This month we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ! What does this event mean to you? Gifts, shopping, food and family; or, worship, praise and thanksgiving for all that He has done for you personally?
When I contemplate what Christmas means to me, I’d have to say for me, it means a little of both! I love the idea of family get togethers, the joy of fellowship and the thrill of seeing little ones receive presents. But, I also cherish the quiet times before the manger scene in thankful adoration and praise for all that He has done for me. Not only my initial salvation, but His intricate, meticulous handiwork in daily sanctifying me so that I might be prepared when He returns.
I would encourage you this Christmas to enjoy the festivities, the lights, the music and the dance, but don’t forget the intimate times of simple praise and thanksgiving to a Savior who loves you so much that He died for you. Only in His presence is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11) May your holidays be full of this kind of special joy!
Continuing on in our series on Reflecting His Image, let’s expand a little on the subject of faith choices.
True Christianity is such an incredibly freeing walk, in that we can be honest with God and confess things like: I’m afraid. I can’t do this. I don’t love this person anymore. I don’t want to forgive him. I don’t feel Your Presence. I am doubtful that You are leading me to do this. I don’t understand what You are doing. I am fearful of what is going to happen, etc. But, as Christians, we can give these negative thoughts over to the Lord and know that we have His authority to say, “Not my will, but Thine,” and then His power to perform that will in our life. (Matthew 26:39)
Professional counselors will tell you that no matter how hard we try, it’s impossible to change our feelings. Only God can do that. Therefore, the way we implement a change in how we feel is by releasing our real emotions to God by means of a “faith choice.” A faith choice is choice to walk by faith and not by feelings. It’s a choice that says, “Not my will, Father, but Yours.” Then, in God’s perfect timing, we can be assured that He will align our feelings to match the faith choice we have made.
What’s so incredible about making these kinds of faith choices is that God does, in His timing and in His Way, not only change our negative thoughts and emotions to match what we have chosen, but He also restores our joy. Remember the Scripture we just read, “only in His presence is fullness of joy”? Once we get rid of the sin that quenched God’s Spirit in us, we can once again enjoy His presence. In other words, if we are just willing to make the right Godly choices, He will then refill us with His Love, wisdom and power and enable us to go on with our lives. And, to me, this is the most incredible gift of all. I don’t have to “feel” my choices; I just have to be willing to make them. God then does the rest.
An Example: Anna
Here’s a remarkable real-life example. This is a letter from a friend of mine who had just received some horrific news and how she handled it. As you read her letter, think about how you might have handled the situation...
“It was the last day of our trip home to Florida to visit our family and I was at my husband’s parents’ house where we’d always stayed, packing alone. All the kids were at the beach and Ken, my husband, was out fishing with two brothers-in-law.
“The Lord had me stay home alone and soon I would find out why. As I was packing, the Holy Spirit led me to Ken’s suitcase and had me lift up the bottom of the inside of it to find an address book with over two pages of women’s names and their descriptions. At first I froze, as tears of unbelief welled up deep inside of me. I wanted to run (I felt like I had finally found my ticket out of a very unhappy marriage), but the still, small voice of the Spirit of God within constrained me. ‘Remember, I’m in control,’ He said. ‘How you handle this and the choices you make are critical. Choose to walk by faith, not your feelings, and your life will change.’
“I called a friend and placed myself under her accountability and received some wise counsel as to how to proceed. My husband arrived home shortly after that and with the book in hand, I asked him if this was happening now. He said, ‘Yes.’ He just looked at me and said, ‘I am going to hell. You know Jesus, will you please pray for me?’
“Those were perhaps the most honest words I have ever heard him say. So, I did pray and I asked God, ‘May Your will and not mine be done. I give this to You and it is now in Your hands.’ (My own feelings inside were screaming, ‘Run, get out, this is your chance!’ But I chose, by faith, to really mean what I had said in my prayer.)
“Immediately, Ken began to confess everything. He took the book from my hands, ran into the adjoining bathroom and lit it on fire. When he came back he said, ‘It is time to expose my sin.’
“A dear pastor that we know came over that night and spent three hours with Ken out in the street. Later, the pastor asked me to come out and told me that, ‘Ken has just had a Damascus Road experience.’ I wouldn’t have believed him, except that I had prayed those very same words for my husband many times. And in a prayer meeting just a month earlier, someone gave me a word for my husband, using ‘the Damascus Road’ analogy. Then the pastor said to me, ‘God has heard your prayer. Ken was saved tonight and baptized out in that street.’ Well, you can imagine how I was feeling!
