If You Forgive, You Win

I’ve had to forgive so many people lately that I finally thought, maybe I need to write a blog post and call it If You Forgive, You Win.

Several times recently, people have treated me disrespectfully. You know what I mean – they looked at me or talked to me like I was stupid, like I didn’t quite measure up and definitely like I wasn’t as good as them.

Then, just yesterday we received fraud text alerts from our credit card company and once again someone out there decided it was ok to use our credit card info to purchase their stuff.

You’ve probably been through it as well. Shred the old credit card, get a new credit card, then spend hours updating all the companies with your new credit card information. My husband Steve is in the other room doing this very thing as I type.  It’s a hassle for sure.

In each of these situations the devil tried to talk me into not forgiving the offender and each time I knew I had a choice to make.

The purpose of this post is not to put the focus on look what happened to me, but to put the focus on the solution because we all have plenty of opportunities every day to be offended and become bitter and resentful. None of us are exempt.

When the first situation happened, as I walked away from the person, I knew I had a choice to make. I could stand there and rehash the way they just treated me or I could ask God for His help. I simply prayed to myself, God, I know I need to forgive this person. Can you please help me? 

The very next thing I purposely started thinking about was how I have talked to way too many people disrespectfully over the years as well, including my own kids and my husband. So instead of having me focus on what the other person did to me, God helped me set my mind on the fact that He has forgiven me of the very same offense so many times. This helped me tremendously in the first two situations because it immediately softened my heart toward the offenders.

The Apostle Paul reminds us of this truth in Colossians 3:12-14:

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. (MSG) 

So lets analyze this scripture, if you will, and see if we can find out what right beliefs make us willing and able to forgive others. After all, right believing leads to right living and wrong believing leads to wrong living.

The very first truth that jumped out at me is that we have been chosen by God for this new life of love. You may not always feel like loving those who have hurt you, but although feelings are very real, following them is not what will set you free. It’s the truth that sets you free.

So here’s the truth about you:

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light. -1 Peter 2:9 (NLT)

Something just happens to us when we know we are chosen, special, set apart.

Let’s take the example of USA women’s gymnastics. Several years ago we purchased tickets to attend the USA Gymnastics Visa National Championships. We weren’t able to attend all the sessions (we gave some of our tickets away), but we did get to go to several, including the final day of competition. It was incredible to experience it live. Wow! Witnessing firsthand what those women were able to do is beyond words!

At the end, the decision was made as to whom would be going on to London as part of the USA Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team. I don’t think there was a dry eye in that place when the girls who made it were announced. They had been picked, chosen, set apart for a special purpose.

Once they knew they had been chosen they were willing to endure several more months of, probably the most intense training they had ever been through so they could then represent the USA at the 2012 Olympics. And represent they did. Wow, what a year that was! Gabrielle Douglas won the all-around individual gold and Team USA won the gold medal for the team competition.

As much as I love to watch USA women’s gymnastics (already looking forward to Rio), I want to encourage you that, as a Believer, you have been chosen for even a much higher purpose – an eternal purpose.

You are a world changer, my friend, but you have to believe it. When you do, you will be willing to do what it takes, by God’s grace, to dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, and discipline.

Now, let’s keep analyzing that awesome scripture from Colossians.

Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.

Do you know that, as a Believer in Jesus, you have been completely forgiven of ALL of your sins – past, present and future sins? If this is new news to you, I encourage you to read Hebrews 10:1-22.

Pay specific attention to verses 10, 12 and 14. Verse 10 says once for all time, verse 12 says good for all time and verse 14 says forever. Then verse 18 says this: And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

and here’s more good news…

Hebrews 9:24-26, 

24 For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. 25 And He did not enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. 26 If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, He has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by His own death as a sacrifice. (NLT)

and even more good news…

Ephesians 1:7 says,

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. (NASB) 

Notice that this last verse does not say our trespasses are forgiven according to how perfectly we behave. It says we’re forgiven according to the riches of His grace!

