Spiritual Prosperity

I have seen a meme stating that in the future when we have a bad day we will refer to it as a 2020. I will not be surprised if that becomes true! This has been a shocking and challenging year, with wave after wave of novel and unexpected challenges.

Many have speculated these events are signs that Christ’s return is approaching. I do not know if these are part of the prophesied “birth pains” (Matthew 24:8) signaling the beginning of the end of this world, but I do know that every day moves us closer to Jesus’ return!

I also know these challenges do not have to crush our spirits. Far more life
enables us to spiritually and emotionally prosper, even when we face circumstances
that devastate our finances, health, livelihood, comfort, and more. Consider this
perspective from the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk:

Fig trees may not grow figs, and there may be no grapes on the vines.
There may be no olives growing and no food growing in the fields.
There may be no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the barns.
But I will still be glad in the Lord; I will rejoice in God my Savior.
The Lord God is my strength.
He makes me like a deer that does not stumble so I can walk on the steep mountains. (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NCV)

All the resources listed in these verses — figs, grapes, olives, sheep, and cattle — were important for sustaining life in ancient Israel. The situation in these verses is dire. They reflect a shortage of food, drink, shelter, income, security, and prosperity. Even making the required sacrifices to remain in good standing with God would be very difficult under these conditions. Habakkuk is describing a situation that is overwhelmingly hopeless from a human perspective.

But he looks beyond the circumstances to focus on God’s character. God brings joy. God offers relationships. God makes us strong. God supplies what we need to successfully traverse difficult situations. Through God, we can prosper in any difficulty.

I have found that hard times reveal our mindset about God, whether we believe He is good or not good.

If we believe God is good, we trust that He is in control and has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 1:11). We understand He is faithful, kind, and working everything — even these hard circumstances — for our good (Romans 8:28-30). We know He loves us and is carrying us through this difficulty (Romans 8:35-39), giving us all that we need (Philippians 4:19). We are confident He would never ask us to sacrifice more than He has already sacrificed for us (John 15:13). We are certain that Jesus was God’s Son who died to pay the penalty for our sins, offering us an eternal relationship with God (John 3:16). We understand this earth and these difficulties are temporary, unlike our eternal home in Heaven (Revelation 21:1-4). While we long to be there, we believe God has prepared good deeds for us to do that will fulfill His plan (Ephesians 2:10). Believing God is good brings us hope, peace, and far more life, even in the midst of suffering and hardship.

If we believe God is not good, we think he is aloof and uninvolved in the affairs of earth. We may think He is laughing at us from Heaven as we try to navigate our way through the mine field of life He has set up for us. We question His love and feel very alone, doubting His motives, character, and promises. We think He asks too much of us and offers us little to nothing in return. We long for death as an escape from this misery and may be angry at God for making us remain in overwhelming situations when He has the power to rescue us. We might believe that Jesus died for our sins, but we often think God is punishing us for them as well. We believe we are trapped, hopeless, and helpless; we may see others enjoying far more life, but we do not think that is God’s will for us.

What determines which mindset we adopt? In part, the key is whether we interpret God’s Word through our circumstances or interpret our circumstances through God’s Word. We tend to believe what we have experienced. But our experiences do not reveal the whole picture. Paul writes,

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (I Corinthians 13:12)

When we look in a mirror, our view is limited. And sometimes it is cloudy or fuzzy. Similarly, our spiritual view during this life is limited and unclear. We cannot see the bigger picture or the intricate details of God’s plan. And we have an enemy, Satan, who feeds us false interpretations of what we can see. He wants us to doubt God and question His goodness; if he can keep us from seeing God clearly, he can keep us from far more life. But when we prayerfully analyze each situation where we believe God is not good, asking Him to help us see what is true and how His Word is right, we gain new understanding of ourselves, others, and God. We can replace our doubts with confidence that He is good and does good. Our faith prospers!

I am thankful that Habakkuk interpreted his circumstances through God’s Word and reminds us to do the same. I am thankful that I can experience spiritual prosperity — far more life — whatever happens in 2020…and beyond.

