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Devotions

Faith in God’s Forgiveness

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

As Christians, we are quick to offer the grace of our Lord to the world, but we often parcel it out meagerly to ourselves. To me, this is the most difficult part of forgiveness.

Consider King David, who committed adultery and then murdered the husband to cover up his offense. When his sin was exposed, David repented, and the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to tell him, “Your sin has been pardoned.” Even though David knew he was forgiven, he had lost his joy. He prayed, “Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones you have broken may rejoice. …Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me by your generous Spirit” (Psalm 51:8,12, NKJV).

Why was David so disturbed? This man had been justified before the Lord, and he had peace through God’s promise of forgiveness. It’s possible to have your sins blotted out of God’s ledgers but not out of your conscience. David wrote this psalm because he wanted his conscience to stop condemning him for his sins. David couldn’t forgive himself. Now he was enduring the penalty for holding onto unforgiveness, an unforgiveness directed toward himself, and that was a loss of joy. The joy of the Lord comes to us as a fruit of accepting his forgiveness.

I have been greatly impacted by the biography of Hudson Taylor. Taylor was one of the most effective missionaries in history, a godly man of prayer who established churches throughout China’s vast interior. Despite this, he ministered for years without joy. He was downcast over his struggles, agonizing over secret longings and thoughts of unbelief.

In 1869, Taylor experienced a revolutionary change. He saw that Christ had all he needed, yet none of his own tears or repenting could release those blessings in him. Taylor recognized there was only one way to Christ’s fullness: faith. Every promise God had made with man required faith. Taylor became determined to stir up his faith, yet even that effort proved vain. Finally, in his darkest hour, the Holy Spirit gave him a revelation that faith comes not by striving but by resting on the promises of God. That is the secret of tapping into all of Christ’s blessings.

Taylor forgave himself for the sins that Christ had said were already cast into the sea. Because he rested on God’s promises, he was able to become a joyous servant, continually casting all his cares on the Lord.

Seeds of Jealousy and Envy

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

We all have seeds of jealousy and envy in us. The question is who among us will acknowledge it? A Puritan preacher named Thomas Manton said of the human penchant for envy and jealousy, “We are born with this Adamic sin. We drink it in with our mother’s milk.” It is that deeply a part of us.

Such sinful seeds keep us from rejoicing in the blessings and accomplishments of others’ ministries or works. Their effect is to erect powerful walls between us and our brothers and sisters: “Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4, NKJV). James adds to this, “If you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth” (James 3:14). In plain terms, this sin of jealousy and envy is a bitter poison. If we hold onto it, it will not only cost us spiritual authority but open us to demonic activity.

King Saul provides the clearest example of this in all of scripture. In 1 Samuel, we find David returning from a battle in which he slaughtered the Philistines. As he and King Saul rode into Jerusalem, the women of Israel came to celebrate David’s victories, dancing and singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7).

Saul was wounded by this joyous celebration, thinking to himself, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” (1 Samuel 18:8). Immediately, Saul was consumed by a spirit of jealousy and envy. In the very next verse, we read of the deadly effect it had on him. “Saul eyed [envied] David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 18:9). Tragically, after this, “Saul became David’s enemy continually” (1 Samuel 18:29).

What happened the next day ought to fill us all with holy fear: “Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul” (1 Samuel 18:12). Saul had been absolutely deluded by his jealousy. He could not humble himself before the Lord in repentance. Had he recognized his own envy and plucked it from his heart, God would have heaped honors on his anointed servant. Christ explained this truth of God’s kingdom to his followers, saying, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

Praying for Our Enemies

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Scripture solemnly commands us, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13, NKJV).

Bearing with someone and forgiving them are two different issues. Bearing with someone, or forbearing, means ceasing from all acts and thoughts of revenge. It says, in other words, “Don’t take matters into your own hands. Instead, endure the hurt. Lay the matter down and leave it alone.”

We are given a powerful example of this admonition in David’s life. He was in a vengeful rage toward a wicked man named Nabal because Nabal refused to help him when he needed help. David swore revenge, but he obeyed God’s counsel, “Do not avenge yourself… Let the Lord fight your battle.” That situation was resolved in a timely manner, and David praised God for his intervention (see 1 Samuel 25).

