Next Steps

Recently I preached a sermon where I mentioned the need to forgive, and afterwards one of my church members came up and asked a great question: “How do you learn to forgive someone?” Here was my answer to this person, hopefully it will help you as well:

As hokey as it might sound, forgiveness starts with a choice. The emotions of unforgiveness, all the hurt, etc. is so strong that for most, those emotions override everything. Most people don’t forgive until they feel like forgiving.

Forgiving someone begins by choosing to forgive, regardless of feelings. You might not ever feel like forgiving, but you choose to forgive anyways. Your will supersedes your emotions.

For most, we don’t forgive because we still feel like the offending party still owes us something: an apology, our purity, our childhood, etc. Stripped down, forgiveness is deciding that the offending person doesn’t owe you anything anymore. They don’t owe you an apology, they don’t owe you anything.

When Jesus says forgive not seven times but seventy-seven (Matthew 18:21-22), it’s because the hurt will wash over you on a daily basis. Every time you feel the urge to hate or hold onto bitterness, you have to choose to forgive you again. They don’t owe you anything anymore. I would say something like this out loud every time the pain and urge to hold onto bitterness comes to mind, “I forgive _____. He/she doesn’t owe me anything anymore.”

Forgiveness never really gets easy, but it can get easier after time. I hope this helps!

If you woke up every morning and told yourself, “My marriage is going to fail,” what do you think will happen? Don’t be surprised if your marriage fails. If you live everyday as if you don’t expect God to show up or do anything substantive, don’t be surprised if you fail to see God move in your world at all. Part of living the abundant life Jesus died to give us is to live a life of expectation, one where we expect God to show up in our everyday world. What does that practically look like? Here are four ways to live each day with expectation:

1. Talk with God before you leave the house. If you expect God to do something in your world, doesn’t it make sense to talk to him? When you open communication with God at the start of each day, you’re acknowledging his presence and his desire to move in your world. If you want to live with expectation, start talking to God more.

2. See every interaction as an opportunity. Many of the ways God wants to move in and through you is in the context of relationships. Every time you interact with someone, whether it’s a coworker, a check out cashier or a neighbor walking his dog, ask yourself, “is this an opportunity for God to show up and do something in their life?”

3. Look past the problems and see the people. Too many times we live through each day with a checklist of things we need to accomplish. If we check off all the things on our list, our day seems successful. Living with expectation means that we look past the checklist, past the problems needing to be solved, and see the people we’re surrounded by. When you see God move, it’s going to be in the lives of those around you.

4. Live like God wants to do something today. If you expect God to do something incredible today, live like it. Walk out of your door singing, not sighing. Walk into work with a spring in your step because you’ve got a front row seat to what God wants to do today. When you expect God to move in your world, don’t be surprised when he actually does.

Whether you realize it or not, you’re under spiritual attack everyday. If you’re ignorant of that fact, that doesn’t mean the attacks go away; it just means you aren’t protecting yourself. In Ephesians 6:14-17, the Apostle Paul gives the church (then and today) six practical ways to protect yourself from spiritual attacks.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-17

The key to understanding this passage is not to focus on the pieces of armor but what they’re attached to. Instead of focusing on a shield, a helmet and a sword, focus on faith, salvation and the Word of God. From this passage, here are six practical ways to protect yourself from spiritual attacks:

1. Saturate yourself with truth (belt of truth). What are you putting in your head everyday? What kind of media are you consuming? What are you listening to? If you allow the world to fill your head with lies, don’t be surprised if you find yourself susceptible to spiritual attacks.

2. Live righteously (breastplate of righteousness). When we make poor decisions, fail to take care of our physical and mental health, when we put ourselves in situations where evil lurks and temptations abound, we open ourselves up to spiritual attack. If you want to protect yourself from spiritual attack, make better decisions.

3. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit (feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace). The emphasis in Paul’s phrasing here is the word “readiness.” Just as your feet have to be aware and take you in the right direction in battle, so our spirits should be sensitive to the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit. He’ll protect us from attacks, if we’ll listen.

4. Choose to believe (shield of faith). Faith doesn’t become faith until you have to use it. Wielding the shield of faith is choosing to actively in God’s goodness and his faithfulness when all evidence points to the contrary. When you’re bombarded with the lies of the enemy, picking up the shield of faith is choosing to believe in the promises of Scripture. This type of protection depends on your will being stronger than the emotions of the moment.

5. Surrender daily (helmet of salvation). Salvation is all about surrender, asking God to save you because you realize you can’t save yourself. That surrender, that humility, that cross that Jesus asks us to pick up daily, is a vital piece of our spiritual defense. Every day, willingly surrender to God. Give your day to him and you’ll come under his protection.

6. Wield the Word as a weapon (sword of the Spirit). The primary offensive weapon given to us is Scripture. So get in it daily. Read it, listen to it, think about it, meditate on it, memorize it. Pick up your sword and start fighting back against the enemy.

Whether you realize it or not, you’re under constant spiritual attack. But you’re not without protection. It’s just up to you to use it.

Many of us want to believe more, we just don’t know how. Our eyes don’t see past our mountains to view God’s might, we don’t see God’s power because of our problems. We need to increase our faith. But how? Is there a magic phrase we’re supposed to say? Telling someone with little faith to simply ‘believe more’ is like asking someone to start flying and when they ask you how, your response is: ‘just fly.’ What’s a practical way you can increase your faith in God?

Here’s a first step: see things from a different perspective. Twenty centuries ago Jesus taught us a lot about faith and how we can grow ours. Look at an insight from Matthew 8:

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. Matthew 8:5-10

Jesus was amazed at the faith of the centurion, so what was it about the centurion’s faith that made it so large? Look at where the centurion focused: Jesus’ power, not his problems. Jesus’ might, not the mountains before him. Rather than focusing on the paralysis of his servant, the centurion chose to focus on the authority of Jesus. He saw things from a different perspective.

Or take the universe as an example. When you look at it from our perspective, the universe is absolutely overwhelming. There are estimated to be 300 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, which is just one of 100 billion galaxies estimated to be in our observable universe (as far as we can see at this point). Scientists estimate that there could be 70 billion trillion stars out there. From our perspective, the universe is incomprehensibly overwhelming. From God’s perspective, it merits a whole five words in the creation story. In Genesis 1, the creation of the vastness of space is captured in five simple words, “He also created the stars” (Genesis 1:16). What seems insurmountable to us is astonishingly easy for God. It’s all about perspective.

If you want a simple way to increase your faith, change your perspective. Lift up your eyes from the mountains before you and focus on the might of our Heavenly Father. Don’t focus on your problems, focus on God’s power. Go outside and look at the stars. See how far you can count. Get lost in the majesty of God and realize that this God is for you and fighting on your behalf. Have faith and believe!