Perfect Love Causes Fear To Lose Power

We know that the perfect love of God causes fear to lose all its power.

When we know that we are loved and cared for by the Creator of the Universe it puts our lives and our problems in the right perspective. However, fear will try to skew our vision. Fear knows that if it can draw our eyes away from the love of Jesus, it has greatly increased its chances of destroying us.

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered,’” (Romans 8:35-36)

The things listed in these verses are all tools.  Fear uses these tools to convince us that we are separated from the perfect love of God and His provision. It uses these things as distractions from the truth. Fear tries to build them up in our minds, so we’ll view them as greater than what we have in Christ. We will see our trial as our final destination and accept it as our lot in life.

Perfect Love - Photo of man readingGod’s Word teaches us to do exactly the opposite.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4).

While fear wants to use tests and trials to shipwreck our lives, God will use them to strengthen us. We need to know that God does not send the trials, but He is more than capable of using them for His glory and our good.

So, it wouldn’t make sense to think that our faith would be strengthened and God would be glorified by a trial that destroys us. He would not tell us to consider it all joy when we endure trials if He did not already have a way out for us.

The only way we grow and succeed in trials is when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Perfect Love - Photo of the Cross by Aaron Burden. unsplash.com/photos/df47UDrfi8IThe only way we fail is when we take our eyes off of Him. If we allow fear to convince us that our trials is evidence of God’s absence, then they will defeat us.

God reassures us in His word that it is impossible to for these things to separate us from Him.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:37-39).

Instead of thinking that our hardships separate us from Christ, we should have faith that victory is ours.  Whatever we go through, trials or distresses, isn’t greater than our heavenly Father or His perfect love for us. So, let’s keep our eyes on Him.  Let’s keep ourselves in the love of Christ and we will always have victory.

Trust in God’s Timing

perfect timing 2Walking in God’s plan for our lives means that we have to trust in His timing. The key word here is “trust”.

Paul wrote it best in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

The word “walk” in this verse doesn’t mean our physical walk. Paul is not telling us to walk around with physical eyes closed and have faith that we won’t stumble into oncoming traffic. No, our “walk” is our daily manner of living. It is the way we go about our lives. Paul is instructing us to make faith the norm in our lives.

So, to walk by faith and not by sight means that we no longer focus on the things of the world. Our focus is now set on Jesus.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,” (Hebrews 12:2).

The people of this world are focused on themselves and their circumstances. They are walking by sight. They don’t know about and don’t have access to the power of God, because they aren’t children of God. The only ability they have is the ability within themselves. So, when they are trying to solve a problem or figure out the next step in their lives, all they have is their own strength and wisdom.

That is why the world goes around stressed out and confused, because there is no true strength or wisdom outside of our Heavenly Father.

However, we are no longer like the people of this world. We, as Christians, have the amazing ability to trust God for everything in our lives.

When it seems like God is taking a long time to come through for us, we don’t need to be like the world. We don’t need to turn to our own power and wisdom in order to try and make something happen for ourselves.

We don’t have to wonder or worry about what God has planned for us or when it’s going to happen. We simply trust that God loves us and that His plans are always good. This is what it means to rest in the finished work of Christ.

If God has spoken to us about the plan for our lives, if He has promised us something, we don’t need to be concerned about when or how it will happen. We just need to have faith like we read about in Romans 4:21, “And being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”

Fulfilling God’s Calling

FULFILLING-GODS-CALLING-Originals-quoteWe’ve made it clear in the past few weeks that God has a calling for all of His children.

He made all of us originals in order to fulfill a unique calling.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Some people spend their whole lives searching for this calling. They wander through life confused or frustrated, or a combination of both, because they have yet to find their place.

We should not fall into the trap of thinking that our calling is simply our career.

In fact, what God has called us to do may not be our primary source of income. It could absolutely turn into a career, but we shouldn’t think that it could only be that.

Stay at home mothers know that raising children certainly costs more money than it earns. However, it is a high calling to raise a child that loves their heavenly Father.

One of the main things we should know in finding our calling is that it will evolve and grow over time. We’re probably not going to see it all at once.

-FULFILLING-GODS-CALLING-Waiting-quoteIf we sit around waiting for the one big moment where God shows us everything we’re supposed to do from now until the day we die, we could be waiting for quite some time. In order to find out what our calling, is we have to trust God. Saying that we’re waiting on an answer from Him can turn into an excuse over time.

This mindset of waiting for one big revelation from God about what we’re supposed to do will hold us back more than it will move us forward.

Rather than waiting for a detailed road map of how our calling is going to play out, we should simply take the first step of faith. We should submit our resume for the job that seems beyond our ability; apply for college; we should serve in the ministry at church that challenges us.

