At what point do you allow yourself to love another? What do others have to do to earn your love? How much do they have to do before you give them affection? Are people required to think or behave a certain way before you open your heart to them? In short, is your love based on performance? If so, why? Where did you learn that from, especially since, we are designed for love? What do you have to do in order to gain God’s love?
Sometimes questions help us gain insight and self-awareness. With the help of Holy Spirit, we can begin to change by taking an honest look at ourselves and make adjustments where necessary. These types of questions often initiate repentance and the renewal of our mind. Furthermore, it helps in the healing process of our heart, soul, and mind, and that includes our emotions. With that being said, here are a few more questions.
What do you expect in return for acts of love or service? Are there strings attached to your gifts? Those strings may not be the proverbial tit for tat; rather, they could be aimed at gaining affirmation. It’s the expected gesture of gratitude and appreciation. Perhaps, it is more about the sense of worth. Maybe, it is simply to earn love. Please understand that there is no indictments being handed out here, but from whom did you learn that? These are simply points for the sake of clarity. Sometimes, people are stuck in old mindsets, and they’re frustrated with themselves because they feel they should be further long with loving people well. In their view, because they received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, things should be completely different, especially when it comes to love. Granted, some things have changed for the better; but not everything. Understand that in Jesus Christ all things are surely new (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). It is a matter of our thought process catching up with our spirit. Let’s see if we can untangle of few thoughts. Be brave!
When you were younger (perhaps even now), whose affection did you crave the most? That doesn’t necessarily mean you loved him or her the most; it was their attention you desired. It could be your Mom, Dad or someone else. In order to gain that affection, what did you have to become or do? Were you successful? Do you still feel the same way? If you felt unsuccessful back then, you still may be struggling to succeed today, even if that was a different era altogether. That inner turmoil could still exist, if it was left unresolved. Some felt they had to perform for love, or obtain some form of perfection. Of course, others didn’t. The point is that some of us had these dynamics so ingrained, it makes it difficult to freely give and receive love.
For you perfectionists, do you find yourself still feeling unworthy of love? You do understand that perfection is not obtainable from a human perspective? Perfection can only be found in Jesus Christ. When you accept your position in Him, you’ll be free from the daunting task of “being perfect.”
God’s love is perfect; unfortunately, many haven’t perfectly experienced it for themselves. They only know the imperfect form which falls woefully short of His. Consequently, unmerited love is a foreign concept. People tend to shun or even fear what they don’t understand. We are comfortable with the familiar -good or bad. It is the new things we may have a hard time wrapping our minds around. However, the more we are exposed to the new or profound, the more comfortable we are with it, and the more we are able to receive or accept it. The more mindful of God you become, and the more quality time you spend with Him, the more His love becomes real to you. The more you accept His love, and as result, accept yourself, the more you will be accepting of others. Love is not bound by fear; it eradicates it. 1 John 4:18-19 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because He first loved us. The more you love people, the less fearful of them you will be. Freedom in Christ empowers you to love others freely!
During the Christmas Season, many congregations will sing “Joy to the World,” but somewhere the meaning of joy gets lost.Its power is overlooked, especially when people focus on the pursuit of happiness.Happiness never gives you strength during difficult times; in fact, it generally is unsustainable when such circumstances arise.Joy on the other hand, will get you through the thick and the thin.It is a major component of the Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.In Hebrews, we are encouraged to consider the endurance of Jesus.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (Hebrews 12:2-3).
At times, people wonder how they’re ever going to make it. Understanding joy will help them. So, what is joy? It is an inner glee that gives you strength. Having it is not predicated on external circumstances. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As stated earlier, joy is a component of the fruit of the Spirit, which means it comes through Him and is not self-generated. That means joy requires obedience and submission. What does it mean to obey? In short, to believe with the intent to submit to the will of God out of love. Not only does that involve belief in Him, it includes believing Him.
John 15:10-11If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Did you notice Jesus said, “that MY joy might remain in you?” Everything comes through Jesus Christ, and that includes joy. In order to have joy that comes from above, one must have a right relationship with God through Him. There is no other way!
It could be said that those who lack joy, lack submission. Of course, that is part of the story. Another area that causes a person to have a deficit of joy is lack of belief. When a person turns his gaze to the things of the world, he will not only be more considerate of the things of the world, but also its messages. How many of those messages are contrary to the Word and will of God? Many of them are based on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (see 1John 2:15-17). In fact, these three were present when sin entered into the world. Let’s see if we can discern these three elements at work in the first temptation recorded in Genesis.
Genesis 3:4-6And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), and that it was pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree to be desired to make one wise (pride of life), she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Read the entire chapter for full context).
