By Pastor Brian D Baker
A few years back I was in a rather desperate situation financially speaking. I was in quite a panic - so much so I found myself at the church praying frantically asking God for help. It's funny how a subject like forgiveness can become obscured somewhere in the back of one's mind until you find yourself in a dither over something like finances. Funny thing - I wasn't even thinking about forgiveness when I asked the Lord to show me something. You know: "God give me a sign - let me know You're hearing me!"
Now let me preface what I want to say here. I remember when I first met my wife, Ginny, and she gets "words" from the Lord in strange and unusual ways. She would ask the Lord to speak to her, and He would give her a scripture reference - like Isaiah 40:1. She would not even know what it says until she looked it up. As a young Christian, that really impressed me. I was sitting with her in a meeting in College Station one evening when it first happened. As the speaker was making his presentation, she was casually jotting down notes. There's nothing unusual about that. But at some point, she wrote down a scripture reference - something in Isaiah as I recall. I couldn't help but notice it because the speaker made no such reference. I leaned over to her and asked her, "Why did you write that down?" She said, "The Lord spoke it to me." I remember that I was initially skeptical - I hadn't known Ginny for very long. Well, a minute or two passed and the speaker said something like, "Look in Isaiah . . . " and he gave the precise scripture that Ginny had written in her notes. My reaction was something like Popeye - "Well, blow me down!" But that's not why I married her - that's another story.
I said all that to say this. The day I was praying and asking God for help, I even said the words, "Lord, forgive me my debts" and I was talking about money. You know, "Lord, tens and twenties will be just fine, but I'll take checks, too." As I asked the Lord to give me something - a word, a sign - Surprise! I suddenly felt impressed to look up a scripture - Matthew 6:12. I didn't know what it said and I looked it up. "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." "Lord," I say, "You're telling me that I have unforgiveness in my heart. It was a revelation to me. This may be simple stuff to you, but to me it was like this. I was begging God to get me out of debt fretting and whining and crying out in desperation asking for a word - a sign, and the Lord said, "You have unforgiveness in your heart." The only thing is, I had never really considered the question of forgiveness in the context of money and forgiving debts. When you forgive a debt, you're saying to someone, "You don't owe me anything - you're off the hook - you're free from obligation to me!" Because of the way the Lord answered me, I realized then that there were people in my life that at some level I had not forgiven. Oh yeah, sure, I had said something like, "Well, I forgive Brother so-and-so or Sister Something-or-other. But as I began to take a little personal inventory, I began to realize that although I had said that I forgave, the truth is somewhere in my heart I was saying, "But you still owe me. It'll never be right until you pay up." Then my understanding was flooded and the Holy Spirit was speaking to me. He said, "The truth is - the reason you do not release people from their debts to you is because at some level in your innermost heart, you are trusting them, rather than Me, to meet your needs. If you want my help, if you want to be released from your debts, you must release everyone else. That is the only way you can receive all I have for you; I alone must be the One who meets your needs." He kept going, "Do you trust them more than Me? To the degree that you look to others for restitution and in some cases, even retribution, you do not trust me. If you really want My help, let them go. If you really want to demonstrate that you trust Me and Me alone, then release all who have wronged you, injured you, stolen from you, dealt treacherously with you, betrayed you, trampled your faith and trust underfoot, turned their backs on you, snubbed you, spoke wickedly against you . . . " Well, you get the idea. My mind was inundated with images of the past - the faces of people who had hurt me or perhaps abandoned me. But I saw their faces in my mind - more than I care to admit - God knows. One by one as the remembrances of one incident after another flooded my thoughts, I began to say, "Lord, I forgive them, I bless them, I release them, I declare they owe me nothing." I said the words out loud. It took quite awhile, but I was better after that. There were people that I had not thought about in years and I forgave them. As I did so I remember feeling that "weirdness", that twinge of hurt and anger associated with injuries of the past, the rifts, the estrangements and more. I'm sure you know what I mean - how the mere mention of a certain someone, or when you see them at the grocery store (you pretend you don't see them) and you get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. It's because you have unforgiveness in your heart. As I forgave, truly forgave, all of it began to dissipate. In the months and years that followed, I would run into those certain people who had hurt me and I no longer felt that yucky feeling. It was not difficult to greet them or be gracious to them. I experienced a new joy and freedom as I turned to the Lord and said, "I'm sorry I have not trusted You. Forgive me, Lord, I don't want anything to stand between You and me. And I don't want to trust anyone else - I'm not looking to anyone else - You, alone O God, are my sole supply. Only You can meet my every need." Well, I laughed and cried. It's funny isn't it? It all started over money. In my desperation I learned how to trust God better.
