Then He (Jesus) said to the disciples, ‘It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!’ Luke 17:1
What I’ve seen in my life and in those of many others is that a lot of times, obstructions can be caused when we hold onto past hurts and offences, making us unable to function in our calling. Most of the time these offences come from people we love, people in our day-to-day lives, the ones we are closest with, eat together with, work together with, live together with.
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng. Psalm 55:12-14
This is what David is talking about in this Psalm. The hurt didn’t come from strangers or outsiders, it came from people whom he took sweet counsel with. It can be people we worship with, sing songs with, share deep truths with. In my personal life I have seen that hurt can only come from people we love. It can’t come from someone we don’t love, because we are not going to be bothered by that. If someone hurts us whom we don’t love, why would we be bothered? Personally, I wouldn’t be bothered. Therefore a lot of times we see that people are not free because of hurts and offences they are holding onto due to issues with people in their lives.
I’ve seen people leaving a company because they have had a problem with the boss. I’ve seen people leaving the church because they have been offended by something the pastor said or because of a leader they didn’t like. There’s nothing wrong in leaving a church, but you don’t leave just because you’ve been offended – because the offence isn’t going to stop, it will follow you. If you go to the next church, it’s going to happen; if you go the next company it’s going to happen again. Relationships break because you are offended and you don’t have a soft heart.
I remember when I came to the Lord, the first thing the preacher spoke about was forgiveness. The preacher said, ‘Why don’t you write letters to those you have hurt?’ so I immediately wrote a letter to my dad, because I felt I had hurt him, and I also wrote to an uncle whom I had felt I had hurt. After doing this I felt so free. It was such a good feeling and I learnt a lot about forgiveness.
Unfortunately, the uncle whom I wrote to took the letter and showed everyone else in the family and said, ‘Look, I told you he was wrong.’ The challenge then is how to react when people try to manipulate actions of your heart. You know you did it because you wanted to be right with God. I remember the preacher saying to be careful if you’re writing letters – if you have an ongoing legal case with someone, you shouldn’t write to them, because it can be shown as evidence in court. You need to do it with the right heart, but also make sure you don’t get into more problems. The important thing is to have a soft heart. When you do it with a soft heart, you can see that there is a healing that has taken place and breakthroughs start happening in your life, because God loves the heart you have for Him and the softness you are showing Him.
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy. 1 Timothy 3:2
Paul’s telling Timothy here that the love we have for ourselves over others, ‘Lovers of themselves…’, is because of the selfishness in our hearts. We become proud, lovers of money, and unthankful. Our Lord Jesus wants our hearts to be soft so that he can pour His love through them. When the Lord is pouring His love in our hearts, then our hearts become soft. The Lord starts pouring His love through our hearts into others, enabling us to let go of any hurts.
In Luke 17:1, the word ‘offence’ comes from a Greek word, skandalon, which means a trap. So what Jesus is saying here is that to hold offence, and not to forgive, is to be caught in a trap. So many times people in a church are caught in a trap because they have not been able to forgive and get healed from the offences. The devil traps them in every other area and they don’t get freedom anywhere, because they have been unable to keep their hearts soft. Then comes the question, ‘I have been praying, I’ve been worshipping, I’ve been fasting, why am I not getting breakthroughs?’ It’s because we need to go and forgive. The first thing to understand is what the Word says, and it says that unforgiveness is a trap. This can happen between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, colleagues.
The servant of the Lord must not participate in quarrels, but must be kind to everyone [even-tempered, preserving peace], skilled in teaching, patient and tolerant when wronged. He must correct those who are in opposition with courtesy and gentleness in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and be led to the knowledge of the truth [accurately understanding and welcoming [it], and that they may come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (Amplified Bible)
Here the apostle Paul is telling Timothy that those who are quarrelling and in opposition to each other have fallen into a trap and are held prisoners to the devil’s will. He is saying that if you continue in a state of quarrel and are not tolerant when someone has wronged you, you can easily be in the trap of the devil, and he will try his very best to get you to do his will. Sometimes, when we don’t understand why we aren’t getting a breakthrough, it’s because we just need to let go.
There are two types of offended people. The first are those who have been treated unjustly. The second are those who believe they have been treated unjustly. You can be either of these and sometimes both. The biggest challenge is usually with the latter category, the people who believe they have been treated unjustly. I have seen in my life that this belief comes from inaccurate information.
