As our nation reels from another terror attack, I believe it is important to understand who the real enemy is that we are facing. Once again, the Word of God is our source of truth for every situation in this life, and it is not silent in regards to what took place in Las Vegas on Monday night. The media seems baffled as to why and how this act of evil could have taken place in our "safe haven" we call the United States of America, but listen to what the Word of God says:
"For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against might powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12 NLT).
We are living in a battlefield, and any person who commits acts of evil, does so because they have been deceived into believing something that isn't true. You see, the battle takes place in people's minds, and our real enemy is Satan. Satan simply uses people for evil by getting them to believe something that isn't true, and they then act based on that false information. In this case on Monday night, this man believed that slaughtering people at a country western concert was his best option. This man wasn't born believing this...he was deceived into believing it.
Some people have suggested that if we just had stricter gun control laws, that these events would stop happening. Here again, they are being deceived into believing something that isn't true, and are fighting against the wrong enemy. So what's the answer? Let's see what God's Word has to say... "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8 NLT).
We need to stay alert to the fact that we aren't living in a playground, but rather, a battlefield. And we need to be preparing ourselves for the attacks that the enemy will bring upon us. Remember where Satan attacks? He attacks our minds, so we need to be filling our minds with truth so we know how to combat the lies and not buy into them. Romans 12:2 says, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think..." (NLT). And we do this by saturating our lives with the only source of truth...God's Word. When we live our lives according to the principles found in God's Word, we will be spreading love instead of hate everywhere we go! God's Word is God (John 1:14)...God is love... and love is the only solution to the world's problems!
After listening to all the missionaries at the Missions Conference this week, I believe it is good to reevaluate whether we are truly following God’s will for our lives. It was awesome to hear how God has worked in the lives of these men and women, and is leading them on a journey to spread the gospel in a foreign country. And while listening to their testimonies, a common question that we all find ourselves asking is, “Am I truly following God’s will for my life?” I believe this is a question we should always have at the forefront of our minds because we as humans are so easily distracted from the mission that God has given to us. So how can you know God’s will for your life?
Well God certainly wants you to know what His will is for your life, and it is not something He is purposefully making difficult for you to discover…His purpose and plan for your life. Most times, what I have come to understand when His will seems unclear, is that I’ve just been looking for the wrong thing. So let me give you a few thoughts to consider in relation to this.
First, God’s will is not a feeling. Some of us are waiting and looking for a certain feeling in order to know God’s will for our lives. What do we know about feelings? We know that feelings change all the time based on circumstances around us that are constantly changing. Therefore, feelings are constantly lying to us. Feelings can come from fatigue, hormones, or false or incomplete information. Jer. 17:9 reminds us that, “The heart is deceitful” because it can be manipulated by those thoughts and circumstances happening around us. If I lived what I felt, I would never look to serve anyone but myself, but that certainly isn’t God’s will!
Second, God’s will is not a formula. In our culture we crave a step-by-step guide to success…a simple formula for everything that will lead to lasting positive change in our lives. But God’s will is not a closed system…it is dynamic because He created you differently than anyone else on the planet because He has a specific purpose and plan for you! A plan that looks different from everyone else’s plan! Why would God give you a brain and not expect you to use it? He lets you make choices and many times you could choose any choice from A to Z, and any of them would be OK within His will and plan for your life.
So if God’s will isn’t a feeling or a formula, what is it? God’s will is a relationship! There is very little in the Bible about the technique of knowing God’s will, but there are many verses talking about developing a deep, loving, relationship with Jesus Christ. Why? Because God’s will is a relationship. I Cor. 1:9 tells us that, “God has invited you into partnership with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Many times we don’t know God’s will for our lives, simply because we don’t know Him well enough. Focus on getting to know your partner and best friend in life, and His purpose and plan for you will begin to become much clearer!
As followers of Jesus Christ, we all know that we have been commanded by God to go and make disciples until Jesus returns (Matt. 28:19-20). And yet, far too often we find ourselves doing everything but, sharing our faith with those around us. And it’s not because we don’t want to share our faith…I believe every follower of Christ has good intentions of doing so.
So why don’t we? What is it that keeps us from doing what God has commanded us to do? Well I believe that there are many factors that contribute to this short-coming in our lives, but the root of all of those excuses and reasons is pride. Pride is simply putting yourself above others. And we do this in both thought and action.
