August 6, 2009 
The Habit of Forgiving 
Mary Southerland

Today's Truth 
Ephesians 1:7 "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace" (NIV).

Friend to Friend 
Several years ago, a family friend showed up at our front door with an electric sander for my husband, Dan, encouraging him to try woodworking as a stress relieving hobby.  Over the next several months, Dan not only developed a love for woodworking but created some beautiful pieces of furniture in the process.  Being a supportive wife and the main benefactor of his newfound hobby, I felt a responsibility to encourage my husband in any way that I could.

For every birthday or special event, I bought him a power tool and strategically distributed a list of specific power tools for friends and family members to consider as a gift choice. Within a year, Dan enjoyed a fairly impressive collection of tools - which he proudly displayed in the garage – and I had several new pieces of furniture which I proudly displayed in the house.  But by far, the most precious by-product of Dan’s new hobby was watching our son, Jered, as he worked beside his daddy. Day after day, they headed out to the garage for some “daddy time.”  Dan built a work bench just for Jered beside his own slightly larger work station.  Jered had his own tool box and tool belt just like his Dad’s. I could hear them singing, laughing, hammering and buzzing happily away for hours.  Since Dan especially loved working with pine, he kept a good supply on hand, piling leftover or unused pieces in Jered’s wood box for his own special projects. There was one problem. Jered was completely fascinated by those power tools and was constantly sneaking into the garage hoping that his dad had left one plugged in for him to use.  We had to come up with a solution – and fast!

Christmas was just around the corner, so Dan and I went from store to store until we found the ideal gift for Jered and the perfect solution to the power tool dilemma.  It was the cutest workbench with its own set of plastic tools. We wrapped and placed the workbench under the tree, anticipating the look on Jered’s face when he opened his “workshop in a box.”  Christmas morning came and every gift had been opened but the strangely wrapped bulky one waiting for the resident junior carpenter.  With sheer delight, Jered ripped the paper away, revealing our “perfect” present.  Cautiously picking up the red hammer, he conducted a thorough examination of each and every tool before he turned to us, his face a picture of disappointment and determination.  “These are baby tools. I cannot use them because I am not a baby.  I have to use real tools like Daddy’s tools.”

With a sense of finality, Jered headed straight for the garage and certain danger.  His dad followed him outside as I prayed for just the right words of explanation for both father and son.  Kneeling down beside his son, Dan picked up the sander and gently said, “Jered, these tools were made to fit Daddy’s hands.”  Holding out his big hands and placing Jered’s small hands in them, Dan pointed out the difference in size. He went on to explain that in Jered’s hands the tools could be destructive and harm him. But in Daddy’s hands, they were constructive tools that could build and create.

Revenge was never intended for our hands. It belongs in the hands of God.  Our revenge destroys while God’s revenge brings justice and restoration.  Part of true forgiveness is releasing the hurt and letting go of the pain!  Instead, we often hold onto that pain, using its power to fuel the revenge we seek.  It is easy for our hearts to become bent on revenge. But the Apostle Paul issues a strong warning about revenge.  “Do not take revenge, my friends…leave room for God’s wrath. ‘It is mine to avenge. I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

We must make forgiveness a habit.  The apostle Peter once came to Jesus asking, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seven times seventy.’” The religious priests of Jesus’ day taught that an offended person needed to forgive only three times.  Jesus’ answer must have shocked Peter. Seventy times seven! Four hundred and ninety times!  How could anyone possibly keep up with that many offenses?

Exactly!  That was the point that Jesus was trying to make.  We are to keep no record of wrongs!  There should be no limit to our forgiveness because there is no limit to God’s. When we refuse to forgive, we become a prisoner of our own bitterness, making the person we are unwilling to forgive our jailer!  Forgiveness cannot be conjured or worked up; it is a deliberate choice that we must continually make.  If we make the choice to forgive, God will supply all the forgiveness we need.

Let's Pray 
Father, I praise You for the gift of forgiveness.  I don't understand how You could send Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for my sin.  I choose to accept His payment by faith.  Please help me to walk in Your forgiveness and grace.  And Lord, I want to forgive like You have forgiven me. Give me a humble heart and a willing spirit that longs to share Your grace and mercy with others.

In Jesus' name, 
Amen.

Now It's Your Turn 
Read and memorize the following verses. In your journal, write each verse in your own words.  Now choose one way you can apply each verse in your life this week: 

  • Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  
  • Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  
  • Romans 10:10 "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

More From The Girlfriends 
Forgiveness is our greatest need but it is also God’s greatest gift. We must choose to let go of pain and hurt, making forgiveness a life-changing habit. Who needs your forgiveness today? Don't waste another minute clinging to your anger or hurt. Forgive that person who has wounded you and set yourself free.

Mary's message, "The Power of Forgiveness" is available as both a CD and MP3 download and be sure to check out her online Bible Study, Light for the Journey.  On August 17, Mary begins a new study, How to Find Your Missing Peace. Don't miss it! 

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