"The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both."
- John 4:20 MSG
Today I received a letter from a young lady who happens to be struggling with some of the same things I am right now. She said that while she was enjoying her relationship with God more than ever before, she was finding herself becoming increasingly irritated with other people. She asked me, "How could anyone love God, and struggle so much with loving people at the same time?" She desperately wanted to make a difference for God, and to reach out to others with the love of Christ, but she knew that she needed a change of attitude before that could happen. And I knew how she felt. Just this morning, I was sitting at my kitchen table, enjoying my time alone with God, reading His Word and praying. I heard my husband stirring downstairs, and I silently pleaded, "Lord, please don't let Joe interrupt my time with You now!" Suddenly, my husband decided that it was the perfect time to invade our kitchen and make himself something to eat, and I wanted to scream. Instead, I recalled a day only last week when I lashed out at him for interrupting my quiet time with God. I felt so convicted that I made a quality decision that day to never let it happen again. I knew I couldn't do it in my own strength, and I stood on the Lord's promise which says, "I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power." (Philippians 4:13 TLB)
Why is it that so many Christians have no trouble loving God, but they often find it difficult to be around other people without becoming irritated and critical? Because, as the Bible says, we are born with hearts that are "desperately wicked." (Jeremiah 17:9) And that's exactly why God sent us a Savior in the Person of His Son, Jesus. When we receive Christ as our own personal Savior, we are given His Holy Spirit to dwell in us, and to help us become more like Jesus. But it doesn't happen overnight. Scripture tells us that we are changed "from glory to glory." (2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV) And the Amplified translation reveals that as we study God's Word, and apply it to our lives, we are accelerating our spiritual progress by cooperating with God's Spirit: "And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18 AMP)
The apostle James wrote: "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be." (James 3:9-10 NIV) It amazes me how I can worship God one minute, and then turn around and lash out at my husband the next. And to think that I've done this very thing during my daily devotional time! Do I really expect the Lord to bless and reward my efforts to grow closer to Him, when I'm mistreating one of His own children? The truth is that God is very much concerned about how we treat others. As the apostle John wrote: "If anyone boasts, 'I love God,' and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won't love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can't see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both." (1 John 4:20-21 MSG)
If we want to have the kind of intimate, vibrant relationship with God that Jesus died for us to have, then we are going to have to ask Him on a regular basis to change our hearts. I often hear myself praying, "Lord, change me. I don't want to be like this, and I can't change myself, so I'm asking You to change me." If you will pray that kind of prayer with sincerity, you will witness the life-changing power of God in your life. The Lord wants to change you even more than you want to change. And He has included promises in His Word that you can pray and stand on for your victory. One is Philippians 1:6 (NIV), which says: "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." If you are a believer in Christ, you don't have to live your life constantly irritated, unsettled, and rattled. You can experience the peace of God every day, if you will set your heart on seeking Him, and living His way. May this precious promise from the Lord encourage your heart today: "For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him"! (Philippians 2:13 NLT)
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times I've praised You one minute, and criticized others the next. Teach me how to cooperate with Your Spirit so that I can become more like Jesus all the time. Thank You that as I devote myself to You and Your Word, You will change me, bless me, and use me for Your glory!
- J. M. Farro