Far More Happiness

A popular quote says people can do what makes them happy OR what glorifies God. This means pleasing God requires a joyless existence serving a selfish demanding task master. While this is true for those living apart from Christ, it is not God’s intention for His born-again children! As one popular song explained, far more life is a great adventure in Christ, a journey more amazing and glorious than our wildest dreams!

Are there times when Christians sin, thinking it will make them happier than actions and attitudes that glorify God? Absolutely! Accepting Christ’s offer to forgive our sins does not guarantee we will never sin. But the Bible describes several important changes that do occur:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you… And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27, NIV)

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4, NIV)

When we invite Christ into our lives, He makes us a new spiritual creation! Our looks and personalities remain the same. We retain our talents and skills as well as many of our interests. But our desires change from pleasing ourselves to pleasing God. Our motivation changes from making ourselves look good to making God look good. Many things that used to be fun or make us happy now become unpleasant, unfulfilling, or even disgusting. Without Christ, we were seeking significance, acceptance, and belonging, hoping they will fill an internal void. Once Christ fills that void and our foundational needs are met in Him, we discover new desires. We find far more life while using our time, skills, possessions, and money to bless others.

A relationship with Christ not only changes our desires, it also gives us power to change our habits:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed…You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  (Colossians 3:5-10, NIV)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Notice we are not instructed to try harder to be good people. God tells us to put off, put on, put to death, rid ourselves, do not, and be because He has given us the power to do those things! Some changes are easy. A friend of mine lost his desire to cuss as soon as he accepted Christ; he did not have to work at cleaning up his language, the curse words were simply gone! But the majority of the time, change takes time and effort. God helps us recognize sinful or unhealthy habits and we have to choose different beliefs, thoughts, attitudes, and actions. One example of this in my own life concerns the music I enjoy. Before I started living for Christ, I loved the feelings stirred up by love songs; even when they made me feel lonely, I was hopeful that someday my “prince” would meet my emotional needs. Over time, I recognized some of those songs tempted me to look to a romantic partner instead of God for significance, acceptance, and belonging. As I explored new recording artists, I found that I preferred those who pointed me to deeper spiritual thoughts, eternal perspectives, and truth about God’s character and love. As my beliefs and thoughts changed, so did my listening habits. Far more life recognizes spiritual transformation is a life-long process that leads to increasing happiness.

This verse outlines three ways God’s followers can make Him happy:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)

When we embrace far more life and join God in His plans for life, these things make us happy, too. We are happy when we act justly and work toward justice in our society. We are happy when we show mercy and compassion to others. We are happy when we let God be the boss and do what He says is good and right. Injustice, cold-heartedness, and disregard for God and His ways make us sad or unhappy.

When you are following God, you are in sync with His values and desires. Doing what makes you happy brings inner peace and a deeper connection to Him. Far more life is doing what makes you genuinely happy, knowing it is making God happy, too!

Sisters,
Have you believed that only you OR God can be happy? How has that negatively impacted your desire to live for Him?
When you accepted Christ, what void was filled in your heart? How did that change your motivations, desires, and actions?
How has the Spirit empowered you to change? In what area are you currently working to change?
Embrace the fruit of far more life — happiness — as you live for God today!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Worth Waiting For

Life involves a lot of waiting. We are often ready for the next thing before its time. I remember spending much of my childhood wanting to be older. Many students want to be finished with school. Many single people want to be in a relationship. Many childless people want to be parents. Many working people want to be retired. Many older or terminally ill people want to be in heaven. Regardless of our situation, we are probably waiting for something.

While change is a natural part of life, we can be tricked into believing the “next thing” will bring us far more life. If reaching the next thing becomes our central pursuit in life, we will suffer negative consequences. We will most likely ignore warning signs of problems along the path we are traveling. We may become numb or blind to the negative effects of our choices. We will miss out on gifts and blessings God wants to give us. Discontentedness with ourselves, God, and our lives can also rob us of far more life. God’s Word tells us:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV)

He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, AMP)

God’s timing is perfect — and worth waiting for. But when we are told “wait” without further instruction, it is often frustrating. We are wired to move forward, to keep growing, changing, experiencing and learning. Constant reminders of what we cannot do or have makes us focus on that even more. It makes waiting harder.

So what should we focus on while we wait? How do we find far more life where we are? These translations of Proverbs 4:23 give us several perspectives to consider:

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. (AMP)

More than anything you guard, protect your mind, for life flows from it. (CEB)

Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences. (CJB)

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. (GNT)

Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life. (VOICE)

The key to waiting well is controlling what we allow to linger in our heart and mind. What we value most — what our thoughts dwell on — determines our actions. When we are focused on getting something, temptation to do whatever is needed to get it is strong. If we instead focus on loving and obeying God, we find far more life as we wait for His plan and timing.

Some people claim obeying God will get us what we want; that is a backwards, selfish perspective. A sincere and pure heart is not making deals with God and performing good deeds to earn what we want. Far more life is motivated to obey out of love for God and a desire to honor Him. While good circumstances may come out of that obedience, those are bonuses rather than the goal. Far more life trusts that God is for us, that He is working for our good, and that His gifts — whatever He has hand-selected to bless us — are worth waiting for.