It led to rebellion. Isn’t that the crux of the worldly message? “Rebel, do your own thing and don’t worry about the consequences!” With repentance, comes restoration of joy to those who have been double-minded. Each of us must decide who or what we will believe and follow.
When you focus on the wrong things, joy will elude you. Another consideration is that many of the world’s messages are fear-based. There is no love and faith attached to them. They proclaim certain destruction and rob people of hope. At the same time, they lure people into its clutches by promising false hope. It offers help and self-based salvation, while encouraging us to believe in ourselves, instead of God alone. As far as God fitting into its picture, its message is simple: “Believe in a higher power, which could even be a light bulb, but don’t believe in the God of the Bible.” It gets a bit shaky when you embrace the world instead of the Word of God!
Luke 2:10-11And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
God offers joy to all who receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. If you haven’t taken Him up on His invitation, now is the time. Today is the Day of Salvation. Call on the Name of Jesus and be saved.
Romans 10:9-13 (That) if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.
Until one is truly grateful for what he has, he will be hard pressed to receive what is truly good. Never being content with such things you have will lead to further discontentment. This attitude has robbed many of untold riches. Chief among them is having an intimate relationship with God. Love compelled God to send Jesus, which opened the door to our Exceeding Great Reward. Genesis 15:1 . . . “I am thy shield, and thy Exceeding Great Reward.” People murmur and complain about what they don’t have, while discounting or overlooking what they already possess. Apparently, Jesus is not enough. “I’m not like that!” No judgment here, but consider the following questions.
Have you ever been disappointed with God? Did He fail to perform to your expectations? Do you feel like He’s holding something back from you? Were you disappointed by any gift He gave to you? You know, “It wasn’t quite what I had in mind.”
Let’s focus on some practical issues. How many complain about the food they had a restaurant? Perhaps, the service wasn’t up to par. Did you eat? Wait a minute, people have money to spend at a restaurant and are able to eat? Is that not being blessed? What about those who go hungry every day? For instance, in Haiti, children are fed dirt cookies just to fill their empty stomachs. Yes, they are made of literal dirt. What nutritional value can be found in plain dirt? “I can’t afford to eat out.” True enough, it would be nice to be able to eat out and do extra things; nevertheless, more than likely you still eat actual food every day. This does not make light of your situation. Many who consider themselves poor and live in places like the U.S.A., are actually in the top one percent in the world economy. Consider this, in most cases people are not doomed to stay in their current circumstances. Sometimes, it’s a question of making quality decisions, which is another lesson. Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation (behavior or character) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
The way a person receives a gift will often reveal what is in his or her heart. In some cases, it is not so much receive as it is take. They feel entitled to the gift, and scorn the giver if it’s “not enough” or doesn’t come soon enough. Where is the gratitude? Remember, God owes us nothing! We owe Him everything; and yet, He constantly gives to us good gifts. Jesus and Holy Spirit are at the very top of the list.
James 1:16-17Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Those who lack gratitude have a difficult time giving, especially with no strings attached. Honestly, a gift with strings attached is not a gift; it is an object used for manipulation. The more grateful you are, the more able you will freely give. How many truly generous people do you know who are discontent?
Society as a whole goes out of its way to inoculate itself from pain, as if it is some dreaded disease. Everything is about comfort and a life filled with ease. This question may have an obvious answer: is pain bad? Most would agree that it serves as a safety switch for the sake of survival. Imagine if those things that cause severe discomfort actually felt enjoyable. So, instead of jerking your hand out of a hot flame, you let it bask in its heat. What would happen to your hand? Again, the answer may be rather obvious; but, what about on the emotional level? Is pain bad? It may not be as terrible as some might think.
One thing emotional pain has in common with physical pain is that it lets you know something is wrong. This too is a safety mechanism. For some, it actually serves as motivation. More on that in a moment. Suffice to say, if people are too busy trying to medicate themselves as to avoid or run from pain, they will prolong their suffering, until they address the actual issue. As a matter of fact, the more they self-medicate, the more they will ultimately suffer. Keep in mind, self-medication goes beyond drugs and alcohol. It includes things like overeating, binge watching shows, spending inordinate time on the phone, sleeping too much, and so on. Nothing wrong with enjoying food, entertainment, spending time on the phone and sleeping; however, if they hijack your life, something is wrong. Trying to numb the pain, does not stop the emotional bleeding any more than taking ibuprofen is going to stop a severed artery from bleeding. The pain killer in this instance is not bad, but it does not solve the issue; it needs a tourniquet. Even if the pain is absent, the individual will still bleed out. The wound is still there. In this case, pressure is required to stop the bleeding, along with some surgical procedure. Likewise, sometimes pressure has to be applied to emotional pain in order to properly treat it.
