Joyce Meyer - Forgiveness - Part 1
Welcome to "Enjoying Everyday Life," I really think the message today is going to be beneficial and helpful and it is probably one of the most important messages that I teach, because I wanna talk about the power of forgiveness. You know, so often when we need to forgive someone, we have a difficult time doing it because we feel like they don't deserve it. And maybe they don't, but you do. See, when you forgive somebody for hurting you, you're not doing them a favor, you're doing yourself a favor. And let me tell you a story that I think will help get this point across.
"There was a college teacher who asked each of her students to bring a clear plastic sack and a sack of potatoes to school. So, a clear sack and a sack of potatoes. She said for every person you refuse to forgive, I want you to choose a potato, write the name of the person that you don't want to forgive and the date that you refuse to forgive them, and put it in the plastic bag. Some of our bags, as you can imagine, became quite heavy. We were told to carry this bag with us everywhere we went for one week, putting it beside our bed at night, on the car seat when driving, next to our desk at school or at work. The hassle of lugging this thing around made it clear, what a weight we were carrying spiritually and how we had to pay attention to it all the time, and not forget and keep having it in embarrassing places. Well, naturally the condition of the potatoes deteriorated to a nasty slime. This was a great metaphor for the price we pay for keeping our pain and heavy negativity. Too often we think of forgiveness as a gift that we give the other person, but it clearly is for ourselves. So, the next time you decide you can't forgive someone, ask yourself, 'isn't your bag already heavy enough'"?
So, I called somebody this morning and said, "Can you go get me a 10 pound sack of potatoes"? And I'm sure that they thought, "What in the world are you going to do with those"? But I think pictures are very important. So, this is 10 pounds of potatoes. So, just imagine that each one of these potatoes represents somebody that you didn't want to forgive in your life and you're still carrying that thing on the inside of you. Well, you know, I'm reasonably strong for a woman my age, I workout, try to take care of myself, but I can guarantee you, even if I had to carry this around with me, the whole time that I'm doing this teaching today, I would have one sore arm and probably a sore shoulder and it would really wear me out and make me tired. So, I want to ask you, are you carrying a heavy sack, that's full of the burden of bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness? And think about the fact that you're taking it everywhere that you go. But you know what? Just like I'm going to come over here and drop this on this table, you can drop your sack also. Don't keep carrying something that God wants you to lay down and let him take care of.
Now, Matthew 18:21, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times'". "How many times Lord, am I gonna have to forgive this person for doing the same thing"? "'how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me'"? And then Peter had an idea, he said, "How 'bout seven"? I think that's interesting, 'course we know seven is God's perfect number. So, this is representative of some things, but I think it's interesting that maybe Peter thought he could handle seven, but he didn't know if he could handle any more than that. You know, sometimes making suggestions to God are almost funny, because he's already got a way that things are gonna be done, if they're gonna be done right, and us making suggestions to him on how they should be done, doesn't really help. But Jesus, of course, as always, had a perfect answer. He said, "'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven'".
Now, of course, that would be 490 but those numbers are representative. And so, I think that the message here is you just keep forgiving, keep forgiving, keep forgiving, keep forgiving. Well, then the question comes up, "Well if I just keep that up, won't they think they can just keep doing it to me"? Well, you know, forgiving somebody doesn't mean you don't confront them, it doesn't mean that you never sit down and talk about a situation, or that you don't explain to them how they're hurting you. But if a person is gonna refuse to do any different, the point is, is especially if this is somebody that you have to be around all the time, I mean, I suppose if somebody keeps hurting you over and over and over and it's somebody you don't have to be with then, you know, just don't be with them, but if you have to be with them, then you, you, you, you, you are doing yourself a favor if you forgive them. Don't let somebody else's bad behavior ruin your life. And the key is when you do forgive someone, then you put them in God's hands and God says he's our vindicator and he's the one that will bring our recompense.
Let me tell you something, God can do marvelous things in relationships, if you'll just let go of the bitterness, the resentment, and the unforgiveness. Then, he tells a story, it's a good story, "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And as he began the settlement, a man who owed him 10.000 bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay". Now, I'm gonna stop there just a minute, and explain something to you. You know, normally we would just go past that, I did for years never thought anything about it. But you know, my dad sexually abused me and really mistreated me growing up, and I married the first guy that came along, because I thought nobody would ever want me, and he ended up cheating on me and just doing all kinds of things and, you know? So, I had a pretty, pretty big sack of potatoes on my back by the time I was in my early twenties and I carried it everywhere that I went. And I kept trying to collect from people that weren't even responsible to pay me.
