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6_The Prayer of Release

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THE PRAYER OF RELEASE

The Lord’s Prayer: Path To Inner Peace

Part 6 of 8

Rick Warren

July 27-28, 2002

 

 

 

      “Forgive us our sins... just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.”  

      Matt. 6:12 (NLT)

 

      "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother       when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?”  Matt. 18:21 (NIV)

 

       "Jesus answered, "...not seven times, but 77 times!"      Matt. 18:22 (NIV)

WHY MUST I LEARN TO FORGIVE?

1.   BECAUSE __________________________________________________

      "The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go."

      Matt. 18:27 (NIV)

 

      “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”  Rom. 8:1 (NIV)

The Servant’s reaction: (vs. 28-30)

       When we feel ____________________

               we tend to be unforgiving!

 

 

      "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving   each other, just as in Christ God

      forgave you."  Eph 4:32 (NIV)

 

2.   BECAUSE __________________________________________________

      "’Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?'  In anger his

      master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured...”  Matt. 18:33-34 (NIV)

 

      “Some men stay happy until the day they die... others have no happiness at all; they live and

      die with bitter hearts.”  Job 21:23-25 (GN)

 


 

Do I need to forgive anyone?

                       The Blame Test

                       The Bitterness Test

                       The Behavior Test

 

     

      To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do.”  

      Job 5:2 (GN)

 

3.   BECAUSE __________________________________________________

      “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from        your heart."       Matt. 18:35 (NIV)

 

      "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."      Matt. 5:7 (NIV)

 

 

Two options for dealing with hurt:

      ____________________ or ____________________

      “Put your heart right, reach out to God... then face the world again, firm and courageous.  Then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and    remembered no more.”  Job 11:13-16 (GN)


THE PRAYER OF RELEASE

The Lord’s Prayer: Path To Inner Peace

Part 6 of  8

Rick Warren

July 27-28, 2002

 

 

Matthew 18.  We’re in this series on The Lord’s Prayer.  We’re looking at The Path to Inner Peace.  We’ve been going verse by verse through this passage.  The two greatest barriers to peace of mind without a doubt are guilt and resentment.  Guilt comes from what we do to other people.  Resentment comes from what other people do to us.  Last week we talked about guilt and that the only antidote to guilt is really to receive the forgiveness of God.  In the same way the only antidote to resentment is to offer the forgiveness of God to other people. 

Today we’re going to look at what I call The Prayer of Release.  It is the next phrase in the Lord’s Prayer.  Matthew 6:12 last week we looked at the first part of it.  This week we’ll look at the second half.  “Forgive us our sins just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.”  We are to forgive others just like we have been forgiven.  This is the prayer of release.  The prayer of letting go. 

It’s a very important prayer because the fact of life is you’re going to be hurt.  In life you’re going to be hurt many times.  Sometimes intentionally.  Sometimes unintentionally.  It really doesn’t matter the source.  But much more important than your hurt is how you choose to respond to it.  If you don’t respond to it in the right way you will never have inner peace or peace of mind.  The only way you can get inner peace when you’ve been hurt is to let it go, to forgive.

So this brings up the question, How much do I have to forgive?  Peter asked that question about 2000 years ago.  In Matthew 18:21 Peter comes to Jesus and he said, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?”  You can hear Peter thinking, “I’m really cool here!  I’m going to forgive my brother seven times.”  The reason why Peter probably thought this was a big deal was because in Jewish law you only had to forgive a person three times.  According to Jewish law once a person had sinned against you the fourth time you no longer had to forgive them.  So Peter goes, “If the law says I have to forgive them three times I’ll double it and throw one in for good measure.  How about seven times, Lord?  Look what a magnanimous creature I am!" 

And Jesus answers back in the next verse.  He goes, “Peter, you’re not going to believe this!  Not seven times but how about 77 times?”  A little humor here.  He’s basically saying there is no limit to forgiveness.  In fact, He’s saying if you’re counting it doesn’t count.  If you’re counting how many times you’re forgiving that means you’re keeping score and it’s not really forgiveness in the first place.  So as long as you’re keeping score, you’re counting how many times you’re doing it, it doesn’t count.

Then Jesus tells the story here in Matthew 18.  It’s called The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.  In this story He illustrates why we must learn to forgive.  Why we must learn to let go.  He starts off like this in verse 23 “Therefore the king of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.”  The king calls up and says, Every body who owes me any money, bring them all in and we’re going to settle the accounts right now. 