Sisters,
What makes you think of a situation as bad?
What is your spiritual and emotional response to bad situations?
Think of a recent difficulty you encountered. Did you believe God was good or not good?
Ask God to help you clearly see the truth about Himself, yourself, and others in that difficulty.
Thank God that you can experience far more life no matter what happens!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Yield

“The best part is being right on the edge of losing control.”

Hearing this statement from a friend clarified why I do not enjoy downhill skiing. Some personality types thrive at the brink of losing control, not just on the slopes but in other aspects of life. Others prefer the safety of the predictable. Many of us — including me — are somewhere in the middle. But we all desire a measure of control in our lives: control of our circumstances, our comfort, and our destiny. When it is threatened, we go into fight or flight mode to regain control.

But sometimes we must yield control. How we respond depends, in part, on our perception of the new controlling force. Do we perceive it as good? Trustworthy? Knowledgeable? Capable? This is not just true of yielding control to humans, it also impacts our willingness to surrender to God. We grow concerned when we read verses like this:

Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (Psalm 115:3, NIV)

While God is not accountable to humans or any other entity, He is not a tyrant. Understanding His heart, intentions, and character are all essential factors in our willingness to yield control. Does adding these verses to the discussion increase your willingness to yield control to God?

The Lord remembers us and will bless us… (Psalm 115:12, NIV)

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11, NIV)

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. (Jeremiah 10:12, NIV)

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. (Psalm 145:13, NIV)

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. (Isaiah 46:10, NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (John 3:16, NIV)

It is easier to yield to God when we believe He is good, generous, all-seeing, powerful, wise, eternal, trustworthy, faithful, loving, self-sacrificing, and completely righteous. Despite our doubts, there is no risk in giving Him control. He is already in control of our existence, whether or not we acknowledge it. We can only experience far more life in areas where we yield control to God. I appreciate this reminder from Solomon:

I am confident it will go better for those who worship the one True God and stand in awe before Him. (Ecclesiastes 8:12, VOICE)

Yielding does not make us powerless puppets who cannot think or act on their own. It does not make us weak and helpless. Rather it frees us to focus on what is truly within our power to control: our own responses. Far more life recognizes what to take on and what to yield to God.

The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God. (Micah 6:8, NCV)

It is within our power to treat others right, to love showing kindness, to obey God humbly. We find far more life living out these three tasks! It produces peace rather than anxiety, instills hope rather than fear, and raises joy rather than weighing us down with heavy burdens. What does this look like in daily life?

  • Treating others right means treating them as we would like to be treated, in both big and small matters. Like taking only the supplies we need rather than hoarding them. Or standing up for those being treated wrong.
  • Being kind to others means forgiving them because we choose to, not because they ask for it or deserve it. And sacrificing our “rights” to protect those who are vulnerable.
  • Humbly obeying God means using our conscience and discernment to determine what is best but letting Him serve as judge over others’ hearts. And being genuinely thankful for what we have rather than complaining about what we do not.

This verse caught my attention:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:25-26, NIV)

God considers adding one hour to our lives a very little thing. But for us, that is impossible! What are we trying to do that is impossible? Where are we wasting our efforts? How are we missing far more life by trying to do God’s job instead of our own? A friend who thought she was dying says this about her experience:

I realized when it is our time, whether it is soon or yet distant, we will see the Face of God that we have longed for since we began our journey with Him on this earth. But if it is not our time we will live another day with the privilege of glorifying Jesus who gave everything for us. It is in His hands and His control. Either way it is a win-win, so we have absolutely nothing to fear, no matter what happens around us.

Yield control to God and experience the blessing of far more life. This is an on-going process throughout our days on earth. But as you yield, I guarantee you will find exactly what you need, whether that is excitement and thrill, safety and comfort, or a bit of both. And you will definitely find far more life!

Sisters,
In what areas is it hard for you to yield control to God?
What concerns do you have about giving God control?
How would you grade yourself on controlling your thoughts and actions?
Treat others right. Lovingly show kindness. Humbly obey God. Which is easiest? Hardest?
Choose an area today where you have been resisting and yield it to God. Experience the joy and freedom of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

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!

Sisters,
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.
-Shari