Sometimes, people are unaware they’re in a bad place until they experience pain and suffering. They simply will not change; unless, something happens to them. Some either ignore or don’t recognize the volatility of their decisions or behavior as the result of their condition. A person whose heart isn’t right will say and do things that will eventually catch up to him. At some point he will experience some sort of pain as a result. If he suffers enough times or over an extended period, he may wake up so to speak. Do you remember the story of The Parodical Son? At the end of the story, this lost son experiences hunger and shame as the result of his actions, which led to his return to his father. It produced repentance. Read Luke 15:11-32 for the full story. Our amazing heavenly Father disciplines us for our own good. He doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us, but He will use them to our good (see Romans 8:28).
Hebrews 12:5-11And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” . . . It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
It can be very difficult to watch someone we love go through hardship. During such times, it is challenging to stand down, instead of coming to the rescue. This is where the wisdom of God comes into play. Asking what the best thing to do on our part is the first step. Moreover, stepping in all the time is not as loving as we may think. People have to make their own decisions and experience the results, both positive and negative. Look to the result; not the current situation. If we think in terms of the process of someone coming to Jesus Christ or maturing in Him, it makes it easier be still when it’s the best thing to do. Of course, prayer is always a good thing, but even with that, ask God what to pray, so you can be in agreement with Him. His course of action is always the best.
While on earth, pain and suffering will be present; however, there is time coming when they will not exist. Again, think long term. If a person does not experience pain now, it would be possible for him or her to suffer for all eternity. Yet, if they endure hardship now, they may enter an eternity where they never again experience pain and suffering. This is not to say, we should want people to suffer; in fact, we are called to help people during difficult times, which includes comforting them. It is a question of time and timing. There are obvious moments when we come to someone’s side immediately, such as a loss of a family member. On the other hand, if someone is making bad decisions, while ignoring any sound advice, it may very well be appropriate to wait for a long while before extending a helping hand. Again, what is the best course of action for the individual at any given moment?
One more thing about pain: God has used it to birth ministries. He has taken terrible incidents in people’s lives, and turned them to the good for their sake and others. Those things some of you have experienced can be used to help others. He gives beauty for ashes and joy for mourning. Have you ever asked the Lord for help to be more obedient? Consider this passage of Scripture: Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). It’s not that we chase after pain; however, we should not fear it either.
Romans 8:28And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
It has been said, “The Word of God is the will of God.” While it is true His Word does reveal His will, it is even more vital to stay committed to His truth; otherwise, it would be possible to be overtaken by error and self-deception. Part of that commitment requires the submission of our will to God, and complete surrender to His will. If we were to confuse our will with His, especially if they were contrary to each other, there could develop a tendency to bend Scripture to our liking. It is a recipe for self-destruction on so many levels. Be sure of one thing, the time will come when each of us will give an account to the Lord (see Romans 14:10-12). One could mistake a certain “silence from heaven” for agreement from God. To be sure, He does seek course correction for us for those who may deviate in such fashion. He is faithful! Any course correction comes easier when we’re intentional with submission to His will.
Another aspect to consider with the Bible is our actual understanding of it. How much do we really know, and how much wisdom is attached to that knowledge? It is one thing to know a particular thing needs to be done. It is quite another to know how it is to be carried out, and even why it is necessary for it to be accomplished in that particular manner. Here’s a simple example in terms of our understanding truth: Scripture says, “Be ye holy for I am holy” (see Leviticus 11:44-45;1 Peter 1:15-16) We know we’re supposed to be holy, but what does that look like? How do we be holy? Perhaps, it is something to study for yourself. We need wisdom to properly apply knowledge. It is part of having the complete truth.
Ephesians 4:2-3 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As the Body of Christ, we are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit, which also means love has to be at the forefront in the way we interact with one another. Numerous believers means numerous perceptions of God’s Word. Some have a deeper grasp on it than others, while some are relatively new to the Scriptures. That means it is imperative to be gracious with each other. Some will respond to the Word differently than others. What’s okay for one, may not be okay for another (see Romans 14:10-23). By the way, this is not some backhanded endorsement of error, heresy or bad behavior. The point is not to be quick to judge someone who views things or walks differently than the way we think he or she should. Everyone is wired differently, and not everyone is going to think the same way. At the same time, we can seek the true Doctrine of Christ together with the end goal of obtaining the truth as God sees it. No debate or bickering; just love, patience and complete submission to Holy Spirit. Let’s give one another room to grow!
Finally, beware of romanticizing the truth. It can create a wrong filter in the way we view it. We can actually attempt to conform what we read, study and hear to our ideology. This sort of thing leads to error, false doctrine and the like. We’ve all had those “way things should be” type of thoughts. Sometimes the way things should be don’t correlate to God’s reality, and then some will. Again, the bottom line is get God’s take on things.
2 Peter 1:20-21Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.