You know, when you're hurt really bad, you feel like, and understandably so, I felt like, "Well, somebody owes me," you feel like something's been taken from you and that somebody needs to pay you back. Well, we initially try to get the person that hurt us to pay us back by shutting them out of our life, or wanting them to apologize or talking bad about them to other people, you know, we try to get people back and it's pretty much useless, because it never works. It only makes you miserable and so, I was trying to make my dad pay, but it got so bad that then after Dave and I got married and thank God we've been married now 53 years. Isn't that wonderful, yay! And you can make it that long too, if you really want to. I realized that I was trying to make Dave pay for everything my dad did to me and other people who abused me, also. I had a bad attitude, come on, I'm admitting it, if you have a bad attitude, admit it. I had a bad attitude toward men in general and I had these, made these inner vows, that, "Nobody's ever gonna hurt me again, and you can't trust any man, men are only out for one thing".
You know, there was a lot that God had to deal with me about, but I had to be willing to put down my sack of bitterness, and resentment, and unforgiveness, and let God do what only God can do. And so, I want you to realize that you need to stop trying to collect from people who cannot pay you. You see, what my father took from me, my childhood, my innocence, my virginity, a lot of things that he took from me, he had no way to give them back to me. Even if he would have wanted to, he couldn't have given me back my childhood, but you know, God can. God's caused me to have more fun in the older years of my life, than what I might have had in the earlier years of my life. So, because he could not pay, I want you to get what I'm sayin', whoever it is that you hate and you're trying to collect from, they cannot pay you back. I mean, the most they could do is say, "I'm sorry". But what can they really do beyond that? "The master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. 'be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay you back everything'", now listen, "The servant's master took pity on him and canceled the debt and let him go".
Now, that's what it means to forgive somebody. It's like saying to them, "You don't owe me anything anymore". You say, "But they do owe me something". But if you're willing to cancel their debt and let them go, like God has canceled your debt and let you go, then God can deal with them and God can pay you back many times over for anything that was taken from you in the past. "His master took pity on him, canceled the debt," he was merciful, "But when the servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins". Okay, he owed 10.000 bags of gold, he went and found somebody that owed him a hundred coins and "He grabbed him and began to choke him. And he said, 'pay me what you owe me'! He demanded. The fellow servant fell on his knees," just like the man had before, "And begged him, 'be patient with me and I will pay it back'. But he refused".
See, it wasn't that he couldn't, he refused. And you know what? If you're watching today and you're thinking, "Well, I can't, I just can't forgive, it's just too hard". No, God never tells us to do anything that's too hard for us to do. Anything he tells us to do, he always gives us the grace, which is the power and the ability to do it. And I certainly don't intend to offend anybody or hurt their feelings, but if you won't forgive, it's not because you can't, it's because you're refusing to. When he refused, "Instead he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened". And you know, we need to realize, we also have a master. God is our Lord and our master, Jesus our Savior and our king, he's everything, Almighty, all-powerful and there will come a time when we will give an accounting of our life to him, and that's not intended to make you afraid of God, but we do need to have a reverential fear that says it's wise to do what God tells us to do.
So, they went and told the master everything that happened. And "Then master called the servant in". Now listen to this, "'you wicked servant,' he said, 'i canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you'"? Well, what's the message here? God forgives us for more than we are ever asked to forgive all of our enemies combined, for. I mean, if you piled up everything that anybody's ever done to you in one pile, it wouldn't even scratch the surface of what we've done against God, but he forgives us. He sent Jesus, his only son to pay for our debt so we can be free from our sins. The master said, "'you wicked servant, I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to, you should have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had on you'. In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all that he owed".
So, wow, what a story, he's sayin', he just said, "Okay, keep your burden, and just be miserable, just keep it all your life. Let that stuff rot and stink on the inside of you and ruin your life". We are tortured, emotionally and mentally, when we continue to hate somebody when God has given us the ability to forgive them. I believe somebody's getting ahold of something today that they need. "This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or your sister from your heart". And he's not just talking about blood brothers and sisters, he's talking about all the people that we know. You know, you're not gonna have any peace with God unless you receive his forgiveness. And you're not gonna have any peace with yourself, if you don't receive God's forgiveness and also give forgiveness to all those that have hurt you.
To me, this is really one of the, I don't like to say, rules of Christianity. But it's one of the principles of Christianity, that if you want to live the life that God wants you to have, you must, there's no choice, you must forgive people who hurt you, and the quicker you do it, the easier it is to do it. The Bible says, "Resist the devil at his onset". 1 Peter 5:8. Resist him at his onset. The longer you let something mull around in you, the more you think about it, the more you talk about it, the more you rehearse it, the deeper those roots get and the harder it becomes to get rid of it.
Now, if I were to say right now, how many of you want to see the prayers that you prayed answered? I'm sure that everybody would say, "Well yeah, I do". Well, I do too. But listen to this, and this is not a fairytale, this is right out of the Bible. "Truly I tell you whoever says to this mountain", this is Mark 11:22-26, first of all, he says: have faith in God constantly. "Truly I say to you whoever says to this mountain, 'be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes what he says will take place, it will be done for him. For this reason, I'm telling you", now, please listen to this, "For this reason, I'm telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, trust, believe and be confident that it is granted to you, and you will [get it]".
