Before I get into my teaching today, I want to thank you for signing up to receive your first teaching letter from me. Welcome! I’m so glad you decided to join our family of deeper readers. I spend hours writing these letters each month, sharing my heart and the insights gleaned from my studies in God’s Word. I pray that this letter, and every letter I write in the future, truly ministers to your heart and strengthens your walk with God.
Greetings in Jesus’ name!
Before I get into what’s on my heart to share with you today, I want to express how thankful we are for your prayers for the countless number of precious adults and children who have been displaced from their homes due to the volatile situation in this region. Because of your generosity and willingness to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we have been able to provide immediate relief in the form of packages filled with food, personal-care essentials, blankets, and the Word of God. Your prayers and financial gifts are an instrumental part of placing hope directly into the hands of those who so desperately need hope in this hour. If you would like to see the most current photos of this emergency-relief effort, please use the following link: renner.org/article/relief-photos.
Denise and I would also like to thank those who are continually praying for us and RENNER Ministries as we move forward on our Ministry Expansion Project (you can read more about it at renner.org). We are making significant progress, but please continue praying with us to reach our goal as we grow our capacity to minister to those God has sent to us to impact with the Gospel. We are SO THANKFUL to every person who has become a part of the giving team to help us so we can better minister to people in our nearby world and to the far reaches of the earth. Thank you from the depths of our hearts!
As I was reflecting on our 30 years in the former USSR this week, I found myself remembering a time when the devil tried to hijack our ministry by planting seeds of bitterness in my soul toward a difficult pastor who lived near us in the former USSR. I had so many legitimate reasons to be upset with him, but one day the Lord said to me, “Rick, do you want revival in your life and ministry?” I said, “Lord, You know how much I long for it.”
Then I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Then you have to repent for your attitude toward that man and ask him for forgiveness for your attitude.” The whole story — which is actually quite funny in retrospect — is in my new autobiography, UNLIKELY — Our Faith-Filled Journey to the Ends of the Earth, and it can be ordered at renner.org.
As I was remembering how the Holy Spirit helped me uproot that bitterness from my soul and make peace with that difficult man 30 years ago, I felt I should ask you: “Do you have a difficult relationship in your life that has been poisoned by offense, bitterness, or misunderstanding and need to take action to uproot those toxic things from your soul?”
If you have encountered a difficult relationship or difficulty in a relationship — maybe with your spouse or other relative, a friend, an employer, employee, a co-worker, or a member of your church — I know you will find vital keys to help you navigate that situation in Hebrews 12:14, where the verse begins by saying, “Follow peace with all men….”
That word “follow” is the Greek word dioko. This word was an old hunting term that meant to follow the tracks of the animal or to follow the scent of the animal.
Just imagine a hunter decked out in all his hunting gear, and he’s following the tracks of his prey. He’s following the scent of the beast, and he’s looking for every little branch that the animal may have broken so he can better track its whereabouts. The hunter is hunting, following, and searching for that animal — and he is not going to stop until he finally gets his prey.
Now the Holy Spirit uses this word in Hebrews 12:14 to say, “Follow after peace with all men….” That means sometimes peace doesn’t just come to us. In fact, most of the time, peace does not come to us. We have to do something to find peace with people. We have to follow after peace. And God is the author of peace, so He knows how you can obtain it with every person!
Like a hunter, God instructs you and me to put on our “hunting gear” and make a firm decision to do something about that relationship according to His love that has been shed abroad in our hearts (see Romans 5:5). You need to remind yourself: “I can’t be responsible for what that person does, but I am responsible for what I do — and God has required me to do everything I can do to obtain peace in this relationship.” Of course, sometimes, even when you do everything you can do, the other person doesn’t respond. You can’t answer for the other person, but you are going to answer for yourself.
Why is it so important that we follow after peace? The Bible goes on to tell us in Hebrews 12:14, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man will see the Lord.”
That word “see” tells us that a lack of peace in relationships becomes a blocker that stops us from enjoying and experiencing the presence of God. Think how many times you’ve been in a service where God’s anointing is present and people are being blessed, but you can’t enter into it because you are so inwardly upset about someone or something. You see, these attitudes are blockers, and that is why the writer of Hebrews says that without peace — or in the presence of strife — you will not be able to be admitted into the life-changing presence of God.
Strife is a blocker. It will stop you from entering into the anointing. It will stop you from entering into blessing of any kind.
Hebrews 12:14 goes on to tell us to “follow after peace and holiness.” The word “holiness” is from the word hagias. It means to be separate or to be different. In this particular case, the writer of Hebrews is telling us that we don’t have the privilege of acting or thinking like the world. God calls us to a higher standard. The Holy Spirit lives in us, giving us the power we need to walk in forgiveness on a much higher level than the world. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to walk in freedom rather than the bondage the world walks in. We are called to follow after peace — to hunt it, seek it, pursue it — with all men. And we’re called to walk in holiness, to behave differently than lost people behave and to walk in forgiveness, free from offense. If we fail to pursue that kind of spiritual walk and remain in strife and bitterness, it can block us from experiencing the tangible presence of God.
I urge you to take a moment to look at your life. Think about those times when you’ve harbored bitterness and offense and allowed your heart to grow hard toward a person. It was very difficult for you to experience the sweet presence of the Lord during those times, wasn’t it? That’s exactly what this verse is talking about.
God is calling each one of us to a higher level, and — like it or not — this verse tells us what we have to do when we’re dealing with difficult people in our lives who have hurt or offended us. If we’re serious about being disciples of Jesus, we must determine to forgive every person and every offense. We have to respond differently than the world would respond. Then as much as is possible with us, we must actively follow after obtaining peace with every person.
And let me tell you — the only way you’re going to be able to do this is by spending time with Jesus. Ask Him what path you’re to follow to obtain peace. No one understands this better than Jesus. He had enemies all around Him, yet He walked in peace with all men. Talk to Jesus, and He’ll get you on the right track that leads to freedom from strife and offense and to an abiding sense of His presence every day of your life.
I realize my subject today is a little unusual. But because I was reflecting on that situation from 30 years ago — a time when the devil tried to hijack our ministry by planting seeds of bitterness in my soul toward a difficult pastor — I just felt I needed to encourage you to get before the Lord to make your heart right with Him concerning any person who has wronged or hurt you. If you don’t have my book UNLIKELY, I encourage you to get it. I really believe by reading the whole story of my tangle with bitterness, it will give you direction and help to set you free. As you read it, you can laugh your way into freedom!
God has so much in store for you — and don’t let the devil hijack God’s good plan by allowing the enemy to fill you with toxic feelings of bitterness or unforgiveness. God wants to help you keep moving into freedom so you can fulfill every good plan He has designed for your life!
As I close, I ask you to please let us know how we can pray with you. Denise and I, along with our prayer team, will put our faith together with yours for God to move in your life. We always pray better for you when we know your specific needs. And I promise that when you reach out to us by phone, email, or letter, we will really pray for you!
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner