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Is it just me or does your inner self ever ask questions like this?

“But I thought as a Christian, I wouldn’t have any problems…?”

“Why am I still struggling? Shouldn’t faith eliminate the struggle?”

“I thought Jesus would get rid of my problems. Is there something wrong with me?”

Maybe you don’t literally ask yourself those questions. But maybe it silently nags at you from time to time. Maybe you, like me, find yourself beating yourself up when things aren’t as easy as you felt they should have been. Maybe you are your own worst enemy. I know I am.

My pastor mentioned recently that most people think the Promised Land is a symbol of Heaven. But he clarified: it’s not a symbol of Heaven, it’s a symbol of the Blessed Life. There are still enemies in the Promised Land. There are no enemies in Heaven.

What does that have to do with the price of eggs?

Well, for me, it made something click.

The Blessed Life is not a life devoid of problems, devoid of attacks, devoid of enemies, devoid of THE enemy. The Blessed Life is the life that knows, believes, serves, trusts, and walks side by side the One who has already defeated the enemy.

Sweet.

I think, especially in American culture, we get this idea that we’re not supposed to face hardships. We live in a mindset that we’re not supposed to get sick, we’re not supposed to fail, we’re not supposed to face difficulties, and that if we face any of those things, we need find a way to eliminate them as soon as possible.

But when you read the Word you find out very quickly that it’s hardships, trials, difficulties, attacks, and more that bring us to an understanding of our need for redemption. So maybe instead of looking at our life as a series of bumps in the road that should never have been there, perhaps we could start looking at our experiences as opportunities to get to know the character, heart, and love of God the Father a little better. Perhaps we, like James, could take to heart this notion:

Dear brothers and sisters,  when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. ~James 1:2-4

Think about David and Saul. Saul was DEAD SET against letting David fulfill his destiny. He was absolutely terrified that someone like David should become king and he was bound and determined to keep that from happening. It drove him mad. He chased David around like a lion hunts a gazelle. David had to go into hiding to keep Saul from killing him. David was on the run.

At any point, David could have stopped Saul in his tracks, killed him on the spot, and justified his actions as self defense. He probably would have gotten away with it, too. But he didn’t. He remained humble. He decided to trust God and not take matters into his own hands. And in the end, Saul killed himself as a coward. His obsession against David drove him to madness. And David rose to his destiny without ever having to fix the Saul problem.

Maybe we could take a lesson from David. Maybe instead of trying to eliminate problems from our lives constantly we could instead recognize the merit in learning a little patience, a little endurance, a little long-suffering. Maybe we could use difficulties as a chance to get to know what God is trying to do instead of trying to keep our lives problem-free.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take medicine when we’re sick or ask forgiveness from our family or friends that we’ve wronged. Certainly problems come with a level of responsibility on our part. But maybe it’s time we entertain the notion that the responsibility is not to fix the problem, but to do our part to live in right-standing with God, seek His face and counsel in all things, and trust Him to take care of the rest.

I think we all know that even when we do try to “fix” things, we rarely succeed. Maybe it’s a sign to stop trying. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to dodge bullets and instead put on the full armor of God. Maybe it’s time we stop asking God to keep things from happening to us and instead ask God to show us what we are supposed to learn from our difficulties.

And maybe, just maybe, we can learn to live by faith, not by attempted difficulty prevention.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. ~Ephesians 6:10-18

Oh man, I LOVE that passage.

jesuskeepsdisappointingme

I have a question today. It’s simple, really. But I’ve been pondering it a lot lately.

Do you love Jesus?

Do I love Jesus?

To clarify, in the context of this post, this is not a question for non-believers. Certainly if you don’t believe in your need for Jesus, if you’re not a believer, I am praying that your eyes will be opened. Certainly if you don’t have Jesus, you need Him. But that’s for another post.

Today’s question is for believers – do we love Jesus?

I’m not asking this question as some sort of ploy to get us all to question our salvation. The Word is clear that salvation is eternal.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~Romans 8:38-39

No, I’m asking this question because I have realized that there is a distinction between loving Jesus and loving what He does for us. Certainly we believers love what He does for us. We love His joy, His blessings, His peace, His love. We could (and do) go on and on about what He did for us. And there is nothing wrong with this. We should. We should count our blessings daily. We should remain eternally grateful for the gifts of the Father.

But is that all we love about Him? Are we so focused on what we’re getting out of the relationship that we’re neglecting what we should be giving? Love is a two-way street, after all. Do I love Jesus for Jesus? Or do I love Jesus for His gifts? Do I love Him for loving me? Or do I love Him for what I could potentially benefit from knowing Him?

Maybe it’s a distinction you’ve never pondered. But it’s beginning to dawn on me that it’s a pretty significant distinction.

Let’s take this into the context of marriage. If all I ever expect from my spouse is his service to me, his devotion to me, if all I ever ask is that he fix my problems, be my rock, forgive me every time I fail, be my shoulder to cry on, how long is my marriage going to last? Love is reciprocal, after all. It can’t be one way or eventually it will be no way. A marriage that has one side always receiving without ever giving is a marriage that is doomed to die.

So what does that say about our walk with Christ? Are we always praying for Him to fix things? Heal things? Give us things? Make things better? Bless things?

Certainly we should pray for those things. Certainly our faith is in part knowing that He is the fixer, the healer, the giver, the blesser. But if that’s all it is, I fear it’s doomed to die. I fear that if we remain a one-sided, self-centered lover of what Jesus does, we’ll never ever see those blessings for which we beg come to fruition.

So what is our responsibility then? I believe it starts with loving Jesus for WHO He is not WHAT He does. After all, a life committed to Him will only remain committed if lived in the understanding of His great love, His great character. Commitment to “getting” will turn up fruitless in the end.

No, not because God is a childish god who folds his arms across his chest and pouts at our selfishness, but because God is a god who wants our genuine affection. That’s why He’s gentle to never bully His way into our hearts. That’s why He’s careful to never force anything upon us, especially devotion. That’s why He gave us free will – so that we would freely and genuinely choose to love and serve Him. If it’s not real, He’s not interested.

So if we’re not loving Him, but instead loving His benefits, do we really love Him at all?

In my own life, I’ve been learning this in a big way. I’m learning that devotion to Christ requires sacrifice. No, not for my salvation. That’s free. But if I’m following Christ expecting blessing, healing, fixing, comfort, peace, prosperity, and on and on, and I’m not doing my part to bring those things about, I’m basically a beggar with my hands out, standing at the throne of the Ancient of Days saying, “Give me. Give me. Give me.”

No, we approach the throne of grace with thanksgiving, praise and adoration. If we try to skip over the adoration part and head straight to the blessings, we will remain sorely disappointed.

I fear that’s one of the biggest problems with believers today. We want the benefits of God without falling in love with Him first. It would be like our one-sided marriage: the wife wanted love and affection from her husband without ever giving it to him in return. Where’s the joy in that? Where’s the favor? It won’t come. It will remain lost.

So I ask myself today, do I love Jesus or do I love what He does for me? Do I love Him for who He is or for what I am praying He will do for me? What about you?

If in your life of faith, you keep (perhaps secretly) feeling like Jesus is disappointing you, perhaps it’s time to take an inventory of your heart. Are you taking the time to read His Word, learn who He is and fall desperately in love with Him? Or are you standing before Him, asking for a daily handout?

The distinction is the difference between the Blessed Life and the disappointed life.