A few years ago I found myself in a situation that left me gasping for air spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Due to the public nature of the internet, I'm limited to share the details of it. But the breech in a relationship with a woman I had considered to be a dear friend put me in a place to feel betrayed on a level I had never personally experienced. Through various mediums, the Lord had warned me of some potential pitfalls in our relationship. I had already begun to put boundaries in place. And then came the proverbial last straw. I felt like I had been punched in the gut and yet was still required to be in her company on a frequent basis. Not only did I resent the situation that she had caused, but I resented that now I had the responsibility under God, by His Word, to deal with the potential hurt, bitterness, anger, disappointment, and unforgiveness in my own heart and mind.
I can be transparent in saying this: I wanted to pray God's best for her and the situation but I felt I'd be praying amiss. How could God bless that? And how was I supposed to forgive? And what was I supposed to do when seeing her each week? And would I miss heaven because of my inability to forgive her? How would I know if I had forgiven her if I still had such panic in my heart each time I saw her face or heard her name spoken?
Mark 11:20-26: 20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” 22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
No doubt you have heard a sermon or two about faith-filled prayer. The equation is simple. Have faith in the God of the Universe–the One Who spoke and the world as we know it formed into being. If He can form strings of planets, stars, and mankind with His spoken Word, surely He can manage to mend my broken heart or provide my basic needs!
But Jesus went on to remind His followers that these basic elements would only be met for the heart full of forgiveness. Jesus was saying, “This is what motivates Father God. He won’t provide your answer, meet your measure of faith, or move any mountains at your word unless you keep His word. You must forgive others. He only responds to forgiveness.”
What are you believing God for today? There’s no need to beg for what God has already promised to you! (Ps 37:25) But the prerequisite to your answered prayer lies in the hurdle to true righteousness: forgiveness. Forgive others. He will forgive you. Then, He will respond to your faith.
Hebrews 12:12-15 12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
The complexity of this process is found in Hebrews chapter 12, verse 15, “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled”. The author's challenge to us as believers on the Lord Jesus Christ was to rid ourselves of any and all bitterness in our heart of hearts as its corrosion will soon leak out and cause destructive behavior. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 12:34, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”.
Ouch! As I read and took a personal survey of what lies within my very core, I began to ponder once again what it takes to know you’ve truly gotten rid of all bitterness. All of us from time to time can go along in life, thinking we are free and clear of such evil roots, and then along comes a situation that will bring something quite nasty to the surface…seemingly out of nowhere! And our first reaction is to dismiss it and say “I didn’t really mean that” or “I don’t really feel that way”. But then that verse out of Matthew 12 gets up in our personal space, reminding us about the connection of our hearts to our mouths and minds. I don’t know about you, but this motivates me all the more to “tidy up” on a much more regular basis!
So how do we “tidy up” and rid ourselves (1 Peter 2:1) of the bitterness and unforgiveness that can rot our spirits and wreak havoc on those about us? Let’s quickly break down the verses here in Hebrews 12 for some simple but powerful instructions.
"…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” (Heb 12:1) Remind yourself often that you are not alone in this race! Others before you have made it Home, many are running successfully now, and before His return, even more will come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and become viable disciples! Stir yourself up!
“…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…” (Heb 12:1) Surrender your flesh daily to the plan of God for your life, willingly laying aside your desires for a better way of life. Not allowing the Spirit to reveal to us those areas so we can deal with them is a recipe for spiritual, physical, and mental disaster. Sometimes I have to even say out loud: "I forgive ________." It may be by faith and I may not feel forgiveness flowing. But I choose to forgive.
“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Heb 12:2) Run YOUR race! Your race is God’s plan and calling for your life, one that is grounded in His Word, with the determination to finish. Even in physical races here on earth, no one heralds the one who ran well but bailed a few miles out. It is he who finishes and finishes strong who receives the accolades and rewards!
“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” (Heb 12:3) Consider again and again what it cost Jesus to purchase your salvation and the persecution so many inflicted upon Him…for your sake. You may have endured a lot in your lifetime, and you may have been done wrongly by those who said they loved you, but you’ve yet to suffer the hostility He endured. You’re worth more than all of that to Him.
“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” (Heb 12:12-13) How do you strengthen yourself so that what God has healed does not return to its lame condition? What once was your burden must now be your platform! Therefore, “strengthen the hands, knees, feet” by conditioning them in the Word and continually finding yourself in the very presence of God. Faith comes by HEARING, and HEARING by the Word of God (Rom 10:17).
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:” (Heb 12:14) Seek to be at peace with all people, including those whom have done you ill or whom you may have perceived to have done you ill. Whatever that takes, do it. Go to them and seek reconciliation. Pray for them and ask God to bless them. (Matt 5:44) And pursue holiness in all you say, think, and do. Holiness comes when we seek to obey His commands and become more like Him. This doesn't mean you have to be besties again. But you can move forward in confidence: you've done all you needed to do according to His Word.
“…looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God;” (Heb 12:15) Embrace the grace of God for what it can evoke in your life: freedom from the power of sin. Tap into the grace of God in your own life so that others may embrace it for themselves, following your example. When God’s grace extended to someone else in your sphere of influence becomes greater than your own selfish and bitter resentments, you are well on your way to being rid of the bitterness that will defile others.
Oh, dear sister, it's high time for our prayers to touch heaven and change earth! Let us lay aside the weights that so easily entangle us. God's divine plan for our lives will never be truly fulfilled when we carry about bitterness and resentment. Take a few moments and listen. He will show you what needs to be uprooted.
This entry concludes our series on prayer. If you are just now joining, start at Week One and read each powerful post. Post your thoughts and prayer needs below each post, letting us know you're joining the series. Your name will be entered to win Debbie Morris' amazing book, The Blessed Woman. Our drawing will be held Wednesday, August 31, and announced via our Facebook page. The winner will be also notified via email.
Bridgette Tomlin is a wife, mother of two girls, and 'minister of the et cetera' alongside her husband, Chresten from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She loves a great cup of steaming hot tea, the blessing of quiet spaces where she can think now and again, and the art of a handwritten note. While she's a vocalist, speaker, writer, and admin, Bridgette's heart is fully engaged in connecting every woman to their God-given call and gifts with authentic candor. You can follow her blog from their ministry site at www.ctministries.com.