Archives for posts with tag: forgiveness

EnvyA few weeks ago, we started a new series called the seven deadly sins.  Those sins are:  pride, envy, greed, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.  In our previous discussions, we mentioned that although the concept of the seven deadly sins is not Biblical per se, some scholars have said that the principle has a Biblical derivative, specifically Proverbs 6:16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17  haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18   a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19     a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community, (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19:21, NIV).

So far, we have talked about pride and greed.  Today we will talk about envy!

Previously, we mentioned that pride was the original sin that caused man to fall.  If I were to rank the seven deadly sins in order of egregiousness, I would say that pride would be a first place contender, and envy would be a close runner up.  Of the seven deadly sins, I believe that these two are the most vile of them all.  I would even argue that pride and envy are what I would call gateway sins.  When they take root in our lives, they open the gates for other sins.  Let’s take a look at James 4:1-4 to illustrate this point.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:1-4, NIV

So, in James 4:1, the Bible says that our desires that battle inside us is what causes us to quarrel and fight.  That is pride and envy 101.  It was pride and envy that caused Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Their pride told them that they were entitled to God’s knowledge.  Their envy made them begrudge the fact that God possessed the knowledge that they thought they deserved.

Now, here is why I call pride and envy the gateway sin.  James 4:2 says, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”  Remember pride makes us feel entitled and envy makes us think we should have the product of our entitlement.  So what happens when someone has what we think we should have? We become envious and that envy could lead to rape, murder, adultery, lying,  greed, and any other vice we could think of.  Let’s look at some practical applications.  For example, a man cheat on his wife with another man’s wife.  Why?  Somehow, deep down inside, he has reasoned that he is entitled to the value that other man’s wife brings to her husband.  The man who is doing the cheating might have reasoned that he deserved to be respected, loved and honored.  Since he is envious of his perception of the other man’s wife’s values, he “steals” her from the other man.  His pride has told him that he is entitled, and his envy has precipitated his adultery, lying and stealing, and in some cases, killing.

Let’s use another example.  A woman shoplifts from a department store.  Why? Somewhere in her mind, she has determined that she is entitled to the items she has stolen.  She is also envious that the store owners/stock holders have move than she does.  Most of the time when we listen to the excuses of people who shoplift, they say things like: “They have enough stuff;” “They’ll never miss this;” or some variation of “I should have this stuff too.”  This is jealousy and pride.  That jealously and pride have caused them to resort to lying and stealing.  First, the individual in our shoplifting scenario has lied to herself in an effort to convince herself that she deserve someone’s miracle/destiny/blessings.  Second, she has lied to herself by trying to convince herself that she is not hurting anyone.  Lastly, she will have to lie to avoid getting caught.

The problem with envy and pride is not that they are inherently bad, even though they are.  The problem is that they set us up for failure each and every time.  It is impossible for us to have someone else’s blessings because that blessing was custom fitted for that individual.  You see, God knows each and every one of us inside out.  Just as no two people have the same fingerprints, no two people have the same spiritual DNA.  When God considered our blessings, He considered our gender, our race, our backgrounds, our personalities, our idiosyncrasies, our level of faith (or lack thereof), our maturity and so much more.  It is IMPOSSIBLE that any another person on the planet would align with us on ALL of those thousands, maybe even millions, of variables.  We could save ourselves a tremendous amount of heartache and pain if we understood that no matter how much we envied someone, we could never have what they have.  Their blessing weren’t made for us.  The other thing is this.  We do not know how much time, effort and prayer someone has put into their blessings.  The problem with many of us is we think that our story ends when God grants us our blessings.  Friends, in many cases, this is just the beginning.  God has an expectation that we will take care of what He has given us.  Let’s use another example.  We might look at our neighbor and say, “Wow, they have such good, accomplished children.  I wish mine were like theirs.”  The problem is we don’t know how they got to that point.  How many days did that mother fast for her children?  How many nights did that father pray for their success?  What about their ancestors?  Imagine how they could have prayed and planted seeds.  They truth is we just never know what people’s true circumstances are.

The final point I would like to bring home is this: James 4: 2-3 says we have not because we ask not.  It also says that sometimes the reason that we do not have is because we ask for the wrong reasons.  Friends, if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (p.s. He owns the hills too), why aren’t we asking Him for everything.  No matter how small our requests, we should bring them to God.  If we do not get the answer we desire, we should not automatically think that we are asking with wrong motives.  Instead, we should ask God to check our heart and purify our desires.  If we have done a heart check with God and we still find ourselves with the same desire, then the answer is simple.  We have to wait and trust that His timing is perfect.  We have to know that though others might appear to be experiencing their Jordans, their timing is not ours.  We have to trust that God knows what we need and will come through when we need it.

God,

My prayer for today is that you settle the hearts of your people.  Grant us your peace that surpasses all understanding.  Thwart in us any temptation for pride and envy.  Allow us to know that you have custom-fitted blessing designed specifically for each and every single one of us that will be revealed at just the right time.  I pray blessings over all your people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

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There are moments in our lives when we will feel as though the walls are closing in around us and that we are surrounded by enemies on all side.  In those moments, it seems like there are more of them than there are of us.  That is when we are called to stand firm on the Word of God and scream the name of Jesus.  Deuteronomy 28:7 says, “The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven,” (NIV).  This morning I speak God’s words into your situation.  I pray that when your enemies comes at you in one direction, they flee in seven.  The Bible is filled with many verses for various situations.  Below are just a few:

Your enemies are attacking you and have surrounded you on all sides.                

“The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven,” (Deuteronomy 28:7, NIV).

Your faith is being tested and shaken.

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Show us how to increase our faith,’” (Luke 17:5, NIV).