They bring in this one guy who is hopelessly in debt.  He owes ten thousand talents to the king.  That is about twelve million dollars.  This guy is the Enron of his day.  He is hopelessly in debt.  There’s no way he’s going to get out of it.  He’s the World Com.  He’s sinking.  In those days bankruptcy was a whole lot simpler than it is today.  You would simply take the man, throw him in prison and take his wife and children and sell them into slavery.  That’s what you would do if a person could not pay their debts. 

In the next verse it says “Since he was not able to pay the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.”  So he’s got this huge debt.  He can’t repay it.  The king says, We’re just going to put him in prison and sell everybody into slavery. 

Notice the servant’s response:  “The servant fell on his knees before him.  ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay everything back.’”  This was hilarious.  The guy’s twelve million dollars in debt and he says, Give me a few more days.  This guy’s clueless.  There’s no way he’s going to pay this back.  If he paid back $1000 a day for thirty years that still wouldn’t equal twelve million bucks.  So there’s no way this guy’s going to get out of debt.  He’s totally in over his head. 

The king’s response: “So the servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.”  He said, “Ok, you can’t pay me twelve million bucks.  We’ll just write it off.  We’ll erase your debt.  I will forgive you.  You can go scott free, free and clear.  You are forgiven.”  Why would anybody be that forgiving?  Why would anybody do that? 

Today, you are going to hear two incredibly powerful stories by two women who learned the power and the benefit of learning to forgive. 

But before we get into this message I want to say this.  I don’t know what grudge you’re carrying.  I don’t know whose hurt you in the past.  I don’t know what memory haunts you.  When I just start talking about it you start thinking, “I could never forgive that or that person.” Regardless of what you’ve been through, regardless how you’ve been hurt, you’ve got to let it go.

Why in the world should you let it go?  They hurt me.  They hurt me bad.  I don’t want to let it go.  I don’t want to forget it.  I want to hold on to that hurt and I want to hold on to my anger and resentment against them. 

You’ve got to let it go.  You’ve got to let it go for three reasons that Jesus tells in this story.

1.  Because God has forgiven me. 

In the story it says the servant’s master took pity on him.  It says he canceled the debt and he let him go.  That’s quite a gift.  He was let go of twelve million dollars of debt, completely released.  But that’s nothing compared to how much God’s forgiven you, the grace God’s shown you.  The truth is you owe God an awful lot.  More than you’ll ever be able to repay.  And God has decided to just write it off, to forgive you and show His grace.  We talked about it last week.  God says, I’m going to wipe the slate clean and you are completely forgiven.  Romans 8:1 says this, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”  That means no debt.  It’s all been wiped out.  Your slate has been wiped clean. 

Here’s the clincher.  God expects you to do to others what He has done to you.  If you want to be forgiven by God, God expects you to forgive other people.  He says, I want you to pass it on. 

Think about this guy in the story.  He has just been forgiven a twelve million-dollar debt.  How would you feel if all of a sudden every debt in your life was wiped out?  You had no mortgage payment, no house payment, no car payments, no credit card payments.  How would you feel if all of a sudden I said, All your debts are wiped out!  You would probably feel relief.  You would certainly feel joy.  You might feel a little gratitude, I hope.  And hopefully you would feel gracious to others.  I’ve just been forgiven all my debts.  I should go out and show a little grace to somebody else. 

But that’s not what this guy did in the story.  “When this servant who had just been forgiven twelve million dollars went out.  He found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denari.  He grabbed him and began to choke him.  ‘Pay back what you owe me,’ he demanded.  His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged, ‘Please be patient with me and I will pay you back,’ [Almost the same words he had said to the king.]  But he refused.  Instead he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.”

Get this guy!  He’s just been forgiven twelve million dollars debt.  He goes out and finds a guy that owes him a hundred denari.  That’s seventeen bucks.  It says he grabs him, starts making demands and he starts to choke him.  This is kind of comical because actually in Roman law you were allowed to choke somebody who owed you money.  Squeeze it out of him.  By law he could do this.  And because this guy can’t pay him seventeen bucks he has him thrown into prison. 

Why in the world was this guy so harsh?  Because in his heart he didn’t really believe the king had forgiven his debt.  He says, “I know…  I heard what the guy said.  But I’m going to pay him back.  Even if it starts with seventeen bucks at a time I’m going to figure out a way to pay him back.” 