I think of this commonly misinterpreted verse:

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. (Psalm 37:4, HCSB)

Many read this as saying, “cheerfully obey God and you will get what you want”. But the verse really communicates that when we make God the center of our life, our desires will change to match His. We will be satisfied and content with what He provides because that has become what we want. I can think of many times I had to wait: for friendship; for a church family; for employment; for a husband; for children; for health; for answers to prayers. In each situation, God has refined my desires to make them holier and more satisfying than what I originally wanted. He has surprised me, blessed me, and proven that His plan was worth the wait. And when it came to pass, I was thrilled with what He provided!

This topic brings to mind a worship song that was popular several years ago. It speaks of the challenges of waiting for God and how we can wait well. Prompted by that song, I wrote a list of things we can do while we wait for Him:

We can talk to God openly and honestly while we wait (I Thessalonians 5:17).

We can study God’s Word to deepen our understanding of Him while we wait. (Psalm 119:33-37)

We can recognize areas of our heart, soul, and mind that doubt Him while we wait. (Psalm 139:23-24)

We can renew our mind to see Him — as well as ourselves and others — more clearly while we wait. (Romans 12:2)

We can serve Him with our spiritual gifts and God-given talents while we wait. (John 12:26)

We can invest our time and energy in loving other people in big and small ways while we wait. (Matthew 22:29)

We can offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, living for God in every area of life, as we wait. (Romans 12:1)

We can grow in Christlikeness as we wait. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Waiting is hard! But God has a plan for us, even in waiting. We can fight against His plan or we can join Him and find far more life as we wait. When we join Him, we discover His timing and plan was worth waiting for!

Sisters,
For what have you had to wait? What are you waiting for now?
What negative things have you experienced by not waiting well?
Which translation of Proverbs 4:23 is most meaningful to you? Post it somewhere you will see it often; even better, memorize it!
How has God changed your desires as you waited?
What will you do as you wait today?
Embrace far more life right where you are!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Heart Desires

What do you desire?

A lot of things may come to your mind: enough money to pay bills and have fun; more or better relationships; better health; a break; more sleep; more fun; less stress. Some answers vary based on our life circumstances while others are universal. But if we dig beneath the surface to analyze our desires, I think most of our desires fit into these categories: safety; security; belonging; and purpose.

We all desire that our physical, mental, and emotional needs are met; that is a basic human trait. We desire safe places to live, work, learn, and play. We desire enough money to cover all our needs and some of our wants. We desire to connect with other people in a meaningful way. We desire to know why we exist and to do something that matters.

But sometimes we believe these desires are unattainable. We believe God is letting us down because our desires — even our basic needs — are going unmet. We struggle to understand why, then read a verse like this:

Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and he will provide for you what you desire the most. (Psalm 37:4, TPT)

If we are doing our best to follow God, yet our desires are unfulfilled, this is a hard verse to swallow. We might believe there is something wrong with us. We might believe we aren’t good enough. We might believe we aren’t doing enough to make God happy. After all, God is perfect, so there can’t be anything wrong with Him; the problem must be with us, right? We believe far more life is outside our grasp. We feel helpless and hopeless, that we will never reach it. I’ve been there. Have you?

Too often we think God is like Santa Claus; if we are good, He will give us the things on our wish list. But that’s not how God works! He wants to be our biggest desire. One Psalmist states it this way:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25, NIV)

Can you say this? I confess that too often I cannot. I desire God a lot more than many things, but there are still relationships and desires that compete for the #1 most desired slot in my heart. Far more life recognizes that desiring God is far superior to everything else. This is where we find fulfillment.

But God knows we are distracted by other desires. He doesn’t condemn us for those, but He may not fulfill those desires. Because He knows they are not the best for us in the long run. And He wants what is best for us.

When our desire for God is our top priority, that is far more life. We begin to see life from His eternal perspective. We are fulfilled. We are satisfied. We have passion and enthusiasm for life. Our desires change to line up with His. We want for everyone to acknowledge God as Lord. One prophet declared:

Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (Isaiah 26:8b, NIV)

Satan tries to convince us that making God our utmost delight and pleasure means that we will miss out or be dissatisfied. But God’s Word offers this truth:

What the righteous desire leads only to good, but what the wicked hope for leads to wrath. (Proverbs 11:23, NET)

Our righteous desires lead ONLY to good! We are guaranteed a good outcome when we follow those desires. Sometimes the good results are not quickly evident. When I was a new graduate, my desire was to stay in that city and help reach people there for Christ. But it took several months to find a job that met my financial need. I still do not know what “good” came out of paying for necessities on a credit card and going into debt. Maybe my character grew. Maybe I had an eternal impact on someone without knowing it. But I trust that my righteous desire led to good. Why? Because it doesn’t depend on me.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2:13, NLT)

God is the source of our righteous desires. And He is working in us to not only desire what is good but to do it. Isn’t it awesome that He does it all? He makes us righteous. He gives us righteous desires. He empowers us to fulfill those righteous desires. He causes good to come from them. Far more life embraces God-given righteous desires and uses His power to live them out.

