|Listen to the Bible|
Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:
God expects us to forgive others for their sins against us – just as FULLY as God forgives us for our sins against Him. So, we need to understand what God’s forgiveness of us looks like – that we can emulate it.
In Matthew 18, we have a sobering story. A servant is forgiven much by his King. The debt this servant owed was much more than he ever could have repaid. Yet the King kindly forgave it all and the servant was free. But when the servant left the presence of the King, he stumbled into another servant who owed a small amount to him. The servant told the fellow servant to pay what he owed immediately. The man pleaded for leniency, confessing that he didn't have the funds on his person at that moment. The plea of the fellow servant sounded very much like the plea the first servant had just made before the King. But the first servant didn't offer the second servant the same forgiving clemency which he had just received. Rather the servant grabbed his fellow servant about the throat and cast him into prison until he paid what he owed.
When this story reached the ear of the King, we see a powerful demonstration of how dangerous un-forgiveness really is. The King recalled the wicked servant to his throne room. He reopened the servant's case and unforgave his debt. The King told the servant that he would be treated as he had treated his fellow servant. The moral of the story? When we fail to forgive our offenders their minor offenses (any offense against us is minor compared to what we have done against God), God will do like this King. He will un-forgive our debts (sins):
Matthew 18:34-35 "And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
Bitterness is a spiritual life killer. When we allow the roots of bitterness to grow in us, gives ground and rights to the devil in our souls.
Ephesians 4:26-27 “…Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Neither give place to the devil.”
Hebrews 12:15 “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”
So what can we do - in a practical sense - to keep from becoming embittered against our offenders? Christ actually gave a powerful key to conquering BITTERNESS.
Key to Conquering Bitterness: Increase Your Faith
"If we have faith, nothing will be impossible for us to do", (Matthew 17:20). "Faith comes by hearing the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). We have access by faith into the power of God’s Grace (Romans 5:1-2) When we allow ourselves to become bitter, we are resisting the grace of God. Faith in God’s Word is the victory that motives us to humble ourselves, forgive our offenders and receive more of God’s Grace (James 4:6). 2 Corinthians 5:7 "For we walk by faith, not by sight."
What does faith have to do with overcoming or preventing bitterness and unforgiveness? Faith begins with the awareness that God is in charge of every detail in our lives. Therefore, He is able to work out benefits, even for the “bad” things that happen to us.
Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
When something that looks bad happens to us, we must not give in to our natural tendency to get angry or bitter, but rather ask ourselves, “What blessing does God want to give me by allowing this to happen?”
When you belong to Christ, suffering is to be expected. We first partake of Jesus's (Yahshua’s) sufferings before we may have the joy of full fellowship with Him or partake in His glory.
2 Timothy 2:12 “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us.”
Philippians 3:10 “That I may know Him, and the power of His Resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings…”1 Peter 4:12-13 “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you... But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
Suffering isn’t an unusual experience, in the life of a Christian. The Bible tells us that all who live godly will suffer (2 Timothy 3:12). The Scriptures also assure us that “all things work together for good” in the lives of those who love God (Romans 8:28). This means that God allows suffering into our lives only when it is for a good purpose.
Suffering is the method God uses to “choose” us as His own, as the Bible states in the Matthew 20:16 and Isaiah 48:10.
Bitterness is a failure to suffer with grace. If we fail God’s tests of suffering and do not respond to them in a submitted and godly manner, we will become embittered by these experiences rather than tasting His triumph.
When fiery trials come our way, like Job of old, we have an opportunity to pass through the experience of suffering in a way that pleases and glorifies God. This is what it means to suffer with grace.
However if, instead of looking with humble submission to God, we focus our attention on the human instrument who “caused” our suffering, we will become angry and embittered towards the “offender.” When we permit the “gall” of bitterness to develop, our soul becomes poisoned (Acts 8:23). Thus, we miss out on the “good” that our Heavenly Father was attempting to accomplish through the trial.
Hebrews 12:14-15 “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”
To suffer with grace rather than becoming embittered, we need to respond to trials by using the acronym G.R.E.A.T. (on the right)
G - GIVE THANKS TO GOD FOR THE TRIAL
The Bible tells us plainly that whether we’re in a happy or difficult situation, we are to still thank God for the GOOD He is accomplishing in this trial.
1 Thessalonians 5:18— “In every thing give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Thanking God for the trial doesn’t mean we are thanking God for evil. It means that we have full faith in God’s promise to never allow anything to come our way unless He is using it for good. We are enabled to thank God for the benefits He is using this trial to produce.