Here’s the point.  When we feel unforgiven we tend to be unforgiving.  When we feel ungraced we tend to be ungracious to others.  Many of you are Christians but you still don’t understand grace.  That it’s been completely wiped out and forgiven.  And in your heart you’re thinking, “I’m going to make it up to You, God.  I know You forgave all my sins.  I know You’ve given me eternal life in heaven.  I’m going to make it up to You.  And I’m going to pay You back, God.”  And you go out and you try to earn your forgiveness.  And that makes you rigid and unbending. 

Any time you find somebody really judgmental, really critical, hyper critical, they’re unforgiving, they’re unbending, they’re rigid, they’re unloving.  They’re always putting people down and they’re always giving a judgmental attitude toward others.  You can know one thing.  They are hiding unresolved guilt.  Count on it!  Anytime you find somebody whose really judgmental of other people, inside they don’t feel forgiven so they are being unforgiving of others. 

If I don’t like the way I feel I certainly don’t want you feeling good.  If you find a parent who’s rigid, expecting perfection, demanding perfection in his or her children they are reveling their own insecurity and their own guilt.  When we feel unforgiven, we tend to be unforgiving and we hold people to a harsh standard. 

So if you’re ever going to let it go and get on with your life, the people who’ve hurt you you’ve got to realize first that God has forgiven you.  And the first key to understanding forgiveness of others is to remember how much you’ve been forgiven.  No condemnation.  It’s all been wiped out.  God is not mad at you.  He’s wiped out all your sin as you’ve put your trust in Christ.  You will never have to forgive anybody else more than God has already forgiven you. 

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you.”  That’s the first reason you’ve got to let it go.  I want you to hear Kathy’s story.

Kathy:  I’d like to share with you how accepting God’s forgiveness has helped me forgive others. 

       Growing up, my parents were very active in our community.  My dad was the music director for a high school, the city orchestra and choir at the cathedral and my mom was a music teacher also.  As I started my teen years my parents opened a conservatory of music and all my extra time was spent there.  Dad had me teaching piano and accordion lessons and I helped in the office after school.  My parents’ business took much of my free time as a teenager and I resented it.  I became rebellious and started hanging out with friends at beer parties.  One night I left the party with my new boyfriend.  I had never been alone with a boy before and that night I was introduced to sex.  Not permissible but forced.  I was afraid to mention it to my friends or parents so I bottled it up.  I tried avoiding this boy but somehow he always managed to get me alone and put himself on me.  After a while I just thought it just wasn’t worth fighting against and I became known as his girl.  Of course my parents didn’t like him but that gave me yet another reason to stay with him.  Then one spring morning when I was getting ready for school I felt sick to my stomach.  I felt fine after I got rid of my breakfast and I just left to go to school.  When I got home my mother asked me if I was pregnant.  My response was, “I don’t know.” 

       Mom was horrified and I was scared.  When a doctor appointment revealed that I was going to have a baby I thanked God that I was far too along for an abortion.  My parents made plans to send me away to my grandma’s house for the summer.  When summer ended I thought I would go back home but much to my surprise Dad came and admitted me to a home for teenage mothers.  This was a real shock.  The only time we were allowed out of the building was to go to doctor’s appointments.  I felt confined, abandoned, lonesome and totally ashamed.  Since my parents never discussed with me what would happen after my baby was born I assumed that I would be able to keep it. 

       When my son was born we bonded immediately and I loved every minute of being a mother.  I got a job and learned how to feed and care for my child.  But suddenly one day I was told my baby was no longer there.  When I asked why they said because he was getting too old and he had to go to the home for children until I signed the adoption papers.  I made the mistake of telling them I wasn’t planning on giving my child up for adoption and that I had already found a job and an apartment in preparation to keep him.  How could they just take him away without my permission?  I can’t express how angry and upset I was.  No one had consulted with me so I continued to spend a lot of time shopping for baby things – crib, highchair, clothes – and preparing my apartment. 

       One day my dad suddenly showed up at my work.  I was totally surprised that he had found me and he was the last person I wanted to see.  I felt betrayed by him.  My parents had shown that they really didn’t want me around during my pregnancy.  Yet my dad was still trying to control me.  I was now living on my own, had a fine job and was within weeks of finishing school.  Then I could get my baby back.  But my father had different ideas.  He insisted that I was no longer going to be working and that he was taking me to the adoption agency to sign papers for my baby’s adoption.  My world crumbled.  I cried hysterically.  How could they do this to me?  It was a nightmare and I couldn’t stop it.  I just couldn’t imagine my parents not wanting to see or love their grandchild.  I was angry and devastated.  At the agency my dad picked up the pen and put it in my hand for me to sign away my own child.  His words were, “You will sign these papers.  It’s over.  You will not be raising a child.  At least not right now.” 

