Be Loved

Our purpose on earth is to be loved and to glorify God.

When a friend shared this statement from her pastor with me, I expected to hear, “Our purpose is to love.” I was surprised to hear “…to be loved.” I usually think my purpose is giving to God rather than receiving from Him. But as I contemplated this statement, I realized far more life is only possible if we accept God’s love, if we allow ourselves to be loved by Him.

What Bible verses support this idea that God’s purpose for us is to be loved by Him? Several!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (I John 4:9, NIV)

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I John 4:10, NIV)

We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:19, NIV)

Jesus came to earth to become the ultimate expression of God’s love for us. That is how serious God is about us receiving His love — He sent His Son to die in our place and make a relationship possible! We are the only beings created in His image (Genesis 1:26), which leads me to believe He has a special purpose for us. He wants us to experience His love in all of its richness and wonder.

We can get caught up in trying to earn His love, trying to do enough or be enough to win His favor. But that is not God’s plan for us. In fact, it is impossible. No matter how “good” we are, we will always fall short of his standard: perfection. Yet He wants to shower us with His love, offers to fill us to overflowing, and give His daughters the gift of far more life.

… God is love. (I John 4:8, NIV)

God is the source of love — it is who He is! So, of course, He wants to share His love with us.

But it may be hard for us to accept His love for several reasons. First, we know that we do not deserve it. While we are flawed, He is perfect. In reality, that perfection enables Him to love us unconditionally despite our flaws. It is reassuring to remember He loves us because of His character, not because of ours. In fact,

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (Lamentations 3:22, NIV)

It is also hard to accept His love because we feel obligated to give something back. But what can we possibly give God? I had a friend who would not accept God’s love because she said it was too big; she realized she could never repay Him, so she preferred to say “no, thank you” to His offer of love. Fortunately, God does not expect us to pay for His love, He offers it as a gift:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ …and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8, NIV)

Finally, it is hard to be loved by God because we fear giving up control to Him. Part of us longs to be under His authority and protection, but another part questions His trustworthiness. It feels safer to think we are in charge of our own lives, making the decisions that will lead to the best life possible. But who always knows what is best? Who is wise and never makes a mistake? Who can see the future? God, in His perfect love, wants to free us from fear, worry, and doubt. The better we know Him, the more secure we become in His love and the more we understand and embrace this truth:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:18, NIV)

We find far more life when we embrace our purpose of being loved by God. Early in my Christian life I was so afraid of displeasing God that I was often paralyzed from living for Him. Every night I pored over my day, seeking to remember every sin I had committed; I was desperate to make sure God understood that I did not take His forgiveness for granted. I believed my purpose was to confess my sin and how I was undeserving of God’s love. It was only after I learned the security of God’s love that I could relax and really accept His love. I still did not take His forgiveness for granted, but now I was free not only be loved, but also love Him back. I experienced gratitude rather than fear. I wanted to honor Him with my life, because I recognized it was a precious gift. I discovered that far more life runs toward God and His transforming love.

Your purpose is to be loved by God and glorify Him. Far more life is waiting for you, wrapped up in God’s love. Let yourself be loved today!

Can you accept your purpose of being loved by God?
What makes it hard for you to accept His love: Thinking you need to earn it? Believing you owe Him? Fear of giving control over to Him?
What Biblical truth helps you accept His love?
Commit today to let Him love you…and show you far more life.

Far More Building

Luke chapter 4 describes the encounter Jesus had in the wilderness where Satan tempted Him to sin. Twice Satan starts his offer with the phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” Although Satan probably knew Jesus’ identity and was taunting Him, he voiced a common human concern.

All of us, at some point, have asked the questions, “Is God real?” and “Is Jesus truly God?” Many examples of this are recorded in the Bible, and people of all generations have wrestled with this question. We want proof! Throughout history, once proof is offered, some people believe and become followers of Jesus while others do not. We lay the foundation of far more life when we believe that God IS real and Jesus IS God.

Once we know God, through Jesus, we do not need to keep revisiting those questions; our foundation is secure and we are ready to build a relationship. My friends who are adopted illustrate this. Those who have sought their birth parents needed proof before accepting them. But once that proof was offered and validated, the question “Are you my parent?” was put behind them. There was no need to revisit it time and again. They were free to move forward in building a relationship.

But I know some Christians who miss far more life because they continue to question whether God is real and if Jesus is truly God. Why? Because they have an enemy! Satan knows that if they doubt God — and the reality of their relationship with Him through Jesus — they cannot experience far more life. They cannot share Christ with others. They cannot fulfill the purposes for which God created them. So he strives to cripple them by making them doubt the foundation of their faith.

