Friday, July 25, 2008

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 3: Forgiveness

Yes, I am going there. I feel pretty sure that many of you were hoping that we could attack this faith zone challenge without actually talking about that ugly word - "forgive".

But before we approach today's topic, I want to tell all of you that I have been overwhelmed by the response to this faith zone challenge, and extremely humbled to know that God is using me to reach so many hearts, as well as challenge myself and others to draw closer to Him. Thank you so much for the opportunity you have given me to minister to you, and I am so blessed by all of your comments and emails. Thank you for ministering to me through all of your stories, testimonies, personal challenges, accomplishments, and encouragements. They have each touched my heart in a special way. :) I wish I could give you all a hug!


Now....... back to our regularly scheduled program.

I learned about eight years ago that forgiveness is a two-step process. I realized that before I could have a heart that was equipped to forgive others, I had to have a heart that accepted forgiveness from God for my own sins.

For many years, I knew that God loved me because the Bible told me so, but I really didnt accept that He would forgive me for my sins, much less forget about them. Why would He?

I had created this visual picture in my mind of what God probably looked like when I prayed or asked for forgiveness for the same past sin over and over, or new sins... again.

I envisioned Him sitting on His throne, looking down on me, with a solemn look on His holy face, head resting in His hands, and a heavy sigh leaving His almighty chest, as He uttered the words, "Tisk, tisk. Poor child, she just cant get her act together. What is wrong with her? How many times do I need to forgive her? Geeesh."

But one day, it clicked. My vision changed to seeing a God who was disgusted with me, to seeing a God who was smiling at me, with a tender heart, a gentle face, and a forgiving attitude.

As I listened to the speakers testimony at a womens event, it sounded remarkably similar to my own. I learned how she had spent years in the bondage of guilt, but found amazing freedom in the sufficient grace and mercy of Lord Jesus. That day, I found that same freedom. For the first time ever, I accepted with my entire being that God truly did forgive me once and for all, and there was no need for me to continue to plea for His forgiveness for the same sins over and over. I finally understood what the verse meant in Psalm 130:3, "If you, O Lord, kept a record of my sins, O Lord, who could stand?" God had forgiven and forgotten my sins, and I was cleansed. My heart was changed forever.

Since that time, my faith has grown by leaps and bounds, but nonetheless, granting others that same mercy that I received from God, is not as easy! For example, this past year, I was faced with some very difficult circumstances, which involved some very difficult people. Some of these people stepped all over my feelings, treated me rudely, and even made me cry at times. After a while, I just got fuming mad!

I was fed up with being treated ugly, and fed up with their mean attitudes. I was tired of feeling like a punching bag. As the months drug slowly by, I became more and more upset, angry and resentful by the minute. For months those feelings grew and grew, and although I never acted out in revenge in anyway, I did entertain some ungodly thoughts I must admit.

But one day, I finally admitted the cold hard truth that I was simply making myself miserable by obsessing over how these people had treated me and being mad about it. It was getting to where I dreaded getting up in the morning, because I would think about the problem, talk about the problem, worry about the problem, hurt about the problem, and literally obsess about the problem!

I broke down and got on my knees, and asked God to forgive me for carrying this burden and for harboring this unforgiveness towards these people. I realized that this unforgiveness was like poison to my heart. I was ingesting this poison every day, but then expecting the other person(s) to suffer. But guess what?! They were still going about their normal lives without a care in the world, as I was drowning in my emotions! I became addicted to wishing they would change or that maybe someone would give them the same treatment so they would know how they made me feel.

Honestly, I was tired of feeling down and discouraged - so after months of bondage to this anger, I simply chose to forgive. Not because they deserved it; not because I wanted to; not because I liked it! But because God commanded me to.

I threw away that poison, and boy did I feel better!

I cant change other people; I cant change their actions and behaviors; I cant change their heart - but I can certainly change mine. I want my heart to be one full of God, not one full of anger. I want my love for the Lord to grow in my heart, not a weed of bitterness that will eventually wrap its way around my entire life.