The foundation of your marriage is being tested.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love, (1John 4:18).

But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord.A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.  (1Corinthians 7:10-11).

Your relationships are being tested.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence, (Jeremiah 17:7, NLT).

Your finances are being attacked.

The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it, (Proverbs, 10:22).

The devil is robbing you of your peace.

 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done, (Philippianss 4:6).

Doctors, man, have spoken death and sickness over your life.

O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved.  My praises are for you alone, (Jeremiah 17:14).

Doctors, man, have given you the news of infertility.

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant (Genesis 25:21, NIV).

Man has spoken failure over your life.

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing, (Psalm 146:3-4).

Man has spoken curses over you and your family.

Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it, (Numbers 23:20, NLT)!

There are definite stand-out moments in our lives that transforms the way we think.  A little over a year ago, I had one of those moments.  It was a Sunday morning.  One of the pastors at my church had decided to relay a story that he had read about on a blog.  The story, he said, was written by a pastor’s wife.  Her blog began by stating that she had a seemingly perfect marriage until she received devastating news that would change her life forever.  Her husband, and pastor of their local church, had confessed to participating in an extramarital affair that resulted in his mistress’ pregnancy.  The blog further went on to describe the range of emotions that the pastor’s wife experienced after receiving the news.  She was angry.  She was hurt. She was humiliated.  Not only did her husband cheat, he had created a life-time reminder of his deception.  In her hurt and fury, she decided that she would separate from him.  During that time, she sought counsel from one of her pastors.  The advice that she received from this pastor was far from what she expected.  In fact, it was so startling that it not only impacted her life, but it also resonated with my soul when I heard this third-hand story. Her pastor said that she had every right to leave and punish her husband.  He went on to say that what her husband did was so egregious that no one would fault her for leaving and never forgiving him.  It’s what came next that made my heart race.  He said:

Even though you would be perfectly within your right not to forgive him, would you be willing to be a part of his redemption.”

Wow!  Would she be willing to be a part of his redemption?

Would you be willing to be a part of his redemption?  I bet you didn’t see that coming.  I didn’t see it coming, but that simple question has since shaped the way I perceive forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things that we are called to do.  It goes against our natural inclination.  When we are hurt, we either want to retreat or retaliate.  Forgiveness is seldom our first instinct.  Most of us have to make a concerted effort to forgive.

I have often heard that forgiveness is more about us than it is the other person.  While this is true, that pastor’s assertion suggests that forgiveness is also very much about the other person.  Sometimes our forgiveness allows others to forgive themselves.  This message is so critical that it is worth repeating.  Our forgiveness sometimes gives others the solace to heal.

“Are you willing to be a part of his redemption?”

Are we willing to be a part of some else’s redemption, especially if they have wounded us?  That is such a hard question and a costly demand.  It is impossible to get to this place of forgiveness without God’s help and grace.  We just don’t have it in us.  In those moments that require forgiveness, we have to ask God to step into our hearts and our circumstances.  There may be some situations so painful that only God can provide healing.  Know that only God can restore and heal that which has been broken.  Know that we will ALL be hurt by someone we love because we are all imperfect beings.  Remember, even though the degree and nature of the deception might vary, God is constant.  He never changes.  If we allow God into our broken relationships, HE WILL restore them.

If your trust has been violated and you don’t know how your relationship will ever survive, ask God into your situation right now.  Ask God to mend all that has been broken (e.g. your trust, your heart, your vows, your self-worth, your spirit, your dignity, your faith, your hope, your marriage, your relationship, etc).

I bet you are wondering what ever happened to the pastor’s wife.  Well, as the story went, she decided to forgive her husband and take him back.  Not only did she forgive him, she also adopted the child that was the product of the affair.

My prayer for today:

Lord, soften our hearts to forgive those who have hurt us.  Create within us the desire to be a part of some one else’s redemption.  Mend all that has been broken.  In Jesus’ name. Amen!

What have you done for me lately was the title of Janet Jackson’s hit single from her 1986 album Control.  Unfortunately, for some, this is their life’s mantra:  What have you done for me lately, or more specifically, what have you done for me today?

Our microwave society could create in us an inflated sense of entitlement.  I want it now. No need for please, and forget about a thank you.  If we are not careful, our tunnel vision could occlude our peripheral view and eclipse our hindsight.  Our desire to plug forward could obliterate our memories of the helping hands along the way.  We have to be mindful of our tendency to allow one unkind act to eradicate a multitude (or a single act) of kindness.  We shouldn’t ask: What have you done for me lately?  Instead, we should ask: How have you shown me favor in the past?  When we remember an individual’s previous acts of kindness or service, it could help to soften our heart to his or her current ill-perceived action(s).  Remembering an individual’s past kindness is not an attempt to provide an excuse or justification for perceived (or actual), current misbehavior, but it is a way to provide perspective on the person’s overall character.  I also feel that I should point out that remembering a person’s previous acts of kindness is not an excuse to be mistreated and abused.  Abuse is beyond the scope of this dialogue.

With that said, how do we look past our current hurt and extend kindness?  The answer is grace.  Grace should be an essential component of all our relationships.  In a nutshell, grace is granting favor beyond what is deserved.  None of us are perfect.  None of us are worthy of grace or forgiveness.  But Christ gave His life so that we could have both of these in abundance.  That is an important fact to remember when we have been wronged. 

Extending forgiveness and grace does not mean that we morph into a doormat.  It simply means that we remember how flawed we are and how we too will need forgiveness and an extension of grace.

 Today’s prayers:

  • Jesus, please soften our hearts that we can remember the goodness in our partners (or future partners) even when their actions are less than pleasing.
  • Lord, please grant us a gracious heart that is forgiving and not retaliatory.

Verses:

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.