If this concept of total and complete forgiveness is new to you and you are like, Whoa, I don’t know about this Sandra. I want to believe it, but I’ve never heard anything like this before, I understand because I went through this same process when I first heard this phenomenal news.

If this is where you’re at right now, I encourage you to do one of two things: either get my book, I Tried Until I Almost Died, in which I explain our complete forgiveness in Christ in great detail and back it up with lots of scriptures or go to the search at the top of this website and type in forgiveness. A number of posts will come up including one titled Our Forgiveness Secured.

One way or the other I encourage you to load yourself with truth about your complete forgiveness in Christ as a result of Jesus’ finished work on the cross. It’s critical to your Christian walk that you understand this Biblical truth.

Let’s just proceed on though, assuming all of us Believers have a revelation of our complete forgiveness in Christ. First, think about what happens to a person when they have guilt on their conscience. They react out of that guilt because they feel condemned for their sin. Well, it’s difficult to react to sin that has been removed from your conscience because of the precious blood of Jesus; therefore, you can go through life being assured of your forgiveness which gives you both peace and confidence.

From my own personal experience, having a revelation of my complete forgiveness in Christ has made me SO much more secure. Referring back to the verse we are examining through further study, living with this peace and confidence has made all the difference for me in being able to be even-tempered, being content with second place and being able to be quick to forgive (as the Apostle Paul recommended in that verse).

Do you see how having the right belief that we are forever forgiven affects our behavior?

When you truly understand that you’ve been forgiven of all your sins – past, present and future sins – believe me, you will have a desire to forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you because of the change that receiving His gift of grace has made in your heart.

In all three cases this past week where I was mistreated, as a result of knowing I’m completely forgiven and having that peace and assurance in my own life, I didn’t struggle when I needed to make the choice to stop focusing on what the other person had just done to me. I was able, with God’s help and by His grace, to forgive as I have been forgiven and quickly move past each situation. In fact, I prayed for each person after each incident.

I felt like the Holy Spirit showed me that the first person reacted out of fear that they were inadequate and the second reacted out of their own emotional pain (from being hurt by others). I didn’t have a face-to-face discussion with the credit card thieves, but still prayed for them, that the deception they were living under would fall from their eyes, that they would have an encounter with Jesus and that they and all their family members would get saved. They didn’t know who they were messing with when they messed with Sandra McCollom. I love to pray! God is sending laborers across their path who will tell them the good news as sure as I’m sitting here typing this. Ha – take that credit card thieves. See you in Heaven!

See there, it’s true – If You Forgive, You Win!

Just imagine what would happen if Christians worldwide began to bless their enemies and pray for those who hurt them. Just imagine the love (and love = power) that would be released in the earth. Just imagine how many more people would be won over to the kingdom of God if we receive God’s grace to live like this.

It is only by His grace that this transition is possible. He is the only one who can help us see that this whole deal is not about what everybody is doing to us and instead help us to focus on the other person/people involved and on how they are reacting out of their own hurt, confusion, anxiety, frustration, etc.

Here’s the last part of that verse in Colossians:

And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

One last thought before we discuss forgiving ourselves. My husband and I read a really good parenting book recently called Loving Our Kids On Purpose by Danny Silk. It’s a great book for parents and other leaders as well.

This is not a direct quote because I want to rephrase it to fit this post, but here’s the gist of something I read in this book that I thought was excellent: ‘We are making a big mistake when we make other people’s problems our own problems.’ This hit me like a ton of bricks and I feel like this is very appropriate for this post.

It was important in my being able to handle the offenses I discussed above correctly that I was able to say to myself, This person has a problem, but I don’t need to make their problem my problem. I believe that is what we do when we give into bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness. We essentially take on the other person’s problem ourselves.

