“But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:15 (NKJV)
Just as Jesus would go off by Himself to pray, we should do the same. Each lesson found in the Bible is there for our benefit. It is up to us if we put them into practice.
Getting away from distractions, in order to intercede for others and find direction from God, takes discipline. We live in a world overflowing with tempting diversions. Letting go of their pull is wise but not always easy since they are everywhere.
While Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for forty days and nights, the Devil made several efforts to tempt Him (Matthew 4:1-11). Our Lord faced each temptation in faith and victoriously overcame each one. In the end, the Devil ran off and angels were sent to minister to Jesus. Although desolate and solitary places have fewer enticements, the temptations are still there.
Have you ever been wronged by another so deeply that you were tempted to hold on to your bitterness and anger? Did you feel entitled? Sometimes unforgiveness feels good. However, it only offers a false sense of power. God is always the one in control….. not the Devil, you, or the one who offended you.
The Desert Fathers (there were also Desert Mothers) were Christian hermits and monks who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt beginning around the third century AD. There are many little stories and vignettes and teachings that they left behind. Often they are little lessons about spiritual matters. Here is one very famous of their sayings:
“A brother in Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you”.
So he got up and went. He took a sack, filled it with sand and cut a small hole at the bottom and carried it on his shoulders. The others came out to meet him and said, “What is this, father” The Abba said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another” When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.”
When we give in to temptation, sin occurs. The Bible tells us that we are never given a temptation beyond our ability to bear. God continually provides an escape route. This means we are always able to forgive. Sure, we may be a tempted to withhold forgiveness, but there are the unfailing provisions from God that enable us to offer it through His love and strength.
Isn’t it wonderful that we don’t have to rule on or judge the sins of others? We can just turn them over to God, who judges righteously. He sees all, knows all, and loves all. He is fair and just. Our God is aware of the things that tempt us and has equipped us to overcome each and every one. There is no temptation permitted victory over the children of God, for His faithfulness is never-ending. His powerful equipping will constantly provide us with the means we need to overcome the lure of holding onto unforgiveness.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” Matthew 4:1-11 (NKJV)
To read more about the Desert Fathers go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Fathers