Be Careful What You Ask For - And Other Lessons Learned The Hard Way
One of the most dangerous prayers I’ve ever prayed was when I asked God to make me aware of my sin as I went through the day. I got the idea to pray that way after reading an article on the importance of confession, and in my excitement to build a more consistent habit of confession, I decided to pray for God to show me my daily sin. The goal was to be able to confess my sins as God made me aware of them, and I have to tell you, God faithfully answered that prayer! By late morning of that day I was feeling discouraged over how often I slipped into selfishness, or how quickly I became critical of others, or how impatient I was over small inconveniences. It felt like God was revealing my sinful nature faster than I could repent, and my embarrassment from seeing that sin in my life was making me more and more reluctant to even talk to God.
Fortunately, God knew the perfect way to encourage me - and He did that by reminding me of the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man, found in Luke 5:17-26. If you're not familiar with that passage, it tells the story of a paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof of the building in which Jesus was teaching. Hearing of the miracles Jesus had been doing, this man's friends brought him to see Jesus in the hopes their friend would be healed as well. They lowered him down - bringing him to rest right in front of Jesus. As the paralyzed man was lying in front of Him, Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven”.
The thing I find encouraging in this story is that this man's friends brought him to Jesus for physical healing, but first, Jesus healed him spiritually. Then, after taking care of what was most important, Jesus went on and healed him physically as well. But the really encouraging part to me is that the verb used in this passage for the word “forgiven” has the basic meaning of “sending” or “driving something away”. So what Jesus was really saying to this man was, “Your sins are forgiven AND driven away from you.”
What this means is that, when our sins are forgiven, they're also “driven away from us”. David sums this idea up beautifully in Psalm 103:11-12 where he writes, “He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” God forgives us, AND He doesn’t hold our past sins against us. It’s one of the most beautiful and encouraging realities of life with God!
The reason I’m writing about this today is that a friend recently talked to me about the discouragement he feels over how often he needs to pray for forgiveness. As he talked, I was reminded of my “dangerous prayer”, and what I learned from it. I know from experience the harsh reality of life: we all sin, and we do so more often than we want to admit. But the greater reality is that God forgives us, and He drives our sin away from us - not holding it against us, or even remembering it. That means we can come to Him and confess our sins - no matter how many of them there are, or how often we’ve had to confess them before - and God will hear us, forgive us, and give us a fresh start.
So today, let's do that. Let’s confess our sins to God and claim His forgiveness. Let’s allow Him to extend His mercy and grace and forgiveness, and heal us in the way we most need to be healed just as Jesus did with the paralyzed man a couple thousand years ago.