The apostle Paul recognized our tendency toward pride as well. Listen to what he had to say about it: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Phil. 2:3-4 NLT)
Now most of us don’t have a problem serving other people or sharing our faith with others, as long as that “serving” or “sharing” fits into OUR schedules, and doesn’t inconvenience us too much, right? But this type of thinking is exactly why we don’t find many opportunities to share our faith! We are so focused on our interests, that we miss the needs of those all around us. And that is exactly what Paul is addressing in this passage. He says, “Be humble. Think of others as better than yourselves.”
Why don’t we share our faith as often as we should? Simply because we think of ourselves first, and then if there is any time or energy left over after taking care of ourselves, we will give that to others. So others get our leftovers. And guess what? Do you think Satan is going to allow there to be any leftovers in our lives? No! He is going to make sure our lives are so consumed and distracted with the things of this world, that there will never be any leftovers. And as a result, there won’t be very many opportunities to share our faith, because typically, those opportunities only come after we have taken the time to serve someone else.
But how different would your life look, if you began to view everyone else as more important than yourself? If everyone you met, you were looking to try to help and serve them anyway you could? I bet you would have many more opportunities to share your faith! But then if I am focused on taking care of everyone else, who is going to take care of me, right?
Listen to God’s promise to us: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” (Matt. 6:33 NLT) When we focus on building God’s Kingdom by sharing our faith, He will meet our earthly needs! Do you trust His promise?
As the battle for your mind rages, it can become very difficult to set good goals. Satan and the world’s philosophies are constantly bombarding us with thoughts and ideas that may seem good on the surface, but in the end will lead to our destruction if we act on those faulty principles. Not every goal is a good goal that God is going to bless!
So, what kind of goal will God bless? Here are some basic questions to ask as you make goals in your life:
Will my goal honor God? So, any goal that causes you to trust God more, depend on God more, love God more, love others more, serve God and others more, and to take the focus off of ourselves, will be a goal that God will bless. I Cor. 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Everything can be done to honor and glorify God! You can take out the garbage to honor God. You can wash dishes to honor God. You can eat a meal to honor God. How? By doing these things with the proper motive; we should always be motivated to live this life with gratitude to God, because without Him giving us the ability and strength to function, we couldn’t do anything. So your goals should always help you to be the best you can be for God’s glory!
Is my goal motivated by love? Essentially, every decision we make can be boiled down to who we are choosing to love in that moment. Typically, we are either choosing to love ourselves, or we are choosing to love God and others with every decision that we make.
God is not going to bless a goal motivated by greed, envy, guilt, fear, or pride. But He does honor your goal that is motivated by a desire to demonstrate love to Him and to others, because life is all about relationships, and learning how to love God and others properly.
If you set loveless goals, you are going to treat people as projects. You won’t care about running over somebody as long as you accomplish your goal. God says, “No! You’ve got it all wrong! Life isn’t about accomplishments…it’s about relationships! It’s about learning how to love!”
I Corinthians 16:14 tells us, “Do everything in love.” The number one goal in your life should be to learn how to really love, even those who are hard to love. This is what will make you more like God, because God is love! And you can be sure that God will bless that goal every time!
Recognize it or not, there is an unseen battle raging for your mind even as you read this. The unseen forces of good and evil, right and wrong, God and Satan, are constantly battling for the control of your mind.
We have been talking about fear and love, but why do we fear? Why do we love? These are choices that our minds make based on the information we feed into our minds.
Did you realize that God is far more interested in changing your mind than changing your circumstances? We too often become focused on our circumstances, and we want God to take away all of the problems, pain, sorrow, suffering, sickness, and sadness. But God wants to work on you first, because transformation won't happen in your life until you choose to renew your mind...until your thoughts begin to change. Your thoughts are what control your life!
Romans 12:2 says, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect" (NLT).
For example, maybe a parent or friend has told you that you are worthless...that you won't amount to anything. If you accepted that thought, even though it was wrong, it shaped your life. But listen to what God has to say about you: Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago" (NLT). Now if you accept this thought, your life will be filled with meaning and purpose!
