Speaker: Darlene Sala | Series: Encouraging Words
Ray Pratchard, in his book The Healing Power of Forgiveness, tells about a wise old monk and his young apprentice who were walking together along a forest trail. Their monastery had a rule forbidding all contact with women, but when they came to a river with a fast-flowing current, they saw an old woman weeping near the shoreline. “She asked for help, saying that she couldn’t cross the river on her own. Without a word, the older monk picked up the woman and carried her to the other side. She went on her way while he and his young colleague continued on their journey. Two-and-a-half hours passed without a word being spoken, but the young monk was seething on the inside.
“When he could contain himself no longer, he blurted out, ‘My Lord, why did you carry that woman across the river? You know that we are not supposed to touch a woman.’
“The wise old monk looked down at the young man and said, ‘I put her down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?’”
Does that story touch a tender spot in your heart? Have you too been carrying a burden from your past—perhaps a hurt that you have never forgiven? Someone wounded you deeply. They were wrong and you were right, and you are still carrying that load.
Alan Paton said, “When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.” Physical, emotional and even spiritual problems will continue to plague us until we forgive that person even though they have done nothing to deserve it. The Bible says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Pratchard goes on to say, “Forgiving does not mean whitewashing the past, but it does mean refusing to live there.” It means giving that load of hurt and resentment to the Lord—forever.
If Jesus could hang on the cross and pray, “Father, forgive them,” can we do less?
 Ray Pratchard, The Healing Power of Forgiveness (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2005), 138.
 Ibid., 129.
 Ibid., 102.
Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. Psalm 130:3-4
"One must forgive one's enemies," said Sigmund Freud, "but not before they have been hanged." Such graciousness! One who adopts that attitude must hope never to have enemies himself, for the person who cannot forgive burns the bridge over which he himself must someday certainly pass.
Some things are difficult, perhaps almost impossible to forgive without God's help, but His help is there. Have you ever thought much though about what the consequences would be if God adopted the same attitude towards us? Like Freud, we think, "I'll never forget that [whatever you chose to call the person] as long as he lives!" We mean it, too! And that is exactly why some people honestly feel that God can never forgive them. They are convinced that God treats us the same way we often treat each other.
How about it? Does He? Or was the author of Psalms right when he wrote, "If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:3,4). Will God forgive anything? I mean, is there any sin so great that He says, "I'll never forgive you?"
In pondering this issue, let's take a look at three words which dealt with varying degrees or issues of wrongdoing. In the Old Testament, several words were used which described human failure. The first word, "transgression," was a word that dealt with the intention and purpose to do wrong. The act of wrongdoing was usually premeditated. A person did something--a theft, a murder, a sexual relationship with his neighbor's wife, even stealing a piece of fruit in the market--and the word signifies rebellion against authority. A refusal to stay within the boundaries of what is right. This is the attitude of sin. It is a reflection of deliberate wrongdoing when the person knows better than he or she does.
The second word, "iniquity," referred to the act of sin itself. The base meaning of the word suggests something which is twisted, crooked, or untrue. Eventually it described a lack of conformity to what was right. Attitudes which are wrong eventually are played out in acts of wrongdoing. Every injustice, every sinful deed, begins with a thought, and that thought eventually is embodied in an act which you strive to justify.
The third word, "sin," is the one which is most commonly used in the Old Testament, and this word meant "missing the mark" as an arrow which has fallen short of its target. It meant "deviating from the right path," as would happen when a person comes to a fork in the road. He hesitates with uncertainty and then takes the wrong turn in the road. It may be an innocent mistake, yet no justification can excuse the fact that he took the wrong road.
Do you remember how David, in a moment of weakness, yielded to the flesh? Because he was the king and very powerful, he justified his wrongdoing and took Bathsheba, when she was the wife of another man. David used all three words in describing what he had done--transgression, iniquity, and sin! He openly and candidly admitted his moral failure, and then sought and found the forgiveness of God.
Is there any sin which God will not forgive? David was guilty of murder, of adultery, and the abuse of authority, yet God forgave him.
