Tag Archives: belief

God wants me to be happy, not angry, and never to doubt? [False ideas Christians believe about…God’s desires for Christians. Part 4]

28 Mar
Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash

In 1 Timothy 3:12 we read that “all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  Woah.  Maybe God doesn’t want us to be happy, and only cares about us becoming godly or holy, even if it takes us being persecuted? How are we to understand this?

Does God want us to be happy?  It sure seems like he would, right?

In this series of posts we’re fact-checking common phrases Christians believe, and in this post there are two phrase: “God isn’t interested in making you happy; he’s interested in making you holy.”  VERSUS “God always wants me to be happy.” Which is it? This takes some explaining.

First of all, God is most interested in our character, in our heart.  And sometimes going through trials is the way to get to our heart.  But as we have seen in previous posts in this series, the trials we go through are not necessarily from God.  The world is broken and fallen, and we will have troubles in this world.  God can redeem those struggles, though, as we strive to follow him in middle of our troubles.  And he promises that he will be with us always.  The result is that we do often grow in godliness during difficult times. 

But can we grow in holiness through joy and plenty and comfort?  Yes.  That’s why a life of spiritual practices and habits is so important.  God calls us to pursue practices like prayer, biblical meditation, silent listening, generosity, and disciple-making all the time, not matter if life is going great or if it is really difficult. 

So the phrase “God isn’t interested in making you happy” is wrong.  God DOES want us to be happy!

Remember the festivals in Deuteronomy?  God embedded happiness and celebration in the life of the nation of Israel.  Ecclesiastes talks about enjoying life.  Philippians says “Rejoice in the Lord always!”  And James 1:2-4, says “Consider it joy when you face trials of many kinds.”

It is very hard to feel joy in the middle of the pain. 

Is there a difference between happiness and joy?  Can we be joyful while being unhappy? 

Happiness is fleeting.  Joy is a choice.  It can be hard to distinguish the two.  Especially for those who struggle with anxiety.  “Consider it joy?”  This means that you can use your mind to control your emotions.   Happiness is an emotion, and emotions do not always tell you the truth.

So we need to remember verses like Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” 

The song “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns speaks to this when it envisions God saying to us, “if your eyes are on the storm, you’ll wonder if I love you still, but if your eyes on the cross, you’ll know I always have and always will.”   

Isn’t that so similar to the lamenters in Psalms?  In the pain they turned and ran to the Lord rather than running away from him.  And when they ran to him, they brought all their pain and doubt and anger to him.

And that is a great lead-in to the next phrase we’re fact-checking:God is not OK with doubt and anger.

We’ve referred to James 1 already.  Take a look at verse 6.   “When he asks he must believe and not doubt”?  Wait, is doubt wrong?  And later in verse 19, “be slow to anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.”  So doubt and anger are wrong?  Or are they?

Read the psalms, the laments.  In them you’ll find gut-wrenching doubt and anger.  Raw pain. 

That means we can also declare that this is a false idea.  God is absolutely okay with doubt and anger. 

Saying that God is not okay with doubt is potentially dangerous, making it seem like a good Christian should never struggle with doubt. There is a sense in which God doesn’t want us to doubt.  He wants us to trust in him.   We should have faith in him.  But even then, we have to remember the promise of 2 Timothy 2:13, “if we are faithless, he is faithful for he cannot disown himself.”

In Mark 9:17, we read a fascinating story that relates to doubt.  The disciples were trying to cast a demon out of a boy, but to no avail.  The father of the boy brought him to Jesus to help.

Notice the father’s response to Jesus: “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” We all doubt, and we all get angry.  Remember that there is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God.  But God’s gracious love for us should also not be an excuse to just stay in our doubt or anger.  Instead, God’s grace should motivate us, make us grateful, to trust in him and allow our anger to subside.  If you have an anger problem that keeps popping up, and you can’t control it, I urge you to get professional help.  It’s not okay to be angry and damage people. 

How to grow your love for God, part 1

15 Oct
Photo by Janos Patrik on Unsplash

Have you ever heard the phrase, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”?  What does it mean?

That children or young people tend to behave like their parents.  It happens all the time.  And it is not just that we look like our parents, or sound like them, but that we tend to have similar beliefs as our parents, and we have similar ways we act on those beliefs.  Of course, this is not always the case.  Most of us are at least somewhat different from our parents, and some of us are very different from our parents.

But how many of you adults have had that heart-shocking experience, after previously boldly proclaiming that you would never ever be like your parents, you then heard yourself say something that your parents said, or do something your parents did?  And it hits you like a thunderclap, “Oh my word…that’s what my mom would say!” Or “That’s what my dad would do.” It’s like this:

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  We become like our parents, and we can’t help it.  Why?  What is going on in this phenomenon?  It’s not complicated.  Kids spend a lot of time with their parents, and whether intentionally or unintentionally, the thoughts, actions, opinions, and behaviors of parents rub off on their kids.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even friends, you too can have a great influence.

That is a reality check.  It means that we simply will influence the next generation.  How we spend our time among our young people matters.  They will become like us.  And that is what Moses turns to in Deuteronomy 11.

Deuteronomy Chapter 11 is a transitional chapter in this book.  It serves as a clear reminder to the people of Israel that they have a covenant treaty with their God, Yahweh.