Others never doubt God’s existence or Jesus’ deity, but they miss far more life because they don’t recognize God’s work. Their experiences leave them with unmet expectations about God’s character and actions. So the words of the Bible do not feel true and they are unsure how to reconcile them with the circumstances of their lives. Their foundation lies empty and their lives lack joy and spiritual fruit. But if we believe God is truthful, then we should also believe the Bible is His written Word. He said it is Truth (John 17:17), so we can take hope from this declaration:

For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. (Luke 1:37, AMPC)

Far more life rests in the fact that God’s Word is flawless while our interpretation can be flawed. It is a willingness to believe that seemingly irreconcilable circumstances indicate we are missing something, that our perspective is skewed due to incomplete information or sin. I like how The Message explains it:

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (Matthew 5:8, MSG)

God is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8), so we find far more life when we adopt His perspective and work to understand it. Then we are able to experience all He has promised. And what wonderful experiences those are! Even when our circumstances are challenging, we traverse them with joy and peace because we are confident God is working in and through them for our good and His eternal purposes (Romans 8:28).

Although we are surrounded by change, God knows our need for stability and provides it. His reassurance of what is unchanging gives us something to hold onto during the times we are shaken or struggling. Right after He destroyed the earth by flood due to man’s wickedness, He made this promise:

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22, NIV)

What a comforting knowledge! Each day the sun rises and each night the moon rises is a reminder of God’s faithfulness and truthfulness. Each change of the season, we are reminded His promises are reliable. Each year crops are planted and harvested, we can have confidence in Him. We can build our life on Him, on His instructions, and find far more life! He stands the test of time. This reminds me of lyrics from a wonderful hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ love and righteousness…
When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace…
His oath, his covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

(“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” by Edward Mote)

Jesus is the best foundation we can choose! Far more life starts with Him, builds on His truth, and changes us to be like Him. The life we build on Him is secure and will last forever. Why would we want to build on anything else?

What proof convinced you that God is real? That Jesus is God?
What tempts you to trust your perspective and experience over what God’s Word says is true?
What reminds you of God’s faithfulness and truthfulness?
What have you built that will last forever?
Praise Him for making our foundation secure and offering far more life for all of our days!

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Not Afraid

Overhearing what was being said, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; only keep on believing [in Me and my power].” (Mark 5:36, AMP)

Do not be afraid. God or angels say this nearly 80 times in Scripture. And it is always accompanied by an instruction or an explanation why:

  • God has heard you.
  • God has come to test you so you will fear Him and not sin.
  • God will fight for you.
  • God will not fail you or forsake you.
  • God has graciously spared your life.
  • God is with you.
  • God is your shield.
  • God has determined to do good.
  • Stand firm and see the deliverance of the Lord.
  • Serve the Lord with all your heart.
  • Be strong and courageous.
  • The battle is not yours, but God’s.
  • What can mere mortals do to you?
  • Listen to what God says.
  • You are highly esteemed. Peace. Be strong.
  • Be glad and rejoice; the Lord has done great things.
  • God knows what you are looking for.
  • God gives you peace.
  • God is the First and Last.
  • God will give you life as your victor’s crown.
  • God brings you good news.
  • This is from the Holy Spirit.
  • There is nothing hidden that will not be made known.
  • You have found favor with God.
  • Your King is coming.
  • Keep on speaking, do not be silent.
  • The Lord is your helper.

We become afraid when we forget who God is and how He feels about us. When we believe we are on our own. When we cannot see the way ahead. When we lose sight of the eternal picture and get caught up in the current situation. But God wants us to find far more life by placing our confidence in Him.

If we belong to Christ, we never have reason to fear! We never have to fear people; they have no true power over us. We never have to fear circumstances; they have passed through God’s filter and He has a purpose for allowing them. We never have to fear the past; it does not define or control us. We never have to fear the future; our future is secure in God. Since God is for us and with us, what do we have to fear?

Only keep believing in Me and my power. This is the key to fearless far more life. The better we know Jesus, the less we fear. When we know Him, we believe He is all-powerful. We believe He is good. We believe He loves us. We believe He is all-knowing. We believe He is greater than any bad we encounter. We believe He keeps His promises. We believe we will spend eternity with Him in paradise. We believe the struggles of this life are temporary. We believe we will one day be done with sin, illness, and death because He will defeat them. We believe He is working everything for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

We are imperfect people and, despite our best efforts, are bound to give in to fear and unbelief sometimes. Jesus knows our weaknesses and limitations. And He meets us wherever we are. I love the story of a man whose son is demon-possessed. He begs Jesus:

“…But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24, NIV)

Jesus could have easily criticized this man and refused to heal his son, but He does not. It is safe for us to be honest with Jesus, to admit our weakness — even our unbelief. He faithfully reveals Himself to us and meets our need. Which grows our faith and reduces our fear moving forward.

This aspect of far more life is easy to understand, but it can be hard to practice. God knows this and reward us with a special blessing:

…Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29, NIV)

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, NIV)

To help us believe, God’s Word is filled with examples of His trustworthiness and character. And as we follow Him, we experience it in our lives as well. So we can turn from our fear, confess our unbelief, and pursue a deeper trust relationship with Jesus. We find far more life as we repeatedly choose belief over fear, until the day we see Him face to face and all our fears evaporate in His presence.

What is making you afraid?
Which instruction or explanation brings you comfort, peace, and strength?
Are you facing any barriers to believing in Jesus and His power?
Do you need to confess any unbelief and deepen your trust in Jesus?
Thank Him for far more life and the promise of a fearless future!

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: Jenjo
e Marsh

Far More Confidence

As a newlywed I did not want to bother my husband by asking for help with chores we had agreed I would complete. One Saturday it became obvious that I couldn’t get everything done on my long list before company arrived. And I started to stress. Finally, I broke down and asked if he would be able to help with a few tasks. He was surprised to see my level of distress and gladly pitched in, doing what I asked and even offering to do more. Later he gently asked why I waited so long to ask for help. His response to my explanation has stuck with me over the years: “I am always going to be busy doing something. But helping you was more important than what I was doing. You are always free to ask for my help, even if I look busy.”

Asking for help can be hard and uncomfortable. Sometimes we are afraid of rejection. Other times we prefer to avoid the disappointment of hearing “no”. For me, it is often hardest to ask for help when I feel insecure. Will the person respond with annoyance? Ridicule? Or worse, ignore me? It feels dangerous to make myself vulnerable to someone who might minimize, judge, or criticize my request. So I hesitate, trying to decide whether, how, and when I should ask. I forfeit the peace and joy of far more life at those times.

Sometimes we are hesitant to ask God for help for many of the same. Fortunately, the Bible addresses our insecurity:

Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. (Hebrews 4:15-16, GNT)

The High Priest held a significant role in the Jewish community. When questions arose, He took them to God and communicated His will to the people. He also went before God once a year to make a sacrifice for the people’s sins, to attain God’s forgiveness and favor. Jesus serves as our High Priest. The passage encourages us to boldly ask God for help, being confident that we will receive mercy and find grace from Him. But the verses go a step further by explaining WHY we should have confidence, WHY it is safe to approach God: because Jesus can relate to us. He has been in our shoes. He has faced temptation and experienced the challenges we face. And while He never sinned, He knows we will sometimes fall short. Since He is never surprised by this, it is always safe to ask for His help.

We experience far more life when we know God well enough to approach Him confidently at any time. He is our Daddy who is always ready to listen. He will take all of our requests seriously, never laughing at our weakness or lack of understanding. And He always knows exactly what help we need, even when we are uncertain. Far more life feels safe in approaching Him and trusts Him to respond well.

God’s help is always what we need but He does not always give the answer we expect. In His wisdom, He can see what is best for us — and His kingdom — in the long run. Sometimes it is best for Him to change the situation we are facing, which is usually what we want. But often His answer is to give us the opportunity to change to be more like Him. His most merciful and gracious answer may be encouragement to persevere. Or a reminder to forgive. It could challenge us to adopt an eternal perspective. Or to point out where we have missed His way. His answer often grows us to better reflect His character in our difficulties: love; joy; peace; patience; and other qualities of His Spirit. His answer to our requests leads us to far more life in both the current and future difficulties. These verses reveal His long-term goals for us:

…We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4, NIV)

And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6, GNT)

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. (I John 4:18, NIV)

Once we have accepted Jesus’ offer to take the punishment for our sins, we know that God will never punish us. We have no reason to be afraid of Him. We have every reason to love Him and believe that He loves us perfectly. We can always approach Him with confidence, regardless of our circumstances. We can expect Him to respond to every request with mercy and grace. We can trust Him to give us only the best answer every time we ask for His help.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11, NIV)

Because of His goodness, we can confidently ask Him for help and expectantly look for the good — and far more life — in each of His answers.

What makes it hard for you to ask others for help?
What kind of reaction do you expect from God when you ask for help? (annoyed, critical, apathetic, kind, compassionate, etc.)
What prevents you from approaching God confidently?
What helps you accept His answer when it is not what you expected?
Ask Him to help you see the help He offers is best and grow your confidence — and far more life.

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso