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A Story about Costly Forgiveness

Week 15 in the Word – April 9, 2021

Mark Smith is the president of Columbia International University where my wife, Mary, and I both graduated. Early in his life, Mark, came to faith in Christ and as a college student was advised to go into a specialized area of ministry— Christian College administration. Mark completed his undergraduate degree and was scheduled to defend his dissertation for his doctorate in Education Administration from West Virginia University.

On Sunday morning March 3, 1996, he served as a guest preacher at a church in Winchester, IN, giving a sermon from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Mark had emphasized how God’s grace is sufficient for every situation we face. After lunch, he headed off to a meeting with another church that was considering hiring him as their interim pastor.

In route, a car going in the opposite direction at 60 miles an hour veered into the path of Mark’s Ford Taurus. The impact was horrific. The front end and driver’s side were destroyed, and Mark was pinned inside the car in shock and fear. Blood flowed and multiple bones on the left side of his body were shattered. In agony Mark cried out to the Lord, “Oh God, I’m dying!” First responders used the jaws of life to get him out and to the hospital. Over the next weeks, Mark had surgeries and discouraging opinions about his recovery.

As you can guess he amazed the physicians and did recover. He went on to be president of three different colleges. He was deepened in faith and trust in God as he still has to deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. He had many opportunities to ponder the truth he had been preaching at the church in Indiana that God’s grace is sufficient for every situation we face.

While Mark was still in rehab, a lawyer advised him that it would be a cinch to win a $2 million settlement. Mark and Debbie, his wife, pondered the possibility. But they did not feel right about attempting to punish the guilty party. Instead, they sought to forgive him from the heart. They settled it. There would be no lawsuit.

Not long after that, his doctor told him, “You are one of the few accident victims I’ve known who didn’t sue the person at fault. If you had pursued a long and protracted lawsuit, you would have kept rehashing the accident and your mind would have dwelt on the injustice of all you’ve been through. I’m convinced that your body is healing faster than expected because you did not sue, because your focus is on the future and getting better. If you had put time and energy into a lawsuit…I believe the likelihood of bitterness would have been far greater. “[1]

Jesus said to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:11 ESV).

It is costly to forgive. It could mean losing $2 million. God tells us to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32). Christians forgive. Do you?

Note: For the full story of Mark Smith see: “Oh God, I’m Dying: how God redeems pain for our good and His glory” by Terry Powell & Mark Smith, Nashville, Morgan James, 2021

Looking back

This week we concluded Judges with two grotesque examples of how “everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” followed by the story of Ruth, a bright spot amid the suffering and sin of Israel. We sense there will be a king in Israel, and Ruth, a Moabitess, will be in the lineage of that king and of the Messiah, the True King of Israel, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Luke we saw Jesus teaching truth sometimes by means of parables like the good Samaritan. He reveals His future which includes His death. The Lord Jesus asserts that God uses all things for good--especially His death--which will lead to life for all who believe in Him.

Looking ahead

If you are following the schedule in my book, you will begin I Samuel which traces the birth of Samuel and his ministry as a judge in Israel. We will see how the reign of the first king of Israel, Saul, went off track and resulted in God ending his kingdom and dynasty. Samuel anoints an unlikely candidate for king, who is a shepherd boy and youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem: David.

Our readings in Luke will show Jesus continuing to call people to godly faithfulness and to carry a cross as they follow after Him. Many outcasts of society did believe in Him. The scribes and Pharisees grumble about how Jesus received such low life types, but He defended their response claiming that there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. What does it say about the religious authorities of the day that they grumbled while heaven rejoiced? Let us enter into the gospel ministry of calling sinners to repentance and rejoicing when they do!

Tip of the week

Let the providence of God give meaning to the tedious passages of the Bible.

God has a reason for including in His Word lists like genealogies and boundary markers. Could it be that His reason is He wants us to know that He always watches over and works His will all mankind in all places? We call this the providence of God. You can let those hard passages remind you that God knows you, your circumstances, your location and that He cares for you even more than the sparrows and lilies of the field. Everything ultimately turns out according to His plan because He knows all things and nothing can thwart His purposes and plan.

Week of April 9-15, 2021

April 9/Day 99 Fear: When Is It Good and When Is It Not? (I Samuel 1-3: Luke 12:1-34) Audio here. April 10/Day 100 The Importance of Being Faithful and Responsible (I Samuel 4-6; Luke 12:35-59) Audio here. April 11/Day 101 When Suffering Doesn’t Make Sense (I Samuel 7-9; Luke 13:1-21) Audio here. April 12/Day 102 What Does It Mean to Die Well? (I Samuel 10=12; Luke 13:22-35) Audio here. April 13/Day 103 The Importance of Humility, or Who’s on Your Guest List (I Samuel 13-14; Luke 14:1-24) Audio here. April 14/Day 104 Mercy for Limping Cross Bearers (I Samuel 15-16; Luke 14:25-35) Audio here. April 15/Day 105 People Who Please God and Rock the Boat (I Samuel 17-18; Luke 15:1-10) Audio here. If you do not have a copy of my book you may want to order one here. However, you may also access the daily audio recordings generously provided by my friend and pastor Charlie Evans above.

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