As David himself said, "You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you" (Psalm 86:5). Thank God, He is more gracious to forgive than we are. Think about it.
Resource Reading: Psalm 86
Bible Text: 2 Samuel 11:26-27 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living
When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD. 2 Samuel 11:26-27
“There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him,” wrote Solomon 3,000 years ago. Numbers three and four on that list of character disorders which the Bible calls sins are “hands that shed innocent blood,” and “a heart that devises wicked schemes.”
I have no way of knowing whether Solomon thought of the circumstances of his own family, especially involving his own father and mother, but he well could have. His father was David; his mother, Bathsheba. “In the spring, at the time when kings go to war,” begins 2 Samuel 11:1, David stayed at home. One evening when he was on the rooftop of his palace, he saw a beautiful woman bathing--the woman who eventually became Solomon’s mother. Do you remember the story how David took Bathsheba and slept with her? After all, he was the king, and he was not accustomed to having anyone deny him.
But then when Bathsheba became pregnant as the result of this adulterous affair, David’s conscience began to deeply trouble him. Bathsheba was married to another man, and a good man, at that. For David to take Bathsheba as his wife, Uriah had to be destroyed, and it had to appear to be a grave accident. Without taking time to recount the details which I would encourage you to read for yourself, if ever a man devised a wicked scheme and shed innocent blood, it was David who was responsible, completely and fully for the death of Uriah, the rightful husband of Bathsheba.
Just a minute, you may be thinking. Is this not the one who took a slingshot and in the name of the Lord and went against Goliath? Is this not the one who wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me...” (Psalm 23:1, KJV). And, of course, the answer to all these questions is yes.
Should you take the time to ponder the six things which God hates and look at the life of David, you will find an example of almost every one in David’s life. He was proud and arrogant. He lied. His hands shed innocent blood. His heart devised the wicked scheme to put Uriah in the forefront of the battle, then order the troops to pull out leaving him exposed to the enemy. His feet rushed to do evil, and he deliberately hurt the woman who became the object of his lust.
Though Solomon did not mention his father’s adulterous affair with his mother, he undoubtedly thought of the consequences which followed his wrongdoing: the death of his half-brother who was the love child of David and Bathsheba, the public humiliation which came as the result of his sin and the ongoing conflicts which resulted in his personal, immediate family because of what David did.
But--and this is the point that I want you to get--there is forgiveness and healing for our wrongdoing, no matter what it may be. As the Psalmist--perhaps David himself--wrote, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:4). David paid a price for his wrongdoing--a substantial one, yet in repentance he poured out his heart before God and asked for God to restore the joy of his salvation (see Psalm 51).
Friend, if you see yourself in these six things which God hates, do what David did. Confess your wrongdoing, forsake it, and find God’s strength to overcome your human weakness. This is what grace is about.
Resource reading: 2 Samuel 11:1-36
Bible Text: Matthew 6:14-15 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
Amidst the heather of beautiful Scotland lived a country doctor many years ago. This Scottish physician was greatly loved by the villagers and patients of the wee town in bonny Scotland, so when he died he was greatly missed by his village. His wife, though, did not share his disposition or love for people, and upon his death she examined the financial records which were found in the doctor's office. On several pages were written these words in the doctor's hand in bold red ink: "Forgiven—too poor to pay."
The widow, believing that she could collect the forgiven debt, instructed her attorney to enter suit against the forgiven patients of her deceased husband. When the matter reached the court, the judge examined the accounts. He turned to the widow and asked, "Is this handwriting in red ink that of your husband?" "It is," she replied. "Then," said the judge, "there is no tribunal in the land that can demand payment of any account over which the deceased has written the word Forgiven." And the case was dismissed.
Forgiveness is really a legal concept. In the first century, the Greek word for forgiveness meant "to give up the right to something," hence, to give back your right to redress a grievance. To give forgiveness and yet hold a grudge against someone is really no forgiveness at all.