       So I signed the papers and we left the office leaving all the baby furniture and clothes behind.  My dad then took me to my aunt’s house where I spent most of my time looking at the only picture I had of my baby.  I cried until I didn’t think I could cry again.  The hurt was unbearable.  Dad left me there and went home.  You cannot imagine the emptiness and anger I felt.  I would carry that hurt and resentment for years to come.  It’s only been within the last few years I’ve been able to open up about this painful time in my life and start to heal from the abandonment and rejection I felt.  

       One Sunday I was listening to Pastor Rick here at Saddleback.  He was talking about the importance of accepting God’s forgiveness for our sins and then to offer it to others who have hurt us.  It was like God was standing right in front of me talking directly to me.  All my hurts and anger flashed in front of me.  As Pastor Rick kept talking I learned that I was only hurting myself by holding on to the anger and resentment against my parents.  For my own sake I needed to forgive my parents for sending me away when I needed them the most and for them taking away my child.  So I accepted God’s forgiveness for what I had done and I forgave my parents. 

       It was the first day of freedom for me.  Unfortunately my dad took all of this to his grave and even though I’ve totally forgiven them, my mother to this day has never discussed the incident with me.  I’ve forgiven her but I’m not sure she can admit that she needed it.  She’s 87 years old now and I continually pray that God will open our conversation one day so that I might tell her that I forgive her.

       Forgiving and taking the mask off hasn’t been easy.  Sometimes it was scary especially when I finally told my husband after 27 years.  I admitted to him that I had kept a deep, dark secret from him that I had buried all these years.  Needless to say he was shocked and deeply hurt by my secrecy.  But God gave him just the right words to say and I felt God’s comfort and love immediately as I asked for his forgiveness, without hesitation he hugged me and told me how much he loved me.  He felt my pain as well. 

       It felt so good to take off my mask once and for all and openly discuss what I had held in for forty years.  I’m so thankful to Jesus for giving me the strength to do this.  It was the right thing to do.  And as a result I am now able to help others.  As I began to work with the lay counseling program I know God is going to use my painful experience to encourage others.  As Pastor Rick has said, “God never wastes a hurt.”  Also now, with the loving support of my two children and my wonderful husband I’ve begun to search and find and make contact with my first child.  None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t accepted God’s forgiveness and offered it to others.  I urge you to do the same.  Jesus is waiting to help you.  Freedom comes through forgiveness. 

Kathy said, I was only hurting myself with my anger, my resentment.  That’s the second reason you’ve got to let it go.

2.  Resentment makes me miserable.

Resentment always hurts you more than it does the other person.  It makes you the victim.  Some of you have been hurt by people in the past and you’re continuing to allow people from your past to hurt you in the present.  That’s dumb.  They can’t hurt you any more.  Your past is past.  They can only hurt you if you choose to continue to hold on to the hurt with resentment.  That’s your choice.  You can let it go.  Forgiveness is not a feeling.  Forgiveness is a choice.  You just say, I’m going to let it go.  For your own sake.  For your own good.  Not because they deserve it but because resentment makes you miserable. 

Holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.  It’s like turning a shotgun on yourself, pulling the trigger and hoping to hit them with the kick of the recoil.  It always hurts you.  When you’re out there and you’re resentful those people you resent are oblivious to it.  They’re going on with their life.  They’re having a great old time.  It’s only hurting you.  You’re letting them continue to hurt you.  That’s dumb.

When this king heard that this guy he had forgiven twelve million bucks went out and started strangling a guy for seventeen, he was livid.  He was horrified.  He brings the unforgiving servant in and says this to him in verse 33 “’Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  And in anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured.”  Circle the word “jailers”.  That word in Greek literally means “torturers.”  He says this guy deserves the torture chamber. 

Here’s the point.  Nothing tortures your life more than resentment.  I’ve been a Christian for over forty years and a pastor for many years.  I’ve talked to thousands of people and nothing will mess up your life more than a grudge.  Resentment.  Bitterness.  It is a poison that when you swallow it it’s worse than cancer.  It will eat you alive.  It’ll mess you up more than anything else if you don’t let go of that hurt.  Resentment robs you of peace.  Resentment robs you of joy.  It robs you of happiness.  It messes you up physically, spiritually, emotionally.  Resentment can make you sick. 

