and its resulting bitterness, which creates disunity (2 Cor. 2:5-11; Eph. 4:26-27). God’s Word instructs us to forgive one another, leaving vengeance to God alone (Eph. 4:31-32; Rom. 12:17-21). We are to forgive one another and seek reconciliation (Matt. 18:15-20).
I will be the first to say that forgiving someone who has sinned against me is difficult. When someone hurts us we want them to know and feel how much they have hurt us. What we don’t realize is this a means of seeking revenge. We think the offender owes us. Forgiving someone is choosing to release the person from their debt to you – they no longer “owe” you. You may do so (and should do so) even if the person is unrepentant and therefore reconciliation is not possible. One thing I would like to point out – forgiving someone doesn’t entail being reconciled to that person (as though nothing ever happened). Reconciliation requires repentance. I will talk about this issue further in next week’s prayer letter.
When we choose to withhold forgiveness it affects us in every negative ways. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the effects:
we disobey God by withholding forgiveness (Eph. 4:32)
we forfeit close fellowship with God because we withhold forgiveness (Matt. 6:14; cf. 1 John 1:9)
we become bitter because we have withheld forgiveness (Eph. 4:26-27, 31-32). Listen to what God’s Word says about the dangers of bitterness, “Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many” (Heb. 12:15 HCSB). An individual’s heart may be hardened by sin’s deception (Heb. 3:12-14).
we are in disunity in our marriages, families, and churches (2 Cor. 2:10-11; Eph. 4:1-6).
The sin of withholding forgiveness (that’s right, it is a sin) is devastating in its effects. The bitterness which results from unforgiveness will infiltrate every area of a believer’s life. It is crippling to a believer spiritually, emotionally, physically, and relationally. How do you get out of such a pit? Choose, by God’s grace, to forgive those who have offended you. Release their debt. They don’t owe you any longer. Leave vengeance to God. As a result, God will bring peace, joy, and healing to your life, over time.
There are more troubles that we face in this life as believers but I will deal with those in future prayer letters. I want to let you know I am praying for all of you. I am so thankful that God loves us. He is in control of everything. He is working out His plan according to His Word. God’s Word is true and we are able to trust it.