“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil” (Psalm 37:8).
Have you noticed that almost every page of the Bible has something to do? Sometimes they are external or physical things:
“… Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusations …” (Luke 3:14).
And sometimes they are internal things or states of mind:
“… and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14).
There are the things you are commanded to do with respect to your brother:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault …” (Matthew 18:15).
And there are the things you are commanded to think and even feel with respect to your brother:
“… forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).
We might be tempted to say: “I cannot help my feelings! Only God can change my feelings!” But it’s our word against God’s if we say this. He is the one issuing the unapologetic command. We might be tempted to say: “I will do it when the Lord gives me grace!” But there is no indication in God’s command that he thinks there is anything missing at the present moment for our equipping to carry out His orders. Jesus died to secure all the ability you need.
We might be tempted to say: “I will wait upon the Lord, and by and by He will give me grace to stop fretting, to stop being angry, to stop holding out on forgiveness.” But this theory of the necessity of delayed obedience is a human concoction. There is nothing in Scripture about a valid delay between the time of God’s command and the time of our compliance. Rather, we are to make a start at once.
Tim Keller once read a letter he had received from a man who had to forgive his ex-fiancée, and it took the young man a year to do it, but he did it. He did it by God’s grace, to be sure, but it was he who did it. And here is a peek into how: He refused bitterness every time it tempted him. He refused to slice away at her reputation every time someone mentioned her name. That is, he did the hard spiritual warfare over his thought life and his tongue. And over time, as he pressed into obedience, believing it was possible, it became possible.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship:
“For faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.”