Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Can God have faith in me to love Him?

Genesis 1:26 - Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;…

Often times when we read this verse, we think about the word image and we read image, or some versions say likeness, and our minds take us to the physical sense of the word. We think, God must look like me, have a face, a body, a brain. However, there is another definition of the word image that we often fail to apply to this verse and that is the definition of a mental representation; image; conception. This is hard to do because to do so would mean that I am a representation of God’s imagination. I am something that God imagined, expected to be a certain way, and have the traits that God wants me to have.
When we use our imagination what is it we really imagine? If you believe any of the theories of developmental psychology, we all have a part of us called the ego, also known as the unconscious. Inside that unconscious is what we want ourselves to be, what we feel or learn is what would be the perfect self. In other words, God’s image. At our best, we are the greatest that God could imagine and everything that He sees good in himself. Yes, the universe is vast, the earth is great, the butterflies are beautiful, but we are the best he could imagine.
To me, this means that God put in me everything about himself that he likes. Every feeling, every quality, and every emotion. We know that God feels anger. God feels jealousy. God feels sadness. God has hope that we will all live to please him. But the two most precious gifts that God gave me the ability to do is the ability to love and the ability to have faith. God gave me the ability to take a part of my brain and use it to say, no matter what happens there is something bigger than me and something that will always guide me through my life and because of that I love this being that I cannot touch, I cannot hug, and I cannot see. Yet, I love Him so very much. How extraordinary.
Knowing that God imagined me and I am, that means that he wants me to do something in this flesh. God wants me to be like him and to love him. God wants that and he went to the furthest links that anyone could go to in order to make sure that I love him because he first loved me. I cringe to think about how much sadness God must feel every day over the fact that so many people that he created and molded don’t love him back. Think back to the first time you were turned down for a date. You thought you loved that person and when they did not want you back remember how that felt. Now multiply that by millions and millions and millions and then you may be able to see just a glimpse of the hurt we as humans make God feel.
Not many people, including myself, know this but I used to be a bit of a heartbreaker. As I was trying to think about what to speak about at church tonight my father relayed a story to me when I went to pick my kids up from his house today. He informed me that when he called a physician in another town today that upon hearing his name (I am my father’s namesake) the receptionist mistook him for me. When hearing his age, she realized that it must be my father and promptly told him that she used to be in love with me but I never knew it because she was too timid. He didn’t get her name so I don’t know who this is nor can I think of any girl who expressed interest in me in my “formative” years that I didn’t promptly pay attention to. As I thought about this though and began writing this document again, I put the two together. How sad I must have made her feel by not noticing her or realizing that she was, as she put it, “in love” with me.
Fortunately, we serve a God who will notice and expects our love. A God who knows that numbers of hair on each of our heads. Let us make sure that God KNOWS we love him every minute of every day.
The second half of this deals with faith. I have faith in God and watching what happened to famous radio personality as he lost his son this past weekend and how he reacted and used it as a call action by God has only strengthened my faith in God. However, and I might be wrong for doing this, but I have found myself wondering the past week or two, does God have faith in me? If you take this question on its face the obvious answer is “yes, God knows you are there, he invented you.” But does God believe in me that no matter what comes my way I am going to stand firm for him as he does for me? Does God have faith in me? Am I not being given the opportunities to spread the gospel to the amount of people that I want to because God still lacks faith in me.? Is my church not growing because God doesn’t have faith in me or my congregation to handle the responsibility found in the great commission?
I go to the Bible for my answer. Mark Chapter 11 verses 12-14 and 20-24 shows us Jesus with his disciples when Jesus sees a fig tree. Jesus approaches this fig tree with hunger, hoping to find sustenance. The tree is leafy and shows promise but when Jesus looks upon the branches, he finds no fruit. The story continues to show Jesus cursing the fig tree and it withering away. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach his disciples a great tail of faith.
Let’s put ourselves in the place of that fig tree. Many of us claim to be Christians simply because we have accepted Jesus Christ as out Lord and Savior and attend church regularly. Some of us may even take active roles in our church services and leadership. You may appear leafy and beautiful on the outside and if you are bearing fruit, but when these leaves are lifted, what will be found. Have you bore any fruit?
Sure, those of us who are parents can say, “I have raised my children to be good Christians and to have faith in Jesus,” but is that the only fruit you have bore? How good is your fruit? When Jesus comes to take those children to start their own independent ministries and Christian walks, will this fruit be good? Can God have faith that you as a parent bore good fruit or have you let him down? It also seems that it would be unacceptable that once those children are picked from your care that you no longer bring forth fruit or have more fruit there already. If you look at the time when your children are gone as the end of your responsibility as a Christian or spiritual guide, you will find yourself withering away because you are no longer showing God that he can have faith in you to continue adding to his kingdom.
What about Sunday school teachers and class members? Can God have faith in you that as a whole, you are a fruitful tree? When one of you move away or change classes or simply fall away, can God have faith in your group continuing to ripen and the fruit you helped develop will seed into a new tree? Can God have faith in you?
When you ask yourself why does God not send me more opportunities to deliver the message of Jesus you should ask yourself if God can have faith in you to do this great work?
When you ask yourself why God does not help you relieve some of your financial burden, can you say that God can have faith that you will use monetary blessings to advance his kingdom.
When you ask yourself why your church does not grow through God sending you more opportunities to minister to people seeking him, can you say that God can have faith that your church will lead wanderers closer to Him?
These are all tough questions to ask but even tougher to answer. Only you really know that answer. Only you can look at the fruit (or lack there of) you are bearing and examine it for acceptability for God when he comes looking for those to place into service next.
I will conclude with an example from my clinical practice. I had a client about six months ago tell me that he does not pray anymore because he does not think God would listen to his prayers due to the wrongs he has done. After trying to teach him about the forgiving nature of God, I diagnosed him with the DSM IV disorder Spiritual Confusion and formulated parts of his treatment plan around this. In the six months since this has happened, he has come quite a long way in his spiritual life and is actually attending church and is stronger in his faith. As he discussed this with me today, I was quietly congratulating myself and telling myself, “job well done.” Then, out of nowhere he states that it is all due to his sister helping him with this problem and inspiring him to do better. I felt actual disappointment. This was a sin for me to feel this way. Satan allowed pride to creep into my head and when that ego was not stroked, I was crushed. Crushed over someone coming closer to God, but not giving me credit. I have since asked God to forgive me and prayed for similar opportunities to refine this aspect of my life. As I delivered there thoughts tonight in my church, I revealed this sin to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and I hope they all can learn from my mistake.
I tell that to make this point. I believe that God allowed this to happen to me today so that I could see an area where he may possibly lack faith in me. I learned from this instance that as long as I do not allow all glory to be given to God, I will never find happiness in helping someone in their spiritual life and I will eventually wither away because of my pride. This fruit may have blossomed on my branch, but I do not think that Jesus would want to come back to my tree for more fruit until I work this out with Him.

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