There are people you know, right now, who are downcast and discouraged. And if you could look into their hearts, there are certain commonalities I think you would see. You would find unmet expectations, disappointment with current circumstances, unfulfilled dreams, and in all likelihood, some misplaced hope. Their hearts are longing for something they feel is missing, and it's possible that they're searching for those longings to be fulfilled through people, means, goals, and opportunities that don't have the capacity to do so.
This has been a struggle for humanity ever since our earliest days. We are quick to forget what can actually satisfy the longing of our hearts, so we veer off in all kinds of directions instead of acknowledging the truth that has always been right there in front of us. And until we acknowledge this truth, we'll continue to walk through life with a hefty amount of discouragement and displeasure. In John 12:12-26, we're shown how the deepest longings of our hearts can truly be satisfied.
When you take a close look at your heart, can you truly say you're someone who has a strong relationship with Jesus, or would you primarily describe yourself as someone who has been influenced by Christians without necessarily adopting their beliefs as your own?
When a person truly comes to faith in Christ, things change. Spiritually speaking, they are raised from death to life, and that new life tends to come with some obvious and visible signs. In Romans 12:9-21, the Apostle Paul describes at least three ways we might be able to tell someone has actually come to a place of genuine faith in Jesus.
I enjoy using Facebook. I check it several times each day, and I'm convinced that it can be a useful platform for spreading information, sharing life experiences, and encouraging our friends and family. But increasingly, I'm noticing a trend that I think can be improved upon. It seems that some of the people I appreciate in real life are using the biggest communication platform they've ever been entrusted with, primarily to vent about their political beliefs.
Good government and political leadership are important, but there's more to life than presidents, candidates, treaties, policies and elections.
How are you using your time? Are you using it to rest, or are engaged in activity?
There's a time to rest, and a time to engage in activity. But in the end, it's wise for us to make an honest assessment of how we're using the days, weeks, months, and years of life the Lord has blessed us with. The years will be used up faster than we often realize, so are we making the best use of the time we have left? The Apostle Paul gives us great counsel in Romans 12:1-8 that can help us answer that question.
Isn't it ironic when we consider the fact that the more we're blessed, the more likely it may be that we'll begin acting like we actually deserved that blessing? Instead of treating our blessings like a gift, and responding with humility, we often puff ourselves up and begin thinking of ourselves as more worthy than others to receive them.
We don't deserve what God has given us. We actually deserve the opposite. So as we contemplate the gracious ways God has blessed our lives, we're encouraged to respond to His favor with humility. Look at how Paul elaborates on this in Romans 11:17-36...
Have you ever felt somewhat alone as you lived out your faith? Does it ever feel like you're part of a small subset of people who actually trust in Jesus and seek to be obedient to His teaching? If you feel that way, you're not the first one to experience these emotions. This feeling is somewhat common, and many of us will experience seasons when this feels all too real.
But the truth of the matter is that God's plan is much bigger in scope than we often realize. We can see the small part of the parade that's directly in front of us, but from His perspective, He can see the beginning, middle, and end all at the same time. And while there are plenty of people who will never come to faith in Christ, there are some who will. In fact, there are more who will trust in Jesus than we may initially realize, and that's a subject Paul addresses in Romans 11:1-6.
Have you ever wanted to tell someone about the hope they can have in Jesus, but you've shied away from doing so because you feared receiving a negative response from them? Have you ever worried if others will think you're weird, crazy, or fanatical?
There are things we all crave in life, but our hearts were designed to only be truly satisfied through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Every other desire we experience is secondary in importance, yet sometimes, we treat our secondary desires like they're primary desires.
God has desires as well, and we can see what He desires by what He reveals in His word, and through the actions He has taken to intervene throughout the course of human history. Since God has desires and we have desires, it's worth asking the question, "What would it look like if my desires started to align with God's desires?"
I think most of us have an abiding curiosity about God and His plans. Why does He do what He does? Why does He do what He does in the way He does it? What will He be doing next and how will it impact me? Are these the kind of questions you find yourself asking God? Is there something you've never asked Him that you'd like to learn more about?
We all want to be accepted, but there are very few relationships we may ever experience that show us unconditional acceptance. That isn't how people typically operate. I learned very early in life that many people in this world accept you right up to the point when you stop giving them something or stop doing something for them.
But thankfully, that's not how the acceptance of God works. His acceptance of you and me is not linked to what we can give Him or do for Him. Rather, His acceptance of us is forever tied to what He did on our behalf, and what He gave us through His Son, Jesus Christ.