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Guard Against Disappointment

guard your heart against disappointment

Any disappointment we have experienced or are experiencing is not from God.

He did not decide that our lives were going too smoothly and we needed to face some hard times so we could stay in touch with reality. However, we make the mistake of thinking that God puts disappointment and hardships on us.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone,” (James 1:13 NASB).

The danger of disappointment is allowing it to change what we believe about God.

When we continually experience failure and disappointment it can be easy to believe that it must be our path in life to never succeed. When we hear that God has a great plan for our lives we can begin to think that it must only be true for other people.

This is an example of letting external experiences harden our heart toward God.

Instead of building the foundation for our faith on the Word of God, we build it on the shaky ground of our negative experiences. We do this because we are more in tune with our emotions and our five physical senses than we are to God our Father.

If we allow this kind of hardened heart to rule our lives we will never walk in the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in, (Ephesians 2:10).

Jesus explains this in the Parable of the Talents.

In the parable there is a rich master and he is leaving on a long trip. Before he leaves he gives talents, or money, to three of his servants. He gives the first servant ten talents, the second servant five talents and the third servant one talent.

The first two servants go immediately to the market and double their money. The third servant digs a hole and buries his talent in the ground.

After a long time the master returns and settles accounts with his three servants. The first two show him that they have doubled what they were given. The master tells them to enter into his joy. He comes to the third servant to see what he has done with his talent.

The third servant says this, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours,” (Matthew 25:24-25).

Why did the third servant hide his talent?

Look at what he said, “I knew you to be a hard man.” The parable gives no evidence that the master is evil or vindictive. The servant comes to this conclusion on his own.

This servant had the same opportunity as the other two servants. He could have gone to the market and doubled his money. However, he was afraid of failure because he was afraid of his master.

He missed his calling because he had a wrong belief about his master.

This should cause us to ask ourselves the questions, “What do I believe about God? Is it based on disappointment? Or is it based on His word?” guard your heart against disappointment

If we allow our experiences of disappointment to shape what we believe about God we will bury our God-given gift in the ground and miss out on the life God has planned of us.

When we start to lay down our preconceived ideas about God we’ll begin to see Him for who He really is: our loving Heavenly Father. We’ll stop believing that He sends hardships, and plans our failures in order to test and humble us. Instead we’ll know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17), and be confident that since He began a good work in us, He will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

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.

Joy of the Lord

When we don’t tap into the spiritual fruit of joy, we negate our source of strength. “…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10b)

The truth of this verse turns the world’s definition of strength upside down. The world wants us to think that strength is the ability to work harder than anyone else. We believe that if we can just hold out longer or put in more hours than others, then we are stronger.

That might mean that we are physically stronger than others, but if we put all of our faith in physical strength, what do we do when it fails?

We’re not going to find lasting strength in ourselves, our jobs or our relationships with people. Like Nehemiah 8:10 reveals, we’re only going to find true strength in the joy of the Lord.

This is because everything that’s in the world is temporary. We won’t always be as strong as we are

right now. Our job will eventually change. People will walk in and out of our lives. We will be weak when our strength is found in these temporary things.

However, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”(Hebrews 13:8).

We can and should make the joy of our heavenly Father our source of strength because He never changes.

But a hardened heart doesn’t look for joy. It’s too busy looking at all the negative circumstances and people surrounding it, and is blinded to the work of God’s grace.

That’s why a hardened heart is a weak heart, because it is a heart without joy.

It’s only when we begin to open our eyes to the amazing work of God’s grace in our lives that we begin to be joyful. Instead of looking at ourselves and seeing how far we need to go, we see how far we’ve come. This causes us to praise and thank God for everything He’s already done.

If His grace has already brought us this far, wouldn’t it make sense that it would continue to work in our lives?

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6).

God is perfecting His good work in us. This is where we place our faith. This is where we should find our strength. When we do, we’ll also find our joy.

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.

Keeping a soft heart

The people we’re around the most have the easiest access to our hearts, whether we know it or not. Our coworkers, friends and, obviously, our spouses have the ability to speak directly to our hearts. Hopefully this is a good thing in all of our lives. We need people who can speak the Word and life into us when we lose sight of who we are in Christ.

There are people who do the opposite though. Some people speak negativity and doubt and, because they are close to us, or we respect them, we allow those words into our hearts.

This is so important because we will become like the people who have the most influential voices in our lives. If these people are angry, negative, self-absorbed and filled with doubt, then we shouldn’t be surprised when our behavior becomes a reflection of theirs.

One thing we must know about this truth is that even if we spend our time filling our hearts with the word of God and worshiping Him, we can still have a hard heart because of our relationships.

1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’”

We can spend time cultivating good spiritual disciplines and keeping a sensitive heart toward God just to guard your hearthave it undone by the worldly-minded people around us.

Sometimes we can fight against this by simply removing these people from our lives. This might sound harsh, but if certain people are constantly trying to move our focus away from our heavenly father to the negative circumstances around us, then we don’t need their voices in our lives.

However, sometimes we can’t just walk away from certain relationships. If your spouse is a negative person, then you obviously can’t remove him or her from your life. In these circumstances you have to learn to strengthen yourself in the Lord the way King David did in 1 Samuel 30:6.

Everyone around David was distressed and angry, and they decided to turn their anger to David. Instead of giving in to their anger and believing what everyone was saying about him, David encouraged himself with the words of God.

This is what we should do when the people that are closest to us only seem to speak death. Instead of allowing those words to penetrate our hearts and influence our lives, we simply need to speak the word of God to ourselves. This will keep our hearts from becoming hard towards our heavenly father. It will also help keep our hearts from becoming hard towards the people around us.

