May 30, 2014
Last week someone who long ago caused me much pain had a major setback in his career.
I had genuinely forgiven him. Over the years I truly cared about him. When I thought of him, I prayed for him.
But this week when I heard about his setback, to my shame I felt a twinge of pleasure. Part of me was glad. In my heart there was gloating.
It was ugly.
How can I feel pleasure in someone else’s pain? As I saw this wickedness in my heart, and felt its evil, I grew more and more horrified.
Because Jesus calls me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ (John 14:34-35), and to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). But instead of loving and weeping, I was gloating.
There was no excuse, no rationalization, no explanation for it. It was pure sin. 100% evil. And it was in my heart.
What Can I Do?
What can we do when we look inside our hearts and see sin? In the past, before I understood what it means to live by faith, I might have –
- Distracted myself by thinking about something else (but ignoring sin does not overcome sin).
- Tried to shame myself with guilt until my heart changed (feels spiritual, but never works).
- Told myself that if I was a stronger Christian I wouldn’t be gloating (true, but how does that help?).
- Told myself that I should be so satisfied in Jesus that I wouldn’t gloat (true, but that’s not how to experience satisfaction in Jesus).
- Said that I should be so humbled over what Christ has done for me that I’m not able to gloat (Astrue, but just saying those words doesn’t help me experience it).
None of These Work
None of these work, because they don’t focus on battling my unbelief, and strengthening my faith in Christ.
That’s crucial, because love for others flows from faith in Christ (Galatians 5:6; Colossians 1:4-5; 1 Timothy 1:5). When I am trusting all that God promises to be to me in Christ Jesus, my heart will be so freed from pride, and so filled with joy, that I will deeply love and care for everyone.
Which means that when I am not loving, I am not trusting all that God promises to be to me in Christ Jesus. So the only way to stop gloating and start loving is by first strengthening my faith in Jesus Christ.
So how can I do that?
Strengthening My Faith
I love to walk and pray by a creek near our house. So I put on my baseball cap, grabbed my memory verses, and headed for the creek.
I’m often tempted to overcome sin on my own, thinking that then I will earn Jesus’ grace. But this is wrong. Not only can our holiness never earn Jesus’ grace. But we can only overcome sin BY coming into Jesus’ grace.
But how can I turn to Jesus with the sin of gloating in my heart? There’s only one way – by faith alone.
So I turned to Jesus by faith – trusting him to forgive me, to change my heart, and that who he is will satisfy me infinitely more than the sin of gloating.
Confessing My Sin
Then I confessed to him my sin of gloating. I expressed my sorrow at how it profaned his glory.
I asked him to forgive me through his death on the cross. And because I was looking to him, trusting him, and confessing my sin, I was assured that I was completely forgiven (1 John 1:9).
It’s beautiful be forgiven for sins guilt. But I also longed to be freed from this sin’s power.
That’s the next step –
Asking for the Spirit’s Work
Part of the Spirit’s work is to so humble and satisfy our hearts with joy in Jesus that we earnestly love others.
So — quoting the promise of Luke 11:13 –I prayed and asked Jesus for more of the Spirit’s work.
My prayer was also strengthened by remembering what David prayed in Psalm 51:10 –
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
As I prayed, God mercifully gave me even more hatred of my gloating, a sweet longing to be freed from it, and assurance that his Spirit he would do it.
Help My Unbelief!
But what did I need the Spirit to do?
The person with the career setback had caused me pain. And when we feel pain, we long to be comforted by some pleasure.
But the only pleasure that fully comforts every pain is beholding Christ in all his glory.
But instead of pursuing comfort in Christ, I was seeking it in gloating.
Which shows that, at that moment, I was not trusting Christ as my all-satisfying treasure. Instead, I was trusting the dark pleasure of seeing pain brought to this person who had caused me pain.
So I needed the Holy Spirit to strengthen my faith. I needed him to help me see and feel the glory of Christ so much that my pain was comforted, my heart was filled, my pride was humbled, and my gloating over this brother would become weeping for him.
So I prayed – “Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
To the Word
The way the Spirit strengthens faith is by opening our eyes to the truth of God’s word (John 6:63).
So I prayed over Scriptures displaying the glory of Christ like John 1:14, Hebrews 1:1-4, and Revelation 7:9-10.
I mingled meditation on Scripture with prayer for more of the Spirit’s work.
Slowly I felt the Spirit cleansing my heart. I experienced growing love for Christ, comfort for my pain, and wonder that a sinner like me could have the joy of knowing such a Savior.
As this happened, my heart changed toward the person who had hurt me. I felt compassion for him, sorrow for his setback, and longing for his well-being.
The gloating was gone.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- How Jesus Enables Us to Forgive
- What Does the Bible Say about Anger?
- Six Reasons Heart Satisfaction Is Crucial
- What Are the Promises of God?
(Picture is from everystockphoto.com by familymwr.)