I was 16 years old and had recently given my life to Christ in June, 1985. Only a month before, I started attending fellowship every Wednesday night in the home of ‘Brother George’, a friend of my Uncle who had mounted pressure on him to minister the Holy Spirit to me as a teenager. Brother George invited us to attend the Southern Faith Convention of Faith Liberation Hour Ministries led by Brother David Oyedepo at the Ilorin Teachers College hall. At the opening night, it was announced that a group of young people were going to minister called ‘The Holy Ghost Missiles’. Out came a group of young men including Tosin who was a former High School mate and using a contemporary genre, made a powerful impact on the audience of about 250 people. The ovation that greeted their performance was loud and that was where problem started for my teenage soul. Why was I not invited to be a part of the group? My carnal mind badly wished I shared in the accolades and limelight. I was offended at Tosin who although attended Holy Ghost Caucus (the fellowship in the house of Brother George), honestly never saw me sing before.
My young and carnal mind wanted the ovation, but not the glory of Jesus. I wanted popularity, not to be a blessing. Most offenses are rooted in our carnal instincts to feed and protect self interests. Cut me some slack though, I was only 16. However, as early as that age, the Holy Spirit taught me valuable lessons as jealously ate into my heart. To avoid the development of the root of bitterness which reaches deeply into our emotions and springs up into fruits of resentment, hatred, malice, conflict and breakups, the Lord told me to start praying for the young men I had envied the previous night. He explained to me the importance of focusing on my calling to the pulpit and obeying God, not caring what others are doing that will bring them to honor. ‘The days are coming when you will be invited to preach where they have been invited to sing’. Within a little over two years, that had begun to happen. I began to pray for them and became one of their biggest fans for the few years they existed before tertiary education scattered them around Nigeria.
Since the above experience in my adolescence, I have learned that the start of the healing process is found with a healthy self check. Am I hurt due to personal misconceptions, unrealistic expectations, pride and ego, selfishness or ambition? Many offenses are neither justified nor valid. Ahab the husband of Jezebel and king of Israel was hurt, bitter and depressed because Naboth would not trade his family inheritance for money in line with the biblical injunction not to remove the landmarks which the founding fathers of Israel had laid. Covetousness was at the root of his pain. Jezebel his wife picked on it and was offended because of her pride and inordinate thirst for power. Saul’s offense against David was nothing but a child of petty jealousy also. However, there are times when it is due to genuine hurt by unintending people. Human complexity causes us to hurt at other peoples actions and behaviors due to misunderstandings. As little as they may appear, little things may blow up to become big things. The third and most painful hurts are the ones deliberately inflicted by the jealous, the envious, the wicked and the vengeful. They are intended to hurt and they do and the hurtful are at times unrepentant and non-remorseful.
The pathway to forgiveness is a Faith pathway. Lord Increase our Faith was the response of the disciples when Jesus told them they had to forgive 490 times in a day if offended that much. It takes the help of God to forgive the unforgivable (Luke 17:5). Forgiveness starts with a DECISION to let go. That inner resolve made in dependence on the grace of God is the start of the miracle of forgiveness. Still reeling with pain in the heart despite our best resolve, God taught me to start PRAYING for the offender according to Matthew 5:44. We are to bless those who curse us and pray for those who despitefully use us. As I began to pray for people, I quickly learnt you cannot send out fresh and salt water from the same spring (James 3:11). The more you bless and pray for people, your heart melts with the love of God already poured into it by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). It’s only a matter of time and the pains will melt away as the love in our spirits dominate our emotions and thoughts.
The final part of the journey is to demonstrate forgiveness through acts of kindness. When we add giving, supporting, helping, hugging and many other acts of love to our prayers and resolve, feelings of resentment and hatred vaporize and the heart is completely free of pain. I pray the love of God will rise from our hearts, fill our souls and overflow to all family and friends.