We recently saw the play “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Greenville Little Theater, where George Bailey spends his whole life helping others and not being very concerned with his own financial gain, just the needs of others, and in the end, facing possible financial because of the shortcomings of someone close to him, he contemplates ending his life because of the financial shame he has brought upon his family. But he is taught the true value of the relationships he has built, that far outweighs any financial struggles, and that is the source of a beautiful outpouring of love towards him and his family in the end.
It’s a beautiful story of undeserved mercy and grace, that George showed towards others, and that is repaid to him as well in the end — and what “A Wonderful Life” grace and mercy produces!
This morning’s Word:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 NLT
A Look Inside: Personal Application
We are facing a real life situation where we have been wronged, where we are facing significant financial burden by someone who did not provide the services that we paid for, and that the work already completed has serious issues. The costs for remedying these issues may equal as much as a whole year’s gross income for our household (we aren’t sure yet at this point). And the man responsible for this came to our house last night after a long period of avoidance and no communication to tell us that he isn’t going to be able to resolve it and that it is all on us, even though he knows that it is wrong, and that we are not the only ones he has put into this same situation.
His head was hung low in shame, and he was probably expecting us to lash out at him. But all we could do was try to encourage him and counsel him to trust in the Lord and seek the Lord in this dark time. We were more concerned about his family, his mental well being, his marriage, his faith… and it isn’t because we are independently wealthy and can afford to “eat it”. It’s just that I know how many times I have wronged others and let them down in my past, and that I have been forgiven so much, that I just can’t kick a man when he is down.
Good legal counsel would tell me to go after this man, that he is responsible and should pay, and that I should squeeze whatever is possible from him and his family in order to “protect me and my own”. They would tell me that I should “seek justice”.
But what does our counselor tell us?
When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers ! Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers! Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?
1 Corinthians 6:1-7 NLT
You see, we know and believe that Jesus died to forgive our sins and is resurrected to prove that His victory is complete over sin and death — and because of this amazing grace and mercy extended towards us, we are compelled to extend mercy and grace to others — not because it is what they deserve, not because it will gain us anything in return, but because it is BEST, because it defeats evil and testifies to the victory of Jesus Christ over things like fear, shame, guilt, pride, greediness, unfaithfulness, lying, stealing, bitterness, unforgiveness, envy, jealousy, and so many more”true enemies”.
And when we see someone who has hurt or wounded us because those familiar demons have been clinging to them and influencing their thoughts, and words, and actions towards us and towards others in a way that is wrong, is unjust, is not loving and fair — we seek to remind that demon that their time is near, that they must flee when resisted, that it is us, the children of God who will judge angels and demons, and that they have no authority or dominion over us, but only serve to try us, prove us, and for their evil plans to be turned to good for the glory of God!
So that’s exactly what we did once our friend confirmed to us that he believes and that Jesus Christ is His Lord and Saviour. We spoke live to him, not death or condemnation — we encouraged him that he is loved and welcome in our household, we explained how much what he did for us (even in its imperfections) had already been a blessing to so many, and that we trust our God to provide the solution, because no problem is too great for Him!
We didn’t do this because we are “really devout Christians” — NO!!!! This wasn’t a burdensome “Well I guess we have to forgive him because we’r have been forgiven” moment — NO!!!! This was a joyful, excited, tearful moment where we shared with this man the beautiful opportunity for grace and the glory of God to shine through this moment. We encouraged him that he is right in the place of the prodigal, where he can run back and be welcomed in, and so that he can be forgiven much so that he might love much like the woman at Jesus’s feet. We told him that there is a testimony in the making, and even though he wasn’t fully ready to accept it (because of ther guilt and shame he had not yet laid down), we told him that his pushing against God was not strong enough to overcome the all sufficient grace of Jesus Christ to save him and make him a new creation of he is willing to surrender all over to the Lord.
I’ll be the first to admit that this testimony is quite a different perspective than I have had towards some “enemies” in my past, and that I don’t always get it right. So I must give God all the credit, all the glory, and all the honor for having my heart and mind right during this critical moment with this man who needs joy, love, forgiveness, and reassurance poured into his life right now to build up his wounds, and to equip him for the road ahead. Please pray for him and for us, as we deal with both the all important spiritual battles that are being waged, and even for the physical restoration and correction of things that aren’t yet righted that have been wronged.
Having said that, for any of you that read the above, and conviction has fallen on you — for someone you have not yet forgiven — or you said “I just can’t do that” — or you think “he’s just a sucker that’s being run over by the world” — or you think “that’s just him showing off his own self righteousness” — I encourage you to repent and continue reading to decide whether or not you truly are fully prepared to surrender your life to Christ Jesus today!
Why do you long to see your enemies (who really are your brothers and sisters) crushed, defeated, destroyed — when you have done the same things to others?
Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
1 Peter 3:9-17 NLT
Why do you hold a grudge against someone, or judge them for their shortcomings, when you need forgiveness yourself?
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Yes, this is a battle! But:
Is it better that a man destroy all of his nearby enemies so that he thinks he has nothing left to fear, or for a man to show kindness to those who have wronged him so that they might choose the way of brotherly love and peace and unity? Because which is better when powerful invaders come from far off that he didn’t even know about — to destroy your enemies, or to build strong and true alliances?
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Ephesians 6:10-18 NLT