Nan has asked me to continue sharing some thoughts this month on The Kingdom, Power and Glory: The Overcomer’s Handbook from a pastoral point of view. This month, we are looking more closely at how believers respond to God’s Love.
There are some Christians who have never doubted God’s Love for them. On the other hand, there are a significant number of believers who honestly struggle with the question, “Does God really love me?” Your answer to that question has an impact on just about every part of your life in Christ. Do doubts come up in your mind?
Being convinced of God’s care is critically important to growing in the faith, so let’s look at some practical ways of addressing this situation.
1. Believe the Truth
First, you need to believe the truth about God. That may seem too simple, but how would you answer this question, “Do I believe that God will reward me if I seek Him?” Now, answer that from your heart; be honest with yourself. Here’s what the Scripture says:
…for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a re-warder of those who diligently seek Him.
If you have doubts about this, I want to assure you that God really does reward the people who seek Him. That’s a fact, like 2+2=4. That’s what He does. He is predictable, like the sun rising every morning.
Notice that God does not reward those who just say the right words, or think certain thoughts, or perform certain deeds. God rewards those who diligently seek Him.
If you look at Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, or Thayer’s Greek Definitions (both are available on e-Sword), you will see that this is not a casual seeking of Him, but one that can be described as craving to be with Him. Psalm 42 comes to mind, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul after You, O God.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, God has also promised that, “everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
The Greek carries the sense that we are to keep on asking, and keep on seeking, and keep on knocking (the Greek verbs are in the present progressive tense.) To get the result we want from God, we must apply our-selves; it takes sincere, consistent effort.
This is similar to when a counselor asked a man during his first appointment to describe how ready he was to change: somewhat ready, ready, or very ready. When the man replied that he was somewhat ready to change, the counselor replied, “Well, then I will be somewhat ready to help.”
God is whole-hearted and knows that in order to get good results each “seeker” needs to be whole-hearted, too. God is ready to reward you if you set your heart on finding Him. He is the Giver, the Re-warder. In fact, the Bible says:
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
The Father of Lights does not change: there is no variation in Him. If you have doubts about what He is like, the problem may be due to your wrong beliefs about Him. Consider the Scripture shown above and talk to God about them. Ask Him to open your under-standing so you can know the Truth about Him.
2. Forgive Us As We Forgive
There is a direct connection between forgiveness and experiencing God’s Love. It is vital that we forgive. That’s why Jesus made several very strong statements about forgiveness, such as Matthew 6:15, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
We have to forgive. How can we not forgive some-one who has wronged us, and yet say that we love God? That question is a corollary to 1 John 4:20, “…he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” The answer to both is that it is not possible.
Pause and let that soak in. It is not possible to be unforgiving and continue to experience God’s Love. If you sometimes doubt God’s Love for you, it is very possible that you have a problem with forgiving others, “their trespasses.”
By not forgiving, you have quenched the Holy Spirit’s work in your life. He has shown you God’s will (that you need to forgive) and you have chosen to act on your own will instead and hold the grudge.
Think Of It This Way
When someone has wronged you, they are indebted to you. You have the moral high ground: you are the victim because they have misbehaved. You are entitled to be angry with them and to remember that they owe you. They may or may not deserve to be forgiven, and you may or may not decide to forgive them. That’s how it works in the world.
In Christ, however, things are different. Our God is a forgiving God, and He wants His people to be like Him. He wants us to be a forgiving people.
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful ways for God to display His love because it comes at a time when people are likely to understand that they have misbehaved. He wants to show them His love, and He intends to do it through His people, including you.
You should not forgive because the person who wronged you has apologized or somehow made amends. You should forgive because it pleases God when you do so. It’s not about the offender, it’s about God!
It’s good in other ways, too. Forgiving will bring you closer to God; it’s part of the abundant life that He wants you to experience. In the bigger picture, your obedience transforms you to be more like Jesus (Romans 8:29, 12:1-3).
Caution: Emotions In Play!
You should choose to forgive even when your emotions are telling you to do the opposite. It might seem insincere to forgive someone if your emotions are still strongly against them; but it’s not!
With your will, you can choose to give up your right to collect on the debt they owe you. If your emotions get stirred up and remind you of how badly you have been hurt, you can use your thoughts to remember that you already chose to cancel that debt. Then you can give your negative emotions over to God and focus your attention on Scripture, songs, or other positive influences that God may bring to you.
Having negative emotions does not mean that you have failed to forgive someone; don’t let your emotions confuse you. The fact is that it will take time for your emotions to align with your thoughts and choices. Keep going through the process just described and they will align in time.
3. Relationship Takes Time
Even Jesus set aside time to spend exclusively with the Father.
Now in the morning, having risen a long while be-fore daylight, Jesus went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
We have glimpses of His prayer time in The Lord’s Prayer and in the Garden of Gethsemane. This was personal, one-on-one time.
When you spend time with someone you can see, you feel closer to them. The same is true with Some-one you cannot see. If you do not spend time with God, you may very well doubt His Love for you because you are out of touch.
As a side note, Private Worship by Nancy Missler is a great primer for drawing closer to God. The insights are based on the order of worship designed for Solomon’s Temple and pave the way for true intimacy with God. Private Worship is unique and can be very helpful for those who are painfully aware of their lack of intimacy with God.
God is the Lover of your soul. Remember how He drew you to Himself so you would understand the Gospel and believe? That was just a glimpse of His heart for you. He cares deeply about you and stands ready to strengthen and bless you.
If you have doubts about Him, try putting the ideas in this article into action. Seek Him with zeal: keep on seeking, keep on asking, and keep on knocking. He will reward your efforts. Ask Him if you need to forgive someone, and then take care of it by forgiving them. Learn about how to spend time with Him. It is a little different than other relationships because He is not visible, but intimacy with Him is certainly possible.
Go ahead, make the choice, and take the first step today.
…may you be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the Love (Agape) of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.