On the other hand, when we can identify the owner of the problem (and sometimes that is us), we are then able to stay calm and be empathetic toward the other person by truly feeling sorry that they are allowing this problem to affect their life.

This concept gives us a whole new attitude toward the various situations we face. When we stop letting other people’s problems control us, we’ve just taken a huge step toward freedom.

What About Forgiving Ourselves?

I didn’t know this was going to be part of my post until yesterday morning when I spent almost an hour crying after being pulled over by a police officer for going 45mph in a 35mph zone. I really don’t get mad at myself very often at all anymore, but I sure was mad at and disappointed in myself over this situation.

I think I must have also been having a blood sugar crash as well because I could not stop crying for the longest time. I was a mess.

Finally, I calmed down enough to pray and I said this, God, I don’t feel like forgiving myself. I am so stinkin’ mad at myself. But I know I need to… so I choose to forgive myself right now, in Jesus’ name, Amen. I just had to refuse to go with my feelings – because remember that it’s not feelings that set us free – and choose to let the mistake go.

It wasn’t like I was speeding on purpose.

I know why I was so mad. It was because I had been pulled over for speeding about 6 months ago and I am not normally a speeder. In fact, I feel I’m a careful and conscientious driver, but I was talking with my girls on the way to their classes and we were just having a great time. I simply was not paying close enough attention and I do obviously need to be more aware of the speed limit signs.

I have an idea though – I can use cruise control from now on to make sure I don’t go over 35mph on that road!

On top of getting a speeding ticket I got an additional ticket. I could not find our new insurance card in our vehicle. We recently paid our insurance so we were definitely covered. I just didn’t have the card. I called my husband with the officer standing right there and asked him if he put the card in the glove compartment after paying for it. He had forgotten to put the insurance card in there.

Right then and there I had another choice to make. Was I going to blame my husband and talk to him disrespectfully on the phone right in front of the officer or was I going to remember that I have done that very same thing on several occasions after paying for the insurance myself. I have also forgotten to put the cards in the vehicles.

I’m glad to say I chose to treat Steve with love, but there were so many years that I treated Steve with disrespect, treating him as if he was stupid, as if he didn’t quite measure up and as if I was better than him. I didn’t do this all the time, but far too often for as long as I had been a Christian. The problem was, although I was a Christian, my mind was filled with wrong believing; therefore, I had lots of wrong behavior.

This is exactly why I remain in awe of God’s great grace toward me and the way He has changed me over the past 4 years. I mean, I just cannot get over it. He is so good to have saved me from my pharisaical self. I’m far from perfect, but the point is, I keep receiving His grace whether I’m having a good day or a bad day and it’s His grace that keeps changing me from the inside out.

I was telling my husband last night in front of my girls the story about me crying when the police officer handed me the ticket and how the back seat went dead silent. That doesn’t happen very often folks because my twin girls love to talk. I asked the girls what they were thinking and Starr responded, I was thinking that this is the most embarrassing day of my life because I’m sitting in the back seat with my pajamas and housecoat on and wondering what in the world that Police officer must be thinking.

I started laughing hysterically. I totally forgot that it was ‘pajama day’ at their Homelink classes. I didn’t think to say anything to the officer. He must have been wondering what in the world we were doing – hahahaha!

See there, I forgave myself and ended up having a really good laugh.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most – Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

I encourage you to walk in forgiveness with others and yourself because there is no doubt about it – If you forgive, you win. Sometimes it may not look like you’re winning and you may be tempted to take matters into your own hands, try to control the situation and all the other people involved, but take it from me, leaving it in God’s hands and trusting Him is the most effective way to live!

If you have not yet made Jesus your Savior and received the wonderful joy that His finished work on the cross has provided for you to live in, please visit my page here titled Jesus In The Driver’s Seat. On this page I explain the good news of the gospel and you will have the opportunity to pray a prayer of salvation, making Jesus your Savior! Jesus loves you and His arms are wide open!

Sandra McCollom

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