Prickly Pear

When We Refuse To Forgive

    I was out hunting one day with a twelve gage shotgun and squatted down to take a shot. The kick of the shotgun threw me off balance and back into a prickly pear.  I spent the next hour getting thorns out of my pants and back side.  There is ALWAYS a consequence for our actions.  When we refuse to forgive there are consequences!!!  (Proverbs 26:2)  "As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come."  Where there is a curse, there is always a cause.  The opposite is also true. Many people return to prison because they never connect their acts and the consequence; however, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  The fear of the Lord is understanding that when we disobey God there are consequences.   "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7).  Also see: Why Some Fall Into The Pit.  See:  Bondage Of Unforgiveness.

    Jonah's experience serves as a great example of the consequences of refusing to forgive. Nineveh was the capitol of Assyria.  Assyria was a pagan country that often plagued Israel, the home of Jonah.  When God told the prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach to it, Jonah ran from the God and the message of God because of his unwillingness to forgive the people of Nineveh..

A. He lost money paying a ship fair to nowhere.

B. He got caught in a storm at sea.

C. He got thrown overboard.

D. He got swallowed by a large fish.

E. He was in the fish's stomach at the bottom of the sea for three days.

F. He still had to preach to Nineveh.

G. His prophecy failed and he lost his reputation.

H. He became angry, depressed, and suicidal.

I. He lost his shelter and fainted in the hot sun and blistering wind.

J. He got rebuked by God.
*** Let us look at more closely at some consequences of unforgiveness.

I. It hinders our prayers.

"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalms 66:18). Unforgiveness can be a form of iniquity.

"The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous"  (Proverbs 15:29).

II. It blinds us to the truth.
"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye" (Matthew 7:3-5).

"This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:17-18).

Jonah could not see the people in need.  God asked Jonah, "And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:11).

III. It opens the door to tormenting spirits.
"Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:  Neither give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:26-27).

"And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.  So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (Matthew 18:34-35).  When we fail to forgive others and even ourselves, it opens the door of our souls to the powers of darkness to enter in and bring mental, emotional and physical torment.
IV. It leads us to further bondage.
"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Romans 6:16).

Because of Jonah's attitude of unforgiveness, he went "down, down, down, down, down, and down".  First, he went "down to Joppa" to catch a ship going to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3).  Second, he went "down" to the ship (Jonah 1:3).  Third, he went "down" into the ship (Jonah 1:5).  Fourth, he was cast "down" into the water (Jonah 1:15).  Fifth, he went "down" into the belly of the fish (Jonah 1:17).  Sixth, Jonah, in the belly of the fish went "down" to the bottom of the mountains (Jonah 2:6).  He not only went physically down, he also went spiritually down. His thoughts progressively moved toward wanting to die.  This is what happens when we run from God and His Word!

V. It will lead us to bring hurt to ourselves.
"The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble" (Proverbs 12:13). When we have unforgiveness we often look for other people who will take up our offense toward someone else.

"And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.  For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me" (Jonah 2:2-3). 

Jonah confessed, "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy" (Jonah 2:8).

VI. It may also bring harm to others, even totally innocent people.

The sailors on the ship with Jonah were also caught in the storm and had to throw their cargo overboard.  "Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep"  (Jonah 1:5).

When king Asa got angry at the prophet, he also trouble his own people.  "Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time"  (II Chronicles 16:10).

It keeps us from prospering.

"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy"  (Proverbs 28:13). A failure to prosper may be a sign of unforgiveness in our lives.

However, the opposite is also true.  "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success"  (Joshua 1:8).

VIII.  It puts us into a position of being abased (strongly disciplined) by God.

"And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:9-14).
IX. It causes us miss God's forgiveness ourselves.

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses"  (Matthew 6:14-15).

"Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matthew 7:1-2).

X. It causes us fail to fulfill God's purpose.

Jonah knew the mercy and grace of God but refused to preach it.  Although God used Jonah's word of condemnation, he failed to preach about God's grace, mercy and kindness

"And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil" (Jonah 4:2).

How can we forgive???

I. We can forgive because forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.

Jesus told his disciples to pray: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors"  (Matthew 6:12). It is an act of obedience. 

"And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses"  (Mark 11:25).  The word "forgiveness" has the word "give" in the middle of it. We are to chose to give others something that they don't deserve.

II. We can forgive because God has told us to forgive.

"Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!  It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith" (Luke 17:1-5).
III. We can forgive because God forgives us.

"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye"  (Colossians 3:13).

IV. We can forgive because unforgiveness is a temptation which we can overcome.

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it"  (I Corinthians 10:13).

V. We can forgive because God gives His ability (grace) to forgive.

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure"  (Philippians 2:13).