Has someone wronged you? Has someone hurt you? Abused you in some way? Neglected you? Lied to you? Manipulated you? Been unfaithful to you? Stole from you? Harmed you? Wounded you?

Friend - forgive them. They probably do not deserve it, wont appreciate it and may not even realize it. But do it anyway - for you.

What does God do when we commit wrongs against Him? He forgives, and even forgets! We may not forget, but we can forgive, through His strength. It is hard - but all things are possible with our God.

Max Lucado put it this way: "Quit focusing on what someone did TO you, and start focusing on what God did FOR you." You can do it. Throw out that poison.
________________________________________________________________
Challenge #3: Forgive them. Forgive that person whom you have been holding a grudge against for days, weeks, months, maybe years. Bask in the freedom that you will gain from being obedient to God in this way. Your rewards will be great.

Job 21:23-25 One man dies in full vigor, completely secure and at ease, his body well nourished, his bones rich with marrow. Another man dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Prayer for Today: Jesus, you know my heart, and you must know that there is nothing in me that wants to forgive this person who has hurt me. There is nothing in me that wants to pray for this person. But Lord, I know it is your will. I am tired, exhausted actually, of being weighted down by carrying this bitterness in my heart. I am afraid that this bitterness towards them will seep out into other areas of my life, and I am seeking your forgiveness for my refusal to forgive. I accept that you are the healer of hearts, and that you truly have forgiven me for all my sins. In the same way, please give me the strength and courage and supernatural ability if needed, to forgive the person(s) who have wounded me. I pray that they will one day see how they have hurt me, and maybe even apologize, but if I never receive that apology, I will still love you Lord, and trust in all your ways. I want to sleep peacefully tonight knowing that my heart is free from poison.
In Jesus name, Amen.

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 3: ForgivenessSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

21 comments:

donna said...

I have been blessed by God in that I can forgive easily and tend not to harbor ill thoughts about others as He is quick to show me the "poison" I am ingesting. I pray that each of us who hear this message will also hear God's voice in our hearts and quickly put aside the pain and the anger that can come when we feel we have been wronged.
Peace and God Bless,
Donna

cceeyore said...

I know God brought this challenge to me ... and I know He is working with me to change my heart about some things. Forgiveness is one of those things. Just this past Sunday, our pastor spoke on forgiving others. He said forgiving is a constant cycle ... it is canceling the debt that someone owes you (Matthew 18:21-35). It's hard to let go of the poison sometimes, but if we cannot forgive others as we have been forgiven, the Father will hold us accountable. Through His help and His help alone, we can find the strength and the power to forgive the people who have hurt us the most.

Tracie ... thank you again for stepping into the Faith Zone and challenging us!

Joy in The Truth (Sharon Sloan) said...

OK, Tracie....you have us working those heart muscles! Wowzie!

Thanks for the exhortation and encouragement. Searching my heart and God is showing me a person I need to forgive in my heart...for HIM, for my relationship with HIM.

His tenderness is so sweet!

Karen said...

I went through this several years ago when a family member hurt my entire family. I went through quite a bit of bitterness. It was all we talked about. It took a couple of months for the Lord to get through to me, but it felt so good to let it go and forgive him! God really opened my eyes to see that for all He has forgiven me of, the very least I can do is to forgive others. It's not always easy though and I still find myself getting hurt and holding onto it. I'm afraid to say that it has not become an instant thing - to forgive - but, I have come so far from where I was. God has shown me this morning that there is someone who -while not obsessing over it - I have not forgiven.
Thank you Tracie for this challenge!

God is so Faithful!!
Karen

Cindy said...

Stretch, stretch, stretch!!!
I have been walking the forgiveness path for awhile. It has been difficult but God is truly doing a work in my hurting heart.
Every time I think I 'got it' I hear something else this (couple) has done that just reopens the wound.
I take this challenge very seriously as I know I must forgive so I will be forgiven. Matthew 6:14 "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."
Thank you for this challenge!
Gods blessings to you again!!!
Cindy

Anonymous said...