Back when I worked in Dubai, there was a man who helped me get my job and was really close to me. I began rising up in the company and climbed the ladder quickly, but I felt that this man didn’t like the way I was rising up and because of that he didn’t like me. It wasn’t just because of a feeling but also because of information that was fed through others. There was some truth to it, but not everything was true. It came to a place at the end
where I knew I had to leave the company even though the company and the product were doing very well. So I left and moved to Hong Kong, and then to Bahrain, and three years later I launched a product that started competing with the company I was previously with, and it started doing really well.
I moved to the UK in 2005, and one day I was in prayer, seeking God for breakthroughs, one of which was to sell a house I had in New Zealand that was near a funeral home, so it was difficult to sell. The Lord said, ‘You need to forgive this man, there is still hurt between the both of you.’ I turned around and said, ‘I’ve done that hundreds of times – I know the power of forgiveness and I genuinely from my heart have forgiven him.’ But the Lord said, ‘You need to send him an email to say that you are sorry.’
That was really tough, because I had moved on and done really well and come a long way. But I wrote a simple email to say I was sorry and thanked him for all his help. He wrote back to me to say, ‘I have always loved you and it was just a misunderstanding – I always wanted you to come up in the company.’ It was a really nice, touching email. The relationship was completely healed. But more than that, a week later the house in New Zealand was sold.
In a week things shifted and God worked a miracle. It’s easy to forgive in your hurt, but sometimes it’s difficult to have to send a letter or email to that person. Even though you have forgiven someone in your heart, you will know that you haven’t really forgiven them if you always want to compete with them and be better than them. That is a sign that you have not been completely healed. What I learnt was that my feeling of being hurt had arisen based on what other people had said, and with that my heart hardened towards him. I’m sharing this story in my life because you may feel that you have been treated unjustly, but sometimes it can just be a feeling that that person doesn’t love you or want good for you. Yet in reality they might have no problem at all. You base your feelings upon hearsay, what someone else has told you, and suddenly your heart becomes hard because of it.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 48:10
I believe that it is in times of affliction that your heart is really tested. God checks our hearts and what happens in these times is the refining of our hearts.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7
Our faith is more precious than gold, and the refining that happens in our hearts is so important to check the genuineness of our faith. It’s easy to praise
God when everything is good. It’s easy to praise in a surrounding where everyone is praising God and worshipping Him in an atmosphere of revival. But when things get tough, when you’re facing affliction, when times of trouble come, when you are alone and you seek the Lord, humbling yourself before God and crying out to Him, those are the times, in your brokenness, when God really reveals Himself in such a precious way. Our hearts are refined to become like gold.
Years ago I was reading a book by John Bevere called Bait of Satan. In that season in my life, I was brought to a place where God tested my heart, because He wants our hearts to be like gold. Not just because He wants to give you breakthroughs, but He wants your heart and wants it refined like gold. All the times of revival and experiences of joy are great, but often the most precious times are when you come into that place of deep repentance and forgiveness, letting go of every offence, making your heart so pure before God. God refines us when we go through trials and tribulation; it’s a refining process and God is building our character in those times for something good, something better. It’s good to hold on in these times, because things are going to change. This is where He’s really building us up as a son or daughter of Jesus Christ. He will also, during that time, separate the impurities, whether it is strife, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger or hatred. All these things are the impurities the devil wants to hold us by and trap us with. God breaks the power of all this when we humble ourselves, repent and forgive and let go of the offences.
A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle. Proverbs 18:19
A brother who is trapped by the devil is harder to win than a city. It’s that tough for people who are staying in this place of offence. Often you see that people who are really offended will come and tell you, ‘I am really hurt by that pastor or church,’ and when you tell them you need to forgive, they say they have already forgiven them; yet three months later they will come back and say all over again how that pastor or church has hurt them. You hear this over and over because they are still offended. This offence haunts them; they don’t want to get close to anyone because they are afraid that if they get close, they will get offended. When you are offended you will distance yourself from people because you are afraid that you will be offended again. So you will try to stay away and get less involved, but that’s a trap of the devil.
We construct walls and safeguard our hearts so that we can prevent any future wounds. I am speaking from my heart, because I have been in this place before and it’s so easy for impurities to come in; we need to check our hearts every day. Even in this season, I have had to get rid of impurities so I can come to this place of being refined with a genuineness of faith.
