IF I WERE FORGIVING, THEN I would show my understanding of having been forgiven (Col. 3:13). But the power of rationalization is relentless. You see, God can forgive because He is perfect and I am not. How then can I expect to forgive when I lack such perfection? Furthermore, what others have done to me is worse than anything I have done to God, so obviously God can forgive me more readily than I can forgive them. However, if I were forgiving, I would have to take this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion – which is to realize that those I have offended believe that what I have done to them is worse than anything they have done to God. This will always result in a stalemate.
If I were a forgiving person, I would not make comparisons about the degree of wrongdoing but focus on the Cross which is where all forgiveness must be sought. There is a level playing field at Calvary. In the midst of my pain I would return to this hill and ask God to search me and see if there be any wicked way in me (Psalm 139). If I were forgiving, I would not play the numbers game by assigning blame percentages. Rationalization is not easily deterred and you might say that the situation you are hard pressed to let go of is not a percentage issue. They slandered your reputation without being provoked which puts all the blame squarely on their shoulders. Calvary comes into view again because if percentages were assigned, then Jesus would be partially at fault and thus unable to forgive the way He wants me to forgive. However, He did nothing wrong yet took all the blame.
Is there not a message here? The Cross forgives even my unforgiveness. None of us have ever forgiven perfectly, but our Substitute has. He has not only forgiven all who come to Him but has taught us how to forgive those who have hurt us the most. Who do you need to forgive right now? “As” is now a very big word, for we are to forgive AS we have been forgiven.
I realize that most people don’t ponder some of the weird issues that pastors must face. Since I engage a great deal in cultural matters that often must be addressed, it is necessary for me to go to Scripture to get the needed counsel. The matter of a mid-life crisis has surfaced over the last few decades causing much anxiety in our society. The thinking goes something like this: “I just turned 40, and half of my life is over. Where did the time go? What have I accomplished? I thought I would be further along than I am in my career. Is this what success looks like? The next 40 will only be worse because my health will deteriorate and my income potential will wane.”
Such thoughts only exist in materialistic nations. We become attached to health, wealth, power, fun, and stuff that keeps us clinging to this world. Methuselah lived 969 years. I remember wondering a number of years ago if he ever had a mid-life crisis. At 450, did he say to his wife, “Where have the centuries gone? Why, it seems like just 100 years ago we bought our first home.”
What is most interesting is that Scripture never addresses this issue except from an eternal perspective. The Bible tells us that we all have the same life expectancy. It is called a vapor in James 4:14. We are told not to presume upon the future, because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. When we develop an eternal perspective, “the things of this world grow strangely dim,” as the hymn writer expressed it. We rejoice that we are closer to the new heavens and the new earth than when we first believed.
This is why Scripture exhorts us to think on those things that are above (Colossians 3:1-3). Such a focus keeps us away from the mid-life crisis battle. By the way, if you have eternal life, there is no midpoint.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” ~Hebrews 13:5-6
While in the Amazon jungle last summer, I discovered something about prosperity. Prosperity offers choices, choices bring conflict, and conflict brings unhappiness. Here is what I mean:
“Hey kids, where do you want to eat lunch after church?”
“I want to go to McDonald’s.”
“No, I want to go to Burger King.”
“We ate there last week! I want to go to Pizza Hut.”
“Everyone shut up – let’s just go home.”
Sound familiar? In the poverty-stricken area of the Amazon I saw some of the happiest children I have ever seen, and they had nothing. There were no choices.
“Hey kids, where do you want to eat after church? Would you like to eat at the McDonald’s that we don’t have or the Burger King that doesn’t exist? What movie would you like to see, the Disney film we don’t have or the adventure film that doesn’t exist?”
The scriptures tell us to be content with what we have. Contentment is coming to a place in my life where I desire nothing as opposed to coming to a place where I have everything.
1. Learn to encourage daily.
Remember—a person’s self worth hangs on the thin thread of encouragement, and some are at the end of their rope. Don’t wait to give words of comfort.
2. Learn to relate to those who have similar needs.
Be sensitive to those who are going through a trial similar to what you have already experienced. How did you weather the storm? Let them know how God used that difficulty in your life.
3. Learn to be a good listener.
We all need to learn to read between the lines. People rarely unload their problems in bulk. They usually deliver them in small packages just to see if you’re concerned enough to open it. If you do, they will likely make another delivery. No one will expose their deeper feelings to people who show little or no interest. Be a person who cares!
It will never be the nature of a man to encourage, but it will forever be his need.
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
~ Hebrews 3:13
1. Because through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God
We all need to be stroked by the warm hand of encouragement. Who can you think of that just might need some right now?
2. Because we receive far more criticism than praise
Our emotional ledger sheet tells the truth. It sure would be nice to get it to balance before the final account. You can help make the difference!
3. Because it develops friendships
We naturally seek out those who refresh us with words of comfort than those who destroy with words of criticism.
4. Because it gives health to the recipient
“Pleasant words are as honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” Proverbs 16:24.
5. Because we hurt far more deeply than we will admit
Most people carry burdens, the weight of which, cannot be estimated by an outsider.
Learn to encourage when you sense a need.
As believers, we have a tendency to subtly interrogate those who claim allegiance to Christ. We just have to find out where they are spiritually, doctrinally, and morally which often takes place in the course of conversation. The following is a parable about such an experience. All of what I state here is what I have judged others for or have been judged by others. I neither condemn nor condone any of the following judgments listed in the parable.
1. Approach the Word with the understanding that it is spiritually and not intellectually discerned.
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).
2. Approach the Word prayerfully.
“Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works” (Psalm 119:27).
3. Approach the Word with all reverence of approaching God Himself.
“Princes persecute me without cause, buy my heart stands in awe of your words” (Psalm 119:161).
4. Approach the Word with the expectation of hearing from God.
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).
5. Approach the Word with the understanding that it is precept upon precept.
“For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10).
6. Approach the Word by cross-referencing.
All of the New Testament cross-references the Old Testament.
7. Approach the Word with the resolve that you will obey what it says.
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:33-34).
8. Approach the Word through the doorway of affliction.
“It is good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
9. Approach the Word through meditation.
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
10. Approach the Word through study.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).