Forgiveness is such a hard thing to give sometimes....and such a hard thing to accept as well. Sometimes it's easy to see who we need to forgive. Sometimes, like Karen, it may not be that obvious because we are not "obsessing over it". And sometimes we need to turn our eyes inward........and forgive ourself - perhaps the hardest forgiveness to give, and receive.

Laurie Ann said...

I've learned that the easiest way to forgive someone is to try to see them the way God sees them and love them the way God does. Sometimes I have to do that from afar, because I do believe that God doesn't want me to be their doormat or punching bag; however, it is so liberating not to hold that grudge of bitterness or anger in my heart. It leaves much more room for God to plant blessings in my life so they won't get choked out by the weeds. We were talking about forgiveness the other day. I will send them the link to your blog and let them see your take on it. God bless you for challenging us to grow in faith to God. I have grown to look forward to getting up early for quiet time, had the opportunity to be nice to someone who definitely licked the red off my sucker yesterday and will be quick to keep forgiveness at the forefront and not harbor bitterness and anger in my heart from now on. I love being challenged to grow like this. Thank you so much!

Karan said...

I, like Donna, have been blessed by God by being able to forgive relatively easily and not harboring bitterness. There have been times when this was tested, but I am more likely to obsess about what I did wrong. I am bad about not letting go of sin that I have confessed. So, I will work on that.

The hard part about this challenge is that wrong thinking is a habit for many of us. It takes a conscience effort to change that, which involves many mental and sprititual muscles.

Let me close with what God often speaks to me when I am tempted to "over-examine" someone. I came across this verse, and it just lept off the page:

John 21: 21,22
Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me."


That is what He always reminds me of when I am hurting or offended. "What is that to you, Karan? You follow me," is what I hear often. May God grant us the freedom to always say, "What is that to me? I am following Jesus!"
In His Love and Hope,
Karan

Kate said...

I thought that I'd do pretty well yesterday, but instead I ended up feeling like Peter after the cock crow. I'd get so frustrated with something one of my kids did, and as soon as I did, it would hit me...ugh, this is NOT how God wants me to react. Having the challenge in my thoughts did, though, help me quickly end MY wrong behavior and deal better with theirs.

Today, though, I think I can handle. God has been dealing with me on this issue already. And, sadly, it's not the big affronts I've had trouble forgiving (like my ex-husband leaving me) but much smaller things (like my MIL refusing to babysit my son but always watching his cousins). Since changing my inner attitude on my MIL's actions, I've really seen a change in the time she spends with my son.

I know I'll have many, many more opportunities to practice forgiveness, and I pray that God will give me the grace to act as He would wish.

Alichia said...

Like some of the others, I am able to forgive easily. Accepting forgiveness for past sins is not so easy. Thank you for reminding me that God does forgive and forgets. He loves me!
I won't be able to do the last 2 days of the challenge as my family is going away for the weekend and I won't have access to a computer (I tho't my husband would be taking his laptop, but he's not).
I look forward to checking back on Monday and completing the challenge then. I do plan to continue my quiet time tho.
Tracie, thanks for allowing God to work thru you.

Bridget said...

Ouch! Today I got up and did my quiet time first and of course, it was the same message as yours! Forgiveness-how do I accept and how do I give it? Giving it seems to be the hang up for me. I think I've done it, then the mental tapes start playing again. One thing I've been doing lately to combat this, is to pray for them. Whatever scripture I'm praying for me, I put their name in it and pray for them too! This definitely stops the mental tapes.
Oh Tracie, thank you for the "FAITH BOOTCAMP!"

Deb said...

Tracie,
Wow you are really challenging us. I was having a hard time with this. I actually couldn't think of anyone that I was holding a grudge on or had bad feelings about. So I asked God to place any names on my heart. Not to long and I had a person who maybe I'm not mad at but that I don't have very good feelings about. So I am going to work this out for myself and try to find out why I feel the way I do. Thank you.

Deb

Christy said...