God will meet our basic desires perfectly, even when they look different than we expect. He offers us perfect safety (Psalm 4:8 and Proverbs 18:10, NASB). He offers us perfect security (Proverbs 3, NASB). He offers us perfect belonging (Romans 14:8, NIV). He offers us perfect purpose (Exodus 9:16 and Romans 8:28, NIV). He alone offers far more life!

Sisters,
When you read Psalm 37:4, does you feel good or bad? If bad, what do you believe about God or yourself that is distorting this verse?
When have you thought of God as Santa Claus? Commit to pursuing a relationship with Him instead of just giving Him your wish list.
What competes with God for your desire?
How have you seen God give you righteous desires and power?
Find far more life this week as you make Him your biggest desire!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso


Perfectly Imperfect

We face so much pressure — within ourselves and from others — to be perfect. To never make a mistake. To know all the answers. To always make the right decision. Even in areas where there is not a right or wrong choice. Or areas where we have no experience. This pressure can be immobilizing. And we struggle with guilt and shame over our wrong choices. Does God expect us to be perfect — is that far more life? The Bible says:

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14, NIV)

According to this verse, when we seek perfection we are working for something Christ has already attained for us! Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and return from the dead paid the penalty for our sin. Those who accept Christ become perfect in God’s eyes; He sees us wrapped in Christ’s righteousness. Being perfect means we are forgiven. We don’t have to work to be perfect, it is a gift that God offers us!

But this does not automatically make us sinless. In addition to being made perfect, God wants us to be made holy. Once we are in Christ, our position with God is secure despite the many wrongs we commit. But these wrongs do have negative impact on us; they keep us from reflecting His flawless moral virtue. God wants us to keep growing in understanding and living out His holiness so we become more like Him. Not because that earns us His favor, but because it reflects the new creation we become in Him. And because being holy is living far more life.

God knows we will spend the rest of our lives on earth growing in holiness. In the process of becoming holy, God allows us to be perfectly imperfect. He knows we are sometimes fooled by Satan, our past experiences, and the hurts we bear; they lie to us about what is best and convince us that holiness is not possible or not a worthwhile pursuit. God is not surprised by our sins and mistakes. He is patient with us and does not judge or criticize us when we are slow to recognize our sin. He sees each person’s heart and knows who is loving and following Him to the best of their ability. (He also knows when His children have rebellious hearts and still loves and forgives them.) He clearly sees who we were before we joined His family, who we are today, and who we become in the future. He knows being perfectly imperfect is simply part of our individualized holiness journey.

As God’s obedient children, never again shape your lives by the desires that you followed when you didn’t know better. Instead, shape your lives to become like the Holy One who called you. (I Peter 1:14-15, TPT)

Before we come to Christ, we pursue counterfeit perfection. We believe that doing the right thing — performing perfectly — leads to the acceptance, security, and significance we desire. We think perfection protects us from pain and leads to a satisfying life. But no matter how hard we try, we can’t be perfect. So we work harder. And fall short again. By depending on ourselves and our own efforts, this vicious cycle actually leads us away from the perfection God offers us through Christ. Away from far more life.

When God comes to live inside of us, He gives us a new desire: holiness. We understand that acceptance, security and significance come from Him, not our performance. We want to BE the right person, not just DO the right thing. We want to be like God in our actions, thoughts, beliefs, and values. We desire to know God and His perspective. Pursuing holiness gives us courage to examine our motives and admit when we are wrong; we don’t have to hide behind a perfect image to feel acceptable. We act from love rather than fear or obligation. But we don’t always get it right; we resort to old patterns of thinking and acting more often than we would like. But this does not bring condemnation; instead we are free to be perfectly imperfect. Not because we are happy about our sin, but because sin does not define us. We know God loves us unconditionally. And we know He gives us the desire and power to overcome our sin and live far more life.

How do we grow in holiness? I think it boils down to 5 steps:

  1. We discover who God is by studying His word.
  2. We are alert to areas where our thoughts and actions do not reflect His character.
  3. We prayerfully search our heart to uncover the beliefs which motivate our unholy thoughts and actions.
  4. We seek truth from His word to replace our false beliefs with His beliefs.
  5. We enjoy the benefit of this new step of holiness as we rest in God’s unconditional love!

As we make pursuing holiness a lifestyle, we are free to be perfectly imperfect without being stuck in sinful habits. And we live far more life with each step of the journey! 

Sisters,
How have you been pursuing counterfeit perfection?
How do you feel about being perfectly imperfect?
If you have accepted Christ, how have your desires changed? What were your desires before? What are they now?
Do the steps to growing holiness look helpful or intimidating?
(If you have questions about them or want support on your journey, please reach out to me at farmorelife@gmail.com.)
-Shari
 

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso