“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” Philippians 2: 14-16
Imagine you are sitting in church, listening to your pastor’s message, and he says,
“By the way, a lot of people around here aren’t going to Heaven!” [Everybody perks up and starts to pay attention.]
He continues, “The door to heaven is pretty small. So, many people are going to go through the wrong door. In fact, only a few people will find the right door, only a few.”
[The people are thinking, “What? Is that really true?”
He continues, “You better make sure you are studying your Bible or you won’t find the small door. Instead, you’ll follow the crowd through the big door. Some of you tend to do what sounds good, instead of carefully studying your Bible.” [People start to fidget because they don’t have time to read their Bibles. They’re really busy.]
“Now that big door is not only the wrong door, it is the door that, once opened, will take you down a big, wide road that looks like a good road, but it isn’t! It leads to devastation and disaster!” [This isn’t what the people want to hear. They think he is too negative.]
He ends by saying, “Make sure you find the small door. Like I said, study your Bible. It is the GPS to the small door.”
Will the people start studying their Bibles or will they dismiss the pastor’s warning?
Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
That is an intriguing statement, made by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus and the Apostles gave us many warnings in the New Testament. We would do well to know what they are. We mustn’t only read and study the promises. We must read and study all of God’s Word.
Do you know what God’s warnings are? (Several are listed in my post, “Don’t Follow the Crowd”.)
My job (and ministry) is in a middle school. You know, where kids know how to push your buttons and are exercising their desire to rebel against authority.
Maybe God hasn’t put anyone “hard to love” in your life, but I bet He has. I only know that what God has asked me to to do isn’t easy and even though I am willing – I keep failing over and over.
What is our mission?
It is to love!
Sometimes I wonder why He has called me to love those “not easy to love”. I’m not good at it! I lose my temper. I get angry. I lecture. I utter those horrible teacher words, “I’m done!”
The kind of love God expects us to show to others is not a feeling. It is an action. It can be very hard to show agape love. Where is your mission field? Do you sometimes find it difficult to show love to people there?
Over 20 years ago, God showed me something that I will never forget. At the time, I was very involved in women’s ministry, but I became increasingly disturbed by some of the teaching in my church. I asked God to show me where my focus should be.
I asked Him to show me the main idea of the New Testament. I felt like my focus was on the wrong things. In desperation, I read the New Testament through three times in a row.
In a notebook, I kept track of how often various subjects were discussed, such as hope, faith, prosperity, love, spiritual warfare, etc.
I discovered that love was the most frequently taught subject by far! There was no doubt about it. God was showing me, through my crisis, that love, agape love, was very important to Him and my focus should be there.
I began an in depth study on agape love, looking for every Biblical reference. I studied Greek and Hebrew definitions. I wrote. I read. I studied.
I Corinthians 13:4-8
I can’t do it in my own strength. God must do it through me. Every day, I must pray for God’s power to dwell in me. Once we realize that we can’t do it ourselves, we have passed Lesson 1.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11(NIV)
Lesson 2: Let our day begin with prayer. “Father, Show the Savior’s love through me today. Teach me to love.” And pray for them. Ask God to help you see the good things about them, not just what they do wrong.
Lesson 3: Study God’s Word about love and be changed. Start with I Corinthians 13. Meditate on it. Study it. How does it apply to my life?
“Love is patient.” I Corinthians 13:4a
(I don’t know about you, but I need to meditate on these 3 words for at least a week!)
The Greek word for patient is makrothumeo. It means “slow to anger”.
“Being slow to anger does not mean that one does not care, but rather that he has his emotions under control.” (Detzler)
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22)
According to Vine’s Bible Dictionary, “Patience is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate.”
Webster defines patience as “enduring … trouble with composure and without complaining; refusing to be provoked …”
Note: I wrote this post about a year ago, but I find myself once again needing His strength and His grace to do the very thing He has asked me to do – love those God has put in my path – and show them God’s unconditional love.
Two years ago, I had no idea I was going to write a blog. I had no idea my daughter would lead worship in my church. I had no idea God was getting ready to change my life.
But God had His plan working all along, even though I was completely unaware of what He was doing! He already knew these things would happen. I have prayed frequently and asked God to do many things, but I haven’t always seen the answers I hoped for. Finally, I asked Jesus to teach me to pray.
I learned I was right to ask Jesus to teach me how to pray. He has already taught me something new! Jesus said,“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…: Matthew 6:9-10 NIV
What does that have to do with effectual prayer? Everything! Because, I don’t need to go to God with a list of things for Him to do. What do the words mean “hallowed be your name”? Hallowed means: honored as holy, blessed, greatly revered, respected, honored and worshiped.
Let’s think about that for a minute. When we go to the Father in prayer, let us worship Him. Let us adore Him and recognize the character of our God. Let us enter His presence with thanksgiving and praise.
Then Jesus said, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
God has shown me that the key to effectual prayer is not about me. It’s not about my ability to pray. It’s about Him! I’ve been too focused on myself instead of on Him!
Let Jesus teach us to pray. Let us worship the Father. Let us enter His presence with thanksgiving and praise. Then, let us pray for His will to be done in our life, in our church, in our city, and all over the world. He has a plan that is better than all we can ask or imagine!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20 NIV
The words of the hymn are true, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” But, let us have a new and deeper revelation of His greatness and love. Let us revere and love Him as we should. We can find words to praise Him throughout the Psalms! Here are just a few key verses:
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. You have set your glory above the heavens…. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him… that you care for him?” Psalm 8:1-4 NIV
“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord who is worthy of praise….” Psalm 18:1-3a NIV
“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.” Psalm 25:1-2a NIV
“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep…. How priceless is your unfailing love!” Psalm 36:5-7 NIV