Someone once said that God doesn’t care how many Bible verses we memorize as long as we love others. But the Bible is where we find our definition for what love is and our demonstration of what love does. Knowing what God has to say about love keeps us from forming our own opinions about what is right and wrong about how we feel and treat other people. It also reminds us of His steadfast love for us despite our faults, flaws and failures. This helps us be loving towards others who, like us, are in need of grace. God cares that we know the Bible because that’s how He prepares us to care for others.
The ultimate goal of our lives is for God to be honored in us and us to be happy in Him. There isn’t anything higher to aspire to than the duality of God’s honor and our happiness. When we thank Him, trust Him, and treasure Him, these two things are achieved. Thanking Him means our hearts are glad because of something He gets glory for doing. Trusting Him means we delight to do what God has decided because we believe that He is good. Treasuring Him means we find enjoyment in His companionship because He is infinitely worth knowing. To seek His honor is to seek our happiness.
Every single day you and I should do whatever it takes to be happier in Jesus. That’s how we win against temptation, frustration and dissatisfaction in this life. The attempts we make to improve ourselves, improve our circumstances, and improve our lives should not simply be about trying to take away things we dislike and add in things we do like. Instead, our goal should be to know and enjoy Jesus more and more and more. We grow in our inner peace, rest, security, confidence, hope and joy not because over and over we figure out a way to make things better, but because over and over we find our way to Jesus.
Faith in Jesus is followed by following Jesus in faith. Saving belief leads us to step off the throne, take off the crown, and let Jesus take over ruling our hearts and lives. We haven’t really put our faith in Jesus if we are indifferent to what He wants and resistant to what He says. That’s not trust. That’s a lack of trust. That’s mistrust. Real faith in Jesus makes us want to give up our sin and self-rule to follow His steps, His ways and His commands (although imperfectly executed) more fully over time. Why? Because we are confident that life His way is better than any other option, and that for eternal life He is the only option.
You can look all around and conclude that God is absent or that He is present. May He give us spiritual eyes that see… Not just the beauty of a sunset, but the God who paints the sky. Not just the miracle of a baby’s birth, but the God who brings things to life. Not just the taste of a great meal, but the God who invented flavors. Not just the satisfaction of achieving a goal, but the God who empowers us to do so. Not just a lovely wedding, but the God who created marriage. Not just a great day, but the God who offers us eternal life. Shining through every good and right and true thing we see is an ever-present God.
You are greatly influenced by the people you invite into your life. You start to act and speak and think and live and become like them. The question is: are you becoming more like Jesus by becoming more like them? It is important that we carefully choose who we allow to get close enough to us to begin to change us. While we should love and serve people who are far from God, we should not take our cues for how to live from them. Instead, we imitate those who are imitating Jesus. As much as possible, surround yourself with people who exemplify Him and encourage you to become more like Him.
How much authority does the Bible have in your life? How is it shaping the way you see the world, the way you see polarizing issues, and the way you see yourself? How fully and frequently do you rely on it as the final say in how you live? The Bible isn’t an out-of-date, out-of-order, out-of-touch book with no real relevance for us today. It is God’s Word that still speaks today telling us what is good and bad, right and wrong, true and false, beautiful and ugly, necessary and frivolous, wise and foolish. God intends for us to seek it out and live it out as the ultimate authority for the Christian life. Indeed, it is where life is found.
Crawling comes before walking. Planting comes before harvesting. Starting comes before completing. There is an order to things, and for followers of Jesus… Praying comes before doing. You and I often handle things backwards from how we should handle them by acting and then seeking God when we should seek God and then act. The best thing we can do to handle what we face in life is to seek our Heavenly Father before we do a thing more. We ask. He answers. We act. He assists. This is the only way to live happy, holy lives. Turning to Him shouldn’t be our last resort; it should be our first line of defense.
It is right to enjoy the good gifts of God in the way that He designed them to be enjoyed because that’s why He gives them to us. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of the created world are supposed to be enjoyed because God made them to send and made us to receive … pleasure. But rather than enjoying them too little (ingratitude) or too much (idolatry), let us enjoy them as they were intended, as a catalyst for treasuring the Gift-Giver far beyond what He might give to us. The gifts that God sends us are wonderful; but they are nowhere near as wonderful as Him. He is the real gift!
Since trusting in Jesus is the basis for our hope of eternal life, how can we know that we really trust Him? The short answer is: we look for evidences that the trust we have in Him is changing us. Genuine saving belief never leaves you the same. We gradually become less like the world and more like Jesus as we follow Him in faith. Trusting Him leads to ongoing and loving… Repentance, because we believe what He offers is better than sin. Obedience, because we believe His ways are always good and right. Confidence, because we believe what He has promised us will happen. We believe. We change. That’s how we know.
Do you know what your failure is for? It has a purpose, and that purpose is to help you succeed. Not just so you’ll try harder next time. Not just so you’ll be wiser next time. Not just so you’ll do better next time. But rather so you will rely more fully on Jesus next time. His strength. His guidance. His way. His plan. His timing. His help. The right response to failure is faith, for every person who turns to and trusts in Jesus will win in the end. Remember this when you find yourself coming up short: Futility and frustration are intended to move you away from self-reliance to Savior-reliance. And that move is always for the better.