There are seven sections in this chapter, and this week we briefly survey each one.  In each section Moses wants the people of Israel to do something, and he always gives them a rationale for why he wants them to do that thing.  In each section, let’s look at the action he wants them to do, and see if we can discover his rationale.

The first section is verses 1-7.

What is the thing he wants them to do?  He tells them in verse 1: Love God by keeping his…commands always.

What is his rationale for wanting them to love God by keeping his commands? We find that in verses 2-7.  He starts with the word, “Remember”.  “Remember God’s majesty,” Moses says, “God’s mighty hand, his outstretched arm.”

Then he repeats a phrase.  Do you see it?  In verses 3-6, he says this phrase in each verse: “what he did”.  He is talking about God, what God did.  Put that word “Remember” from verse 2 together with the phrase “what he did” repeated in verses 3-6, and you get a clear message from Moses to the people: “Remember…what he did!”

  • Verse 3 – What he did…in Egypt
  • Verse 4 – What he did…through the Red Sea
  • Verse 5 – What he did…in the desert
  • Verse 6 – What he did…to the disobedient

Remember what he did!  And what did God do?  Moses is saying, “He saved you, Israel!  Over and over, he saved you.”

Then in verse 7, Moses sums up this concept by saying, “with your own eyes you saw the great things the Lord has done.”  In this section, then, Moses is saying, when you look back over your life, and you remember God’s faithfulness and provision in your life, you’ll be motivated to show your love for him by keeping his commands.

How about you? What has God done for you?  Take some time today to review your life.  Remember what he did.  Make a list, even if it is a Top 5, and write it out, just like Moses did for Israel.  And spend some time thanking God for what he did.  Allow that Top 5 to inflame your heart with love for God.

What does this have to do with the phrase, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”?  Stay tuned!

One word for the hopeless – Luke 8:40-56

19 Aug

Do you feel hopeless, discouraged or powerless?

This past Sunday we looked at two people who seemed to be powerless and hopeless.  But with one word their lives changed radically.  What one word could make such a difference?

Jesus calmed the storm with a word. He defeated demons with a word.  In our next section studying through the Gospel of Luke 8:40-56, we see that he has power over death…with just a word.

There is no one else like him. If that truth has become old hat for you, if you’ve heard it a million times since you were in Sunday School as a three year old, and the amazement of Jesus has become boring, please hear it again for the first time.

There is no one like him. He is unique and powerful. With Jesus the hopeless still have hope!

As you read the story, did you note the one word that is central for the two people who were healed by Jesus.  Know what that one word is?

Faith.

To the lady with bleeding, he said “Your faith has healed you.”

To Jairus whose daughter was dead, he said “Believe.”

It is the same word in the original language: faith.

There are two elements to faith, and this is why the NIV is correct to use both the word “faith” and “belief” when translating the word “faith”.  The faith element relates to actions of trusting in and depending on God. The belief element relates to what we know in our minds to be true about God. Both of these elements are present in the biblical concept of faith. And both must be present in our faith in God. We believe and we trust, and we show that by the choices we make.

Like the lady who touched his robe, she believed Jesus could heal, and she showed faith by reaching out to touch him. Like Jairus, he believed Jesus could heal, so he sought out Jesus.  Even after hearing that his daughter was dead, Jairus let Jesus guide the way to his house, into the room where the girl lay dead.

A full-fledged conception of faith starts with belief of heart and mind, but it does not stop there. It is not enough to say “I believe in Jesus”.  Full-fledged faith does something about it!

Faith is belief that results in faithful action. Belief in the God of hope, leads to faithful action that shows we have hope.

But what about the many times when full-fledged faith doesn’t make everything better?  Obviously Jesus didn’t heal every sick person or bring every dead person to life.  The lady with the bleeding problem would have other ailments.  Jairus’ 12-year old daughter, even if she grew up to have a long life, would one day die. The purpose of Jesus’ miracles was not so that he could become the star doctor of Capernaum General Hospital. Instead, his miracles were signposts pointing in the direction of the Kingdom of God. You see him calm a storm, you see him cast out demons, and you see him heal the sick and raise the dead. All are signposts saying “God’s Kingdom is here. There is hope in the world!”

But what is that hope?  Is it a hope that those who have the right kind of faith will be blessed by God with perfect, easy, comfortable lives with no pain or misfortune?  Not at all.  The Lord never promised that.  As the twelve disciples would find out in their own lives, and as many faithful Christians through the years have likewise found out, we are all prone to the many forms of brokenness in our world.

So what is the benefit of pursuing faithfulness as a disciple of Jesus?  First, there is the hope of eternal life.  The miracles of Jesus are signposts to another reality, the reality of his Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.  By full-fledged faith in him, we can have hope that we are participants in his Kingdom, which includes life after death.  We will be with him in heaven.  Second, we can access what he called the abundant life.  The abundant life points to the reality that we can be participants in his Kingdom now!  It is his life flowing through and changing our lives so that we learn more and more to live now like he did.

A vital question, then, is what does it mean to live faithfully in God’s Kingdom now? Your situation might have similarities or many differences from the lady or from Jairus. But would you ask the question: “How do I show faith in Christ in the midst of my unique situation?” I would encourage you not to assume that you know how to answer that question. But instead ask that question to someone older and wiser, someone who shows faithfulness, who shows they know how to live in God’s Kingdom.