For all the talk in the church about forgiveness, restitution, and healing, very little seems to be truly demonstrated by Christians. We all like to think of ourselves as peacemakers, lifters up of the fallen, always forgiving and forgetting. But even the most deeply spiritual are guilty of not showing a spirit of forgiveness.
We find it hard to forgive those who have injured our pride; or someone who is ungrateful; or anyone who deceives us. And the majority of Christians do not know the first thing about handling criticism. We employ all kinds of methods to hide our resentment, becoming adept at couching our defensiveness in masterful eloquence. Yes, wounded pride is a terrible thing.
Often, before we can forgive others, we must learn to forgive God. Although God has never sinned against anyone, that does not stop us from holding a grudge against him. We come into his presence to pray but we are harboring negative feelings toward him because we think he has not done what we thought he should. A prayer may have gone unanswered for weeks, months — even years. Or an unexpected illness occurs or tragedy claims a loved one — and faith begins to waver.
Remember, the Word of God makes it very clear that a wavering person will never receive anything from God: “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8, KJV).
Jesus understood this tendency in his children to hold grudges against heaven when mountains are not moved on schedule. He warned Peter not to ask anything when standing in God’s presence unless he was forgiving. “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).
If you have a secret grudge in your heart against another person or against heaven, let the Spirit of forgiveness flow through you. God is faithful!
“Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The apostle Paul grew weak because of troubles and distresses but when he was cast down, he did not despair. He rejoiced in the process of being made weak because it was the secret to his power with Christ, and out of that weakness he became strong.
Some may have an unfulfilling job, an illness, a state of deep loneliness or divorce. Those things are valid reasons to be discouraged but the one thing that constantly hinders God’s work in our lives is simply self. When Jesus said we are to take up his cross and follow him, he was asking us to deny ourselves (see Luke 9:23). Our pride says, “I can do this myself.” But Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Jesus looks upon this world, filled with confused children going about trying to establish their own righteousness, trying to please him in their own way, and he calls for crosses. The cross is meant to break us and drain us of all human effort. He cannot take over until we give up and cry out to him, “Father, I can’t go another step! My strength is gone! Help!”
Beloved, do not think of your trial as judgment from God and do not condemn yourself. Actually, what you are going through is an evidence of his love toward you, bringing you into ultimate victory and maturity. You are in Christ’s own school of discipleship, so rejoice that as you become weak and submit to him, you will experience his overpowering strength!
It is very true that Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). But Jesus fell under the load of his cross, weary, exhausted, and unable to carry it another step. John said, “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called … Golgotha” (John 19:17). The Bible does not tell us how far Jesus carried his cross, but we do know that Simon, the Cyrene, was compelled to pick it up and carry it to the place of crucifixion (see Matthew 27:32).
Jesus had reached the end of his endurance; after all, there is only so much one person can take before they come to a breaking point and Jesus’ cross had become too heavy to bear. So, what does this mean to us? Would our Lord make us do something he could not do?
Jesus knows exactly what he is saying when he calls us to “take up our cross and follow him.” He understands the agony, the helplessness, the burden that crosses create. He remembers his own cross and he knows we cannot carry our cross all the way in our own strength.
There is a hidden truth here that is so powerful and edifying, it could change the way we look at all our troubles and hurts. And even though it sounds almost sacrilegious to suggest that Jesus did not carry his own cross, that is the truth. What this means to us today is that Jesus, who is touched by the feelings of our infirmities, experienced what it is to be weak, discouraged and unable to go on without help. He was in all points tempted just as we are.
The temptation for us is not in failing, not in laying down the cross because of weakness; the real temptation is in trying to pick up that cross and carry it in our own strength. Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time” (Jonah 3:1). In the familiar account of “Jonah and the whale,” God had instructed Jonah to go to the wicked city Ninevah and preach judgment to them, but Jonah disobeyed and ran away from the voice of the Lord. However, in this verse we see that God’s grace and mercy reached out and gave him a second chance.
What a blessing to know that God is patient, longsuffering, gracious, tender and kind. No matter how often we mess up, or how rebellious and disobedient we may have been in the past, the Word of the Lord comes to us a second time, or a third or fourth. Our Father does not just cast aside his people — and Jonah is a tremendous lesson to us of the covenant power of God in our lives.
Jonah would have had a lot less trouble if he had obeyed the first time God spoke to him. He was clearly gifted and chosen, yet he fled from God’s very presence, cutting off communion with him. It must be noted, though, that as Jonah fled, he heard the voice of the Holy Spirit ringing in his ears every step of the way. And when he repented and humbled himself, the Lord began speaking to him again: “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you” (3:2).
God’s direction can sometimes make us uncomfortable but I encourage you to be faithful to what he has called you to. You will experience different seasons so be faithful in every season. Say to God, “Whatever you have for me, even if is not exactly what I choose, I will fulfill your calling. You choose and I will follow.” When Jonah obeyed God’s call, there were wonderful results. Ninevah experienced a massive revival — an amazing awakening — and, likewise, you can have a powerful, joyous breakthrough in your life when you repent of your disobedience and obey the voice of the Lord!
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Oh, that each of us could have the fervor for living for Christ that filled Paul. Singlehandedly — at the direction of the Holy Spirit — he spread Christianity across the Roman Empire. He did not care if he lived or died, he just wanted to advance the kingdom of God.
Christians today have developed a false faith — a faith without commitment. We are busy running around to Bible conferences and retreats, searching out the most eloquent expositors of the Bible, and racing to weekly Bible studies to fill our heads with more outlines and formulas. Meanwhile, millions of hurting people all over the world are dying without hope. We are called to reach out to them.
What is commitment all about? It simply means to devote ourselves unconditionally to the Lord and his work. We stick with the job before us, despite circumstances. It means teaching a Sunday school class every Sunday — no matter what — and allowing the kids in that class to become the most important youngsters in the world to us. It means interceding for them and taking time during the week to find out what is bothering them.
Commitment does not take into account convenience, or the changing whims of emotion. True commitment remains an enduring thing, that which can be counted on. Sadly, most Christians do not even know how to be fully committed to the Lord. They are too caught up in their own lifestyle. And too many want to be entertained in church — not committed.
We run the risk of becoming like the church at Laodicea mentioned in the book of Revelation — lukewarm, do-nothing Christians. “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So, then, because you are lukewarm … I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). Ask the Lord to renew the spirit of commitment within you so that you will be that dedicated servant he wants you to be.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.