I’ve been thinking a lot about mercy and its great rewards lately.
Why have I been contemplating mercy? I won’t get into the details other than to say that I was owed something and had been waiting a long time to receive it back. It was something I couldn’t really afford to lose, or give away, and I was getting quite distressed about how I would get it back into my possession. I was growing frustrated and weary in the waiting and decided to go on a prayer walk to get the Lords perspective on the situation.
I started doing prayer walks a few years ago after a friend shared some excellent advice on prayer with me. He suggested that a person spend as much time listening in the place of prayer as they do talking. His solution for finding that balance was to go for a prayer walk. He would pour out his complaints, questions and requests as he walked away from the house, then turn around and listen the whole walk back.
As I left the house I began to pour out my complaints to the Lord (which is the best place to pour out your complaints – vertically, not horizontally). I needed wisdom and understanding on how to walk this problem out in a way that honoured God and the friendship it was affecting. I was approaching my half-way-point and decided to ask one last time for divine wisdom before crossing over the imaginary line into “the listening zone”.
As I crossed over I began to listen. Immediately I felt the Lord spoke to me these words “You delight in showing mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment”. They were the lyrics from a song by Amanda Cook I had been listening to earlier on my iPod. I felt the Lord inviting me to forgive the debt that was owed to me. I remember Him clearly whispering, “If you will do this kindness for Me, I will repay you ten fold.” “Wow, ten fold! That’s a pretty good return on my investment” I thought to myself as I pondered His invitation. For the next 30 minutes I debated His request in my mind as I walked home. The more I thought about it the more I was convinced that I had nothing to lose. Realistically speaking, I was pretty sure I would never recoup everything I had lent out and His request presented a great opportunity for me to grow some much needed faith in the area of financial provision.
“You delight in showing mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment”” – James 2:13
That was over a month ago, and today I found myself needing to go for another prayer walk. You see, forgiveness and mercy are funny things. They seem to get hung up by little objections like our own pride and self-sufficiency. It’s hard for many of us to have someone forgive a debt that we genuinely want to pay but can’t; and my friend was no different. He appreciated the gesture but wanted to make it up to me by giving me something of similar value in exchange. What should I do? Should I receive it and be grateful for the unexpected gift? But what about the promise I had received of having it return to me ten fold? If I took the gesture would it void that promise? I needed answers, so I set out on a prayer walk to find some.
As I crossed over into the listening zone I once again began to meditate on the issues of mercy, forgiveness and kindness. Did I really want to forfeit my greater “reward” by accepting my friends exchange? Was I robbing myself of a great blessing? Was I going to be robbing him of a blessing? After all, those who have been forgiven much, love much. I desire for my friends to grow in greater love with Jesus because of the mercy that has been shown to them. I want others to be empowered to pay mercy forward. The truth is that I have been forgiven much and want to extend that mercy to those who truly owe me so little compared to what I owed Christ.
It was then I was reminded of the words of Jesus, “For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
“Yes,” I thought to myself ,”I want to experience that kind of generosity from God!” I want Jesus to deal with me with the same measure that I have used for others. This seemed so good and so right and I was very glad I had gone for my little prayer walk. However, my prayer walk was not over as I had a few more blocks to go until I reached home, so I continued to listen (and I’m so glad I did).
“For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:38
The more I pondered the idea of “the same measure” I began to realize that the measure I was envisioning was not the same measure that God was using. You see, I had had to pray and contend for the faith to demonstrate this small kindness to my friend. It took ALL the faith I had to release him from his obligation. At times it felt like the widows mite was being asked of me and I was being invited to give away ALL that I had to give. As I thought about that it dawned on me that the measure that would be used to pay it back to me was NOT based on monetary value such as “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. The measure that God was considering was my heart, my “buy-in”. He was going to measure generosity and kindness back to me with the same measure I had used. He was going to pour out His kindness to me with all of His heart. He would (and has) show a generosity to me that demonstrated His complete investment of everything He has! How great is the measure of His complete and unrestrained mercy and kindness?
The thought of experiencing the fullness of God was exhilarating. How could I possibly choose the temporal reward of a debt repaid in light of the opportunity to experience the eternal riches of Jesus’ unrestrained mercy towards me? The equality of measurement encompasses so much more than having a particular sin or personal failure forgiven because you forgave another person that same sin; and eye for an eye. It is that and so much more. It is having the Uncreated God love you with His whole heart because you chose to love others with your whole heart. It is the joy of receiving His glorious inheritance because you shared your own meagre one with those around you. It is the confident hope of knowing that because we did everything in our power to help the weak, poor and oppressed that He will do everything in His power to deliver us from our enemy in the day of trial.
The good news is that we can love because we have been loved. We can forgive because we have been forgiven. No need only to remove the stumbling blocks of pride and self-sufficiency out of the way to enter into the joy of receiving the generosity of God.
I hope you are inspired by these stories of faith and encounters from the place of prayer.