Righteousness pt 11

It might seem odd to say this, but most of us don’t give much thought to our thoughts. I know we can have thoughts that don’t have any real significance: like what we’re going to have for lunch. However, I want to talk about the deep thoughts of our hearts. These are the thoughts that will influence the direction of our lives.

We might not think that our lives are the result of our thoughts, but Proverbs 23:7a says “For as he (a person) thinks within himself (his heart), so he is.” Our thoughts determine who we are. So, we can say with certainty that the current state of our lives is a direct reflection of what we think about ourselves and others.

Now that we know this, we should think about the direction our lives will go if the majority of our thoughts are negative, especially our thoughts about ourselves. Not all of us talk to ourselves out loud, but we do in our own minds.

What are we saying about us to us? Do our inner voices sound something like this: “This is as good as it’s ever going to get.” “Nothing ever goes my way.”?

Or is it more serious than that? There are stories about people who deal with depression and anxiety whose constant thoughts are, “I am nothing and will always be nothing.” “I’ve messed my whole life up beyond repair.” These thoughts play like a song on repeat in their heads all day, every day.

There are some of us who live with thoughts like this, and it shapes our whole lives. We never rise above them. It’s like living under a dark cloud where it seems no light can penetrate.

The grace of God can break through that darkness. We are saved and made righteous by grace, and by now we know that righteousness is right-standing with God. It means we are accepted and loved by God.

While the world and the negative people in it have probably treated us like a throwaway and told us that we’re insignificant, God steps in and calls us accepted and precious in His sight. If we have the Creator of the Universe saying that we are important, it probably means that we’re important, right?

This should drastically change the way we think about ourselves. Believing in and meditating on our righteousness in Christ is adopting God’s thoughts about us.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

We will begin to experience the higher life God has for us when we start to think the higher thoughts He thinks about us.

It’s as simple as this: when we have negative thoughts about ourselves we should say, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ. I am accepted and loved by God.” Say it out loud. When we do this, we are lining up our opinion about ourselves with God’s opinion about us. Try it. I promise it will change your life.

Righteousness pt 8

As I stated last week, giving into self-righteousness eventually leads to condemnation. Galatians 5:4 declares that we fall from grace when we choose to be justified by law.

Romans 3:20 says “…because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified (made righteous) in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”

Trying to live under the Law will never bring about the righteousness of God. Instead, it will place us in the express lane to guilt and condemnation.

The word “condemn” means: to express an unfavorable or adverse judgment on, indicate strong disapproval of, to pronounce to be guilty, sentence to punishment, to judge or pronounce to be unfit for use or service.

So, when we fall into condemnation we think that God no longer favors us, disapproves of us, is going to punish us and marks us as unfit for service in His kingdom.

I hope we all see the dangers of living with this kind of mindset about God.

Imagine that everyone who called themselves the children of God lived their whole life under the dark cloud of condemnation. We would live in perpetual defeat and be run ragged by the devil. We would ultimately see the disintegration of the Church in the world. Why? Because we would consider ourselves unworthy to receive any of God’s promises or operate in His power.

This is why the devil fights so violently against the doctrine of righteousness in the Church and in our personal lives. If we fully believe that we can stand victoriously with Jesus in the presence of God without shame or fear, we become unstoppable. But, if we refuse to even open our mouths to pray to God due to condemnation we will continue to be defeated.

That’s why the Holy Spirit had the Apostle Paul write Romans 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

There is no condemnation for us in Christ. We enter into condemnation when we strive to live self-righteously under the Law. The Law will only bring knowledge of our sins and that knowledge will bring condemnation.

2 Peter 1:2 reads “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

God calls us righteous in His Son Jesus Christ; and that knowledge will cause grace and peace to be multiplied to us.

Righteousness pt 6

Galatians 1:10b says “Am I trying to please people? If I still wanted to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Many people don’t want to be considered a servant. Everyone would rather be the boss.

However, when Jesus’ disciples were arguing about who was the greatest He corrected them by saying “But you must not be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the leader should be like the servant. Who is more important: the one sitting at the table or the one serving? You think the one at the table is more important, but I am like a servant among you.” (Luke 22:26-27).

The word “servant” has taken on a negative meaning in today’s society. We don’t want to be considered a servant of others, because we think it’s below us. This is another area where we can get caught in the trap of worrying too much about what others think.

Jesus shows us that servanthood is the path to greatness. Not greatness in the way the world thinks of it. The kind of greatness that Jesus is talking about leaves a legacy. It follows us from life on earth, to our eternal life in heaven.

It comes from a place of loving God, and letting our love for God lead us into a genuine love for people. John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus had this kind of love and it led Him to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. It’s not what His disciples and the rest of His followers would have asked of Him though.

They wanted Jesus to be the leader of a great army and wipe out the Roman Empire. He knew that what they wanted and what they needed were two completely different things.

If Jesus had been trying to please the people, He never would have died on the Cross. He would have become a great general and restored Israel to its Old Testament glory. He wouldn’t have done what God sent Him to do, and we all would have lost the opportunity to be children of God.

The same thing can happen to us. When we strive to please people we will not be servants of Christ. In the futile pursuit of man’s approval we will miss our divine calling. We won’t fulfill our God-given purpose because usually what people want from us and what God has planned for us aren’t the same thing.

When Jesus laid His life down for us He not only proved His perfect love, He opened the door for us to have a relationship with Him. When we live our lives as servants of Christ, as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), we will open the door for people to know Jesus, too.

It’s a paradox because when we stop trying to please people, we can lead them to the best possible person for them: Jesus Christ.