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Start the New Year off in Freedom
By Joel Osteen - Dec 31, 2010
I heard a story about a young man who grew up in an abusive environment. His father was an alcoholic and would come home in violent rages. There was no peace in his home. His family was always on edge. This young man was afraid for his life and his mother’s life. One night, the dad came home drunk and began to abuse the mother, not just verbally, but this time physically. This young man, fourteen years old, stepped in to protect his mom. He and his dad got into a big fist fight and the father kicked him out of the house. He said, "I never want to see your face again. And if you ever set foot in this house, it will be the last time you do."

That young man left that night so dejected, so despondent, he was going to end his life. He was standing on the side of a bridge in the middle of the night when all of the sudden, he heard a voice saying to him, "Don’t jump. I’ll be your Father. I’ll be your Protector. I’ll take care of you." Now this young man wasn’t religious. He wasn’t raised in church; but at that moment, he knew that his heavenly Father was showing up to bring justice into his life. It reminds me of what the Psalmist said, "Even if my father and mother forsake me, God will adopt me as His very own child."

From that day forward, that young man was on his own at fourteen years old. He was filled with hurts and pain and so much rejection, but he made the decision early on that he was not going to hate his father. He chose to forgive him and move on with his life. He ended up becoming a minister. Over the years, he reached out to his father, but his father wouldn’t have anything to do with him. Twenty-two years later on a Sunday morning while he was ministering in the pulpit, out of nowhere, his father walked into the back of the church. After the service, the father came down to the altar with big tears running down his cheeks. He not only asked his son to forgive him, but that day he gave his life to the Lord. After the service, the father and son began to talk. This father told his son things he had never known before. His father was an alcoholic and was very abusive to his mother. This father was raised in such a dysfunctional home that by the time he was six, he had already lived with four different families. I’m not making excuses for anybody’s behavior, but the point is: hurting people usually hurt other people. This father had all that anger and bitterness and rejection on the inside. Instead of letting it go, he made the mistake of carrying it around. He didn’t realize he was passing it down to the next generation.

Friend, one thing I know for sure is that God is a just God. I don’t know what’s happened to you or how long it will take to make the wrongs right, but God promises to restore what the enemy has stolen. It doesn’t matter how badly you’ve been hurt or how wrong the other person was, if you will turn it over to God, He will settle your cases.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He said something interesting to His disciples, “Whatever sins you forgive will be forgiven. Whatever sins you retain will be retained.” When we retain something, it means we hold on to it. I believe one thing God is saying in this passage is that when we hold on to the wrongs that people have done, when we retain their sin, it not only contaminates us, but that sin is like a seed. It can actually produce in us exactly what they are. In other words, when you don’t forgive, it’s easy to become what you hate.

Today, on the last day of 2010, why don’t you choose to enter the New Year in freedom by choosing forgiveness? Let God settle your cases. He has your best interest at heart, and when you forgive others, God will forgive you.

Victoria and I love you so much and pray for you every day. We know that God has a plan to prosper you and give you a hope and a future. God is a progressive God. As this year comes to a close and a New Year begins, we know that He has greater levels of blessing, greater levels of peace, greater levels of joy, and greater levels of victory in store for your future!

Happy New Year!
Joel and Victoria Osteen
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