Christians worship a very forgiving God. This is who He is, this is what He is. Long before we were born, long before we were a twinkle in the eyes of our parents, our Lord God gave His only begotten son for us. He redeemed us.
That does not mean he will spare us from problems in this life, nor does it mean He will not test us, or challenge us so that we may grow; be changed and remoulded from what we were, into that which He wants to us be. And when His will have been fulfilled and we need to be changed and remodelled again, He will do it. It takes a trusting person to keep their eyes focussed on the Lord rather than on the temporary discomforts of the present day. But that is what we are asked to do, to obey, to trust and to believe in Him for all things, at all times.
We all make mistakes. We all make errors. We all wander off the path which our Lord God determined we should take, and He does come to bring us back. Sometimes it is a quick and painless exercise, and sometimes it is a long drawn out ordeal as we fight against His wishes. Typically, the Lord will not force us to do that which we do not want to do, instead he will wait patiently for us to come to a true understanding of what is needed of us, in our prevailing circumstances. Other times, He will reveal Himself in such a powerful way it will cause an instant change within us, as Truth and new revelations are revealed.
Unfortunately, the enemy is also out there, and it certainly seems that when the Lord is working to bring us back into the fold, the enemy is doing his best to keep us out of it; distracted us, enticing us, with worldly enjoyments which really make us feel at home here. When we feel at home here, we begin to lose focus on God and He becomes less and less meaningful for us. We begin to believe the lie: we swallow it, hook, line and sinker. We begin to make our own gods from work, money, position, ourselves etc., all those things which provide our blinding pleasures.
Many Christians cannot come to terms with the idea that the enemy is out there ready to strike and take advantage of us at any time we give him the opportunity. Certainly he is not omnipotent or omnipresent, but he does have a whole slew of helpers who, under fear rather than love, assist him in his battle against us. And they are everywhere. First Peter 5:8 tells us to “be sensible and vigilant, because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour”. We need to recognise that it is still true today.
We can also look at Job and see the reason for his troubles. When we recall the trials of Job we typically forget the whole reason for his troubles. It was all because of the enemy. “And a day came when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah and Satan also came among them. Jehovah said to Satan, from where do you come? Then Satan answered Jehovah and said, from going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And Jehovah said to Satan, ‘Have you set your heart against My servant Job, because there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil?’” (Job 1:6-8) God then allowed Job to be tested, for in v12 “Jehovah said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power. Only do not lay your hand upon him’. And Satan went forth from the presence of Jehovah.”
Later in Luke 22:31-23 we read “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
We cannot know for certain why things are happening to us, but we can come before God in heartfelt prayer and seek His forgiveness for that which we may have done wrong, or our ancestors have done wrong. We can seek to get right with God as we humbly seek him and obey Him, for as Psalms 51:17 tells us “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
When Jesus spoke the words of Luke 22:31-23 he was predicting, prophesying that Simon was about to deny knowing Him by, as he says in v34, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” As the rooster crowed the next morning, Peter recognised and acknowledged his denial and the truth of who Jesus was. In John 21:15-19 Jesus restores Simon Peter and asks him to “Follow me.” Simon Peter is forgiven.
Our God was also forgiving in the Old Testament, as we see in His treatment of and relationship with, King David. Despite the colourful background of David and his lapses of judgement into sin, they were not held against him for Acts 13:22 tells us “he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’” Imagine the Lord putting His hand on your shoulder and saying to all the assembled throng, “Ah, a man after my own heart, whom I know will always do my will.”
Then in Jeremiah 29:11 Israel is told ”’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” But remember, this was during a time of apostasy of the Jewish nation and the pending disaster for them at the hands of the Babylonians. But God was talking here about how He felt about Israel then in their sin, in their apostasy, not as it might be, if they were to change and return to Him.
Today, as in the Old Testament times, our sin is not the measure of our relationship with God. As we seek to get back to the times before sin; as it was in the Garden before Adam and Eve dishonoured God, we need to recognise that it will always require the replacing of dishonour, with honour. Jesus has set the system for us and paid the price we could not pay, nor even conceive of paying. But to respect what Jesus has done for us, we need to respect Him and all others at the same time; to honour Him and honour others at the same time.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
Amen and Amen.