I am thinking of the young wife who sat in my office for counseling. Her husband had been unfaithful to her, but then realizing how deeply he loved her and wanted her, begged her to forgive him, promising that it would never happen again. Finally she blurted out, "Well, I guess I can forgive him, but I can never forget it." To say I can forgive but not forget is like saying, "For the moment I will not demand your punishment, but if I ever have any reason to question your integrity, I'll quickly remind you of your failure." Such is not forgiveness at all.
Esther York Burkholder was driving at this when she wrote, "Most of us find forgiveness one of the most difficult virtues to put into practice. 'I can forgive...but I can't forget.' This is a rather paradoxical statement. For in our hearts we still hold a grudge which rankles and festers and does us more harm than to the offender."
Man's forgiveness is different from God's, for man's forgiveness is marred by his hesitance to forget. God's forgiveness is complete. How many times does God expect a person to forgive another? Is it once under some circumstances; or twice, or three times, or even thirty times?
On one occasion Peter, the big fisherman, came to Jesus with this problem of forgiveness. Perhaps he remembered his competitor's fouling his fishing nets, or taking his favorite fishing spot, so Peter put the question to Jesus, "How often am I to forgive my brother if he goes on wronging me, as many as seven times?" This was quite liberal for blustering Peter, yet Jesus responded, "Not seven times but seventy times seven." In other words, "Always forgive."
The Apostle Paul told us that we ought to forgive because of God's forgiveness to those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. To the Ephesians he wrote, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave You." (Ephesians 4:32).
Perhaps you are thinking, "I just cannot forgive." If you feel like that, may I pass on to you a formula for forgiveness that I have never seen fail? Begin earnestly to pray for the one who has hurt you, asking God to give you the grace to forgive, and soon you will discover your hate has turned to pity, and you will find the grace to forgive and to forget.
Resource reading: Colossians 3.
Bible Text: Luke 23:34 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34
FORGIVEN! No word in all the English language quite speaks to the heart of man as does this one word. Pause for a moment and pronounce the word several times: forgiven, forgiven! Forgiveness involves three areas of relationship--and the three, like the structure of a honeycomb, are all intertwined.
A problem in one area results in secondary implications in the others. Forgiveness involves your relationship with God; secondly, your relationship with others; and finally, your relationship with yourself. The one big difference, though, between your relationship with God and with ourselves and with others is that when it comes to our relationship with God, we must ask for forgiveness, while we must learn to extend it to ourselves and to others.
In other words, we must learn how to forgive others and to forgive ourselves, but never do we have to forgive God. Yet it is your relationship with God that is the basis of learning to forgive and to seek forgiveness as necessary in those other two areas.
To forgive means that you have been hurt, that your fundamental rights have been violated, and that you are willing to give up your right to redress or to compensation for what has happened to you. Writing to the Ephesians, Paul said, "Be kind, one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." That phrase, "even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you," becomes the model of our learning to forgive each other.
Because God has forgiven us, we have no right to refuse to forgive each other and ourselves as well. The true nature of forgiveness demands that the act of wrongdoing be put completely away to let God deal with it. Again God's forgiveness is the model. "As far as the east is from the west," wrote David in Psalm 103:12, "so far has God removed our transgressions from us." Following the elliptical course of the earth, scientists have measured the distance from the north to the south pole--12,420 miles, give or take a few inches, but the east and the west, friend, never meet.
Rudyard Kipling wrote, "East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet." When you forgive someone, you have got to bury the wrong done to you and treat it as though it had never happened. Two men were discussing the reactions of their wives when they get into arguments, and one said, "Well, when we get into an argument, my wife gets historical." "No," remarked his friend, "you mean she gets hysterical." "No," replied the first. "I used the right word. I meant historical because she keeps bringing up the past."
True forgiveness puts the deed aside as though it had never taken place. "Well, I'll forgive you this time, but if you ever do this again, we are through." Is that really forgiveness? It is merely an indefinite probation--the breach of which brings the full weight of the law for the first offense. Forgiven--what a beautiful word!