Yesterday I read this in Heart Circulation magazine reporting findings from medical studies.  People carrying resentment are twice as likely to have a stroke, three times as likely to have a heart attack or bypass surgery, and four times more likely to have unhealthy cholesterol.  In another study Stanford researchers have linked carrying a grudge to higher levels of diabetes and cancer.  “There is a physical cost to holding on to anger.” 

Job 21 says this, “Some men stay happy until the day they die.  Others have no happiness at all.  They live and die with bitter hearts.”  If you want to be happy, you’ve got to let it go.  You cannot be bitter and happy at the same time.  You cannot have peace and resentment at the same time. 

So the question is, What memory is torturing you?  What are you holding on to that’s torturing you?  If you say, “I don’t know who I need to forgive.” Here’s three tests. 

       First is the blame test.  Who are you blaming for your unhappiness?  “If it weren’t for so-and-so everything in my life would be great…  If this hadn’t happened then my life would be terrific…  If I didn’t have these parents…”  Whoever you’re blaming for your unhappiness you need to forgive.  You need to let it go. 

       The second test is the bitterness test.  Collecting debts and adding score and adding interest.  You keep a score.  You have a little scale in your mind that anytime somebody does something good you remember all the bad things they’ve done too so you’re always balancing it out. 

Some of you who are married had a spouse who made a major mistake – maybe years ago.  And you have never let them off the hook.  You hold it over their heads.  You keep referring to it consciously or unconsciously.  And anytime that spouse does anything nice for you, you go, “They owe it to me.”  They never do get any credit.  They never can catch up because you’ve chosen to hold on to this hurt.  And you are killing your marriage.  Not them.  You’re killing it.  It is not the sin that’s killing the marriage.  It’s your stubborn refusal to let it go.  Your resentment, the holding on to it so that no matter what they do it’s never good enough because “They owe it to me.”  You are killing your own marriage. 

Some of you feel cheated by your marriage.  You have a partner who hasn’t lived up to your expectations.  Guess what?  You probably haven’t either.  You’re no prize.  Have you looked in the mirror lately?  They’re probably a little disappointed too.  You say, “But I have all these unmet needs that my husband/wife has not met.”  You’ve allowed that grudge to build up and resentment to build up in your heart and you are killing your marriage.  It’s not the problem killing it.  It’s your stupid resentment.  It’s holding on to a hurt that you need to let go of. 

       How about the behavior test.  This one goes like this: Do you ever find yourself reacting to someone because they remind you of somebody else?  “You’re just like my father/mother/ brother/sister.”  What you’ve done is you’ve never done business with the original person and never settled that issue and you’ve never let it go so now what you’ve done is you’ve taken all that frustration and anger and resentment and you’ve turned it on this innocent party so that all of a sudden in a moment remind you of somebody else you explode.  That’s not fair.  And you are killing the marriage.  By holding onto hurts, transferring resentment.  You need to do business with the person you’re really angry at.  You need to let it go and then you can get on with your life and not let some other relationship destroy a current relationship.  Maybe it’s a former spouse or whatever. 

Job 5:2 says “To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do.” 

In this story when the man refused to be forgiving to other people the king says “Throw him into prison and let the torturers have him.”  When you start being resentful God doesn’t have to throw you into prison.  You do it to yourself.  Resentment is a self-imposed prison that you lock yourself in a torture chamber and throw away the key.  And every time you go over and over and over it in your mind you just hurt yourself again instead of getting on with your life and living a life of peace.  You become captive to a grudge.  You cannot afford the luxury of a bitter heart no matter what happens in your life.  You cannot hold on to it.  It only makes it worse.  I want you to hear Dee’s story.

Dee:  Several years ago a friend gave me a book.  The main story line was how tragedy could be

       the means of grace.  I was going through an incredibly challenging season in my life at the time and it seemed far-fetched to me that tragedy could be a means of grace in my life.  I had known tragedy before.  Our first daughter, Kristen Danielle, was born seven weeks premature with a host of medical problems.  We tried several surgeries, numerous medications and months in the neonatal hospital.  One afternoon when she was just four months old the hospital called and said she had had an unexpected heart attack.  They said the doctors were giving her shots of adrenaline and they were just going to try to keep her alive until we could get there.  It was a tragedy like I had never known before.  We got to the hospital and she died in our arms minutes later. 