FULFILLING-GODS-CALLING-Step-Out-quoteHave faith in the fact that God has prepared good works for us to walk in. We don’t need to stress ourselves by not knowing what’s going to happen in five years.  Focus on what’s right in front of us. As we step out in faith, God will reveal more and more of what He has for us.

Don’t let the fear of making a mistake hold you back from starting. Don’t let not knowing where the finish line is hold you back from starting. You can be sure that if you let fear stop you at the beginning, then you’ll never see the finish.

God’s plan for you is good.

So, even if you make a mistake, the grace and wisdom of God are always available to you.  If you’re unsure of what your calling is, then ask for God’s wisdom and start taking steps of faith. He’s promised to never leave you and He’s given you His Word as a light to your path. You have an amazing destiny to fulfill and it all begins with that first step.

Expected Hope-God’s Plan

God has a plan to give you a future and a hope.

God has a plan for all of us. It is a plan with a hope, a future and an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)

We need to have faith in His plan for us. We need to know that when we follow it, it will cause us to experience all that He has created for us and bring about the best possible outcome.

However, we can get too focused on the outcome of God’s plan for us.  This will cause us to miss the importance of the process. We sometimes think we need to get to the end as quickly as possible while bypassing everything else on the way.

Desiring an instant result will make us impatient and impatience causes us to abandon the plan early.

Think of the process an apple tree goes through in order to become a mature, fruit-bearing tree. It starts off as a seed, grows into a sapling, and only after years of the roots growing deep and the branches growing strong, does it bear healthy fruit.

Like an apple tree, it is in the process that we become strong. Following God’s plan day-by-day makes us more like Christ. We have to commit to this process otherwise, we may never see the fulfillment of God’s plan for our lives.

Impatience makes us grow weary, though. We think to ourselves, “If it was going to happen, it certainly would have happened by now”.  This kind of thinking is born out of fear.  We’re afraid that God’s plan just won’t happen. We fear that He’s not working in our lives, or that He has forgotten about us. This fear makes us impatient.

If an apple tree tried to bear fruit in the first year of growth, the weight of the apples would break the small trunk of the immature tree. It has to be fully grown in order to handle the weight of the fruit it’s destined to bear.

We must also be mature in order to step into the fullness of God’s plan.

“Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in.”  Galatians 6:9

When we put our trust in God’s word and learn to keep our eyes on the path that He has laid out before us, we can stand strong against discouragement and fatigue.

Psalm 1 describes the kind of person who has faith in the Word of God: “But they delight in the law of the LordGuard Your Heart - Seek God's Plan of Hope for Your Future, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do,” (Psalm 1:2-3).

When we believe in the truth and power of God’s Word, we are like trees planted by riverbanks. We have a constant source. This is what makes us strong and prepares us to fulfill God’s plan for us.

Walk by Faith

Walk By FaithEvery child of God has a desire to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

However, when we’re young in our relationship with Him we can have trouble knowing what this means and how to begin to walk by faith. The word “ walk ” in the New Testament means “our daily manner of living”. So, to “ walk by faith ” means to live every day of our lives trusting in our heavenly Father. We go to Him first in the decisions that we make. We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us, help us watch over what we say and open our eyes to opportunities to share the love of God with the people we meet.

Until we became Christians we lived our lives totally by our emotions and our five physical senses.

Living by faith is the exact opposite of living by sight, so we can struggle at the beginning.  The same way that we don’t just wake up physically fit one day, we also don’t just happen upon mountain moving faith.  It’s a process of strengthening our faith and removing our doubt and unbelief. We start to trust God by taking small steps of faith toward Him.

“I will run the way of your commandments; for you will enlarge my heart,” (Psalm 119:32).

This verse shows us that when we move towards God our ability to receive His promises increases. We shed the doubts of our old life and take on the strength and humility of Jesus. Our small-minded, fearful thinking is replaced by faith that receives what would have once been impossible.

The only way to get to this kind of faith is simply to begin trusting. You give the control of your life over to God. Most of us aren’t able to do this all at once. We insist that we can take better care of ourselves than God can. Our heavenly Father lovingly and patiently allows us to surrender our lives to Him one area at a time.

The irony of this is that once we do give Him control we realize that He does more than we ever could have asked of Him.

We see that we should have just let Him handle it all along.

When we realize that we can trust Him in one area, we will give Him more and more. This is the process of being fully surrendered to Him. But it starts with the first step.