David had another opportunity for easy revenge when he found his pursuer, Saul, asleep in a cave where David himself was hiding. David’s men urged him, “This is God’s doing. He has delivered Saul into your hands. Kill him now! Avenge yourself.” However, David forbore, instead cutting off a piece of Saul’s garment so he could later prove he could have killed him. Such wise actions are God’s ways of putting our enemies to shame. In that case, Saul saw David’s proof and responded, “You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil” (1 Samuel 24:17).

Jesus never said the work of forgiving would be easy. When he commanded, “Love your enemies,” the Greek word for “love” does not mean “affection” but “moral understanding.” Simply put, forgiving someone isn’t a matter of stirring up human affection but making a moral decision to remove hatred from our hearts.

Forgiveness encompasses two other commandments that Christ gave his followers. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). As one wise old preacher said, “If you can pray for your enemies, you can do all the rest.” I have certainly found this to be true in my own life.

Legitimate and Illegitimate Desires

Gary Wilkerson

In Genesis 2, God is talking to Adam, “You need somebody suitable to help you. I'm going to make somebody for you. It's going to be just right for you.” God brings all the animals and says, “Let's see what we can find.” So Adam’s naming all the animals. You have to wonder, though, why does God do this?

I believe Adam was being given a firm realization of his own longings. Many Christians are confused about this. We oftentimes think that any longing or passion that we have — because it seems to spring from our heart — is automatically evil. However, not every longing you have is inherently wrong.

In Genesis, we’re told no fit helper was found for Adam, so God takes a rib out of him and makes a woman. Adam sees her and says, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23, ESV). When scripture says ‘this at last,’ the Hebrew can be translated in several different ways; one would be along the lines of ‘finally’ or ‘it's about time.’ There's been this burning desire in Adam’s soul, and God has finally called him to satisfy this longing in his heart.

A legitimate longing is one that God brings to you. Longing for worship, community, building a life with a spouse, ministry. The moment that we begin to believe there is satisfaction beyond God, however, we run into trouble. Let's take money, for instance. Everybody needs money to pay your bills and have a place to live. Longing for money in order to successfully care for a family or live responsibly is not wrong. If we want money to buy ourselves security or other selfish reasons, it takes on an illegitimate form. Similarly, longing for a relationship is not wrong, unless you are forcing it through your own power. Longings can be corrupted, but they are often born out of something God spoken into our hearts.

You and I were intended to love people. This is not just a story of marriage. It goes broader than that. God created us to be with one another, to love one another, to have fellowship, to share our lives together with one another. Our selfish longings will build us up or separate us from others. Our God-given longings will always build on love for one another.

Knitting through the Storm

Tim Dilena

I love the story of this one woman who was on a plane en route from Los Angeles to Boston. They hit some really bad weather for almost the entire trip. Everybody on board was panicking because the plane was getting tossed around. Some people were starting to legitimately worry about whether they were actually going to reach Boston. Everyone was panicking except one senior citizen who knitted a sweater the entire transcontinental flight.

Finally, when the plane hit some clear air, someone went over to this old woman who had been knitting the whole time and said, "Why aren't you bothered? Why don't you seem to be fearful while all of us are worried about this plane and hoping we're going to make it to safety?"

She looked at him and said, "Young man, I am on my way to visit my son in Boston, but I used to have another son who was a Christian and died not too long ago. So before this day is done, one thing I know: I will see one of them, and it doesn't much matter which one of them I visit."

I've heard for many years that the Bible says, "Fear not" at least 365 times. That means it tells each one of us, “You don't have to fret about life” one time for every day of the year. I mean how awesome is that? In my many years of preaching, I have said this, but I hadn’t checked it out. Finally, I decided to investigate it for myself. Well, here's the real story. The Bible doesn't say “Fear not” 365 times. In fact, it's not even close. Based on the version that you may have, “Fear not” may be in the Bible less than a hundred times.

Here's the thing, though. It doesn't really matter.

If God said "Fear not" even just one time, then I don't need it 365 times. With God, once said is enough said. Our God is gracious, though, and he says it a few more times for us, and that should be an encouragement to every single one of us. We can trust him when he says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, ESV).

After pastoring an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years, Pastor Tim served at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years and pastored in Lafayette, Louisiana, for five years. He became Senior Pastor of Times Square Church in May of 2020.