Do you ever struggle like I do?
Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed. It could be for a lot of reasons: people, money, time, circumstances. Stuff happens… and with that, we all struggle with our feelings and emotions. The world is so good at getting us to shift our focus off of God. If you’re anything like me, you find yourself looking at others and wanting to defend yourself. Or maybe you defend others who can’t defend themselves… I know quite a few people who are excellent defenders, people who seem to be called to fight for others, to speak up and defend the helpless.
In Revelation 2, Jesus counseled the church of Ephesus to go back to their first love, because they had gotten consumed with behavior, enduring hardships, and working hard for God. As good as those things sound, Jesus still held them accountable to a lack of love. They were doing everything right, but for the wrong reasons.
Defending the helpless is a very good thing. As a matter of fact, James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Obviously, helping people who are distressed is something God wants from us. This is the only religion that God actually accepts. I have heard a lot of people say that Jesus hates religion. That isn’t true, because He clearly accepts this- when we take care of the helpless and guard ourselves, not allowing the world around us to corrupt us. But to the point, the actions alone aren’t what God wants. The Church of Ephesus did this well. They were consumed with behavior, not compromising their bodies with the world, to the point they endured incredible hardships for God. But they didn’t understand the “why” behind their actions.
To God, the “why” is far more important that the “what.” After all, God judges the hearts of men, not their actions (1 Samuel 16:7). We must realize that we can do all the right things, never sin, never get hurt, never offend, never stumble, never lose patience or hope, never lack forgiveness, never be selfish… and still be completely wrong in God’s sight. Don’t believe me? Ask Saul, I mean Paul. Paul went as far as to say,
“Though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” (Philippians 3:4-6)
Paul understood that it wasn’t about behavior, about doing it right all the time. It is always about your heart. God actually cares more about why you doing something than He does about what you do. The moment that we all understand this truth, the sooner we can actually walk like Him (like we were told to do multiple times in our Bible) and not simply attempt to look like we walk like Him. For many years, I was consumed with the appearance of walking a certain way. I was always worried about my behavior and reputation, as well as whether or not God was pleased with me. Why is that a problem, you may ask? Because it ignores the fact that Faith is what pleases God, not behavior. God is not concerned with what I do. God is concerned with why I do it.
Sometimes I get upset, overwhelmed, or disappointed with people. I let those things outweigh Grace. Instead of seeing through people’s actions and extending grace towards them for what they do, I allow their “what” to affect my actions. Thank goodness we have a book that shares God’s heart with us, reminding us what He really cares about and values. When I find myself getting upset, etc., I have learned to stop what I’m doing and ask God a simple question (and I cannot explain how much I truly do this) “God, you see what their actions are doing to me. How do you see them, Father?” When I ask God that simple question, He gives me a proper perspective that helps me to love and forgive very quickly. It’s in this place that I typically see Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, they know now what they do.”
Every time I picture Jesus on the cross saying that, it helps me to forgive people for what they do. Another thing that happens when I ask that question is God answers by showing me how He sees me when I do similar things… It’s a lot easier to see how God sees someone else when I can see how He sees me. When I act selfishly or just act stupidly, I know how God looks at me. In my mind, He typically tilts His head a little sideways and takes a deep breath before saying, “You know Jeff, I love you, and that disappointed me. But you are still Holy, dearly loved, chosen, blameless, and above reproach. Nothing has changed. Just be better.” It’s in that moment that I realize (again and again and again) how amazing He really is. He is kind, and His kindness has a purpose. When I reflect on God’s kindness towards me it makes me grateful. My actions follow my heart. I know longer “act a certain way” in order to please God. I choose to do what blesses God because He is worthy to be praised, and because I am grateful. I don’t try to please God. I bless Him with my decisions. My why changes…
Why? Because when I taste His love for me, it makes me want to love Him the same way. Instead of being about what I want, about my heart’s desire, I find myself asking Him, “God what is your heart’s desire?” Because I love Him.
So this week, I hope that you stop what you’re doing and reflect on what God is doing and has done for you. Think of how He sees you. Go back to your first love for God, to the simple Gospel, to a simple relationship with Him… to the beginning. Bless you.
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