“The next few weeks involved a lot of pain, but an unfolding of the glory of God like I have never seen before. Ken confessed to all the men he is close to. He confessed to our four teenage children, my mom, sisters and two pastor friends that he was a false convert living a life headed for hell. He even named all his sins sparing the grossness of the details to protect their imaginations. Telling the children was the hardest of all. They each began to cry. They thought their dad was a Christian. But God’s glory shined, even through this, and He began to heal all of our hearts.
“Eventually, Ken asked me to marry him again and our lives have never been the same. He now calls me from his car and holds the phone up to the marriage tapes he is listening to, so I can hear. For the first time in 19 years, we are experiencing the oneness in the Spirit that God so desires. We are continually in the Word and praying together. We have had more conversation in the past year than we’ve had in all our 19 years put together. Our children are alive as never before. I didn’t realize till now that they, too, were dying.
“There is so much more to share, but God has given me a heart filled with the joy that is born out of pain, a great new love for my Savior and a hunger to know God’s Love in an even deeper way. Isn’t He wonderful!”
What makes the above story so miraculous is that, in spite of how Anna felt, in spite of what she thought and in spite of what she wanted, she chose to trust God and, by faith, do His will. God then supernaturally changed her feelings to align with her choices and restored her marriage. This story is miraculous because Anna made non-feeling choices that allowed God to intervene and, thus, change the course of her life.
What would you have done?
What would have happened had Anna chosen not to follow God but to follow her own justified feelings? She would have immediately split with Ken and her story would have had a very different ending. Our choices are critical, because if we can really choose by faith, it can change the course of our lives!
Life is simply a series of ongoing choices. For the non-believer, it’s a daily choice of what he wants to do, how he feels and what he thinks. However, for the believer, it’s a totally different scenario! It’s a moment-by-moment choice to either follow his own fleshly desires (just like a non-believer), or to say like Jesus, “Not My will, but Thine” and follow what God desires.
This Christmas Season is a perfect time to keep this principle-not my will, but Thine-in the forefront of our minds.
Faith is simply being fully persuaded that God is able to do all that He has promised. Faith is a radical reliance upon God and it comes in the form of a choice. In fact, we must often choose 100 times a day to be fully persuaded the Lord will do as He says. Therefore, real faith is a series of moment-by-moment choices to believe God even when everything in our lives is screaming just the opposite.
Remember, 2 Corinthians 4:10-11: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake [death of self-life so] that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”
The Key to Life
Our choice, then, is the key to our life. Our choice is what enables us to put God’s Life from our hearts out into our souls. It’s the passageway, the doorway or the gateway. This passageway can be opened, so God’s Life can flow easily; or it can be closed, so God’s Life will be quenched and blocked.
The Greek word for willpower (or our choice) is dianoia. And, it’s interesting because, dia means channel and noya means of the mind. And this is exactly what our willpower (our choice) is-the channel, or the conduit, for God’s Spirit to flow from our hearts out into our lives.
Consequently, our choice is the determining factor as to whose life will be lived in our soul. Faith choices allow God’s Life to come forth; whereas emotional choices quench God’s Life.
This Christmas, in all that you do (whether it be festivities with your family or that intimate thankful time with the Lord) always allow Christ’s Life (His Love) to shine forth.
Our Christian life is not determined by our circumstances, our church attendance, our social standing, our finances or even our belief systems, but the character of our life is determined by the daily choices we make.
In other words, God has given us the authority and power of God to “go against the tide”-to set ourselves aside and follow what He desires, regardless of how we feel, what we want or what we think. Our choice is the critical crossroads of our lives.
Sin isn’t birthed in our mind or in our body; it’s begun within our will! Therefore, God has given us a fearful and awesome responsibility, because what we choose determines the degree of our sanctification.
Faith choices allow God’s Spirit to flow out into our lives; whereas, fleshly choices quench God’s Life and block it from coming forth.
Which will be shown in your life this Christmas?
To be continued next month: “Maturity in Christ.” This article has been excerpted in part from Nan’s new book, Reflections of His Image.