Now to me, that's so interesting. So, first, I believe in my heart that God has given it to me, before I can ever see it or feel it. That's what faith is, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things that you cannot see. So, I believe by faith in my heart that God has given it to me, and it says, "And then, you will get it". So, we believe first and then we get what we have believed for. There's only one little thing that God left out here that is really quite annoying sometimes, he didn't tell us exactly how long it would be. And that waiting period between when you ask and when you receive, is the testing times in our lives. And then he says, and please get this today. Maybe you heard this a thousand times before but it still hasn't kept you from being angry with people. "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go)", that's what the Amplified Bible says, "Let it drop, leave it, let it go". Have you ever said to somebody who just keeps bringing up the same thing over, and over, and over, "Will you just drop it"?
I remember Dave saying that to me years ago when I would just hang on to stuff and I would bring up things that he did the first year we got married and he was like, "Where do you even keep the remembrance of all that stuff"? And he would just say, "Can't you just drop it? Can't you just let it go"? Well, that's actually what it means to forgive. It means you stop thinking about it, you stop talking about it. Here's a little story that I think is worth hearing, that I thought was good. "When missionaries first came to Labrador, they found no word for forgiveness in the Eskimo language, so, they had to make one that meant, not being able to think about it anymore". That's so good. You know what? God's not sittin' in heaven thinking about all of our sins and how gracious he's been to us all of our lives. He forgets it, the Bible says when God forgives us, he forgets it, remembers it no more and that our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west.
And that's what God wants us to do, he wants us to leave it, let it go, drop it, stop thinking about it, stop talking about it, stop rehearsing it and the sooner you do that, the easier it's gonna be to get over it. "Leave it, let it go, in order that your father who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcoming and let them drop". And let them go. "But," this is the Bible, not a fairytale, I didn't make this up, "If you do not forgive, neither will your father in heaven forgive your failings and shortcomings". My, my, my, my, my. "I mean, really? So, you mean that if I've sinned and I ask God to forgive me, but yet I'm holding unforgiveness against somebody else who hurt me, that God won't forgive me"? Well, that's what it says and it says it in more than one place. What about the Lord's prayer, "Father forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".
Do you really want God to do that? You need to make sure every single day of your life that you have nothing against anyone. It might be one of the best questions to ask yourself early every morning. "Now, Lord, show me if I'm mad at anybody, if I'm angry at anybody because I don't want to let the devil use that to ruin the wonderful life that you have planned for me". Before you decide to stay mad at somebody, take an inventory of your own sins. How often do you need forgiveness from people that you've hurt or offended? How many times have you done the same thing to somebody over and over? You know God's character is what we're supposed to emulate in our lives, and his character is so, so beautiful. Exodus 34:6 says, "And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, 'the Lord! The Lord! A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth'".
Wow, what if the whole world was like that? We have got so many problems in our world today that we wouldn't have. So much violence and turmoil and hatred and anger and bitterness and if we just followed this guideline, put down your sack of potatoes, the rotten stinking sack of potatoes that you've been carrying around. The sack of bitterness and resentment, and unforgiveness, leave it, let it go. I'm not taking nothing home with me. I don't wanna carry it around anymore, and I'm not taking it. God is compassionate, he's gracious, full of grace, slow to anger, merciful, filled with loving kindness, he's truth, he's faithful and he forgives iniquity, transgression and sin and forgets them. You know, all of these attributes are disappearing from our world at an alarming rate and each one of us is responsible to do our part to let go of all the bitterness and resentment and the unforgiveness.
You know, the Bible in Matthew 24, gives a list of signs of the end times. And you know, we think about the earthquakes and the famines and the you know, all the crazy weather stuff, and all this stuff that's going on but there's something that's a sign of the end time that I think that we need to pay more attention to perhaps, than any of the rest. Matthew 24:12 says, "And the love of the great body of people will grow cold," that means the church, "Because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity," in the land. You know, the devil wants to build a stronghold of cold love in our hearts, but Peter said that our love should burn red hot, on fire. And that kind of love covers a multitude of sins.
Come on, can you give somebody mercy today? Is there anybody that you can think of that you could forgive, that you could give mercy to today? You know, refusing to forgive is really basically denying all the characteristics of God that we want him to have before us. You know, I believe that God has given us his heart and that means we have a heart of compassion, but the Bible says in 1 John 3:17, in the Amplified, it says, "Don't do not close your heart of compassion". When you see a brother or sister in need, do not close your heart of compassion. Well, let me end with this today. Why should you forgive? Why? You know, there's more than one reason, you're gonna help yourself if you do, but mainly you just should forgive because God said to. Why can't we just come to a point where we believe that God knows what he's doing, that everything he does is for our benefit and I don't have to have a list of 10 reasons why I need to forgive somebody, and how it's gonna benefit me, I just need to do it because God said to do it. Are you willing to do that?