When the widow of a country doctor looked over the books of her deceased doctor husband, she discovered that he had written, "Forgiven--too poor to pay" across the page of many who owed her husband vast sums of money, and she, not having the grace to forgive so much, went to court to collect. The judge threw out the case. "What has been forgiven in his own handwriting," he contended, "cannot be collected by another." When the righteous Judge of the Universe forgives us, what right have we to try to make another pay? Yes, how beautiful that word--forgiven.
Resource reading: Philippians 2:1-11.
Bible Text: Psalm 130:4 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living
But with you (speaking to God) there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. Psalm 130:4 ESV
A student caught cheating on an exam, stops going to church. A mother of a child with disabilities lives in constant torment, convinced that God is punishing her child because she lived with her husband for a year before they were married and conceived her child during that time. A senior citizen--the victim of three heart attacks--sends a large check to a man who was his business partner forty years before with a terse note saying, "I had to get this off my chest before I meet my maker..."
All three face a common problem--a troubled conscience producing guilt that tears apart their hearts and lives. Many today, not understanding the nature of God's forgiveness, live lives that are full of frustration and self-condemnation. Take for instance, the man who wrote and said, "I am the most frustrated, confused, defeated individual you will ever hear about. I have a wonderful family, wife, 3 boys, and 1 daughter, all saved, yet I am so miserable. You said something on your program that may be the key to my need. You talked about forgiving yourself.... I just cannot forgive myself for..." He then went on to mention something that had happened years before.
Those skeletons in the closet keep making their lethal forays, stealing our peace of mind and leaving their muddy footprints in our lives. Most messages such as I have just mentioned revolve around moral problems, usually ones that took place a long time ago. They all result from the failure really to understand the nature of God's forgiveness, which results in the inability to forgive yourself.
The next two minutes can free you from the shackles of a burdened conscience. Observe carefully. First--the case for God's forgiveness is found in the pages of the Bible. If the Bible is true, as I believe it is, then forgiveness is based upon the nature and character of God Himself. In the pages of Scripture, God promises forgiveness to us provided we turn from our sin to a Savior and confess our need for forgiveness. Have you settled it in your mind that God would not lie? If you have, the next question you must ask is: Did I confess my failure to God?
David, a man who knew the guilt of moral failure, wrote, "But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” (Psalms 130:4, NIV). Isaiah spoke of God, saying, "He will abundantly pardon," (Isaiah 55:7). Micah wrote, “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19, ESV). The New Testament says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Did you confess your failure? Some of you could say, "I have asked God to forgive me hundreds of times!" Well, did He do it? He promised to. Suppose your son came to you and said, "I did wrong, Dad, and I want you to forgive me," and you said, "It is all right, son. I forgive you.” If he came to you the next day and said the same thing, and the next day, wouldn't you say, "Son, I told you yesterday that I forgave you. It's settled!"
Surely God must feel the same way when we refuse to accept the fact that when He forgives us, as though we had never sinned. Learning to forgive ourselves is one of the most difficult tasks that ever confronts a person.
Resource reading: Psalm 51
Bible Text: Psalm 130:4 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living
But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. Psalm 130:4
On a cold winter's night many years ago a woman was brought into a hospital with severe burns that covered her face and a large portion of her body. The examining physician immediately recognized that shock had set in, and that the woman had very little chance of survival. The husband was notorious for his drinking, and he had come home intoxicated, and in a fit of anger had poured scalding water over his wife. When police arrived at the hospital where the dying woman was taken, they brought with them the husband, along with a magistrate whose responsibility was to prepare formal charges of murder against the man if his wife died. By this time the husband had begun to sober.
Arriving at the bedside the magistrate leaned over the body of the woman, careful not to touch the bed and cause her more pain, and asked, "Now please tell us exactly what happened." The woman turned her face from side to side to avoid looking at her husband who stood at the foot of the bed. Realizing that the woman had only a short while to live, the magistrate again pressed the question, "Please," he said, "tell us exactly what happened." Finally, her eyes came to rest on the hands of her husband and slowly raised her eyes to his face. For a brief moment the suffering seemed to drain from her face, and compassion and tenderness were evident. Speaking in a whisper she turned to the magistrate and said, "It was just an accident; I forgive him." And with a faint shadow of a smile on her face, she lay still.