Thanks for sharing that. I know full well in my heart that forgivness is something we need to do all of the time, because of what Christ has done for us. That is not always easy to do. Right now, I am in the midst of a struggle with a family member. Neither of us parent the same way and we struggle with our children being together because I tend to have way more boundaries and restrictions on my child compared to his cousins. That causes tension and isn't easy to let go of. I know that as women we tend to hold onto things and take things more personally when it comes to our children, and we need to remember that the Lord is in control... even of our children. SO thank you for your thoughts, it put a great reminder into my head that I need to let go of parenting issues and just let GOd be God of our relationship and our childrens relationships.
The song I woke up to inside of my head this morning was a great one. I am so thankful when the Lord wakes me up with a songs already in my head! It is a song by Chris Tomlin (I believe) the chorus goes something like this... and I put my hope, and I put my trust, and I put my faith in YOU in YOu Lord...
God Bless and thanks for the Prayers... my children were joy givers today... not because they were perfect, but because my mind and attitude had changed.

Truth4thejourney said...

Forgiveness involves actually letting things go..... Not an easy thing to do! I struggle with not holding onto grudges, but I know that holding a grudge is not truly forgiving. It is a struggle but God is bigger and I know He will complete this work He has started in me! Encouraging post, thanks!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Tracie:
Long about midnight last night, I had a major breakthrough...a moment of clarity that hit me with the full weight of heaven.

And this morning's early devotion time, along with the jog that followed was just about more than this heart could take.

Thank you, Father, for meeting me in an unfathomable, astounding way today. You are my heart's desire.

peace~elaine

Mari said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gallerhea said...

Tracie,

Thank you again. I have had forgiveness struggles, with some others, and mostly with myself. I cause myself a lot more frustration than others cause me most of the time!!!!!

gallerhea

Mari said...

Tracie:

Tracie:

I was able to speak words yesterday morning that I thought I'd never speak. I forgave some relatives. They have hurt my feelings, interfered in areas of my life that they should not have and in general passed negative judgement on me. I'm not perfect but I don't think anyone deserves what I have often times received from them. What has been so frustrating is that at other times they "seemed" fine with me. I think the duplicity is what hurt and frustrated me the most.

It was hard and the tears flowed but I needed to stop poisoning myself. I choose to let God heal those hurt places. I choose to continue to grow my marriage in to something fabulous despite any interference. I choose to have faith that God is bigger than my bitterness. And I choose to let Him replace it with His love. Thank You Lord Jesus!

Heather Conrad said...

I have to admit, I never fully experienced the seriousness of the call to forgive in a more real way than just recently. (Sorry, Tracie, I'm just now catching up on my days). What I've realized the most is that it is just plain hard and nearly impossible to do when ever fiber of your being is holding onto the injustice and anger of a hurt or wrongdoing. I'm learning how "okay" it is to talk out all my feelings and to be fully honesty with the Lord (well, mostly myself). In asking for His perspective and His help, and His patience, I was finally able to let go (though it took awhile), and WOW the sense of freedom just flooded in. I'm learning to extend and forgive even when the other person hasn't asked or isn't even aware. Funny thing too, when my heart was free, and I wasn't demanding restoration, the other person freely extended (amazing!)

Joyful said...

Tracie, the Lord brought this truth home to me several years ago. I seemed to be the target of someone's cruelty for years (I believe it was out of jealousy, although she really had nothing to be jealous about), but I was carrying an unforgiving spirit towards her. The Lord spoke to me through His prayer - "and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". When the reality of that set in - that God forgives us in the same manner we forgive others....*ouch*.

Not only did the Lord give me grace and strength to forgive, He did the miraculous - He has caused me to completely forget the details that caused pain in this relationship and restored our friendship in such a way that we truly are wonderful friends.

Praying today that God will reveal to me any other unforgiveness my heart is harbouring and I'll surrender it to Him.

Thanks for challenging my heart today and leading me to seek Him,
Joy

COLLIER said...

Well, I must say i have been challenged to forgive the article touched me in such a way.that if anyone has every had a real relationship with the Lord can no longer allow the poison of unforgiveness live in their heart.I honestly believe that by me accepting the challenge to forgive will release awhole new level in God for me. I declare today that By his strips I am heal.