For years, whenever I had a problem, other Christians would tell me, "Nancy, just give it to God." Well, that's really easy to say, but how on earth do you do it in action?
This is what I struggled with for years before I learned The Way of Agape. To me, giving things over to God meant giving Him my hurts and my problems, which, of course, I did. But, I had no idea that God required my confession and repentance for those things, before He could take them from me. In other words, I was sharing my difficult situations with the Lord, but not acknowledging my own responsibility in them. After learning God's Way of Agape, I now understand what God means when He says "...give yourself totally over to Me," "...cleanse yourself," "...surrender to Me," "...relinquish yourself," "...deny yourself" or "...yield yourself...."
Understanding how to give ourselves over to God, and the personal cleansing process that God performs as a result, is the key to our Christian walk, because it affects everything we do. If we need to love someone who is particularly difficult to love, we need to yield ourselves to the Lord so we can be filled with His Love; if we need wisdom for a difficult situation, we need to surrender ourselves to the Lord and ask for His supernatural thoughts; and, if we are called upon to do something that is beyond our own ability, we need to relinquish ourselves and ask for God's power and strength. And, of course, if we are filled with any unforgiveness, bitterness, guilt, unbelief, fear or any of the other thousands of ungodly emotions that paralyze us, we need to ask Him cleanse us and fill us with His Spirit.
In every case, the key is knowing how to give ourselves over to the Lord. Nothing has made more of a difference in my life than knowing "how" to do this on a daily and practical basis. The four Scriptural steps to doing this are:
1) Recognize and acknowledge the negative thoughts, emotions and desires that have just occurred in our lives. Don' t vent them or bury them, but simply get alone with God and acknowledge them to Him. Describe exactly how you feel and what you think. Also, be sure to ask God to expose any root causes for the above things. (If we can deal with the real roots of our thinking and feeling, then the symptoms-the surface emotions-will not occur again.)
2) Confess and repent of any negative thoughts and feelings that are "not of faith" or that you have entertained for awhile. Choose to "turn around" from following what these things are telling you and choose, instead, to follow what God wants you to do. At the same time, unconditionally forgive anyone else involved in your situation. God, then, will forgive you.
3) Give over to God all that He has shown you, not only your conscious negative thoughts and emotions, but also their root causes. He, then, will purge your sin and self and reconcile you to Himself.
4) Read God's Word. It's imperative, at this point, that you replace the lies in your thinking with the Truth - the truth of God's Word. God, then, will cleanse and heal your soul with "the washing of the water of His Word."
I literally go through these cleansing steps daily and, sometimes, two or three times a day if I am dealing with a particularly difficult situation. This is how I keep showing forth God' s Life in the midst of the fire. These steps might seem like a lot to remember now because they are all so new. But, I promise you, if you are faithful to confess, repent and give everything to God, you will soon see there is no other way that works. And these steps will become second nature to you!
But, at those moments when we are consumed with doubt, hurt, fear, pride, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, anger or any other negative feelings, we are often too emotional "to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ," and we need something to help us along.
Psalm 40:12 validates this, "For innumerable evils have compassed me about: Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up..." Thus, having these cleansing steps handy will help us get through many tough times and experience the freedom that God desires.
God, then, in His timing and in His way will align our feelings with the faith choices we have made and make us genuine. Again, we are not the ones who change our feelings, God is. We just have to make sure that we have given Him permission to do so by doing the above four steps.
These steps are our "readiness to revenge all disobedience," that 2 Corinthians 10:6 talks about; and also how we "resist the devil" as James 4:7 exhorts us.
Some people have taken these steps, shortened them, made them personal, and written them on 3x5 cards. This is a great idea and I would encourage you to do the same. Keep these cards with you at all times (in your briefcase, purse or car), because, believe me, you'll need them.
Others have taken these basic steps and made a "word game" out of them. One person named the steps: 1) See it; 2) Say it; 3) Send it; and 4) Supplant it. Another called them: 1) Recognize it; 2) Repent of it; 3) Rocket it up; and, 4) Replace it. If these help, then by all means, use them.
Be an Example
Be sure to be open and frank with your children when you use these steps. Give them a living example that they can follow. They have hurts and fears and insecurities just as you do, and if they watch you use this prayer and see that it works for you, then they'll want to do it also. As parents, God never asks us to be perfect. He knows we will never be! What He asks of us is to be examples of those who constantly run to the only One who is perfect, and that' s Jesus. What freedom there is in this! The message we are teaching our children is that no matter how badly they blow it and no matter how they feel or what they think, if they run to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness, He will not only clean them up, but He will set them back up on the path again.