Seldom in the daily business of family living does a person ever face such a gigantic problem involving the very sacrifice of one's life, as did this woman; yet none is exempt from having to forgive the trespasses or the wrongs that are done to us. The person who cannot forgive actually burns the bridge over which he himself must pass one day. But I think an even greater burden than that sustained by the person who is hurt, is the emotional burden that a person must bear until he comes to God and finds His forgiveness and healing.
I am thinking of a personal acquaintance of mine, a man who is healthy and about as happy and well adjusted as anybody you will ever meet; but it was not always that way with Billy. Like the man who was responsible for the death of his wife, one morning Billy woke up in jail with a thick head and a massive hangover. Prison officials informed Billy that in a drunken rage, he had killed both his wife and his mother‑in‑law. He was about as low emotionally as a man could be. He attempted suicide and even that failed. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he would have ended his life if he could, but even at that he could not quite succeed. A preacher‑boy from a Christian college began visiting the prison and sharing with the men that there is forgiveness with God which enables us to learn to forgive ourselves.
Years ago David wrote in the book of Psalms, "But with you there is forgiveness (meaning with God); therefore you are feared.” David knew something of the burning pangs of conscience, knowing that he was responsible for the death of another. There is little chance that I'm speaking to someone who is directly responsible for the life of another, as David was; but as sure as you are two feet tall, I can be relatively sure there is someone listening who has deeply hurt someone he loves. Is it you? As David said, “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:4).
Resource reading: Psalm 130.
Bible Text: Mark 11:25 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25
Of the four Gospels, none is more to the point and straightforward than the account of Jesus’ life as rendered by Mark. Because of his close relationship with Peter who, himself, was a pretty blunt, leave-nothing-unsaid sort of a person, many scholars believe that Mark simply reflected Peter’s thoughts.
With that in mind, may I remind you that some of the most uplifting, positive words of Jesus are also recorded by Mark? For example, Mark tells about the time Jesus was talking with the disciples and said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). Then Jesus said, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (v. 25).
Ponder those words, “When you stand praying…forgive…” “Just a minute.” you may be thinking, “What does God have to do with my relationship with other people?” In one word, everything! Prayer reflects a vertical relationship between you and God, but forgiveness is a picture of the horizontal relationship between you and someone else.
Jesus is saying that personal, answered prayer is conditioned upon your relationships with others as well as with God. But that’s not the way we like it. We prefer to get what we want from God at the same time we snub people or are angry and bitter with them. But it doesn’t work. Immediately after Jesus gave the disciples the prayer we know as The Lord’s Prayer, He made this statement: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
You can’t have it both ways. If you want God’s forgiveness, you must learn to forgive others. If you want God to answer your prayers, you have to turn loose of the bitterness and let Him deal with some situations.
Question: Why is it so difficult to do this? The answer is that you feel more in control, more in charge, when you are filled with anger. But the very opposite is true. We also feel that forgiving someone is a matter of weakness, a giving in to the other, capitulating. But it is none of these. It is turning loose; it is letting go.
The Bible teaches that to forgive someone is to give up your right to hurt that individual because he hurt you first. It isn’t letting the person off the hook, but turning him over to God. And believe me, when you do this, the burden lifts and the anger and hatred in your heart is replaced with God’s love.
A rabbi who had lost his family in the Holocaust said that he forgave Hitler for the horrible loss he had sustained because he chose not to bring Hitler to America with him. That’s wisdom. In their book How to Forgive When You Don’t Know How,” authors Mary Grunte and Jacqui Bishop write, “When you forgive, you reclaim your power to choose. It doesn’t matter whether someone deserves forgiveness; you deserve to be free.”
Should you take time to do a study of how the word forgive is used in the Bible, you will discover that in the vast number of occurrences, it relates to an individual’s response to wrongs that others have done to him or her, rather than to seeking God’s forgiveness for what the individual has personally done. It includes wrongs done by husbands and wives, by brothers and sisters, by business associates, by neighbors and by friends. Alexander Pope once wrote, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” He was right.
Resource reading: Matthew 11.