       Why?  I asked.  Why would God allow it?  We were just a young couple.  It was just our first child.  Months earlier we had accepted full time ministry.  It felt so cruel and undeserved and it totally shook my faith.  The next coming years we gave birth to two beautiful healthy children, Josh and Brianna.  Then we found out that we were expecting again.  During the sonogram the doctor gave us the surprise news that we weren’t just going to have one baby, not just two babies, but three babies.  We were expecting triplets.  I looked over at Bret and he was smiling from smiling from ear to ear.  All I could think of was, “I’m never going to get near that guy again!”  The doctor said that anything could happen in a triplet pregnancy.  He immediately put me on bed rest in a high-risk hospital.  I had always gotten large in my previous pregnancies but this time I looked like I had swallowed the entire Thanksgiving turkey.  Bret kept telling me how huge I was.  He’d look at me with these big eyes:  “You are so huge!”  It was then that I realized that I had not only swallowed the Thanksgiving turkey but I had married one as well. 

       Even with all the medications and the help from so many specialists I still gave birth a full three months early to three precious little angels, Melody, Megan and Michelle.  They only weight 1½ and 2½ pounds though and Melody’s legs were so small that we took Bret’s wedding ring and we could put it over her foot, past her knee and all the way up her thigh.  We were heartbroken.  To make it worse there were so many problems surrounding our birth experience.  My labor came on very quickly and to much surprise of the entire hospital staff.  There wasn’t even a doctor present when Melody was born.  There was only one panic stricken nurse in our room.  It took over thirty minutes for my doctor to finally arrive and he performed an emergency c-section and delivered Megan and Michelle. 

       After months of another neo-natal experience in the hospital our three daughters came home.  There we were.  Five kids under five.  Four were in diapers.  We had instantly outgrown our car, outgrown our home and we used what seemed like hundreds of Pampers each week.  Bret later confessed that because of all the stress he was using ten a week just for himself.  By the time the girls reached six months some real concerns came up.  The comedy of errors that had surrounded our birth experience turned out to be anything but a comedy.  The specialists diagnosed my two daughters Megan and Michelle with cerebral palsy.  They said we’d be lucky if Michelle could learn to walk by the time she was four or five and that Megan would most likely be in a wheelchair.  And at the time they weren’t even sure she would be able to communicate. 

       It took my breath away and I felt like I’d just been stabbed in the back.  What on earth do you do when you get news like that?  All my doubts and unanswered questions around Kristen’s birth now came back stronger than ever.  Verses from the Bible about God working all things together for the good just didn’t seem real to me any more.  Discouraged I took a break from ministry and it became hard just to attend church.  I kept rehearsing in my mind over and over again.  Why wasn’t the doctor there?  How could the medical team have made so many mistakes?  Didn’t they realize that their mistakes in that one-hour period of time was going to have lifelong consequences for my daughters?  Ultimately the worst part of all was knowing that God saw it all.  He knew my doctor wasn’t present.  He knew the nurse wasn’t on top of things.  And He did not intervene in any way, shape or form.  He simply allowed that to happen. 

       Anger and resentment began to show their ugly face once again.  To say that I was overwhelmed and miserable inside was an understatement.  But playing the blame game was getting me no where.  I realized that I needed to let go of my anger and begin the hard work of forgiveness.  I started journaling in my quiet times and each week I poured out my heart to my small group.  I read a devotional on forgiveness over and over again for a long period of time.  God started using it to change my thinking and ultimately to change my heart it said things like, “When thoughts are full of bitterness, anger and resentment there is little room for love or the quiet voice of God in my life.”  I started realizing that every time I started trying to tighten the noose of resentment around my doctor’s neck I was really only choking myself instead.  I knew deep down that God really wanted me to forgive my doctor and his entire medical team. 

       So after two years of struggling, with the help of those closest to me, I finally was able to let it go.  I made an appointment with my doctor so Bret and I could set across the table face to face and look him straight in the eye and say, “What on earth happened?  What happened in that hospital room that night?”  Our doctor admitted to all the negligence that had occurred during the birth and I just sat there speechless.  All of us in tears together.  At that moment I chose to extend the free gift of forgiveness that had been so freely given to me in my own life.  It was one of the most powerful and most freeing moments in my life.

