You can do this!
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.
(Mark 11:23-25 NKJV)
“Be quick to repent, quick to forgive, and quick to believe God. Forgive”
Kenneth E. Hagin
When it comes to weird stories, our “faith” crowd has a bunch. I remember one fellow who was using his faith to believe that a certain lady would marry him. She was already married to another guy, but this young man didn’t see that as a problem. Of course, that didn’t work. God won’t be complicit in coveting another man’s wife. There have been many who “believed they received” money and decided to act on their faith by writing checks, though they had no money in the bank. That’s not faith, that’s lying, not to mention illegal. God is not obligated to honor dishonesty.
In the area of healing the foolishness just compounds. There are folks who don’t wear their glasses because they believe their eyes are healed. Please don’t let them drive by faith! Others don’t go to the doctor when they’re sick because that would be unbelief. Still others quit taking their medications as an act of faith. Most just get sicker. There may be times when God speaks to us to take a particular step of faith, but unless God has specifically spoken, don’t do anything dumb!
Appropriate actions of faith can be characterized in three ways:
- Do what the Bible says to do.
- Do what the Spirit tells you to do.
- Do what love would do.
In upcoming lessons, we’ll spend much time on hearing the Spirit of God and following His leading. First, however, I want to address one particularly important place where number 1 and number 3 intersect. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:6 that “faith works by love.” The Amplified Bible says it this way: “…faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.” It’s always safe and godly to do things that express love to others. When illness strikes, we often become more self-centered, and thus less loving. Pain, discomfort, and fear make us more aware of ourselves and our needs, often to the point of missing the needs of others. Actively look for ways to love folks, to get your attention off yourself. That’s always an act of faith.
Jesus attached one qualification to His famous teaching on faith in Mark 11: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses (Mk 11:25 NKJV). We tend to focus on the “believe” part, or the “say” part, and miss the “forgive” part. Forgiveness is the love of God in action. We might say that unforgiveness is the only sin that Jesus specifically attached to the working of faith. To forgive others when you pray is to act on your faith.
Kenneth E. Hagin wrote, “… unforgiveness is the main reason why people’s faith doesn’t work. And unforgiveness is the main reason why people fail to receive their healing.” That’s a strong statement. But, given the fact that Jesus added forgiving others as the only instruction attached to the prayer of faith, it certainly bears investigating. What does it mean to “have anything against anyone?” How do I forgive when my feelings don’t want to? How do I know I have forgiven?
Four Forgiveness Facts:
- You can forgive. The ability to forgive comes with the New Birth. In Mark 11, Jesus was taking to Old Covenant people. They were commanded to forgive so they could receive forgiveness. After Calvary, we have a slightly different deal. We forgive because God has already forgiven us. In the new birth, He gave us His very own nature, which now enables us to forgive even the most heinous acts. Let’s remove the chapter heading for Ephesians 5 so we can better see what Paul said about the subject: Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.(Ephesians 4:31-5:2 NLT) If our aim as Christians is to imitate God by displaying love, then forgiveness of every wrong is where we must aim. The ability to do this comes from who we are: Children of the God who is love. If He is love and I have His nature, then I’m love as well. I can forgive because of who I am.
- Forgiveness means to release or let go. There are 2 Greek words that are translated as “forgive” in the New Testament. One means “to put away or release. (Romans 4:7; James 5:15)” The other comes from the word for grace. It can be defined as graciously granting pardon (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Putting the two ideas together, we see that forgiveness is freely releasing another from what I feel they owe me because of their offence. New Creation forgiveness has two parts:
- Giving because of who I am, not because of what the other person does. Grace gives because of the nature of the giver, not the merit of the recipient. The gift is, by definition, undeserved: “Just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” I can imitate God by forgiving as I have been forgiven. My born-again heart wants to forgive. It’s who I am, and I must be true to myself and my God.
- Releasing any claim to recompense. Offence comes when we feel we have been slighted or damaged in some way. It stirs a need in us to be paid back or to have “an eye for an eye.” The offender must pay! When I forgive, I release my claim. In so doing, I free myself from the necessity to pursue payback and enforce justice.
- Unforgiveness has symptoms. When we feel we have been harmed or slighted in some way, we have emotional responses. Hurt feelings, anger, even fear of being wounded again. These are all normal. Unforgiveness manifests itself in the return of these feelings when the person or the event is called to memory. Do I feel happy when harm comes to another? When I recount the incident, do I still get angry? If something good happens to the person, am I disappointed? Do I secretly wish harm to come to them? You get the idea. As Paul said in Ephesians 4:31, it’s time to, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” Notice that this list contains both behaviors and feelings. The behaviors are relatively easy to change, at least most of the time. I can bite my tongue. I can avoid contact. Changing the emotions behind the behaviors is a little more complicated. It requires a core change in what I believe and think about the individual and the incident. By the grace of God, this is possible.
- You can forgive by faith. When Jesus told His disciples that they should forgive the same person 7 times in one day, they responded, “”Increase our faith! (Luke 17:4-5)” They knew this was going to be a faith project. He reassured them that they had enough faith to do it. Thank God, so do you! Using your faith to forgive allows you to obey the command to forgive even if you don’t “feel” like it. You can move out of the land of feelings over into the land of faith. By acting on what you believe feelings will come along eventually. Here’s the path:
- Recognize and admit that you need to forgive.
- Ask the Lord to forgive you for your unforgiveness, then ask Him for help to walk in love toward the offender. Close by telling Him, “Lord, I forgive right now.” Make a note of the day and time for your own future reference.
- Begin to act on your faith. You can take actions that will begin the process of changing your thoughts and emotions regarding the event and the person. Jesus outlined the process in the Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44-45 NKJV)“
- Speak blessings over the one who has harmed you. Say it out loud. Do it whether you feel like it or not. That’s faith.
- Pray for the offending party. Ask for them all that you would ask for someone who is dear to you. Do it whether you feel like it or not. That’s faith.
- Do something good for the one who hurt you. Start small, a note, a greeting, a word of kindness spoken to another about them. Do it whether you feel like it or not. That’s faith.
- The combination of the grace of God and your obedience in word and deed will begin to reprogram your inner wiring. These reflections of who you really are, a child of your Father, will allow your new nature to supplant the relics of the old. It may take a while, but it will happen.
- Guard your heart. When thoughts and feelings of malice pop into consciousness, don’t dwell on them. Say something out loud like, “Thank God, I forgave so and so on Tuesday, July 28th. Bless him, Lord with all the riches of your grace.”
Here’s the Point: “As you stand praying, forgive” is the only condition Jesus mentioned in praying the prayer of faith. He wouldn’t ask us to do something that we cannot do. Willingness, not ability, is the issue. It separates the true spiritual pilgrim from the Sunday hobbyist. Facing and dealing with these pain points can be emotionally challenging, but in releasing another from your debt, you release yourself to your destiny. It’s worth the effort.
Next Steps: Take notice of your attitudes. Are there those toward whom you have animosity? If not, praise the Lord! If so, are you willing to take the necessary actions to get free? Make a list of those you need to release and start working on it one name at a time. Find a trusted friend to pray with you over these things. Review the Four Forgiveness Facts listed above and ask God to give you grace to do them. Healing for the whole person is yours. You can be free.
Pastor Virgil Stokes