Psalm 37:23-24 explains, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and He delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand."
One young mom wrote and told me that when she finds herself "losing it" with her three toddlers, she now excuses herself and says to them, "Mommie has to go be with Jesus." Then she leaves them safely in their play area, locks herself in the bathroom and prayerfully goes through these cleansing steps of giving herself over to the Lord.
One time, after she had gone through the steps and was coming out of the bathroom all refreshed and with a smiling face, her three-year-old was so impressed, he said, "Mommie, was Jesus in there with you?"
Another young mother related that when she told her kids she was "going to be with Jesus," her four-year-old son said to her, "Well, it's about time!"
Be sure to keep a notebook or journal of your adventure with God. Date the entries, especially when you give something over to Him. That way when the enemy comes along and tries to counterfeit old feelings and negative thoughts, you can point to the entry and say, "That has already been handled! I might not feel it yet, but by faith I believe it."
Jesus Christ in our hearts is the cornerstone and the foundation for all of the principles that we have been talking about over the last several months. Unless Jesus Christ, who is God and who is Love, dwells in our hearts, none of these steps will ever work. Now, certainly God loves us and is constantly drawing us to Himself before we personally ask Christ to come into our hearts, but in order to have the kind of Love that we have been exploring here (on the inside of us, changing us from the inside out and flowing through us to others), we must have Jesus in our hearts because He alone is that Love. He alone is that Power Source that can implement these things in our lives, and He alone has the Wisdom we need to know how to walk.
Once Christ dwells in our hearts, the "KEY" to being able to walk in His Love, Wisdom and Power and experience His abundant Life is knowing how to surrender all our own thoughts, emotions and desires that are contrary to His, so that His Life can come forth. As we share in The Way of Agape, this is really what it means to love God. Loving God is not just raising our hands in church or having some sort of an emotional feeling; loving God means, moment by moment, relinquishing our wills and our lives to Him. It means exchanging our image for the image we were created to bear, which is Christ' s image: His Thoughts, His Love and His Power. Loving God is being so completely at one with Him that all that's seen through us at that moment is Jesus. The only way we can ever do this, however, is by learning how, moment by moment, to give ourselves over to Him and become a cleansed and open vessel.
Our ultimate purpose as Christians, then, is to allow God's Love and His Life to flow through us regardless of our circumstances, our feelings or the other person's responses. That's all abundant Life really is: simply experiencing God's Life in place of our own.
Jesus says in John 10:10, "...I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
Are you experiencing this abundant life? The KEY to doing this is what we have been exploring over the last several months - knowing how to give things over to God.
The Meaning of our Lives
In closing, I'd like to tell you about a precious incident that happened several years ago. A Vietnam War veteran, named Dutch, came into our ministry bookstore, struggling to carry four Way of Agape books. Dutch had lost an arm, a hand, an ear, an eye, and had many other physical disabilities as well. When he saw Chuck and me, he grabbed the two of us and burst into tears. He shared that he had been a Christian for 18 years and had sought all the major tangents (trends) of the Christian Church in order to find the real meaning and purpose of his life as a Christian. Dutch said, however, something was always missing...until someone gave him The Way of Agape and God changed his life forever.
He said He finally found what his real meaning and purpose was as a Christian: being an open and cleansed vessel so that God's Love can freely flow through him. Then, He went on to say, "the neat part is, it doesn't matter what that vessel looks like. The important thing, is that God's Love flows through it."
I believe Dutch is absolutely right. If God's Love is not the central focal point of our lives as Christians, then we will have missed the whole point of our being called and we will have wasted our lives.
I have been a Christian for over 45 years, and, like my friend Dutch, I've found that knowing how to give things over to God (loving God), so that His Love from my heart can continue to flow (loving others), is the greatest treasure and the supreme purpose of my life.
God tells us in Matthew 22 that loving in this way has been His plan and His purpose for us all along. He even tells us in verse 40 that the whole Bible is summed up in only two commandments: one, we are to love God (totally give ourselves over to Him); and two, we are to love others as ourselves (by being a cleansed vessel so that God's Love can flow). This is God's Way of Love.
The question we come back to is: First of all, are you sure you have God's Love and His Life in your heart enabling you to love others? (In other words, do you have Jesus in your heart?) And next, are you willing on a moment-by-moment basis to set your self aside so that His Love can flow?
That's the KEY...