Love does not seek its own, but hurt people become more and more self-centred, self-seeking and self-ordained. In Israel, there are two seas, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. They are both fed by the same source. The Sea of Galilee is teeming with life. There are plants and living things growing, and it flows into the Jordan River, which then flows into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea has no life. There are no plants or any living things; it’s dead. The reason is because there is no flow, unlike the Sea of Galilee, which is flowing. If you have no life flowing through you constantly, but instead have stagnant unforgiveness and bitterness, you will be like the Dead Sea – there’s nothing that will grow there. I believe that we have been called for life to flow through us. If we don’t let go of things and don’t allow life to flow through us, we can become like the Dead Sea.
Joseph, in the Bible, had been genuinely mistreated, but during those times God was building his character. Joseph was the son of Jacob and he had a dream. In this dream he saw that his father and his brothers came and bowed before him. Joseph was so happy, and immediately went and told his father and brothers about his dream, and that he was going to be the head of the family. As you can imagine, the brothers didn’t react very well to this and they put him in a pit and then sent him off to a slave trader. The slave trader sold him to Potiphar, who was one of Pharaoh’s officials. Joseph became a servant to Potiphar and God started exalting him, but again Joseph ran into problems because Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. He ran away from her, and then, fuelled with deceit, she accused him of trying to rape her, and so Potiphar imprisoned him.
In the prison he was with a butler and a baker, both of whom had dreams that they asked Joseph to interpret.
The interpretation turned out to be right, with the baker dying and the butler being restored to his former position. Then it so happened that Pharaoh had a dream and the butler remembered that Joseph could interpret dreams and sent for him. Joseph interpreted the dream, and he was then made prime minister of the land to deal with a famine that was coming, as was revealed through Pharaoh’s dreams. As the famine took hold, his brothers came to him for help, not knowing that he was in fact their brother that they had sold. In Genesis 45:5-8, you see Joseph’s heart. It says:
But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
After all that the brothers had done to Joseph, he said, ‘It was not you who sent me here, but God who sent me.’ In some of the things that we are going through God is preparing us, because He has a great plan for our future. Joseph had to have a refining in his heart to come to the place where he could say that it was God who had sent him there and not his brothers, so that they could be preserved, because God knew the end from the beginning. ‘He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt’ – this exaltation came because he stayed humble and allowed himself to be refined.
When Joseph was in prison, he would have never thought that he would become the prime minister of the nation. If God has called us and we keep a soft heart, exaltation is going to come. There will be times of refining, and they are difficult times, but we must endure those times, just as Joseph did, because God was with him and is with us. The most important thing was that he came out with a refined heart; he didn’t hold a grudge against his brothers.
Another person in the Bible is David, who really loved Saul. David became Saul’s son-in-law and he started rising up. But Saul started to get jealous of David, because he knew that God was with him. David also became a covenant brother to Jonathan, Saul’s son. So he was very much a part of Saul’s household. But jealousy overtook Saul – it came to a point where Saul wanted to kill David and David had to run away. Saul continued pursuing David, and in the process killed eighty-five priests of the Lord because they gave food and water to David. Then Saul fell into David’s hands. Anyone in this situation would kill the opposition before the opposition killed him – survival of the fittest, as they say. But look at what David says below:, Moreover, my father, see! Yes, see the corner of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the corner of your robe, and did not kill you, know and see that there is neither evil nor rebellion in my hand, and I have not sinned against you. Yet you hunt my life to take it. Let the Lord judge between you and me, and let the Lord avenge me on you. But my hand shall not be against you. 1 Samuel 24:11-12
David had also had a prophetic word that he was going be king, so he could have killed Saul and become king, but he didn’t, because he knew that was not the time. That’s why God called David a man after his own heart. Even though he messed up at times, he had a soft heart. After all this, again Saul pursues him, this time bringing reinforcements in the form of three thousand men. David, on the other hand, doesn’t even have an army. Yet again, though, Saul falls into David’s hands. One of David’s faithful servants, Abishai, tells David that this time they definitely need to kill Saul.
