by Bill Nugent
It was the Autumn of 2007, my Mom had recently passed away and I was emptying the house to prepare it for sale. I was also preparing for an interstate move, from New York to New Hampshire. I was under pressure to downsize. I opened a box of my stored stuff. It was filled with old cassettes of sermons and teachings I had gotten at conferences over the years. I was so weary by this point that I imagined myself just dumping all the cassettes into a garbage bag.
For some reason I reached in and pulled out a tape, and then another. I saw a title that intrigued me. It was about forgiveness. I decided to listen to it. As I listened to it over and over again during the next few days, it changed my life! It was about the connection between forgiving those who offend us and receiving physical healing. It was so basic and yet so thought provoking. Funny how getting back to the simple basics can be so radically liberating.
This basic message on forgiveness gave me insight into a strange phenomena that has appeared in recent revival meetings. Unbelievers just off the street receive miraculous healings while devout born-again Christians who’ve been suffering for years go home sick.
Many, including myself, have pondered this for years. In this article I’ll offer a unique perspective from the scriptures that speaks to the issue of why so many devout Christians stay sick.
I believe the reason has to do with holding bitterness and unforgiveness toward those who’ve offended us. Wait, before you say “I don’t hold grudges” and hit your delete key, consider the emphasis that Jesus put on the need to forgive those who annoy us. Jesus had more to say about forgiving enemies than all the other Bible writers and prophets put together!
Even the Lord’s prayer, which Jesus taught us, contains the words “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Jesus follows His teaching on the Lord’s prayer with these chilling words “but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt. 6: 15).
And who can forget Jesus’ beautiful words given in the Sermon on the Mount including “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt 5:44.)
The first words Jesus spoke to his disciples after He was raised from the dead have special significance. Among those very first words were the following: “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained ” (John 20:23 NASB). Why do you suppose Jesus brought up the matter of forgiving people at that particular time? It’s because He just got through dying for the sins of all people everywhere!!! Jesus paid the penalty for us so that we could be forgiven by the Father! Of course He will emphasize forgiving our enemies! Yet so many of us radical Christians hold subtle grudges and wonder why the enemy has a foothold in our lives.
This brings us to some of the saddest words of the New Testament. These stark words, spoken by Jesus, appear at the end of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. “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” (Matt 18:34-35). The above verses are solid proof Christians can be afflicted by demons. The tormentors are demons. If you are unforgiving toward anyone, then demons have permission to torment you and all the prayer meetings and revival meetings won’t drive them away. You must repent of your resentment and forgive, from your heart, all who have hurt you and then the tormentors will have no legal basis to be in your life and they can easily be driven off in the name of Jesus.
In Ephesians 4:26 Paul the apostle wrote “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” A crucial point is made here that we must not miss. We must forgive EVERY DAY!!! Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Resentment is like an oozing dye that penetrates the unsanctified part of our souls. We must flush it out every day. We must never assume that if we forgave someone once that it’s behind us. In Luke 9:23 Jesus commands us to take up our cross DAILY!
Most Christians, even radically committed Christians, are infested with a wide array of petty resentments and old wounds. We assume that we are beyond the basics of renouncing resentment and forgiving others. Our guard is down, our hearts are weighed with subtle anger at others. This is why so many of us stay sick!
Unsaved people walk into a revival meeting and receive healing. Unsaved people don’t know much about the need to forgive others and therefore are not as accountable as are believers. We believers know the scriptures and the many commands to forgive. In Luke 12:48 Jesus teaches that he who is given much shall have much required. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Since unbelievers know very little about the need to forgive others, God doesn’t hold them accountable to a great degree.
God holds mature Christians to a very high standard. We know the scriptures and we have walked with God for years. We have received God’s forgiveness for our sins and God expects us to completely forgive all who have offended us.
Bob Jones used the illustration of a yo-yo. You fling the yo-yo down and it comes back. That’s just like resentment. You repent of resentment and yet later on you think of the person who hurt you and you get angry all over again! That’s why resentment is a constant battle that we must fight every day. We must repent of resentment every day. Bob said to fling that yo-yo down until it doesn’t come back!
Every morning I go over my list of those who offended me and I forgive them and bless them. I believe that this has resulted in great blessing and fruit in my life.
John Arnott, senior pastor of Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and leader of the Toronto blessing outpouring, has said that the team spends a great deal of its time leading people to repent of unforgiveness. In fact it is said that the common denominator of those who received healing in Toronto is repentance from unforgiveness.
Another ministry leader has said that in ministering inner healing to people they formerly spent the most time dealing with the person’s experience with rejection. Later on they came to realize that the more important issue is unforgiveness. They now emphasize dealing with the person’s bitterness issues. The healing team at the Albany, New York healing rooms spend much time dealing with a sick person’s unforgiveness before they even start to pray for healing.
Consider this test. Think of someone who offended you and then genuinely and sincerely bless him or her from the bottom of your heart. If you can sincerely bless the person who offended you, then you have forgiven the person. If you hesitate even in the slightest to bless the person then you are still angry at him or her and you are in unforgiveness. Anger equals unforgiveness. In Matthew 5:22 Jesus said that being angry with a brother makes you subject to judgment.
Every day we must repent of all anger against others. If you get rid of the unforgiveness, the tormenting spirits of infirmity will leave and you will receive your healing!!! This message has changed my life and I pray that it changes yours.
Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Prayer to receive salvation:
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!