(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
Has a grudge ever helped you?
Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Colossians 3:13, LB
A bloody civil war raged in Uganda. There were shortages of food, water, vehicles, gasoline, and clothing. The roads had potholes the size of a car. Everywhere we looked there were ugly war machines: tanks, trucks, artillery. We had to pass through frequent checkpoints manned by armed teenaged soldiers. We were stopped twelve times while driving the twenty-five miles from the Entebbe airport to the capital city of Kampala. Each checkpoint made us open our bags for inspection.
The next day, we were to travel to the city of Goma where I was scheduled to address a meeting. Sam, my driver, had been scouring in vain to find some gasoline for our vehicle. We were three hours late when Sam finally came to me to say he found some gas for $30 per gallon. We needed fifteen gallons or $450 worth.
I questioned our going. Who would wait for a foreign speaker who is three hours late? Sam convinced me we should go. It was a slow, bumpy ride and there were more road blocks manned by unfriendly soldiers. We arrived at the meeting place which was packed with people. It was so hot and humid that the air in the room was almost unbearable.
I sat on the platform, looking out at the audience. I saw most of them were hungry. They were shabbily dressed and I knew no one in this audience had stood in front of a closet packed full of clothes and wondered what to wear. What could I say to these people when I had never wondered what I would eat or wear? I knew that many of them had suffered the death of a family member. Many of their families were scattered, some having fled into the forest to avoid being mowed down by hostile gunfire. I prayed silently, “Lord, I don’t know what to say to these people. God, you have to help me.”
The only thought that came to me was:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23, NKJV
I told them I believed that each one of them could have all they wanted of a free gift. The gift was the fruit of the Spirit. It was freely available to my people, and I believed it was also available to them.
AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE
After the meeting, a raggedly dressed man approached me. He said I seemed uncertain about my message. He reassured me that the fruit of the Spirit was available in Uganda, but I had left an important condition out of my message. He asked me if I would take the time to come to his home. He would like to tell me his story.
As we walked down a dusty road in the intense heat, he pointed to a large house, with perhaps five or six bedrooms, up in the hills. “That was my house,” he said, “but Idi Amin’s soldiers came one day and took it as headquarters for his army. My family had to flee and today they are in the forest. I had a Mercedes-Benz parked in front of my clothing store. One day the soldiers came and took my car. Then they took my store.”
We had been walking on this dusty road lined with mud-walled huts with thatched roofs. We came to one and he indicated that this was where he lived. We entered it: one dark room, dirt floor, and a box on the floor. He motioned to me to sit on the box. He sat on the other end of it and continued his story.
“I would sit in my chair and work myself into a frenzy over the soldiers who took my car, my business, my house, and scattered my family. I was consumed with hatred, bitterness, and anger.
When I was forced to leave my house, I took along a chair. I had a cow, also, which needed some fly spray. I traded my chair for the fly spray, but my cow died. I also had a goat and traded my goat for some seeds to plant a garden. But it didn’t rain, so my garden failed. Now I have no car, no business, no house, no family, no chair, no cow, no goat, no garden.
One day, as I sat on this box and rehearsed all of this, I thought I would burst with hatred and animosity. A man came to my door in the middle of this situation. He said he was a missionary and had come to tell me that God loved me. That’s all I heard. ‘God loves me?’ I exploded: ‘Do you know what has happened to me?’
In a rage, I picked that man up and threw him out of my house. God loves me! I was so mad I could hardly contain myself! To my surprise, the man got up and came back in. I was startled at his boldness. He said he had come to tell me about Jesus and would like to continue. He told me, ‘God loves you so much that He gave His own Son to die for you. If you ask Him, He will come into your life and change your heart.’
At the moment I was so furious I hardly knew what to do with myself. Then suddenly, what this man said gave me some hope. I needed something, so I asked Jesus to come into my life right then. He did.
Now I come to the part of my story that has to do with your message. I told you that something was missing.
When I asked Jesus to come into my life, I could still see my home occupied by soldiers, my Mercedes-Benz being driven by soldiers, my business ruined, my family scattered, without a garden, and wondering how to survive. My heart was still filled with animosity toward those soldiers. My new friend read me a Bible verse intended for children of God:
“If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Matthew 6:14-15, NKJV
A shaft of light into utter darkness! I needed to forgive those soldiers. I needed to love them. Suddenly I wanted to love them. I opened my heart and poured out all the hate and anger and bitterness that I had stored up there. All I wanted was the fruit of the Spirit in my heart.
“You are right,” he said. “We can have all we want for free. But you must meet God’s terms. You must forgive men their trespasses.”
My new friend said he was the richest man in Uganda. He had been released from the unbearable load of sin (hate, anger, bitterness) and now was basking in the unlimited wealth of the fruit of the Spirit. He reminded me that God is the source of the fruit of the Spirit. As we parted, I promised him that I would share his story with others.