Then Abishai said to David, ‘God has delivered your enemy into your hand this day. Now therefore, please, let me strike him at once with the spear, right to the earth; and I will not have to strike him a second time!’ But David said to Abishai, ‘Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?’ David said furthermore, ‘As the Lord lives, the Lord shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. But please, take now the spear and the jug of water that are by his head, and let us go.’ 1 Samuel 26:8-11
I have seen in my life that it’s really tough when fathers or father figures whom you really love and honour hurt you. It takes grace to forgive them. When I was young, a man whom I really honoured hurt me: my mother’s father, my grandfather, abused me. It was very difficult for me to come to a place where I could forgive him. I went through so much confusion; it was such a difficult time because I couldn’t even tell my parents about it, or anybody, for that matter. While I was growing up, and until I came to the Lord, it was so tough to trust people, because even people that you trusted could abuse you. I didn’t want anyone to have that role in my life. After coming to the Lord, I had to come to a place of softening my heart and saying, ‘Lord, I forgive him.’ I know that the Lord not only heard my prayer, but saw my heart in all this. Years later, a week before he died, I had the privilege of leading him to the Lord, and he was crying, maybe because of all the guilt. When people whom you trust, that are in the place of fathers or mothers, hurt you, it’s so difficult to come to a place of forgiveness. I am sharing all this because I want to help people.
Another time, there was a cricket coach who really cared about me, and I learned so much of the game from him and looked up to him. But one day in my room, he abused me sexually. That was heart-breaking for me, and again I couldn’t tell anybody – it really broke me. I had no understanding of why this was happening, and I felt like there was no support. These things have repercussions in your life, and you start behaving in certain ways because you have been hurt. After giving my life to Christ I had to take a season to forgive them. If we are unable to forgive people in our lives who really hurt us, we are going to come to a place of bondage, because it’s a like a trap. As you become vulnerable before the Lord, He will start healing you.
David is saying in the passage a few pages back that Saul may have done wrong, but God will punish him; David won’t punish him, because he is God’s anointed. But his judgement day will come. When people are against us and doing things that hurt us, we shouldn’t stretch out our hands and hurt them, but we need to humble ourselves and become soft before the Lord.
In 2 Samuel 1:14-15, what David had said happened to Saul, he died by another’s hand. That man came and boasted to David after he had killed Saul, and David said he was going to kill him because he had touched the Lord’s anointed. It is so important to be soft before the Lord and to come to a place of forgiveness,especially when people who are close to you, whether it is your family, or someone you love and trust, hurt you or betray you. We cannot think that it’s all right for us to judge them for what they have done.
Even in this season, I have been going through real brokenness. I have started a new company; I had to leave the earlier one because it wasn’t going where I wanted it to, and things have been really tough with starting up a new company. I had a really good relationship with the boss of my earlier company over twelve years, but with my leaving our relationship was completely broken, and that made me really unhappy. I had been praying for months asking God to heal this relationship, but there seemed no way because it had gone beyond mending. I was also crying out to God for breakthroughs in my personal life.
On 3rd June 2016, I was crying out to God and asking what I should do because things were not going my way. I humbled myself before God, and in that place, God told me that I needed to forgive this man. This man wouldn’t even speak to me, he didn’t answer calls or anything, and I didn’t know how I was going to try and restore things. So I left it, because it was an impossible situation. Even though I wanted to, I told God that there was no point because he wouldn’t answer my calls. But the Lord said, ‘It doesn’t matter, you still need to do what I have asked you to do.’ When the Lord said that, I gave this man a call and he didn’t answer. So I said, now I’ve done my job and it is finished.
But on the same day in the evening, he called me back, which was extremely unexpected; it was not like him to do that. I spoke to him and apologised, and he apologised, and the conversation went really well. God had brought me to this place where he humbled me and gave me the grace to speak in a humble way. I did what God told me to and I believe that the relationship has started getting restored.
My wife Preethy had a dream a week after that, and she said the season changed the day Mohammed Ali died – and that day was 3rd June. I don’t think that was a coincidence. We started seeing breakthroughs happening. None of this was by accident. When we come to a place of a having a soft heart, miraculous things happen. The power is released when offences are healed.
It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him. Luke 17:2-4
Wherever you are in your life, the Lord wants you to come to this place and He wants to forgive you. But He is asking us to check our hearts right now. It can be from things we experienced when we were a child or while growing up. The Lord may show you people whom you are holding offences against, especially whom you are really close to that have hurt or offended you. The Lord wants to release you from that and wants you to forgive them. He wants to release His grace into our lives to come to a place of softness and to refine us, so that we can forgive those people. It can be that some people have betrayed you whom you really loved. The Lord wants to release a fresh healing of hearts, a healing of relationships. He wants to create gold in our hearts. If the Lord is showing you someone that you need to forgive, just tell the Lord that you want to let go and you want to release them. As you do that you will begin to experience a fresh freedom and you will start seeing breakthroughs happening in your life.