So managing your mind is the key to peace and happiness! An unmanaged mind leads to tension, conflict, and stress. When you don't try to control your mind and the way you direct your thoughts, you will have an enormous amount of stress in your life. But a managed mind leads to strength, security, and serenity.
Romans 8:6 says, "Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace" (NLT). One of the reasons we get mentally fatigued is because of the battle raging for your brain 24 hours a day. Satan wants your greatest asset because he wants to destroy you, but fill your mind with God's Word, the truth, and you will be filled with life and peace!
Last week we talked about how fear paralyzes us, while faith mobilizes us. And in order to make it through the valley of the shadow of whatever we are dealing with, we need to turn our backs on those shadows, and face the light of God who will help us through those valleys.
So let’s think about fear from another angle. In I John 1:18 we are told that, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” So what does that mean? What is perfect love, and how do you learn to live in God’s love so that you can live free of fear?
Well, we have been learning that love isn’t a feeling or emotion, but rather, a person, and that person is God. The point of this verse is that because of God’s love for His children, we no longer have to fear anything as a child of God! But that is the qualifier…are you a child of God?
Those who are children of God will enjoy God’s protection and blessing in their lives! And because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present…nothing happens outside of His control, allowing His children to rest in that confidence, fearing nothing!
So the key to living a fear-less life, is to make sure you are right with God…that you are one of His children and living life His way. But this way of living is not a one-time spiritual decision that is made at some evangelistic event…no, this is now your life…abiding in Christ. And to live in such a way, you have to surrender your heart to God every day.
When you wake up every morning, before your feet hit the floor, you have to say, “God, thank you for another day to live for You! I surrender my emotions, my feelings, and my heart to you today. I want you to control my mind and thoughts, and I want you to fill me with your love!”
Consider Job 11:13-18, “Surrender your heart to God, turn to Him in prayer, and give up your sins – even those you do in secret. Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless. Your troubles will go away like water beneath a bridge, and your darkest night will be brighter than noon. You will rest safe and secure, filled with hope and emptied of worry” (CEV).
Notice that there are 3 commands attached to 8 promises in these verses. God says, “If you will do this, then I will respond in this way.” The 3 commands are simple: Surrender your heart to God every day. Turn to Him in prayer, and confess any sins to Him.
Notice the benefits: You won’t be ashamed; you’ll be confident and fearless; your troubles will be like water under the bridge; your darkness will brighten more than the moon; you can sleep will because you are safe and secure; and you will be filled with hope and not worry!
Follow these commands each day, and your life will be filled with love and not fear!
In Sunday’s message we talked about how we are typically filled with either faith or fear in our lives. When we are filled with fear we become frozen and paralyzed…afraid to move because we don’t know what to do, or we are afraid we are just going to make things worse. But when we are filled with faith, we are motivated to take action.
Fear paralyzes while faith mobilizes! And Jesus understood this truth and our tendency as humans to be filled with fear. That’s why He told us 365 times in Scripture, not to fear!
What makes us afraid in life? It’s the shadows…it’s the potentially bad things that might happen, that we find ourselves worrying about…fearing. We fear the shadows because they are so immense and intimidating.
David says in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”(ESV). David was walking through the valley of the shadow of death…Saul and others were out to kill him, but David knew that God had the tools to protect him, and he trusted God even in the darkest of valleys.
Everyone is going through some sort of valley of the shadow right now…maybe it is the valley of the shadow of death, or maybe the valley of the shadow of conflict, or the valley of the shadow of debt, or depression, or discouragement. And shadows are scary…we haven’t like them since we were a child hiding under our covers because of them at night.
But here is the truth about shadows: First, shadows can’t hurt you. Second, shadows are always bigger than their source. And – here’s the good news about shadows – wherever there’s a shadow, there has to be a light. You can’t have a shadow without light.
So how do you get through the valley of whatever shadow you are dealing with right now? Choose to turn your back on that shadow and face the light! Because as long as you keep your eyes on the light – Jesus, the light of the world – the One who has promised to never leave you – the shadow will cease to scare you because you are no longer focused on it.
God has a mission for you, but it will require faith for you to accept it! God doesn’t want us paralyzed by fear, but rather mobilized by faith. That’s why He tells us in Heb. 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” What is God asking you to do? Put your faith in Him and go and do it today!