       So is this a happily-ever-after story?  The triplets are now ten, Brianna is eleven and Josh is fourteen.  Bret is still a turkey every once in a while but he is definitely out of diapers.  But honestly after ten years I would still say that I need to make a choice each and every day to open my heart to God to let Him be the one to help me to accept all that comes my way remembering that His promises are the promises that are true.  That He is faithful.  That He is so worthy of my trust.  I’m finding that His grace is sufficient and that His love never fails.  He is the one that has the power to change a really stubborn and angry and bitter heart like mine to one that is full of love and life and forgiveness.  And yes as my girlfriend’s book says, He even has the power to turn tragedy into a means of grace that I could never have learned any other way. 

I don’t know what you’ve gone through but you’ve got to let it go.  Because God has forgiven you and because resentment doesn’t work.  It only makes you miserable.  It only prolongs the pain.  But there’s a third reason why you’ve got to let it go.

3.  I’m going to need forgiveness again.

I will need forgiveness in the future.  I’m going to need it today, tomorrow and the day after that.  And Jesus says this in Matthew 18:35 “This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”  We cannot receive what we’re unwilling to give.  If you want forgiveness you’ve got to offer forgiveness.  That’s the equation.  This is the prayer of release.  “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” 

Do you realize what you’re praying when you pray the Lord’s prayer?  “God, I want you to forgive me as much as I forgive everybody else.”  Do we really want to pray that prayer?  God I want You to forgive me as much as I forgive everybody else.  That’s what the Lord’s prayer says. 

One day a guy came to John Wesley and said, “I can never forgive that man!”  Wesley said, “Then I hope you never sin.”  Forgiveness is a two way street.  Don’t burn the bridge you need to get to heaven.  Forgiveness is a two way street.  Don’t burn that bridge.

Notice it says “This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”  Circle “from your heart”.  He’s saying forgiveness has to be more than intellectual.  It has to be emotional.  You have to emotionally let it go.  You have to do it from the heart. 

Matthew 5:7 Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”  Do you want mercy in your life?  You’ve got to show it.  What you give out you will get back.  It is a reciprocal process.  Forgiveness is a lifestyle.  It must be continual and it must be constant.  You get to enjoy it but you also must employ it.  You must ask forgiveness, you must offer forgiveness and you must accept forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the hallmark of Christian.  And if you won’t forgive don’t call yourself a Christian.  Forgiveness is the hallmark of a Christian.  We receive it and we give it.  We enjoy it and we employ it.  We accept it and we offer it.  It is what being a Christian is all about. 

You’re going to be hurt in life.  You’ve already been hurt a lot.  And you’re going to be hurt some more.  When you get hurt you only have two options in life.  There are only two: rehearse it or release it.  That’s it.  When you get hurt you can either rehearse it or you can release it.  You can go over and over and over in your mind and every time you go over it in your mind you drive that thorn deeper in your heart.  And it hurts more and more and more every time you rehearse it.  And you allow that person from your past to control your present by choosing to let them keep you under their control by resentment. 

Or you can release it.  Rehearsing it just perpetuates the pain.  Releasing it is the path to inner peace.  “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.  That is the path to peace.

Job 11 says this, “Put your heart right.  Reach out to God.  Then face the world again, firm and courageous, and all your troubles will fade from your memory like floods that are past and remembered no more.” 

Prayer:

       Father, I’m sure that this message has stirred up some painful memories that need to be dealt with.  There is no doubt in my mind there are many people who have been locked up in a self-imposed prison of anger and resentment and bitterness.  Help them to experience freedom today.  Help them to let it go. 

       Let me ask you a very pertinent question: who do you need to release today?  Who do you need to forgive?  Who do you need to let go?  As you think of that person follow me in this prayer:  “Dear God, only You know how much I hurt.  And only You know how much I’ve hurt others by my actions.  God, I know I need to let it go so I cry out and ask for Your strength to forgive.  Thank You for forgiving me.  I know that I will never have to forgive anybody else more than You have forgiven me.  And I know that bitterness hurts me the most.  And I know that I need Your forgiveness every day.  So today I am choosing to let it go regardless of how I feel.  I realize that forgiveness is a choice not an emotion not a feeling.  I don’t feel like forgiving but I’m going to because it’s the right thing.  And every time that memory comes back help me to keep on letting it go until the pain is gone.  Jesus Christ, I reach out to You for Your help.  I ask You to come into my life and give me a fresh start as I follow You.  In Your name I pray.  Amen. 

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