“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV).
Most of us strive to build our faith. Most of us hope in the LORD at all times, but somehow, we keep missing the mark. We've been praying; we've been fasting, and we've been believing GOD for our miraculous breakthroughs. But where is it? Why are we not seeing the manifestation of the promises in every area of our lives? It's simple. As human beings, we tend to under dress ourselves before we approach the LORD. We come to HIM in faith; we come to HIM with hope, but all too often, we miss the most important ingredient: love. Why is it important that we have love? How can we approach the LORD in love?
Growing up, we were taught to walk after our flesh. We learned to adapt to our environments and the people around us. In other words, we were taught to act and think like animals. Most animals are creatures of adaptation. They only survive and flourish in certain environments, but if taken outside of their elements, many of them would not survive. GOD gave us something greater, however. HE gave us HIS very image, and HE called us gods. “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalm 82:6). Because we are little gods, we were not created to become comfortable; we were created to embrace the unfamiliar so we could continue to operate just like GOD. After all, HE is a peculiar GOD, and to be like HIM is to be peculiar, unpredictable and loving. Needless to say, we've all grown comfortable with our lives and the people around us. We only rate our lives as good when our familiar settings have not been interrupted. We like to go each day without incident, and when we pass away from our bodies, we want to go to heaven. We have plans for ourselves, but our plans are oftentimes not GOD'S plans for us. “A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). GOD calls us to do something that requires faith. HE requires that we come out of our comfort zones, take up our crosses and follow HIM. Just what are our crosses? The cross represents crucifixion. We are to crucify our flesh everyday, not giving in to the lusts of the flesh, and we are to follow the lead of the LORD.
Why are we called out of our comfort zones? It's simple. So we can grow in love. But how does embracing something new help us to grow in love?
When I was 29 years old, I traveled outside of the country for the first time. I was afraid at first because I'd never even rode on a plane. When I landed in Germany, I listened to all of the strange tongues around me, and I saw all of the unfamiliar characters around me. I could not generalize them as I'd learned to do in my own country. My curiosity was triggered and I payed more attention to the people around me than I did to the people I'd often see in the United States. While in Europe, I met people from various countries, continents and races. I was taken aback by the stories I heard. I listened to people talk about the conditions they'd grown up in. I met people who grew up in polygamous households. Then again, I saw people who'd never even seen a black person before. What I learned (and heard from people who were traveled) was that people who have traveled outside of their countries were more understanding and loving towards other people. What caused them to be more compassionate and loving? They'd stepped out of their familiar settings and embraced new knowledge. Many racist organizations were established by impoverished individuals who'd never even traveled outside their countries, and some haven't even stepped a foot outside of their states! They'd come to identify themselves by the skin they are in, but many of the people who leave those organizations, walk away after having experienced life outside of what they once knew. Without meeting others who are unlike us, most people end up being led stereotypes.
GOD called us out of our comfortable places so that we could learn to love one another as we love ourselves. But because we have learned to plant ourselves in mindsets, relationships and lifestyles that offer us no growth, GOD oftentimes allows our soil to be overturned by trials and tribulations. In the beginning, we keep going back to what we know, but the LORD won't allow us to root ourselves in the places HE has called us out of, so we keep enduring adversity until we surrender to HIS will for us. Our trials aren't there to break us; they've come to usher us into new mindsets. Our trials are there to take us from one level to the next, but before we leave what we know, everything has to be shaken up to get us to understand that we can never return to those familiar places again.
Let's go back to the questions. Why is it important that we have love? How can we approach the LORD in love?
First off, GOD is love; therefore, we must approach HIM in the very essence of who HE is. To approach HIM in love, we must approach HIM with a forgiving and loving heart towards one another. We must also approach HIM in the beauty of holiness. In other words, we cannot approach the LORD in the wrong way; otherwise, our request to be heard by HIM will be denied. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). What is GOD telling us here? HE said that “if” HIS people would humble themselves, pray, seek HIS face and turn from their wicked ways, it is “then” that HE will hear from heaven, forgive them of their sins and heal the land. In other words, there is a right way and a wrong way to approach the LORD, but if you attempt to go before the altar of GOD in the wrong way, your prayer requests will be turned away with you. That's why the LORD tells us that if we have a brother or sister who has a problem with us, we are to leave our gifts at the altar and be reconciled to our brothers and sisters. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). GOD is telling us to always approach HIM in love. Everything GOD commands us to do brings us back to the foundation of who HE is: love. That's why so many people have unanswered prayers. Their prayers haven't even reached the LORD because they are coming before GOD with loveless hearts. They keep trying to approach the throne of grace with an unforgiving heart. They are attempting to approach a loving and merciful GOD with a hateful and unmerciful heart. Even though they cry with many words and they show up in church faithfully, their prayers are being sent from a dark place; a place hardened by the burdens that they haven't yet cast upon the LORD. We cannot approach the LORD in an ungodly way...ever!
People are going to do us wrong in life; that's a given. After all, people sin against GOD everyday. Who are we that they won't do evil against us? But their sins against us are not our problems. When someone speaks evil of you, it's none of your business; it's GOD'S business. When someone betrays you, it's not a situation that you need to handle; it is a situation that you need to hand over to the LORD so HE can show HIMSELF as mighty. But anytime we attempt to hold onto the hurts, betrayals, lies and any evil that has been done to us, we reject GOD as LORD over our situations, even though we claim that HE is LORD over our lives. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13).
Anytime we attempt to fix our own problems, we rob GOD of the opportunity to glorify HIS Name. There are two positions that are available for us, and we can't play musical chairs with them. We can either rest in love and know that GOD is the head of our lives, or we can try to head up our own lives because pride has made us restless. Your situation isn't there to put fear in you. People didn't betray you to put fear in you. Sure, the enemy had his intentions, but GOD intended for those situations to cause you to come out of your familiar places and to trust HIM. Anytime GOD moves you, HE is enlarging you, but before HE moves you to another place, HE must remove from you anything and anyone who is hindering you from going into that new place. All too often, we get caught up in looking at the shovel that uprooted us from our comfort zones that we miss the whole picture of GOD'S plans for our lives. GOD never intended for us to become distracted by the vehicles HE has allowed to move us from one place to another. HE wants us to pay attention to the road ahead, for in keeping our eyes on HIM, we are moved into our predestined places in HIM. Our lives are not our own; we belong to the living GOD, and we must remember this always.
To go somewhere, we have to grow somewhere. Keep going forward in GOD, and know that every hurtful situation you endure is an opportunity for you to take the wisdom from that situation and expand your territory here in the earth realm. Don't become distracted by the situations or the people who pulled you up by your roots. Look at every trial as an opportunity for you to get new knowledge, new wisdom and new understanding. It is an opportunity for you to step forward and get closer to who you are in the LORD, and what you were designed to do. It's not all about you; it's all about love. Love your enemies, and GOD will give you understanding as you continue to represent the very essence of who HE is in the realm of the earth.
1 John 4:8- “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
1 John 4:16- “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
John 13:34-35- “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
1 Peter 1:22- “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
Luke 10:27- “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”
1 Corinthians 13:8- “Love never fails..”