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

Far More Wealth

I took an informal poll recently which asked people if they wanted to go to heaven when they died. As I expected, the majority answered yes. I am sure the responders had different ideas about what heaven is like or how you get there, but most of them agreed that they wanted to experience it. But I am certain there would have been fewer yes answers if I had asked, “Do you want to love and obey God now so you can live with Him in heaven forever after you die?”

Sometimes what we want — in this example, to live in heaven — and what we are willing to do to get it — in this example, love and obey God — are incompatible. We find the same incompatibility in many areas of life. I want to be at my ideal weight but am not willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Some people want to get out of debt but are unwilling to reduce their spending. Others want better relationships but are not willing to put in the required effort. Regardless of what we say, what we do reflects what we truly want.

The gospels tell the story of a man who also faced this dilemma:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

…Jesus answered, “You know the commandments…”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-22, NIV)

This man is just like us! We want to have everything we want…but on our terms. We want treasure, influence, and significance in this life AND we want eternal life. It is tempting to think having the best of earth and the best of heaven is far more life. But it is not.

Jesus was not giving the man in this story a to do list that would lead to salvation. Based on other Scripture passages, we know that selling all we possess is not how we gain eternal life (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2:8). Instead, Jesus gave this answer to draw out the true desires of this man’s heart, to reveal what he truly loved. Jesus had explained the principle at work in an earlier teaching:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21, NIV)

The man was doing many good things but had given his heart to his wealth. He treasured his possessions and lifestyle. He wanted the benefits God offered but was not willing to give up the benefits his wealth provided.

Throughout human history people have wanted to do their own thing but still receive God’s blessing. God made this statement to the Israelites around 1300 years before Jesus walked the earth:

You shall not bow down to [idols] or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:5-6, NIV)

Humans want the freedom to make other things, people, or pursuits more important than God, but we also want Him to shower us with good gifts. However, this verse draws a sharp line: we either love God and receive His love or we hate Him and receive His punishment. There is no middle ground in our relationship with Him or His response to us. A similar warning is found in Revelation:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:15-17, NIV)

Do you notice the different “riches” that are referenced in these verses? It is tempting for us to place value on material possessions, status, or physical comfort. But God’s riches are spiritual in nature. In fact, he warns us:

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36, NIV)

Far more life desires and pursues the spiritual riches that God offers. It seeks to give and receive forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, unity, generosity, and hope. It is grounded in faith. It sees this life — with its struggles, temptations, and successes — in light of eternity. Far more life is centered on God rather than self. It strives to understand and obey Him more rather than cling to comfortable attitudes and actions. Far more life may look poor to the world but it leads to the greatest and best wealth possible!

Sisters,
What do you desire in life? Are your actions compatible with that desire?
How would you describe the best earth has to offer? The best heaven has to offer?
What is your reaction to the statement, “We either love God and receive His love or we hate Him and receive His punishment. There is no middle ground.” What Bible verses support or negate this strong stand?
If you love God, what spiritual riches have you already gained?
Thank God that the riches of far more life start now and last forever!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Set Your Heart

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  (Colossians 3:1-3, NIV)

You may read this verse and think, “But earthly things need our attention!” We need to eat and sleep. Many of us need to go to work to earn money. If we have children, we need to meet their physical, emotional, and mental needs. Other relationships need attention, too. We may need to mow the yard, shovel the walk, and tend our gardens. Appliances break. Our vehicles need maintenance. Our living space needs to be cleaned. We need to replenish our resources. We must think about these things and many more; they cannot be ignored while we think about “things above” and hope God sends angels to do the actual work for us.

But this passage is not telling us to ignore our responsibilities or the necessities of life. Rather it gives instruction about our heart, which is our command center. Biblically speaking, our heart is the source of our will, intellect and feelings. It determines our values, motivation, and mindset. It tells us to know what is most important, which then shapes our goals, dreams, decisions, and priorities. These verses are challenging us to think about the big picture — the foundation on which our lives are built — not just the needs and challenges of today. That is essential for far more life.

Here is a sampling of Bible verses that provide specific instruction about our hearts:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:111, NIV)

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9, NIV)

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21, NIV)

We are born with a heart of stone that is spiritually hardened and lifeless (Ezekiel 36:26). It is set on earthly things and does not know or desire God. But God offers us a new, soft heart that is set on heavenly things and eternally connected to Him. But even with our new heart, our mind is still full of the old thoughts, plans, and feelings. We will spend the rest of our lives uncovering the damage done by our old heart and experiencing the healing available through our new heart. We cannot change our old heart and its desires; instead we must learn to let our new heart control more areas of our mind, intellect, and feelings. That is how set our heart on heavenly things.

We can test our heart to determine whether we are listening to the part set on earthly things or the part set on heavenly things. One question that tests this is, “Whose kingdom am I building: my own or God’s?” At the times our desire is to acquire all the wealth, possessions, status, power, experiences, and pleasure we can, we are listening to our old heart and focused on earthly things. But when our desire is to use the things of this life — our wealth, possessions, status, power, experiences, and pleasure — to know God better and introduce others to Him, we know we are being ruled by our new hearts and are focused on heavenly things.

