The Bondage of Unforgiveness
And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10
He had survived and was in essence ready to be restored...not from a terrible sin but from a terribly difficult time of testing. The captivity of his horrible time of pain inflicted by Satan but allowed by God was nearing the end. What else could Satan do to him that had not already been done?
God was prepared to bless him again even more than he had in the past, but there was one thing that Job had to do in order to be delivered from the captivity in which he had been living. He had to pray for his friends. These scoundrels who had self righteously pointed their fingers at him instead of comforting and encouraging him were all that stood between Job and deliverance.
Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite the three “friends” had been totally unspiritual in the way they handled their stricken friend and in fact had been extremely hurtful to him. What did God tell Job to do? He told him to pray for them? It was not until after he did so that his captivity was turned by God and he was completely restored.
As for his three “friends,” well Job let God deal with them and He did so severely. Notice what God said to them. And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. (Job 42:7) God reprimanded them for interfering in the work God was doing in Job’s life.
Their error was to interject their opinions to Job throughout his trials. What should they have done? I believe they should have kept their opinions to themselves and been an encouragement and blessing to him. Nevertheless, Job was required to pray for them. When Job prayed God performed a work in his heart that could not have been accomplished any other way. He forgave them.
We have all been hurt. We have been hurt by our foolish decisions and we have been hurt by the errant words or actions of another. My story is not one of total ease, nor has it been free of hurt. I say this not to complain but to share a point. There are things people said and did to me that as I look back had a profound effect on me. It would do no good for you or me to tell of them now. We all have our stories of hurt.
There are people today who have made it their mission to destroy me and to make my life miserable. They put their own conditions on my restoration and add their words of discouragement on my effort to be what God wants me to be. They say things like, “I will forgive him if...” or “I will believe him if...” or “He cannot get right until...” Yes, they take the role of God and decide what conditions I must meet in order for them to forgive and accept me. Some even tell me that I cannot be forgiven and that God’s grace cannot apply to me. Oh yes, I hear the most hateful and venomous things said to me that you can possibly imagine.
Put your sympathy back in your pocket. That is not what I need or seek. Let me tell you the only thing that will save me from these people hurting me. I must pray for them. I said MUST because I don’t always want to pray for them. I want to argue with them, curse them, or tell them why they are ignorant. However I have been in that captivity before and I do not want to be there again. The provisions of hatreds moldy bread and wraths filthy water are not appealing to me. I want to be free of the bondage that unforgiveness brings. So, what do I do? I pray for them. Now, I confess that sometimes I want to pray that God will do bad things to them and I confess that to God that when I pray. However, somehow, He releases me from the captivity of my anger, hurt and unforgivingness and allows me the peace in my heart I so enjoy. It happens when I pray for them.
My friend, prayer and forgiveness are co-joined twins. You cannot separate them. Prayer requires forgiveness in order to be answered and forgiveness requires prayer in order to be accomplished. Read that sentence again carefully and slowly. Prayer requires forgiveness in order to be answered and forgiveness requires prayer in order to be accomplished. God cannot answer the prayer of an unforgiving heart and we do not possess the power of forgiveness within our sinful selves. I will go a step further. Self forgiveness hinges upon us forgiving others. Job could not have forgiven the circumstances he had endured had he not forgiven his friends and he could not have forgiven his friends if he had not prayed for them.
I confess that I am not a forgiving person. In fact, it was not until I confessed that fault that I was able to be delivered from my captivity. For far too long I was filled with unforgiveness that led to anger, wrath and even malice. People hurt me before my sins, they hurt me during my sins and they hurt me after my sins. I went on the defensive. I reacted wrongly. I felt sorry for myself and I attached God’s opinion of me to their opinion of me.
Others saw the anger in me and the bondage in which I was living. When someone lashed out at me I lashed out at others. People who loved me said you have to forgive those towards whom you are angry. I tried and I could not do it. I could not forgive them. Then a truth hit my heart that was a game changer. I DO NOT POSSESS THE POWER TO FORGIVE. However I do possess the ability to pray. Only God can bestow Divine forgiveness through and to me. PLEASE read that again. We think we can flippantly decide in our sinful nature to forgive someone. How presumptuous that is. Forgiveness may be the most costly thing that can be bestowed to another.
Think carefully about this. Even God had to provide a means where He, a HOLY and righteous God, could forgive us, a rebellious and wicked people. How did He accomplish that? He sent His Own Son to take our sins so He could see Christ’s righteousness instead of our sinfulness. Think of the lengths God went to enable Himself to forgive us. He even explained His method of forgiveness when He taught us how He forgave. “...even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
How does God forgive me? He does it for Christ’s sake. Think of the Divine plan and planning that went into that singular act of forgiveness. It was supernatural in its design and only could be accomplished through that divine plan. How could I dare think I can forgive by merely saying so. A supernatural act can only be accomplished through supernatural means. It can only be done if God enables us. How does He enable us? He does it the same way He did it with Job...through prayer.
Jesus taught us how to pray. What did He say in that prayer? “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:12, 13) However when He finished the prayer He immediately returned to the subject of forgiveness. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (verses 14, 15)
I hear people say things like, “You have to forgive yourself first.” What? You are setting them up for failure. It sounds good in a humanistic way but forgiveness is not humanistic it is Divine. How do we think we can give something that really is not ours to give? Only through the power of God can I forgive and only when I pray. You want to talk about man made standards? Let me tell you about man made forgiveness. So called “legalism” is a drop of water compared to the ocean of trying to live by man made forgiveness. That may be the ultimate in ludicrousness. Self forgiveness is nothing more than me seeing myself as God sees me.
This principle has enhanced my prayer life. Sometimes I feel like I am the most hated man in the world. (That is when I am feeling sorry for myself) I get slammed by hate’s venomous words every day of my life. What do I do? I pray. (Thank you enemies for drawing me to my knees.) What do I pray? Sometimes I gripe a little like David did in the Psalms. Then I ask God to put a hedge around me and deliver me from my enemies. Finally I pray for the enemy. I ask God to bless them and provide for them. Do I wish He would throw in a little arsenic to those provisions? Oh, yes, but it is amazing how He delivers me from captivity when I pray for them. They keep trying to hurt and bait me, and I keep praying. I have to. I do not do it because I am spiritual. I do it because I am not spiritual. I do it to be delivered from captivity.
Allow me to confess a fault to you. My sins are ever before me. I am convinced that I am but one step, one thought, one opportunity away from sin. Satan knows that. He also knows that I have a purpose and that many fallen brothers and sisters need my testimony to encourage them. It is not what I envisioned for my life but it is what God allowed in spite of my sins and failures. Every day I am tempted to become bitter. When I am bitter I am weak. When I am weak I can be tempted. Right after Christ told us to pray about forgiveness He tells us to pray about temptation. They go hand in hand. Do you want victory over your sins? Forgive. Do you want to forgive? Pray.
Many Christians have put hoops in front of me so they can decide to offer me what I already possess...forgiveness. I am tempted to let them bait me because I really want to be forgiven by them. I really do. However, their ability to forgive me has nothing to do with their conditions, nor does their forgiveness matter one whit. God has forgiven me, so I already have what they are withholding from me. They cannot forgive me because they have not prayed for me NOT because I have not met their conditions. I only make it my problem if I do not pray for them. I need divine forgiveness so that I stay free from bondage.
There is a pastor who has made it clear to me and others that I am not welcome in his church. (I actually never planned to attend his church) Some may call him noble, but the Bible would say he is in captivity. I am not sure I have even met this man, but I am now required to pray for him...often. Does it hurt me? Yes, but only when I forget that I am forgiven by ONE far greater than he... a Holy GOD. The hurt exists only when I forget to pray for that man.
You can offer me a blade of grass of forgiveness but God has given me a gorgeous meadow of His perfect and lush forgiveness.
You can offer me a drop of your dirty water of forgiveness but God has led me beside His vast crystal blue still waters of forgiveness.
You can allow me a crumb of forgiveness that falls from your table but I am sitting at his table of endless delectables of God’s forgiveness.
You can offer me a ride on the handlebars of your bicycle of forgiveness but I am riding in His golden limousine of God’s forgiveness.