I encourage you to begin to walk by faith today. Make a decision that you’re going to give God the control over an area of your life: your marriage, your job, your finances, etc. Watch what happens when you make your heavenly Father the chief decision-maker. I promise He never disappoints.

 

Staying Connected

Mark 4:1-9 is called the Parable of the Sower. Jesus used it to teach about the four different kinds of hearts. It’s a parable about the ways people respond to God’s word.

The first thing Jesus says in this parable is that the sower goes out to sow. Later, Jesus explains this statement by saying “The sower sows the word,” (Mark 4:14). This shows us that the Word of God is available to all of us.

Jesus doesn’t say that the sower only went to a certain race or gender. The sower went out to all people. God offers His power and promises to everyone.

The issue is not with the availability of God’s word. It’s how we receive it.

The first three hearts described in this parable are either totally incapable of receiving the Word or cannot grow in it, all because they are hardened.

The first heart can’t receive because the devil immediately comes and steals the Word.

The second heart can’t receive because it’s too shallow to let roots grow.

The third heart can’t receive because the worries, distractions and desires of this world come in and choke the Word.

The fourth heart hears the Word, accepts it and produces thirty, sixty or one hundred times more.

All four of these hearts hear the Word of God. Only the fourth one accepts it and produces fruit.

We all want the Word to have an effect on our lives. However, many times we feel like we’re one of the first three hearts. We forget what we hear in teachings, the changes we make don’t last or we get distracted by everything going on around us. We allow all of these things to push the Word out and stop its power from working in us.

This happens because our heart is clogged up by everything else we hear and see. We hear the words of the world more than the Word of God, so it’s easier to accept.

Jesus proves this later in the chapter when He says, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them,” (Mark 4:24-25).

This is why we need to constantly hear the Word of God. It prepares our hearts to receive and produce. But hearts that are overflowing with the world will bear little to no fruit from the Word they receive.

This week I encourage you to turn off the radio and listen to solid Biblical teaching. Skip one of your shows. Don’t get on Netflix. Instead, sit down by yourself or with your family, and read the Bible. In a world where it’s so easy to be plugged into something, the children of God should be plugged into the Word. When we do this, we’ll see our lives begin to produce fruit thirty, sixty and one hundred times over.

Fear Not- Guard Your Heart

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life,” (Proverbs 4:23 NASB).

The second half of this verse shows us that the condition of our hearts will direct our lives, emphasizing the importance of our ability to guard our hearts. If we have anger in our hearts, then anger will be the driving force behind almost everything we do. If a fear of rejection is rooted in our hearts, then we will spend our lives striving to earn man’s acceptance. The list could go on and on.

This truth should lead us to ask the question, “How do I guard my heart?”

Many people think this involves building high walls around their hearts so they can never be broken or disappointed. They think they have built the walls for protection, but in reality they have built their own prison. However, those who do this are being controlled by fear and the Bible reveals the exact opposite is to be done.

“For the love of Christ controls us,” (2 Corinthians 5:14a NASB).

 

Fear builds walls around our hearts.

It shuts us out from the world. It tells us that if we ever let anyone or anything close to us, then we are at risk for failure and heartbreak.

While this is true, it is also true that behind the walls our hearts will become hard and unfeeling, and we will miss the abundant life waiting for us on the outside. A life controlled by fear can never experience the fullness of God’s plan.

Being controlled by love is how we find our calling and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

He lived His life to show the Father’s love to everyone who came around Him. His heart was open to the hurting and the lost. It was even open to the self-righteous people who hated Him.

If Jesus had been motivated by fear He wouldn’t have fulfilled His purpose of dying on the cross. Without His death there would have been no resurrection. So, the love of Christ is the reason we are here today.

The best way to guard our hearts is not to build high walls around them, but rather to open them to the love of Christ. His love will soften our hearts to receive every good thing He has for us. Although it will not prevent us from experiencing failure and disappointment, it will protect us from being shattered by them. It will give us Jesus’ perspective of life and people. His love will show us that failure doesn’t have to be the end, because He will always make a way.

When our hearts our guarded by the love of Christ, then the course of our lives will always be victorious.

Unconditional Love: Relationship or Religion

We are created by God to be in relationship with Him and to know Him intimately.

Unconditional-Love-Relationship-or-Religion-Created-by-God-QuoteWe all have different talents and abilities, and a specific calling given to us by our heavenly Father. But the greatest thing we can ever do is to have relationship with Him.  That is to know and love Him, because He first loved us.

Jesus said it this way, “And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment,’” Matthew 22:37-38 (NASB)

When He said to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind, Jesus is being repetitive to make a point. Our heart and our mind make up our soul. The reason He said it that way was to emphasize the importance of loving God with everything that we have.