What are some of the benefits of suffering? There are many benefits which God uses suffering to accomplish in us. Here are a few:
Suffering is God’s Way of GETTING OUR ATTENTION—Sometimes we get so caught up in the “cares of this world,” that the Voice of God seems to get drowned out. As it says in Jeremiah 35:14. God may bring suffering upon us just to get us to look up.
Suffering is an assurance THAT God LOVES US and has ADOPTED US AS SONS—Hebrews 12:6-7
Suffering is God’s call for PRAYERFUL SELF-EXAMINATION—Sometimes we bring suffering upon ourselves through sinful words or practices. This is why one of our first responses to a trial should be prayerful self–examination. We need to be certain that we have not brought the troubles upon ourselves. God requires that we search out, confess, and forsake every sin - Proverbs 28:13.
Suffering is God’s way of CONQUERING OUR PRIDE— The suffering of contention (fighting) reveals pride (Proverbs 13:10). The suffering of destruction is a consequence of pride (Proverbs 16:18).
Suffering is a reminder of OUR WEAKNESSES and NEED FOR DEPENDENCE ON GOD—Perhaps we are suffering under an “infirmity” which we cannot change. Only as we learn how to praise God in our unchangeable “infirmities” are we able to fully experience the power of Christ resting upon us (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Suffering motivates us to CRY OUT TO GOD— God responds to the cries of His children when they suffer (Psalm 34:17). Suffering motivates us to cry out to God in humble yet heartfelt appeal. We are to cry to Him daily during suffering (Psalm 86:3). We are to cry out with our voice, out of a pure heart (Psalm 66:18).
Psalm 3:4 “I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy Hill.”
Suffering is an opportunity to use SPIRITUAL WARFARE—When we are suffering, we find Spiritual Warfare especially necessary. We may recognize a spiritual attack if our suffering takes the form of confusion, suspicion, ungodly emotions and division. We are told how to suit up for battle in Ephesians 6:11-18.
Suffering is God’s method of PURIFYING OUR FAITH—God purifies and strengthens our faith, testing it in the fires of affliction -1 Peter 1:6-7. “Knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience,” (James 1:3).
Suffering is one way in which God increases our HATRED FOR EVIL—When our suffering is caused by the devastating consequences of sin, we are able to see how sin has robbed us of something God planned for us to enjoy. We also can see how our sins have damaged the lives of those we love. When we can clearly see that we are suffering because of our sinful choices, our hatred of evil increases. As we count the cost of this sin, we truly commit to God and turn away from it permanently - Galatians 6:7-8.
Suffering is God’s call to IDENTIFY WITH CHRIST—Suffering for righteousness’ sake bonds us deeply to the Saviour. As we share in His suffering, we are perfected to share in His glory (1 Peter 4:13 & Romans 8:17).
R- REJOICE FOR THE GOOD IN THE TRIAL
While giving thanks to God at the first onset of a trial is an act of will, true rejoicing is a spiritual response.
In order to truly rejoice for the good which God is accomplishing in a trial, we must prayerfully identify its benefits. When we can identify the benefits God is bestowing in our suffering, we can really rejoice, rendering heartfelt praise to our Heavenly King.
One of the biggest blessings hidden within each instance of suffering is God’s work to polish and perfect our characters (Jeremiah 29:11).
Romans 8:18— “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
E - ENGRAFT SCRIPTURE
When our Saviour faced trials, like the temptations in the wilderness, He responded by quoting appropriate Scripture.
Claiming Scripture is a powerful way to build faith, enabling us to continue to suffer with grace, remaining fully submitted to God through the "fire".
Romans 10:17— “...Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
A - APPEAL TO GOD
When we have accepted the trial, thanked God, rejoiced for the benefits He is accomplishing through it, and have claimed Scripture to empower our godly response; we are ready to appeal to God, with a right attitude.
It is perfectly appropriate to cry out to God to remove a trial. But, we should ask Him to remove it WHEN He has finished accomplishing the good He intended.
Psalm 107:13— “Then they cried unto the Lord (Yahweh) in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses.”
T - TRIUMPH IN THE AFFLICTION THROUGH GLORIFYING GOD
· God wants us to respond to trials in a way that even benefits the lives of those who have oppressed us. This response is opposite to our natural hearts.
Matthew 5:44 “Love your enemies (with our heart and spirit), bless them that curse you (with our mouth) , do good to them that hate you (with our actions), and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Not only does it glorify God when we are kind and loving toward our “offenders,” but also God has promised to give a special reward to those who return good for evil.
1 Peter 3:8-9 “Finally… be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.”