A few months later, there was a great rain, and ten feet of water came through my house. It was pretty devastating. We lost all our possessions with the exception of those items we could carry and/or fish out - three cars destroyed - clothes ruined - some things floated down the river, I'm sure.
A wonderful thing happened though. In the days that followed, friends, family, relatives, church members, and some anonymous persons began to give money to help us. In fact, in addition to the help we received from organizations like the Red Cross, there were several thousands of dollars that came in. We were able to relocate (to higher ground, I might add) and our lives were miraculously restored - and I should say, "with interest". I was even able to put a down payment on a house, whereas my previous situation would have precluded any such possibility. No, I wouldn't want to go through that again, but I thank God for His intervention. I have come to know more than ever that God is faithful and takes care of His own. It's funny - once I realized what God was saying to me, I couldn't forgive people fast enough. I laughed as I shouted out loud (I was alone at the church) to various individuals, "I don't want anything from you - you've got nothing I want, nothing I need!" And I would turn to the Lord in the next breath and say, "Lord, I only want what You have for me." I'm not debt free today, but I am no longer a slave to unforgiveness. If you want what God has for you, you have to let everything and everyone else go - no matter what they've done to you. There is nothing - not money, not an inheritance, not a settlement, not an income tax refund, not dividends, not benefits, not any kind of supply anywhere which you can put your trust in. You must say, "I am not depending on anything or anyone else except God alone to meet my needs. No one anywhere has anything I want or need. Let the siblings fight over the inheritance. Let the high rollers in churches who feign spirituality keep their gifts and contributions - it's between them and God. If God tells them to give it and they don't, I'm not the one who's in trouble - they are - just like I am when I fail to obey God. Let them go! If you're looking to someone to write you a check or stuff money in your pocket, you're not trusting the Lord. You may not be able to see how God will help you, but He will. You have to be careful, too. This is a hard thing - "plan A" is we are going to trust the Lord, but just in case "plan A" doesn't work, we've got some alternate plan in mind. That's not trusting the Lord. We must fix all our hopes, all our dependency on Him. We must be ready to say, "If 'plan A' doesn't work, there are no other plans." But we must be persuaded that God alone is our source. You cannot secretly in your heart be saying, "Maybe sister or brother so-and-so will send us a check" or "Maybe if I discreetly attempt to raise others' awareness of my financial plight, they will come to my aid." While it's true, God uses others to minister accordingly in such cases, we can't afford (and I mean literally "afford") to begin to look to another source. To do so is to inhibit your one source - and that's God. Additionally, to do so, we run the risk of resenting people when we know they can obviously see what we're going through, and they do not communicate to our need. God may not be speaking to them and you don't want to become embittered when they seem to ignore your situation. If God tells them to do something, let it come from their own hearts. Otherwise, they will begin to resent you and won't come anywhere near you. You'll wonder why Bro. or Sis. So-and-so don't come around any more. It's because they feel you pulling on them. If you're the one doing the pulling, guess what! You're running the risk of hindering anything that God might want to do. Get out of the way! Stand aside and allow God to deal with people as He wills. That way, people are free to be around you. They can relax without feeling as though they must deliver you out of your circumstances. And you'll never know what it is to be truly delivered by God. You'll always be wondering whether it was you who manipulated someone, or God who truly came to your aid. The old hymn comes to mind:
'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word; Just to rest upon His promise; just to know 'Thus saith the Lord'. Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him; how I've proved Him o'er and o'er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus; O for grace to trust Him more.
Thank you for reading and God bless.