Forgiveness and Spiritual Growth

We have also seen many examples of the trap of unforgiveness in our own ministry. When I was ministering for the first time in Indonesia, I stayed in the home of a wealthy businessman. Even though he and his family attended the church where I was ministering, they were not saved.

During the week I was there, his wife was saved; he was next and then all three children. There was deliverance, and the entire atmosphere in the house was changed. Great joy filled their home.

When they learned I would be returning to Indonesia with my wife, they invited us to stay with them and offered to pay for the airline tickets of my three children and a babysitter.

We arrived and ministered ten times in their church. I preached on repentance and the presence of God. We sensed His presence in the services, with tears flowing and cries of deliverance throughout.

The entire family was again ministered to. The husband's mother, who lived in the same city, attended every service. She had also contributed a large amount of money to the children's airline tickets.

Near the end of the week, this man's mother looked me straight in the eye and asked, "John, why have I never felt the presence of God?"

We had just finished breakfast, and everyone else had already left the table. "I have been to every service," she continued, "and have listened closely to everything you've said. I have come to the front repenting, yet I have not felt the presence of God once. Not only that, but I have never felt the presence of God at any other time either."

I talked with her for a while and then said, "Let's pray for you to be filled with God's Spirit." I laid my hands upon her and prayed for her to receive the Holy Spirit, but there was no sense of God's presence at all.

Then God spoke to my spirit. "She is holding unforgiveness against her husband. Tell her to forgive him."

I took my hands off her. I knew her husband was dead, but I looked at her and said, "The Lord shows me you are holding unforgiveness against your husband."

"Yes, I am," she agreed. "But I have done my best to forgive him."

Then she told me about the horrible things he had done to her. I could see why she wrestled with forgiving him.

But I said to her, "For you to receive from God you must forgive," and explained what Jesus taught about forgiveness.

"You cannot forgive him in your own strength. You must take this before God and first ask God to forgive you. Then you can forgive your husband. Are you willing to release your husband?" I asked.

"Yes," she answered.

I led her in a simple prayer: "Father in heaven, in Jesus' name I ask Your forgiveness for holding unforgiveness against my husband. Lord, I know I cannot forgive him in my own strength. I have already failed, but before You now I release my husband from my heart. I forgive him."

No sooner had she said those words than tears began to flow down her cheeks. "Lift up your hands and speak in tongues," I urged her.

For the first time she prayed in a beautiful heavenly language. We had such a strong sense of the presence of the Lord at the breakfast table that we were overwhelmed and awed by it. She wept for about five minutes. We talked a little while, then I encouraged her to enjoy the presence of the Lord. She continued to worship Him, and I left her alone.

When news reached her son and daughter-in-law, they were shocked. The son said he had never seen his mother cry.

She herself did not remember the last time she had cried. "Even when my husband died I did not cry."

In the service that night she was baptized in water. For the next three days a glow and a sweet smile radiated from her face. I did not remember seeing her smile before that. She would not forgive and was therefore imprisoned by unforgiveness. But once she released her husband and forgave him, she received the power of the Lord in her life and became aware of His presence.

Bevere, John. The Bait of Satan. Lake Mary, Florida, Charisma House, 1997, p. 132-134.

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