This is the reason that a hardened heart is so crippling to our relationship with God.

It’s incapable of loving Him with everything, because it isn’t set on Him.

When our hearts are insensitive toward God we’ll look everywhere else for the peace and contentment that only He can give.

It will hinder us from knowing and loving God. Worse than that, it will hold us back from experiencing God’s love for us.

Our hearts become hardened because we believe that God’s love for us is conditional.

Unconditional-Love-Relationship-or-Religion-hearts-insensitive-QuoteWe think that it’s like man’s love and is based on our good or bad actions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, we accept it as truth because the idea of unconditional love is difficult for our minds to grasp.

But, if we’re ever going to love God with all of our hearts, we must first receive His love by faith.

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins,” 1 John 4:10 (NLT)

Receiving His love will break down the walls we’ve built around our hearts. His unconditional love will show us that we don’t need to look anywhere else for peace or contentment.  Because we can always find peace and contentment in Him.

We’ll fulfill our purpose of loving Him with all of our hearts when we believe that He first loved us.

Looking Beyond Pain

We should never allow our pain to make us cold and insensitive to God.

Look Beyond The Pain -- Photo of Young Man Looking Out of a Window

How do we look beyond the pain though? By responding to hurt the way our Father tells us to.

We imitate Jesus. What did Jesus do in the middle of the most painful moment of His life?

He looked ahead to the promise of God.

Hebrews 12:2b, “…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Let’s look at what the word “despise” really means.  It means to think lightly of, to not care for, to neglect. It is the opposite of caring about something or supporting something.

So, to despise the shame of our past means that we think lightly of it. We neglect it, and we stop supporting it.

Too many times we allow shame to define us.

We turn it into the biggest part of our identity. Instead of despising it, we exalt it. Instead of neglecting it, we focus on it. We continue supporting it.

When we choose to despise the shame, we strip it of its power over us. It is no longer our identity. It doesn’t hang over us like a black cloud.

That is what Jesus did on the cross; He despised the shame and focused on the joy set before Him.

That is why He isn’t just Jesus of Nazareth who died on a cross. He is Jesus Christ, the risen savior.

We have faith in God because He always has joy set before us.

Look Beyond The Pain - Photo of Man on wall looking at the sea and city scape

If we’re too focused on the circumstance we’ll get stuck in it and miss the joy.

Notice that joy was set before Jesus. It was out in front of Him. Jesus did not have a mindset that His best days were behind Him. He didn’t hang on the cross thinking about all the people that He raised from the dead. Jesus wasn’t reminiscing about the miracles or the times of prayer. He was looking forward to what would come after the Cross.

Jesus made a choice to look beyond the pain of His present situation to see what God had in store for Him.

It’s a conscious choice to look at Jesus in the middle of the pain. This is how we keep a sensitive heart toward our heavenly Father in the midst of adverse circumstances. We put our faith in the promises of God. We believe in the promise of joy.

This will cause us to stop identifying with the shame of our past and to know that we are complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:10). We won’t just be old sinners, saved by grace. We’ll be kings and priests, seated with Christ in heavenly places. (Revelation 5:10, Ephesians 2:6).

Fix Your Eyes

Fix Your EyesWe are all carrying, or have carried, hurts from our past. If we let them, these wounds have the power to influence our decisions for the rest of our lives. We give our pain this power when we are continually thinking about it, replaying it in our minds or coming up with ways that it could have been avoided.

What this does is keep the wound open. It could have happened twenty years ago and be as fresh in our minds as if it happened a month ago.

It may sound like this is the opposite of a hardened heart, but it isn’t. This is one of the definitions of a hardened heart, because a hard heart is one that is unresponsive to God. When we are more responsive to our pain than our heavenly Father, our heart is hard.

In this case we could say that our heart is cold. That’s what our pain does to us, it makes us cold. We turn inward and focus on protecting ourselves from ever being hurt again, and in the process, we miss out on the blessings of God.

We stop giving our pain influence and power in our lives when we turn away from it. If we’re going to turn away from it we have to turn to something else. What is that something else? Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2a says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”

As long as we are fixing our eyes on our pain, it will continue to have power over us. We should fix our eyes on Him. When our focus is on Jesus our healer, our hearts will be healed.

We will no longer identify with our loss, tragedies and missed opportunities. We will identify with our righteousness in Christ.

Keeping our focus on Jesus will make us sensitive and receptive to the love of God. We won’t be cold and unfeeling anymore. We’ll be able to trust Him and walk in the plan He has for us.

It all starts with turning away from the mistakes and pain of the past and toward our loving Savior, Jesus Christ.