You may even invite me to your church of conditional forgiveness but I am in the presence of the One Who purchased forgiveness with the blood of His only begotten Son.
Hmmm. Let me think. Do I need your forgiveness? Yet, we allow men to force us to jump through hoops like a dog in a circus. THEN, they raise the hoop every time you clear one . Sadly that is what many churches have become...a three ring circus of man’s conditions. It has become nothing more than a trick or an act. However, true forgiveness is a divine work of God and it only comes through prayer.
May I address this to all of those dear Christians who have been victims of the self righteousness of “unfallen” Christians. Do not attempt to forgive yourself. Do not attempt to earn their forgiveness. Do not try to forgive them by yourself. I have your cure. PRAY! Believe me...no...believe God’s Word. Your deliverance will not come from men. They will delay the instantaneous forgiveness of God. Ooh, that was good. Let me say it again. THEY WILL DELAY THE INSTANTANEOUS FORGIVENESS OF GOD! (I had to shout that one.)
They will propose forgiveness but never set a date, but God will elope into forgiveness.
They will give you a 30 year note for forgiveness but God will give you the deed to his forgiveness.
They will give you a life sentence to pay for your sins and earn your forgiveness, but God will tear down the walls of your prison and forgive you.
Recently I posted this verse on my Facebook page. Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4) A very dear man and good friend had this to say. “Brother I know that God has been so good in my life but his goodness to me did not result in my repentance, it was when, like Isaiah, I saw his character as goodness and my comparative wretchedness, and cried woe is me! That was when I repented!” I respect his opinion but I ignored it. Why? Because it is not what the Bible said. I cannot allow myself to be affected by hoops. God’s goodness is all that lead me to repentance. Men just lead me to works which becomes nothing more than me trying to win forgiveness from men.
While I agree with the result he experienced I cannot fake the result I can only fall into the truth. We make a mistake of trying to define a God given conclusion. I am not criticizing this man and I am certain the hoopests will let me know of their eight ways of knowing if someone has repented. I can give you one. Stop trying. Pray for them and get the forgiveness you need. Let God be God. He will take care of whether or not that one has truly repented.
Please do not miss this. The deepest cries of repentance in my heart came after I prayed for others. I saw His goodness in forgiving me and it led to my repentance, but it did not all come at once. I am still repenting. Every day as I see the goodness of God more clearly another of my sinful characteristics becomes apparent to me and I am led to further repentance. It is a process.
What did men do? They ask for proof. You want proof? Pray for me. Ouch. You can’t do it can you? Guess what! I can’t give you proof. You simply cannot forgive. Go back to Ephesians 4:29-32 and see our part of this. Read it all and do not ignore the parts you do not like. Look at it slowly and you may understand why you better not allow certain people to get into your head or their captivity will be yours. Why would you want to get in jail with someone else and lose your freedom? Read each of these portions separately and slowly.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth
but that which is good to the use of edifying
that it may minister grace unto the hearers
(did you get that? minister grace not vengeance)
AND grieve not the holy Spirit of God
Let all bitterness,
and evil speaking,
be put away from you,
with all malice:
And be ye kind one to another,
forgiving one another,
even as God
for Christ's sake
hath forgiven you.
You see, my problem is not you and your problem is not me. OUR problem is unforgiveness and that can only be cured with prayer. I dare those who hate me to sincerely pray for me and to ask God to give you HIS forgiveness. I double dog dare you. The problem is you are like the prisoner who has been institutionalized. You have been in the prison of unforgiveness so long you can’t even imagine being free. You have even learned to enjoy the bitter food and water of your captivity. Your captivity of hatred and unforgiveness is now your comfort zone, but it is also destroying those around you, even some you love. They are visitors to your prison cell of unforgiveness.
Some suggest that I have no right to “preach” to others. They are 100% correct. This is not my sermon. This is my testimony. Look I know you hate my sins. I understand that. I do too. But have you allowed it to put you into captivity? Is that really what you want? I do not ask for your forgiveness, nor do I really need it. However I do have bad news. I must keep praying for you, not for your sake but for mine and I must forgive you, not for my sake but for Christs.
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