3 Traits to Strive for
Often times in prayer I focus on THREE key things. Not just for myself, but for my wife, my family, my church and my friends. So hopefully you can read this and agree with me on these few basic ideas to be mindful of daily. We, as Christ's disciples, need to practice love, peace and joy.
I think we can all agree on this one, right? As we all say, God is love, and.. "whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." [1 John 4:16 esv] Abiding in God sounds like a good plan, at least to me. But more importantly, we need to realize that love is not just a passive allowance for everything that happens around us. If God is love, we need to try to fully understand love. Love is a verb. Love is tough. Love is patient, yet up-front and vocal. We all know 1 Corinthians 13 (I hope) and perhaps can recite it from memory. However, there are not enough words in the English (or any) language to fully describe God's love for us. We in turn, need to spread that love to those around us. This can seem daunting when you actually think about it, because we are trying to emulate a love that cannot be described in a human way."By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13:35 esv] I don't care to highlight the epidemic in the church today where Christians bashing Christians seems to be more common than Christians engaging in anything to build God's kingdom. We all know it is a problem, yet do not do much to help solve the problem. We need TRUE, AGAPE love. Want to know how to have agape love? Seek God, know God and ask Him to continually teach you love and how to love more effectively. Without love, we are bankrupt in the spiritual realm. "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." [1 Peter 4:8 esv] We need love because we need God. My hope is that we will learn to strive daily for a deeper and more clear understanding of true agape love.
Now, I'm not saying that this is a "top 3" issue that Kingdom builders are lacking. However, I feel concerned that it is often times lacking in most Christians' walk with God. "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." [Colossians 3:15 esv] I pray daily for God to give me a life of peace. I desire to live a stress-free and enjoyable life, don't you? Too many times I've seen friends, family and church-goers running around like a chicken with his/her head cut off. Why stress? Why be anxious? Why be miserable? Even as I write this, I understand that we all go through seasons in our lives that, for lack of better words, suck. I get it, I do. But we have to look toward Christ and move forward in life. We know that it says, "casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." [1 Peter 5:7 esv] So why is it so hard to do it? Maybe we are in a wilderness season, but do you not want to find peace? Not only in our minds and hearts, but with our families, in our job place, in our church and ultimately with everyone. "Strive for peace with everyone." [Hebrews 12:14 esv] As God's disciples, we know we cannot be at peace with Satan or his minions. We cannot even be at peace with the world (the sin of this world, that is.) However, we ought to be at peace everywhere else that we can be. I have a friend who was wronged recently, he was angry and lashed out. In this scenario, due to the way he reacted, his voice was neither heard nor tolerated. Rather, he was belittled further and was left with no voice in a matter. I calmly approached the situation and said, "I am much less aggressive than my friend, but he has a point..." I continued with his side of the story and was heard. Afterward I told him, "Once you bring anger and rage into a scenario, the other person will become defensive and not hear you. Typically leading to more drama and more frustration." Our new phrase is, "I'm jus-chillin'." "Strive for peace with everyone," [Hebrews 12:14 esv] and "let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it," [1 Peter 3:11 esv] should be our Christian mantra.
I saved my personal favorite for last. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." [Romans 14:17 esv] I think we can all get onboard this train. Joy is important. Joy is rejoicing in action. Joy is not a temporal emotion based on current circumstance but a decision that is made no matter the situation. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 esv] Circumstance should not impact your joy, joy should impact your circumstance. I understand that things can make us upset, and in no way am I saying that emotions are bad. We are allowed to have emotions and experience differing emotions. However, when they adversely impact our behavior than we could have a problem. A mentee of mine wrestles with anger, specifically regarding fathers who have abandoned their children. This seems like a fine, righteous type of anger. But I warned him, "when your anger and joy cannot coincide simultaneously, than your anger should be given to God." I explained that he can have a righteous anger to stir him to action to make a difference, but when it causes him to lash out at other people or speak words that are hurtful and untrue, he needs to check his heart. Joy can live with other emotions, but at the end of the day, it just has to be the boss. Joy is choosing to meditate on God's truth and God's goodness continually. When you find yourself struggling to find joy, pray to God and read His truth (the Bible), it will renew your mind for His will and His plan.
I would like to say that there are many things we ought to strive for daily. Some of us have different calls and mandates upon our lives. Even with these different God ordained plans, I believe we can all fix our focus on being better when it comes to these three things. I believe these are three of the main components necessary to show others (the world) why Jesus is the only way. With so many religions out there, all begging for everyone to listen, who will win? Jesus. Jesus always wins. But we need to live in a manner that Christ has taught us and be stewards of His truth to a dying world. Let's be honest, who is looking at someone full of hate, thinking, "definitely want to serve their god." Or examining the person who is always stirring up drama and causing disputes, "they definitely have their religious life figured out." Or someone who is always depressed and upset, "I wish I had a life like them." At the end of the day, nobody is trying to seek after a person's life that doesn't emulate some of these three traits. The truth is, we cannot be effective in God's kingdom without living in this way. Don't fake it. It is a process. Let's be mindful of what God is asking of us to become more like Christ each and every day. Don't let another day be wasted not fulfilling God's will in our lives. Let us become one unit of love, peace and joy - a beacon of hope to a world desperately in need of it.
With love, peace and joy,