It is not what we are doing that reveals our heart, but why we are doing it. Two people can perform the same action but be building different kingdoms. We can do anything — even spiritual activities — with a focus on ourselves or a focus on God. For this reason, God’s Word contains other verses that help us determine where our heart is set:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV)

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36, Luke 9:25, NIV)

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  (I John 2:17, NIV)

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25, NIV)

When our heart is set on heavenly things, our life is not about ourselves. We can definitely appreciate our blessings and enjoy God’s creation, but we are not focused on acquiring more toys, experiences, recognition. We see the world as our mission field rather than our playground. We think about the eternal impact of what we do rather than the short-term benefit. We recognize physical death is the gateway to our eternal home rather than the end of our existence. We accept that things do not always make sense because we do not have access to every detail of the master plan. We trust God’s character and His Word as our guidance rather than our own understanding and experiences. Focusing on heavenly things brings us peace, hope, joy, and purpose. It brings us far more life!

Sisters,
What earthly things compete with God for your heart’s attention?
In what areas of life is your new heart in control? In which areas does your mind revert to old heart patterns?
What helps you recognize when you are building your own kingdom instead of God’s?
Thank God for faithfully giving you far more life, no matter how many times you have to reset your heart on heavenly things.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Overflowing with Grace

Think of a time something happened that you were eager to tell others. I bet you could hardly keep it from bubbling out! I feel this way when my hopes or dreams become reality or when something good happens unexpectedly. But the biggest, most exciting thing we will ever experience is God’s saving grace! He wants us to freely share that good news through words and actions that show how He changed us.

God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will overflow in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, EHV)

All grace. All things. All times. All you need. Every good work. Wow, God is serious about this! But notice the verse begins “God is able…” Being filled with His grace and power — and overflowing with good works — is for our best, but God does not force it on us. Far more life is letting God’s grace fill us to overflowing. We know we are overflowing with grace by the changes in our thoughts and feelings. Others know by the changes in our actions.

One person in history was perfectly filled to overflowing with God’s grace: Jesus. His thoughts, feelings, and actions were always in line with God’s. The gospels are full of incidents where people experienced His grace in action. The Bible records how those in His hometown responded:

Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. (Luke 4:22a, NLT)

Overflowing grace makes you stand out! Jesus stood out because He was different. Our natural human reaction to challenging people and situations is defensiveness, anger, callousness, or other sinful responses. But when we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, we — like Jesus — are different. We have power to respond with gracious thoughts, feelings, and actions. Those are moments of far more life.

There are times we bite our tongues and put on a fake smile. That is better than spewing ugliness, but it is not grace. The grace that is evidence of God’s work in our lives is expressed as compassion and kindness. It is the result of a renewed mind, as described in these verses:

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. (Romans 12:2, TPT)

God’s grace transforms us, first changing our beliefs and thoughts, then changing our feelings and actions. The gospels illustrate this with the account of a woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Just watching this made the disciples uneasy, but Jesus explained:

“…The great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love.” (Luke 7:47, GNT)

This woman understood that her sin was great, but she also understood that God’s grace was greater. Experiencing the depth of God’s grace inspires us to show others grace. When we realize how many sins we have committed and how much God has forgiven us, our love for Him increases. This inspires us to show grace to those around us.

When my children were young I got tired of giving them the same instructions over and over. But one day I realized God did not become impatient or angry about giving me the same reminders over and over. Recognizing God’s grace toward me inspired me to show my children grace; I decided even if I had to give the same instructions every day for the next 18 years, I would do so with love and kindness. The result was far more life in my own heart and in my relationship with my children.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

God has a beautiful, satisfying and perfect plan for your life! And He offers you overflowing grace for each step of that plan. Far more life embraces God’s purpose and seeks to fulfill it. His plan for you is unique; no one else on the planet can do the specific good works He prepared for you. But these works are not hidden; there is no reason to fear you will miss them. Instead, when you focus on understanding and living through His grace, those good works will natural flow out of you. Frequently your good works will benefit the people you regularly interact with. At other times you will have a strong desire to love and serve those facing a particular struggle or a particular people group. Often your good works will be linked to a particular skill you possess, so you will be happy to do them. Some of these works are actions that reveal God’s work in our lives, but they can also be words that share God’s grace.

The grace that overflows from us can help others find far more life, too. We have a wonderful opportunity to be a fountain of His grace. And experience another aspect of far more life. Try it out this week!

Sisters,
Are you overflowing with grace? If not, what barriers are blocking the flow?
How do you feel about standing out for overflowing with grace?
Do you think God has shown you a little or a lot of love? How does this impact the love you show others?
How are you seeking to fulfill God’s purpose for your life?
Focus on letting grace overflow this week and share far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso